Discover the exciting activities and sumptuous dishes of Laoag City in Ilocos Norte. Read this guide to learn about the best time to go, how to go, where to stay, what to see and do, and other travel tips to help you plan your trip to the The Sunshine City of the north.
The word laoag means “bright” or “light” in the native Ilocano language of Ilocos region, that’s why Laoag City is called “The Sunshine City”. It's the provincial capital of Ilocos Norte, has a compact land area, but it’s packed with must-see tourist spots, rugged and mountainous terrain, and amazing beaches.
In Laoag City, you’ll find how beautifully preserved colonial architecture mixes with but still stand out among modern infrastructure.
Whether you want to chill along the beaches of Pagudpud, try out the fresh local delicacies, coast along the sand dunes, or just take a leisurely stroll around the city center, you will definitely be captivated by the tourist spots and activities in Laoag.
If you’re planning to make the trip to the north of Luzon in the Philippines, this ultimate guide can help you create that complete travel itinerary to Laoag City.
Starting October 2020, travelers from selected parts from the Philippines can once again discover Laoag’s beaches, heritage sites, and museums. But with the threat of COVID-19 pandemic, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has announced a set of guidelines and tourist requirements to comply before you make your trip to the ‘Sunshine City’ of Ilocos Norte.
Laoag in Ilocos Norte is open to residents and domestic tourists coming from Luzon, including Metro Manila. Only 50 tourists are allowed per day.
Guests in GCQ and MGCQ areas with a high infection rate should have a negative RT-PCR test result taken not earlier than 72 hours prior to traveling or upon arrival for a fee, and a negative RTD test result at the provincial borders upon arrival. For GCQ and MGCQ areas with a low infection rate, guests can either present a negative RT-PCR or RTD test and another RTD upon arrival at the provincial border.
Guests who are pregnant, with diseases, and children with chronic illnesses are not allowed to enter the provincial border.
Domestic tourists coming from Luzon can only enter Laoag via its Badoc and Pagudpud gateways, including the Laoag International Airport (LAO), The visitors’ assistance centers in these provincial borders can only process the arrival of tourists from 6 AM to 10 AM only.
Here are the requirements that you need to prepare before going to Laoag:
Secure a negative RT-PCR test result
The IATF has authorized a test-before-travel requirement. All residents and domestic tourists from Luzon are must secure a negative RT-PCR test result done within three days (72 hours) prior to travel or upon arrival for a fee. Check out the list of accredited laboratories here.
Undergo RDT test at the border upon arrival
Domestic tourists from Luzon, especially those at GCQ and MGCQ areas with high infection rate, must undergo RDT (Rapid Diagnostic Test) upon arrival at the provincial border or within 30 hours of arrival.
Travelers who stayed at GCQ and MGCQ areas with low infection rate are also not exempted. It is also mandatory to take an RDT test as close to their entry to the Ilocos Norte border.
Leisure travelers who plan to stay for longer than 3 days in the province must repeat RDT test on the 4th, 9th and 14th day of stay.
Pre-register in Laoag’s Stay IN Registration System
All residents and domestic tourists from Luzon must pre-register first at Laoag’s tourist registration called Stay IN (Ilocos Norte) which can be found here.
Securing a valid SafePass QR Code is needed for contact tracing. Necessary tourist information such as confirmed itinerary, tour operator, accommodation, health certificate, and negative RT-PCR and RDT results must be recorded for the safety of both the traveler and the city.
DIYs and day tours are not allowed
All residents and domestic tourists from Luzon must have pre-arranged travel with DOT-accredited travel agencies or tour operators only. Do-it-Yourself (DIY) or day tours are no longer allowed. Guests are only allowed to stay at accommodations which have secured a special permit to operate.
Observe strict quarantine
All residents and domestic tourists from Luzon must comply with strict quarantine protocols until their travel date. This includes wearing a mask and face shield, washing hands regularly, and practicing social distancing.
Health declaration form
Travelers have to register online at ilocosnorte.ph and answer the health questionnaire. The QR code that will be generated will serve as travel pass and health declaration ID.
Once you're in Laoag, make sure you follow these safety protocols:
Minimum health standards: Mask and face shield
All residents and domestic tourists from Luzon must wear face masks, face shields, sanitize hands regularly and observe proper social distancing especially in public places. This is to help reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 disease.
Both drivers and passengers must comply with the “no face shield, no mask, no ride” policy, This includes public transportation in Laoag like jeepneys, buses, tricycles, and many more. These safety measures are strictly mandatory especially on provincial borders to contain the spread of COVID-19 disease.
There are restaurants and food establishments in Laoag that offer dine-in services. Guests are required to comply with dining protocols such as proper use of face masks, face shields, and proper social distancing.
Restaurants and food establishments must also enforce COVID-19 specific written procedures and comply with the necessary health requirements.
Don't miss the opportunity to enjoy the tourist spots of Laoag, which includes heritage sites, beaches and selected museums.
First-come, first-served basis on attractions
Take note that most of Laoag’s tourist sites accept guests on a "first-come, first-served basis”. Regardless if you’re a resident or a domestic tourist from Luzon, those who book first will be given priority.
All travelers must have an individual visitor account online via SafePass, an Online Visitors Registration System (OVRS). You need a QR code before you can leisurely explore the beautiful sites of Laoag.
Travel health protocols
Residents and domestic tourists from Luzon can only join tours organized by DOT-accredited tour operators. Wearing a mask, face shield, and practicing social distancing in these tourist sites strictly needs to be followed.
If you don’t want to sweat buckets during your trip, the best time to visit Laoag is during the cooler months of November to February. Christmas preparations are already in full swing by the time November comes around, so expect a lot of holiday activities during this time.
March to June are the hottest months with temperatures reaching a high of 35 degrees Celsius, with minimal rainfall. These months also coincide with Holy Week and summer break for most schools, so you may see a lot of families with school-age children in Laoag during your visit.
The months of July to October bring rain, and sometimes typhoons. The city experiences an average of 4 to 5 typhoons every year, so make sure to check weather reports regularly, especially if you plan your trip around these months.
Photo by Philippine Airlines
The fastest way is to fly to Laoag but if you’re already in Manila, there are also other options that you can choose from. Here are some of them:
Laoag has its own airport, Laoag International Airport, making it more accessible to local and international travelers.
PAL Express has direct flights from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Laoag Airport once a day every Mondays to Thursdays, and twice daily from Friday to Sunday. Travel time by plane from Manila to Laoag is about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
There are currently no direct domestic flights from major cities outside of Manila to Laoag Airport. The best option is to fly to NAIA first, as most major airlines have direct flights from Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro to Manila, then take a flight to Laoag.
From International Airports
There are currently no direct international flights to Laoag. If you’re coming from outside the Philippines, we advise to fly to NAIA first, then take a PAL Express flight to Laoag Airport. Or, you can fly straight to Clark International Airport in Clark, Pampanga, then board a bus from Dau Terminal to Laoag. Travel time by bus from Dau to Laoag is about 4 to 6 hours.
Laoag is about 487km from Manila, and it takes an average of 10 hours to travel to the city. The land travel to Laoag may be longer than a flight from Manila but it’s cheaper. Here are some of your transport options.
Private Car From Manila
You can either bring a private car or hire a private van. The fastest way to drive to Laoag is via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), then take the exit to SCTEX/Clark Airport.
From there, follow the signs for Tarlac/Baguio/TPLEX, continue onto the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway, and traverse the Mac Arthur Highway to get to the city. Total driving time from Manila to Laoag is about 8 hours.
By Bus from Manila
GV Florida Transport buses depart from Sampaloc, Manila terminal to Laoag every four hours daily. Partas Bus Line also has daily trips to Laoag from Cubao, Quezon City.
You can choose from a regular aircon, luxury, and super deluxe bus. From the bus terminal, you can catch a jeepney or taxi to your hotel, or to other towns and cities near Laoag.
If you brought your own vehicle, or if you rented a van for your trip, you can easily get around Laoag. If you got into the city via public transportation, you can take jeepneys to help you get around. Short trips to and from the city center are easily managed by tricycle, a motorcycle with an attached roofed sidecar.
You can also explore the city center on foot, as most establishments and attractions within the city are located close to one another. But always remember to bring an umbrella to block the sun’s harsh rays, and a bottle of drinking water to keep yourself hydrated.
Laoag has several hotels and resorts ranging from luxury accommodations to budget hotels. Here are some of our recommended Laoag hotels that you can book based on your budget and itinerary:
After an 8-hour drive (or a 10-hour bus ride), you just might want to treat yourself to a little luxury upon reaching the city. Here are your top options for luxury accommodations in Laoag:
Feel at home at Laoag’s top hotel, Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel. The air-conditioned rooms come with complete bathroom amenities, a safe deposit box, personal refrigerator, and coffee/tea facilities.
An overnight stay comes with a free buffet breakfast for two, wi-fi internet access, free use of the hotel facilities, and airport transfers.
Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel has its own shopping arcade, for hassle-free souvenir shopping for your friends and family. The hotel also has its own café, restaurant, bar, swimming pool, and golf course so you’ll never run out of things to do!
If you want a spacious room that gives you that perfect Balinese-Moroccan vibe, book a room at the Java Hotel. The air-conditioned rooms come with complete bathroom amenities with cold and hot showers, cable TV, private balcony (for select rooms), and Wi-Fi internet access.
The Java Hotel has its own bar and restaurant, swimming pool, tennis court, a jungle gym/playground, and a 30m wall climbing facility.
Creatures of comfort need not worry about finding the perfect accommodations but don’t want to spend for additional perks. Here are some mid-range hotels in Laoag to suit your sensible budget and tastes:
Photo by Vybe Hotel
Comfortably situated near popular Ilocos Norte tourist spots, Vybe Hotel offers comfortable accommodations without breaking your budget.
This 60-room hotel is a short 10-minute drive from downtown Laoag; close enough to get into the city, but far enough from the city center if you want some peace and quiet. Complimentary breakfast is available for checked-in guests. Rooms are spacious and have complete amenities.
Viven Hotel is a boutique hotel near the Laoag city center. Their modern and air-conditioned rooms are perfect for guests who want to stay in a place that’s easily accessible to the city’s dining, shopping, and entertainment destinations.
Casa de Renzo Hotel
Get the best value for your money by booking your stay at this small budget hotel. Its wood interior, cozy rooms, and intimate dining area give off a vacation home feel. The hotel has rooms for solo travelers, couples, and small groups. There are even dorm-type accommodations for larger groups.
Traveling on a shoestring? Laoag also has hotels that cater to solo backpackers and small groups. Check out these best options for budget-friendly hotels in Laoag:
This small, 11-room budget hotel may have only the basic facilities and amenities, but its spacious rooms, clean surroundings, and proximity to the city center more than make up for it. The hotel is within walking distance to restaurants like Kahel de Luna, and attractions like the Sinking Bell Tower and Museo Ilocos.
Farm Side Hotel
Photo by Farm Side Hotel
The rooms are designed to look like small one-bedroom bungalows, for those who would like to have a bit more privacy. The hotel is within walking distance from Robinsons Ilocos Mall and is a short tricycle or jeepney ride away from the city center.
The beauty of The Sunshine City lies in the fact that it’s able to successfully mix the historic with the modern. Even if it’s a buzzing city, travelers can still feel its warm, provincial charm, especially in the top attractions. Here are the spots included in top tours in Laoag where you can experience the wonders of both the old and the new.
If you love soaking up the history, culture, and traditions of a place, make a stop at the Museo Ilocos Norte along General Antonio Luna Street. The museum used to be a tobacco warehouse and houses a large collection of Ilocano, Igorot, and Itneg traditional clothing, everyday objects, and ceremonial pieces.
Batac Museum, also known as the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum, showcases memorabilia of the late President Ferdinand Marcos. The museum used to be the Marcoses’ family home.
Also worth a visit is Malacañang of the North in nearby Paoay. The two-story mansion was a former holiday residence of the Marcos family, which was converted into a museum. Malacañang of the North sits on the edge of the serene and peaceful Paoay Lake.
The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country. As such, it is not unusual to see numerous churches in different towns and cities.
Most churches in the country are large stone edifices, like St. William’s Cathedral (Laoag Church) in Laoag.
The current church was built in 1612 by Augustinian friars and constructed in the Italian Renaissance style. About 85 meters from the church is the church’s bell tower, also known as the Sinking Bell Tower. It is said that the bell tower sinks at a rate of 1 inch per year.
Some 19 km southwest of Laoag is the Paoay Church, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In contrast to St. William’s Cathedral, Paoay Church is built in the usual earthquake-baroque style, a type of Baroque architecture commonly found around the Philippines. Both churches conduct masses in Ilocano, English, and Tagalog.
Get an adrenaline rush and head over to the La Paz Sand Dunes! The steep slopes of the dunes make it a perfect place for sandboarding, which involves going down a sand dune on a wooden or plastic board. Rough terrain riding enthusiasts will also enjoy an exhilarating 4x4 ride up and down the sandy hills.
You can also visit and stare in awe at the Bangui Windmills, Ilocos’ “giant electric fans” on the coast of Bangui Bay, north of Laoag. The windmills are accessible to the public, so you can just head over there to feel the wind on your face while watching the giant fan blades spin.
All that walking, sandboarding, sightseeing, and picture-taking around Laoag will surely make you hungry. Fortunately, there are a lot of great food choices to choose from to whet your appetite. From traditional Ilocano dishes to fusion cuisine, Laoag City has got your tummy covered.
One restaurant that is precious to Laoag natives is the aptly named La Preciosa. The restaurant comes highly recommended as it serves large portions of Ilocano specialties such as pinakbet (mixed vegetable stew cooked in fermented shrimp paste or bagoong), bagnet (pork belly that is deep fried multiple times in its own fat), dinardaan (offal in pig’s blood), and sarabasab (grilled pork liver in bitter sauce).
Pizza lovers will find great joy in having their favorite carbs at Saramsam Ylocano. Here, Italy meets the Philippines with the poqui-poqui pizza, which combines the traditional Ilocano vegetable dish made with roasted eggplants, tomatoes, and eggs with fresh pizza dough. Other options such as the pinakbet pizza and longganisa (pork sausage) pizza.
Looking for a snack to tide you over in between sightseeing? Try the Ilocos empanada. These deep-fried pastries are stuffed with green papaya, minced longganisa, mung beans, and egg, and are widely sold at almost every street corner in Laoag.
Its dough is made of rice flour and achuete (annatto) seeds, which colors it bright orange. The best place to sample these tasty snacks in Laoag is in Dap-ayan.
Some hotels, restaurants, and commercial establishments accept credit cards, but most smaller shops only accept cash. There are only a few ATM machines in the city proper so it’s still best to bring enough cash with you.
Currency exchange is available in most hotels.
Most hotels in Laoag offer free Wi-Fi internet connection. However, internet access will be spotty at best when you travel outside the city.
Pack light, as temperatures are almost always warm and humid. You can also opt to bring an extra shirt during your tour, so you can swap your sweaty shirt for a fresh one in between activities.
Remember to also bring a jacket or raincoat just in case the weather turns cool and rainy!
There are no establishments around the sand dunes, so make sure to bring your own bottled water and something to munch on while taking a break from sandboarding.
Ready to go on an adventure to Laoag and the nearby Ilocos Norte tourist spots? Check out our sample itinerary to make sure you get the best out of your trip to The Sunshine City.
11:55 AM - Departure from NAIA Terminal 2 to Laoag Airport
01:05 PM - ETA in Laoag Airport
01:30 PM - Late lunch at La Preciosa
03:00 PM - Late check-in at Viven Hotel, rest and freshen up
04:00 - 06:00 PM - Take a DIY walking tour around the city
06:00 PM - Dinner near the hotel
08:00 PM - Call it a day. Start bright and early the next day
08:00 AM - Leisurely breakfast at the hotel
09:00 - 12:00 NN - Start of Paoay Tour. Visit Paoay Church, Malacañang of the North and Paoay Lake, which are often included in a cultural tour in Ilocos Norte
12:00 NN - Lunch at Paoay
01:30 - 06:00 PM - Continuation of cultural city tour. Visit Museo Ilocos Norte and chill at the Rizal Amusement Park
06:00 PM - Dinner at Saramsam Ylocano
08:00 PM - Back at the hotel. Call it a day. Start bright and early the next day
8:00 AM - Leisurely breakfast at the hotel
09:30 - 12:00 NN - Visit the Bangui Windmills, Patapat Viaduct, and Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, which are often combined in an Ilocos Norte tour
01:00 PM - Late lunch in Laoag City
02:00 - 05:00 PM - La Paz Sand Dunes: Go on a 4x4 adventure, try sandboarding
06:00 PM - Dinner at Cuisine de Iloco
08:00 PM - Back at the hotel. Call it a day. Start bright and early the next day
09:00 AM - Late breakfast at the hotel
12:00 NN - Hotel check out
12:30 PM - Lunch near the hotel
01:30 - 06:00 PM - Join a Vigan trip from Laoag. Visit Plaza Burgos, Crisologo Museum, Calle Crisologo, Syquia Mansion, and many more
06:00 - 07:00 PM - Back to Laoag. Dinner. Do some shopping for souvenirs
07:30 PM - Travel to Laoag Airport
09:20 PM - Departure from Laoag Airport
11:30 PM - ETA in NAIA Terminal 2
Laoag City is Ready to Welcome You!
Laoag is a lovely historic city that is the perfect blend of small-town traditional charm and big-city modern lifestyle. It is where centuries-old churches coexist with swanky office buildings and modern commercial establishments, and where the laid-back atmosphere works well with heart-pumping adventures.
The Sunshine City is a great place to unwind, bask in endless sunshine, and feel the fresh clean wind on your face.
Start planning your holiday to Laoag! Check out Ilocos tours and activities that will let you experience the charm of The Sunshine City to the fullest!