Pagudpud, (not) the Boracay of the North


At the northernmost tip of Luzon, 560 kms from Manila,  lies the Ivory Coast of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. My first visit to to the then undeveloped Pagudpud was in the mid 80s, when there were yet no resorts. One had to make arrangements with then Mayor Benemerito to be accommodated at the family’s beach house, and when they did allow, the accommodation was for free.

Pagudpud in the 80s

not so many knew this paradise

Many years later, I went back in the company of officemates on an outing. I couldn’t then recall exactly where the old mayor’s beach house stood.

My last two visits, October 2010 and January 2011 allowed me to piece those memories together.


Saud is considered by many as the premier destination in Pagudpud. Unlike the other Ivory Coast resorts, coconut trees shield the cottages from the glare of the white sandy beach, giving the property a real, honest-to-goodness tropical setting. Of the beach restaurants in Pagudpud, Saud has the best view of the ocean, making dining an experience to look forward to. Hammocks hung from coconut trees, inviting guests to a nap.

lazing at Saud Beach Resort

no one knew where the ducks originated, and now there are thousands of them

pristine waters – the Boracay of the North

breakfast with a view of the ocean

don’t miss the bagnet, with bagoong and kamatis

a beautiful restaurant on the Ivory Coast

The rooms at Saud Beach resort are the best in Pagudpud. They are also the most expensive.Room rates start at P3,619 with family rooms renting out for P6,534. All rooms have TV and refrigerators. Suites have bath tubs.

Contact Saud Beach Resort at (+632) 9289953, (+632) 9212856, +(63918) 9208826, and (+63920) 2706075. Visit their website at



On my visit two weeks ago, I found out that Villa del Mar was where the old mayor’s cottage stood. This I learned from an old lady who owns the resort, and is  a relative of the former mayor. I actually checked out this facility last year but stayed in Saud. This time we decided to stay at least overnight.

A rather unique attraction at Villa del Mar are two monkeys, Moymoy and Mamay. I nsaw some staff playing with them. Mustering enough courage, I played with Moymoy, too. I didn’t know what he was trying to do but he was reaching inside my pockets. As it turns out, Moymoy always “steals” hankies, mobile phone, or wallets and plays with them. To make it worth his while, I then put some candies in my pocket. It was fun watching him unwrap the candies.


Vista del Mar shares the same sandy shore as Saud’s with only one big resort in between. The choice of where to stay, therefore, is dependent on one’s budget. Vista del Mar has clean, decent rooms at rates lower than Saud’s.

best spot: family room at absolute beachfront

This resort has a huge restaurant with a billiard table at the far end. They also have a swimming pool, even if no one will probably prefer to stay in the pool when you have a beautiful stretch of white sand before you.


Room rates start at P1,200, with fan, good for 3. A standard aircon room costs P1,500. Family cottages that can accommodate 6 persons cost P3,500.00

our family cottage, good for 6

Contact Villa del Mar at phone (+63921) 2958196 and (+63919) 8995673



This resort sits right in the middle of Saud and Villa del Mar. I will probably stay in this resort the next time. For this visit, I inquired about accommodations and rates, and was pleasantly surprised that they are actually cheaper than Villa del Mar. While standard rooms cost pretty much the same as Villa del Mar’s, their family rooms are cheaper, and are on absolute waterfront.

The room settings are also perfect. Two storey cottages directly facing the beach, an al fresco bar/restaurant, and beach huts dotting the sandy shore. Arinaya could just be a favorite.

the patio for drinks al fresco

long stretch of white sand beach

Rates start at P1,500 for aircon rooms. Family rooms cost P3,000 for a maximum of 8 persons.

family cottage on the beach for P3,000

Contact Arinaya at (+63921) 5581366, (+63916) 3931082, (+63915) 3159899 or email them at

LUCKY SEA: Budget Accommodation on the beach

Tucked in between Arinaya and Villa del Mar is Lucky Sea, a homestay facility. Do not expect a restaurant or any other facility. Oh yes, you can get a tattoo courtesy of its resident tattoo artists.

Henna, anyone?

cheap rooms on the same glorious stretch on the Ivory Coast

Lucky Sea beach huts

Lucky Sea is more of a backpackers’ place. Contact Mrs Gloria Galera at (+63928) 5393086


Other resorts / accommodations:

this resort has a loyal following

THE OTHER PAGUDPUD : the cluster of resorts in Malingay

While visitors to Pagudpud typically know only of Barangay Saud (now known as Ivory Coast) and choose only among the resorts there, there is another cluster of resorts in Pagudpud, in the direction of the Patapat Cliff.


the most advertised – – there is a signage every 200 meters

Hannah’s has the most complete facilities on this side of Pagudpud – –  restaurant, billiards and darts, karaoke, surf boards, banana boat, kayak, speed boats, gym, massage, etc. Contact (+63920) 9834659, (+63920) 6057121, (+63910) 4966525 or email

a friend has stayed here, and the place is beautiful yet very inexpensive


On all my trips to Pagudpud, I always  drive through the Patapat Cliff. I’d say it is the most scenic coastal drive there is in the Philippines, driving through a one and a half kilometer road  jutting out of the mountain edges 31 meters above the sea level. Always a lovely sight.


The famous windmills of Bangui can be seen from Saud Beach on a clear day, which is almost everyday in this bright and sunny place.

Read more about the windmills of Bangui :


Provincial buses ply the Manila-Ilocos Norte route, with some going directly to Pagudpud. You may also want to stop in Laoag, the provincial capital, before another ride of about an hour and a half to Pagudpud. From the town center, tricycles can take you to the resort of your choice.

By car, take NLEX-SCTEX, exit in Tarlac, and drive all the way north passing thru Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur, and finally Ilocos Norte. Drive time to pagudpud from manila is approximately 13 hours.

Fort Ilocandia, jewel of Laoag


the grandeur of an era

I first went to Fort Ilocandia a few months after it opened, nearly 30 years ago. I was in a a big group of advertising agency people who were invited by a major TV network for rest-and-recreation in this much talked about hotel – – a typical PR activity by media companies wooing advertisers’ budgets.

I have been coming to Fort Ilocandia since then.

Today, I am told the hotel is being run by foreign investors, the same group running the casino at the second level of the hotel. I have played a few games on the black jack table. I just make sure I leave my ATM cards in my rooms, so I don’t  lose more than I the little that I had budgetted for an hour or so of fun.

the grand staircase to the casino

The hotel has kept its grandeur and, in my book, is still the best hotel in Laoag. For many reasons.

Its architecture is unique. Two-storey buildings sprawling the magnificent garden facing the ocean. Bougainvillas creeping through the brick walls on the verandas, accentuating the lovely balconies of each room.

A fountain that will make you feel like you are in a European plaza.

Guests will not feel idle. They can ride horses along the shore, drive all-terrain-vehicles thru the property, practice their swing on the driving range, or do hole-in-ones in the putting green. There is an Olympic-size pool, beside another one with a cascading waterfall. Drinks can be enjoyed at the bar beside the reception, at the Sunset bar, or at the Lagoon bar, my favorite spot in the resort hotel. There are also beach huts where guests can picnic on the beach. Not to mention the slot machines and the gaming tables at the casino.

The hotel also offers package tours for groups of at least 5 persons. A half-day tour around Ilocos Norte, visitng Paoay Church and the Marcos Museum, among others, costs P750 per person. There are two whole day options. One goes south to the Vigan Heritage Village, and another goes north to Pagudpud, with stops at the beautiful Cape Bojeador lighthouse and the Bangui windmills. The whole day tours cost P900 per head.

Saud Beach, Ivory Coast, Pagudpud

Cape Bojeador lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Norte

Bangui windmills


I stay at Fort Ilocandia because the rooms are nice and comfortable, and all rooms have verandas.

Room rates start at P5,600 for a standard twin, to the P50,000 a day Ambassador Suite.There are also several types of suites, the Sunset Suite having been booked by me once or twice.

standard twin

huge veranda facing the ocean on the 2nd-floor Sunset Suite

Sunset Suites cost P15,400. Rooms rates are generally discounted at 30% during off peak. I have also tried, and got, the same discount rate even during peak season – – – these dates are set by the hotels. But when I notice  that occupancy rate is low, like in early January (which they classify as” peak”) I usually get the off-peak rate. Try bargaining, but be prepared to pay the full rate if they happen to be hosting a convention and only few rooms are available.

If you are not taking the tours offered by the hotel, you can do these on your own. I usually drive from the hotel to Sarrat where the biggest attraction is the Sta Monica Church where Irene Marcos and Greggy Araneta were wed.

Locals say that the whole route from Fort Ilocandia to Sarrat was planted with bougainvillas, sourced from landscape contractors throughout the country. It has been said that there were not enough flowering bougainvillas, and teachers started making paper flowers so that those without flowers also looked like they were in full bloom.

From Sarrat, you can drive to Batac to visit the Marcos Mausoleum. Observe silence while inside the air-conditioned mausoleum, viewing the preserved body of the late president.

From Batac you can drive to Paoay Church and drive on to Paoay Lake.

the belltower is an interesting and rather easy climb

After marveling at the church and having climbed the tower, have some snacks at Herencia Cafe. Try their pinakbet pizza, the only one of its kind in the world.

pinakbet pizza, anyone?

just across from the church

Hopefully, the Malacanang ti Amianan would have been open again to the public ( I have visited this beautiful mansion several times, but was told last January 5 that it was closed to the public on orders of the provincial government).

Fort Ilocandia can be booked via +(6377) 6709001, fax (+6377) 6709101, email


I spotted some resorts for low-budget travelers right beside Fort Ilocandia, sharing the same beach. Access is thru the Fort Ilocandia compound, where a driveway to the left, if you are facing the hotel, goes straight to a cluster of huts selling cheap beer, cheap meals, and inexpensive overnight accommodations.

sharing the same beach


From Manila, take the North Luzon Expressway and exit in Tarlac. Drive north passing thru Pangasinan, la Union, and Ilocos Sur. Laoag is about an hour’s drive from Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

Several bus companies ply the Manila-Laoag route. PARTAS and Farinas, are the most popular. Farinas Trans is  located in Lacson Blvd. (between Dapitan and Laon Laan Sts.) in Sampaloc, Manila.. Partas Trans has a terminal in Laon Laan, Sampaloc, Manila and in Cubao, Quezon City. (thanks to a reader for providing these details)

Travel time from Manila to Laoag is around 11-12 hours.

The Windmills of Bangui


Locals were probably impressed to see the windmills as the backdrop to then candidate Bongbong Marcos, running for senator. And the windmills are really a sight, a rare sight in the Philippines.

Bangui is a small town in Ilocos Norte. It is there where all 19 windmills stand proudly along a 3 kilometer stretch off Bangui Bay.

A viewing deck can be found along the main hi-way where replicas of the windmills are sold as souvenirs.

The prefect spot for viewing, however, is right along the shore, about 5 kms from the main road. There is a small coffee shop called Kangkang Windmill Cafe.


the cafe with a view of the windmills and the bay


This spot is also the stop-over point for most tourists, and sometimes there is a busload of them. The cafe serves good coffee and snacks.


the storekeeper is happy to make coffee

And the bathroom is clean.

very clean bathroom



CAMPING can also be arranged with the cafe, and tents can be put up on the grounds, a few steps from the bay. The only deal is that the campers must buy their food from the cafe.

a very nice camp site



decide where to pitch your tent



The windmills are probably what define Bangui as a tourist destination, or as a side trip when one goes to Pagudpud or to Cape Bojeador. Even while on the beach in Pagudpud, the windmills of Bangui are visible, practically calling visitors to come and visit.

the Bangui Windmills, as seen from Saud Beach in Pagudpud


You can arrange camping thru Kangkang Windmill Cafe at mobile numbers +63927 431 8805 and +63917 9213103

How to get there:

Bangui is the town right before Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. It is past Burgos, where Cape Bojeador is.

Public transportation is available, and several bus companies with terminals in EDSA and in Pasay City ply the Manila-Ilocos Norte routes everyday. If no Pagudpud-bound bus is available, take a bus going to Laoag. From Laoag, Bangui is only about an hour away.