My sister Karen, who wakeboards, sees how it’s like on sand.

Surf’s Up—Water Not Included

If you flip through travel magazines that talk about the top things to do in Ilocos Norte, Philippines, you’ll most likely see Paoay Sand Dunes on the list. One of the place’s selling points is that a number of movies have been filmed there, including Tom Cruise’s 1989 movie, Born on the Fourth of July, and the local cult hit, Temptation Island. Directors have fallen in love with the desert-like stretch that makes a versatile backdrop for action and adventure movies.

This spot was declared a national geological monument site.
Paoay (pronounced as pou-wahy)

L-R: My mother’s friend Rose, my mother Nani, my sister Karen, and myself
My sister Karen, who wakeboards, sees how it’s like on sand.
The Filipino version of snow

Hollywood factor aside, the Paoay Sand Dunes offers travelers a number of fun things to do, such as sand surfing, dune bashing, water and kite surfing at the beach, and for the more romantic type, sunset watching and stargazing.

My sister and I picked dune bashing, also known as off-roading on a 4×4 jeep along the wide stretch of sand dunes. A designated guide drove us around the bumpy areas, often speeding and braking abruptly for a more thrilling experience as we excitedly hung on to our dear lives at the back of the jeep.

South China Sea

My mother’s friend Tess gets the ball rolling

During the stopover, we strolled down the beach and enjoyed a breathtaking view of the South China Sea before we went sand surfing.

My highlight: being in the company of my mom and her five girlfriends, all in their late ’40s to early ’50s. They initially hesitated to join our little adventure, but after enough convincing by my younger sister and the tour guides, they let their inhibitions go and said yes. It was fantastic seeing them let loose and have fun in the 4×4 rides. They even gave sand surfing a try. I’m proud of the mommas!

But that was nothing compared to the daredevils this place has had in the past, our guide told me. One of the oldest sand surfers they’ve ever had was an 86-year-old man, whose spirit could rival that of an 18-year-old.

You know what they say: adventure has no age limit.

If you’re in Ilocos Norte and would like to visit the Paoay Sand Dunes, call Rocky Pascua at +63921-4149944.
Current rate for sand dune activities is P2,500/hour (for a group of 5).