13 top things to do in Ilocos Norte

Adventure-loving Spanish kiteboarder Jhon Palacios reveals his favorite things to do in Ilocos, from wild freestyle kiting to motorbike trips

by John Palacios & InFlight Traveller

1 Kiteboarding at Kingfisher

“For perfect wind direction; beautiful waves, and clear waters. There’s a break point at about 280m from the sandy shore at Kingfisher Resort for advanced kitesurfers, while the lagoon between the break point and the shore can be enjoyed by beginners or the less advanced kiteboarders.”

2 Bangui Bay kiteboarding

Kiteboarding at Bangui Bay

“Best for beginners or for freestyle kiting involving high jumps and aerial tricks like jumping really high and landing on one foot, or doing a 720-degree rotation. The conditions at Bangui Bay lagoon are gentle. The wind is not too strong at only about 15 knots to 25 knots; and the water is deep, safe in case you fall from your jumps. It’s set in a windmill farm so you can glide between the windmills.”

3 See Adams’ Anuplig waterfalls

Anuplig Falls (Mon Corpuz)

“It’s just about an hour and a half to get to Adams’ Anuplig Waterfalls, passing by mountain villages and rice fields. Anuplig has a 25-foot drop and a pool that’s perfect to swim in. Locals are quite friendly and you can easily find a guide. Often, there’s no one around. A great escape.”

4 Surfing in Saud Beach Pagudpud

“The Saud Beach in Pagudpud has a nice break point where you can surf right handed and left handed waves. It gets even better when there’s a typhoon somewhere in the Pacific Ocean because the waves become bigger.”

5 Kayaking

“We pick up kayaks from Kingfisher resort and go paddle up north, following the shores of the South China Sea. Sometimes you can see yellowfin tuna and blue marlin jumping out of the water or a group of flying fishes and sea turtles. We always kayak around the Pagudpud area. It’s nice kayaking from Ayoyo Beach across to Blue Lagoon. It’s a 10km to 12km distance but beautiful, a gentle kayak.”

6 Hike and trek

“You can trek around Bangui, Pagudpud, Dumalneg, and Sta. Ana. The mountains here are high and close to the shore so you can do some watersports in the morning and trek in the afternoon. Plus you’ll get to mingle with hospitable locals.”

7 Snorkeling

“You can snorkel in Pagudpud because the water is super clean and rich in sea life. Sometimes we surf where we snorkel.”

8 Windsurfing

“It’s really good to windsurf in Kingfisher because the wind accelerates. If the wind is too strong for kiteboarding, then we go windsurfing.”

9 Motorbike trips

“The best way to explore the area. You can get lost in many places around the mountains, a chance to discover beaches and meet the locals. And you can take your surfboard, kite or any crazy stuff with you.”

10 Stand up paddle boarding

Stand up paddle boarding

“I like surfing but stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is another way to explore Ilocos Norte. You can get lost SUP-ing in the middle of nowhere. It offers very good training in balance, gliding along the waters and sometimes riding breaking waves. It’s calming. Sometimes we take our SUP board to a river and paddle in the midst of the jungles. Pagudpud has three or four rivers, which are all interesting. They’ve got different views — one is of a rice field; the one in Ayoyo is full of palm trees.”

11 Waterfalls exploration

“There are lots of waterfalls in the north. They’re so remote they don’t even have names. In Avis in Burgos, you can climb up to this five-meter high waterfall and jump into the water lagoon about four to five meters deep. In Dumalneg, you can find six or seven waterfalls in different levels. The last one will require climbing some 80 meters high and afford you a view of the whole China Sea.”

12 Sandboarding in Paoay

Paoay Sand Dunes, with some 88 hectares of sand and wild landscape, is a favorite not just of tourists, but of budding sandboarders and surfers. There are trails for thrill rides on a four-wheel drive, and two allotted areas for sandboarding, a sport using a skimboard to ride down a sandy hill. One sandboarding area is for beginners, with the ride starting at a 10-foot point, and the other for the more experienced rider, with the jump off point at about 20 feet.

For 4×4 and sandboard rental, contact Paoay Off-Roaders c/o Jessie Galano at +63918/ 461 0610; for ATV rental, book through the Plaza del Norte Hotel and Convention Center.

13 Fun rides on a 4 x 4 truck

4x4 adventure on the Paoay Sand Dunes (Ferdz Decena)

Go on a fun ride onboard a 4X4 truck, driving across the wild sand dunes of Paoay. At sunset from the top of the dunes, watch the sun go down the South China Sea, and the landscape change colors, a perfect canvas for the flight of birds such as the shrikes and brahminy kite.
An hour on a 4×4 truck costs P2,500 (about US$55) for three to four persons, including use of sandboard. For 4×4 and sandboard rental, contact Jessie Galano of Paoay Off-Roaders at +63 918 461 0610; for ATV rental, book through the Plaza del Norte Hotel and Convention Center.

Kingfisher Resort has a watersports center, equipment rental, and can help arrange most of the activities on Palacios’ list. The resort also offers kiteboarding lessons. 

Our insider
Jhon Palacios is a coach of Pata Negra Surf-Tarifa. He lives in Tarifa, Spain, but frequently visits the Philippines, particularly the Ilocos region. Follow Palacios on Facebook

Originally published in InFlight Traveller April to June 2015