The La Paz Sand Dunes or Bantay Bimmaboy consists of an area of approximately 85 square kilometers (52 square miles) of protected sandy coastal desert and beach close to Laoag City, the capital of the province of Ilocos Norte. The area is known locally by the name Bantay Bimmaboy, a name which refers to the common perception that the dunes resemble pigs ("baboy" in Filipino) in shape. The area is also known as the Desert of the North and is a popular location for shooting films.
The height of the dunes ranges from 10 to 30 meters. The dunes themselves are scenic but a panoramic view of the South China Sea can also be seen from there.
With its dramatic landscape, the La Paz Sand Dunes is a popular site for shooting local and foreign films. It was used as a location for the Philippine movies Himala and Panday and for segments of the Hollywood films Mad Max and Born on the Fourth of July. A few people inhabit the area, as can be seen from the nipa huts that dot the dunes.
The La Paz Sand Dunes forms a part of the Ilocos Norte Sand Dunes (INSD), which stretches from the town of Currimao, north of Laoag, to Pasuquin, south of Laoag. The INSD was identified as one of the National Geological Monuments or significant geological formations in the Philippines by the National Committee on Geological Sciences (NCGS) on November 26, 1993. A marker erected by the NCGS in Barangay Calayab in Laoag City gives recognition to the uniqueness of the desert environment in the Philippines and its scientific and educational value.
The sand dunes of Ilocos were created by the interaction of the wind, sea, and river that together cause erosion and deposition. The size of the dunes varies depending on a number of factors, including the currents, weather conditions, nature of winds, amount of sediment, and type of vegetation in the area. The dunes that directly face the coast of the South China Sea are not as old as the others and tend to be more volatile. Sand dunes in some of the more sheltered areas of the INSD can reach as high as 90 meters.
The sand dunes are found in the coastal village of Barangay La Paz, which lends the site its name. The dunes lie to the west of Laoag, between the city and the coast, and to the south of the riverbank where Fort Ilocandia Resort and Casino is located.
As the La Paz Sand Dunes begin just outside Laoag, they are easily accessible from the city. The sand dunes are just 15 minutes away by either motorized tricycle or public jeepney. It is also possible to walk to the La Paz Sand Dunes from Laoag, although it may take a trek of more than an hour in order to traverse the entire stretch of the beach. A rugged 4-wheel-drive vehicle may be used to drive over the sand.
Accommodations in Laoag are also available. There are lots of inns and hotels throughout the town offering comfortable rooms and cottages at a reasonable price.
• Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel - Brgy. 37 Calayab, Laoag (Ilocos Norte), Ilocos Region, Philippines
• Pamulinawen Hotel - National Highway, Brgy. 22, 2901 San Nicholas, Laoag (Ilocos Norte), Ilocos Region, Philippines
• Plaza Del Norte Hotel and Convention Center- 15 Suba, Paoay, Laoag (Ilocos Norte), Ilocos Region, Philippines
• Grand Octagon Resort - Airport Ave., Brgy.50, Butong, Laoag (Ilocos Norte), Ilocos Region, Philippines
• Java Hotel - 55B Salet Gen. Segundo Avenue, Laoag City, Laoag (Ilocos Norte), Ilocos Region, Philippines