Ilocos Travel Diary: Paoay Sand Dunes- The Best Experience Ever!


If you think that Ilocos is just all about historical sites and natural wonders, that of course isn't true! Ilocos is also a place for extreme adventures just like the famous Paoay or La Paz Sand Dunes which gained its popularity after being featured into so many travel blogs, TV shows and even local films. Even the movie Panday by the late FPJ was shoot here.

Paoay Sand Dunes is about an 88 km stretched of God-given natural wonder at this part of Ilocos and it is now a protected area and classified as a non-disposable public land.

From our visit at Malacanang of the North and the UNESCO Heritage Paoay Church, we headed to our last destination for the day at Culili Point, Brgy. La Paz, Ilocos Norte for the most awaited 4x4 ride. Yes! I was really very excited for this because i have read a lot of blogs and watched some video clips featuring this one of a kind experience in Ilocos Norte and I never want to miss that of course!

We were able to locate the exact location using Google Maps through the not-so-reliable GPS app on my mobile phone (Lakas mo sa GLOBE!), and it was also helpful that there are signage along the way pointing to the right directions.

We arrived pretty late in the afternoon already, around 4:30pm and it was just a perfect time because it isn’t really scorching hot anymore and the sun will be setting soon. There are packages available for the ride and we availed the 4x4 ride for one hour with Sand Boarding experience included for P2,500. A maximum of 5-6 persons is allowed per jeep but in our case, we are 8 because I got my two little kids with me and they‘re free of charge. 

Kids below 6 years old are not encouraged to join the ride as it was really extreme and for safety reasons they do not allow small children. However, my daughter was very insistent that she cried out loud to join us, so we had her at the front passenger seat of the jeep with an adult to hold her while we were all standing at the back of the 4x4 ride.

Now, the 4x4 Jeep Experience:

After the registration and paying the amount due for this adventure we were assigned to our driver and the 4x4 jeep that will take us to this dune bashing adventure. We were also requested to sign a waiver, which (due to my excitement) I wasn’t able to read!

Up and above we were all smiling from ear to ear and taking photos before jumping up that huge 4x4 jeep. Honestly, it was my first time to ride this kind of vehicle, and I had no idea what kind of adventure it will be. Of course the first hand experience is far from the photos, apart from the fact that it really looks so nice and astig, but I really wanna feel what it’s like! Until, ayan na! Umandar na kami!

There are handfuls of tourists that time joining the tour on separate jeeps and as we climb up and drop down the series of ridges, we can all hear each other’s ear-slitting screams like there’s no more tomorrow! It was really a heart-pounding, action-packed adventure with so much adrenaline rush and a different kind of fun!

We had (I think) 3 different photo stops as far as I can remember. First is with a group of other tourists, second is on a vast dimension of highs and lows with the lovely beach at the background and the third stop is the Sand Boarding booth camp. Those 3 stops have different levels of adventures too, care of the different obstacles and big slopes like easy, medium and hard. The first or easy trail is more likely a warm up of what you could expect from the ride. We’ve survived quite a not so heart pounding moment for that, it was just like a bumpy road and it’s still bearable.

On the medium trail was a more serious challenge, we were already heading for a bigger and higher slopes. We were like climbing into a hill and stopping for a second on the edge of a flat surface then the driver will suddenly push the gas hard that the tendency of the jeep was to drop down that instant from the top! That was elbow-breaking and knee-bruising for me because we are not properly geared up for such ride.

And for the hard trail—well, it was like a roller coaster ride! Yeah! No kidding! From the edge of a hill that was like a 90 degrees slope we will be dropped down gushing through the dunes and that was an extreme dose of adrenaline! Holding the steel bars at the back of the 4x4 jeepney while there were 6 of us, I was really screaming my lungs out! And my heart is bursting with so much excitement! My son was also screaming on the other side while my husband what securing him, wrapping him around supporting his back.

And on the last and I think the most steep part of the trail, I thought I was going to fall out of the jeep, it was like we were being thrown away side by side and mind you, you need a stronghold to survive this adventure or you’ll fall out on the side, really! And since we were holding that hard at the back of the 4x4 ride, I bumped my hips at the side steel bars and that was really painful. But was a totally liberating experience!

Now, to the Sand Boarding:

This activity is just like the one i was referring to at the easy trails of the 4x4 ride. It was like that kind of slope for the beginner type, except that you will be standing on a sand board or skateboard-like thing in a balance position and you will be slowly pushed through the sands to drop down the slope. Again, this one is my first time and i was actually hesitant to do it, apart from the fact that i really don't know how to balance myself on that kind of thing-- I was thinking the whole time that i might just fall down, threw myself on the air or roll down on the sand, will get bruised, everybody will laugh and that's not really fun for me. Huh!

But thank heavens, there's another position that you can try, you can sit on the sand board while enjoying that ride going down the slope. Funny to look at for adults, but it was such an enjoyable experience for the kids! Yeah! 

My kids tried it for the first time and right after the first try they screamed for more and i think that was a countless encounter for them especially for my son who really enjoyed it so much that even if we already left the place he was still begging me to go back there once again for the ride and the sand boarding! Check out our videos on my Youtube Channel:

We still had so much more time left for the 1 hour 4x4 ride and sand boarding but we need to get to Vigan before evening and so we told our driver to bring us back to the jump off point. I thought we're going to ride the 4x4 ride in a normal speed and the usual driving mode, but it was the hard trail that we all went through before ending the activity. And once again we are screaming and shouting pitch high! But the latter part was more enjoyable, maybe because we already got used to it and thinking that "walang ganito sa Batangas! Itodo na 'to!" Lol! 

Now here's some tips:
  • If you're planning to do this activity you better schedule it first thing in the morning, the earliest time possible or late in the afternoon, during sunset because the heat is really unbearable.
  • Do not forget to apply some sunscreen protection, make it SPF 100!
  • Do not bring unnecessary gadgets or accessories that might just fall or you might loose while climbing and dropping down the series of ridges.
  • Wear your sunglasses, just make sure they fit in perfectly that it won't drop off to protect your eyes from the sand or else you might just squint from time to time.
  • Do this with friends, going solo can be boring!
  • Ideally, i think this kind of activity should be done with the proper protective gears for safety purposes but since they are lacking, be extra careful of the steel bars. Position yourself in the middle of the truck with legs half wide open for stronghold and proper balance so as to refrain yourself from bumping on the sides.
  • You can always tell the driver if the tour is becoming unbearable for you and your group, (there are people who can be uncomfortable with this kind of extreme activity) and they will be glad to take you on a much easier trails.
  • I suppose, people with heart problems, shouldn't be allowed to try this activity. The sudden drop and hike of emotions can be unpredictable and the extreme heat is not advisable for such situation so please be guided accordingly.
  • Avoid opening your mouth when doing the sand boarding, because the sand taken by the wind can whisk through your mouth and your eyes, so better squint or wear your eye gears too.
  • Do not even try to drive your own 4x4 SUVs on the dunes. They maybe 4x4s but isn't equipped with the right set of tires, you might just get stucked in the middle of the dessert and it would take too long for someone to rescue you in case.
  • Packages are available depending on what you wish to try, there can be sandboarding only, 4x4 ride only or both. There are also available ATVs for rent for P2000/unit/hour. That's also something nice to try.
  • Take a lot of photographs and jump shots! This is the perfect place to do your signature stunts and pose!
So there you have it guys! It has been a great, unforgettable and the best experience ever for me and my family. And if given another chance, i would love to try it again and again! Eh di wow!

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

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