Agusan del Norte is a haven just waiting to be discovered. It is located on the northeastern part of Mindanao. Its northeast and western parts are mountainous, while the rest of the region is made up of flat lands where the great Agusan River cuts through all the way to Butuan Bay. Aside from possessing natural wonders like beaches, waterfalls, and caves, Agusan del Norte has a rich history because of the archeological finds in the province.
Butuan City is the most urbanized city in Agusan del Norte, but it is best known for its archaeological discoveries like the Golden Tara, a Hindu figurine of a female deity and several ancient boats called the "balangay." These artifacts are preserved in the city's museums. Another destination in Butuan is the Bood Promontory Eco-park, claimed by some historians and locals to be the site of the first Easter mass in the Philippines.
Agusan del Norte is also blessed with impressive bodies of water. The Goso-on Fish Sanctuary in the municipality of Carmen attracts diving enthusiasts. Its colorful, underwater world is full of corals, various schools of fishes, shells, and other marine creatures. Lake Mainit is the fourth largest lake in the country and is shared by Agusan del Norte with Surigao del Norte. It provides livelihood to the locals living near the lake through aquaculture, agricultural, and tourism endeavors. Lastly, Kalinawan River is the cleanest inland body of water in the region. The serene body of water is visited by tourists for sightseeing and boating.
There are about five scheduled flights from Manila to Butuan City daily, courtesy of both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. The flights last one hour and 30 minutes.
Traveling by sea is another option. From Manila, 2GO Travel has trips to Butuan City, which last approximately 35 hours. If you’re coming from Cebu, travel time is only nine hours.
If you’re coming from other cities in Mindanao like Surigao, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao City, you can travel by land. From Surigao or Cagayan de Oro, the bus ride takes about two and a half hours. From Davao City, land travel takes longer at six hours.
How to Get Around
The most common mode of transportation in the province is the tricycle, which is ideal for short-distances.
By Jeepney and Habal-Habal
Jeeps and habal-habal are also available if you want to travel longer distances.
You take a bus if you want to travel from one town to the other.
What to See
Some historians believe that the first mass was held by Ferdinand Magella in the town of Magallanes, the former site of Butuan (also called Baug). To commemorate this historic event, the Magellan Marker was erected on the spot in 1872 and has been around since then.
The Bood Promontory Eco Park in Butuan City is yet another site where the first mass in the Philippines was believed to have been held. Known for its large cross, the park is also located at a high altitude where you can enjoy a sweeping view of the entire Butuan Bay.
Long before the Spaniards came to the country, a tree was said to have inhabited the coastal community of present-day Magallanes. The Bitaog Tree is believed to be more than 500 years old already, earning the moniker the Centennial Tree. The tree is 270 centimeters in diameter—at total of 10 people hand in hand can to encircle the tree.
The streets of the provincial capital of Cabadbaran is lined by ancestral houses that belong to the prominent families of the city. The Antega Ancestral House is the biggest and well-preserved of them all. It is more than a century old and belongs to the family of revolutionary leader, Don Andres Atega. The house was constructed in a combination of Filipino, Chinese, and European design influences and adorned with both antique and heirloom pieces. The study is one of the fascinating rooms in the house where you’ll see the portraits of the family’s ancestors. Entrance to this house is free—just make sure to schedule your tour in advance so that someone will be available to how you around.
The oldest church in the entire CARAGA region is also found in Agusan Del Norte. The Our Lady of Assumption in Church in the town of Jabonga was built in 1878 and continues to serve as the center of Catholicism in Jabonga. Another remarkable church to see is the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Butuan City, the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Butuan.
Home to quite a number of natural attractions, Agusan del Norte is a holiday destination that anybody will fall in love with. It offers a variety of opportunities for you to reconnect with nature, rest, and relax.
Scuba divers will have a grand time exploring Goso-on Fish Sanctuary, home to a well-protected coral reef. It is also teeming with schools of exotic tropical fish. Punta Diwata Reef and Balete Wall are other impressive dive sites located in the town of Carmen, while Vito Wall in Jabonga has an underwater world of crevices, caves, overhangs, and alleys for a unique diving experience.
Canoeing across the placid Lake Mainit is an adventure you can look forward to when in Agusan Del Norte. The lake is the fourth largest in the Philippines and also the deepest at 223 meters. Apart from its clear waters and picturesque features, the lake is also visited by migratory birds from Russia and Japan.
Kalinawan River is recognized as the cleanest inland body of water in the entire CARAGA region. Back in the day, the river was once used as trading and missionary routes in the country. Today, it is a scenic body of water where you can enjoy canoeing. The river also sustains the livelihood of the Mamanwa, the oldest indigenous tribe in the country.
Agusan del Norte is also home to about five mountains that will delight mountaineers. For beginners, Mount Mina-asug and Mount Mayapay are highly recommended. On the other hand, mounts Mas-ai and Mabaho are perfect for more advanced and technical climbers. But the most challenging is Mount Hilong-Hilong, which rises about 2,012 meters above sea level. A climb to the summit will take about four to five days.
Located below Cabadbaran City Library is Museo de Cabadbaran, a haven for the history buffs. Old artifacts, memorabilia, photographs, and various art pieces are proudly showcased to illustrate the rich history and culture of Agusan del Norte and its people.
Events and Festivals
The Baoto Festival is an annual event held every June. The most exciting part of the feast is the 30k Baoto Marathon, a regional race using the native wooden baotos or dugout canoes. This vessel is the traditional mode of transportation for the locals.
There are even more yearly festivals in various parts of the province: Sumayajaw Festival every August, Lisagan Festival every October, and Saging Festival every January.
Where to Eat
For budget-friendly seafood dishes, Langhan Public Market in Butuan City is the place to go. The market is neat and sanitized so dining won’t be a problem. Best of all, the dishes are guaranteed fresh.
Margie’s Kitchen is considered an institution in Butuan City. It serves all-day breakfast, salads, pastas, and rice meals. The highlight of their menu, however, is its selection of delectable pastries.
Baron’s Grill is another crowd favorite in Butuan because of their grilled seafood and chicken dishes. Even if it’s only open for dinner, this establishment is known to attract a huge number of customers, so make sure to head there early.
Where to Shop
As the commercial, industrial, and administrative center of Agusan Del Norte and the entire CARAGA region, Butuan City is rapidly becoming a cosmopolitan city. The city is home to three major commercial centers (Robinsons Place Butuan, Puregold Price Club, and Gaisano) and with many more to come.
Fare: PHP 5,000.00++
A roundtrip airfare from Manila to Butuan starts at PHP 4,900.00. If you’re traveling by sea, the one-way fare from Manila via 2Go Travel ranges from PHP 1,300.00 to PHP 3,600.00.
Riding a habal-habal will cost you about PHP 40.00. If you’re taking the jeep, the base fare is PHP 7.00.
Food: PHP 150.00 to PHP 250.00
Meals in Agusan Del Norte are quite affordable. You can already enjoy a full meal with a budget of PHP 150.00 to PHP 250.00.
Shopping: PHP 20.00 to PHP 250.00
Key chains and ref magnets are affordable at PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 per piece, while shirts are PHP 200.00 to PHP 250.00, depending on the quality and design.
Accommodation: PHP 800.00 to PHP 3,000.00
For budget travelers, you can already scorea an overnight stay in a comfortable accommodation for as low as PHP 800.00. Midrange to high-end hotels start at PHP 3,000.00 per night.
Activities: PHP 200.00 to PHP 3,000.00
If you want to tour Lake Mainit or Kailnawan River, canoe rentals are priced at PHP 200.00 per hour. If you want to go scuba diving, the rates start at PHP 1,550.00. Meanwhile, a visit to the ancestral houses are usually free, but it would be nice if you can leave tips behind to help with the upkeep of the property. A small amount of PHP 100.00 should be fine.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
A tip of PHP 20.00 or PHP 50.00 when dining is acceptable is almost all restaurants. But tipping is no longer necessary, especially if a 10% service charge is already included in the bill.
||ETA in Butuan City
||Have breakfast at Margie’s Café.
||Visit the Balangay Shrine.
||Have lunch at Langihan Public Market then check in at your accommodation.
||Visit Museo de Cabadbaran.
||Visit the Atega Ancestral House.
||Depart Cabadbaran for Butuan City
||ETA in Butuan City.
||Have dinner at Langihan Public Market. Return to your accommodation to rest.
||Have breakfast at the hotel.
||Depart Butuan for Jabonga.
||ETA in Jabonga
||Visit the Our Lady of Assumption Church.
||Have early lunch at one of the eateries located in downtown Jabonga.
||Set out for Vito Wall for a great diving adventure. Or you can head to the Monton Great Lake Resort where you can go canoeing, surfing, or swimming at Lake Mainit.
||Depart Jabonga for Butuan.
||ETA in Butuan
||Have dinner at Pitstop Café. Retire for the night afterwards.
||Have breakfast at the hotel
||Roam around town and buy pasalubong and souvenirs
||Check out of the hotel and have lunch at Gold ‘n Pearl.
||Check in at Bancasi Airport.
||Depart Butuan for Manila.
||ETA in Manila
Heavy rainfalls are expected from the months of October to February, while the rest of the year are rather sunny. Given such weather conditions, make sure to bring light clothing for day tours as well as a light jacket or scarf to keep you warm at night.
There are about 15 hospitals available throughout the province like Agusan Del Norte Provincial Hospital, Butuan Medical Center, Butuan Doctors Hospital, and MJ Santos Hospital.
Drug stores are also available all over the province, but if you have certain medical conditions, it is highly recommended that you bring your own medication. Make sure to bring the necessary documents as well like your doctor’s prescription.
Agusan Del Norte is a safe province to visit. The local government has increased its police force throughout the years to ensure the safety of its people and tourists. But practicing vigilance is still recommended. Always be aware of your surroundings and don’t leave your valuables unattended. Avoid wearing too much jewelry especially when in crowded places.