Cagayan is located on the northeast of Luzon Island, and one of the first provinces recognized during the Spanish era. Bordered by several provinces and the Pacific Ocean, the province has already established economic relations with Chinese, Japanese, and Indian civilizations even before the Colonial Period. Cagayan is also one of the most fertile areas in the country where agriculture and fishing thrive.
A major tourist destination in Cagayan is the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape where some of the natural wonders of the province are found. One of the most-visited is the majestic Callao Cave. Filled with impressive rock formations, the cave has seven chambers—one of them was even turned into a beautiful chapel. It has a divine atmosphere, especially when light enters through an overhead opening. The Callao Cave is also filled with startling discoveries—the most impressive is perhaps the 67,000-year old human fossil known as the Callao Man.
Cagayan is also home to one of the 12 minor basilicas in the Philippines. The Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat is also the shrine of an ancient statue of the Virgin Mary, the Our Lady of Piat. It was brought to the Philippines in 1604 from Macau by the Dominicans. The holy image is visited by tourists and pilgrims every June during the Sambali Festival and July during the feast day of Our Lady of Piat.
The beaches of Palaui Island, located in the northeast of the province are considered to be one of the best in the world. This quiet island has fine white sand, clear waters, and structures dating to the Spanish era. The island was also the filming location of two seasons of reality TV show, Survivor.
Cagayan province can easily be reached via the Tuguegarao Airport. Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines both offer daily flights from Manila and Cebu. The direct flight from Manila to Tuguegarao takes only an hour. Meanwhile, flights from Cebu have a layover in Manila before heading to Tuguegarao Airport.
Cagayan is about 11 to 13 hours by land from Metro Manila. Bus companies such as Five Star, Florida, and Victory Liner have daily trips to Tuguegarao, Aparri, Claveria, and the other municipalities in the province.
How to Get Around
Jeepneys are the most common means of getting around Cagayan. It is also the most affordable.
Tricycles are preferred for shorter distances and for destinations that are off the beaten path.
By Bus or Van
To get to the far-flung towns in Cagayan, you need to ride a bus or van.
What to See
One of the 12 minor basilicas in the country can be found in the town of Piat. The Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat is a known pilgrimage site in the north. It serves as a shrine to the centuries-old Marian image of the Our Lady of Piat that many deem to be miraculous.
Another impressive church in Cagayan is the Sts. Peter and Paul Metropolitan Cathedral in Tuguegarao City. Built during the Spanish era in the Baroque style, it is one of the largest churches in the region.
The Saint Raymond of Peñafort Parish Church is also a Baroque church built during the 17th century. Also known as Malaueg Church, this National Cultural Treasure can be found in the town of Rizal.
In the quaint town of Calamaniugan is the Bell of Antiquity. Said to be the oldest bell in the Far East, it was forged in the late 1500s and currently rests in the bell tower of the San Jacinto de Polonia Church.
Cagayan boasts many cave systems, the most famous of which is the Callao Cave in the town of Peñablanca. It is part of the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape and features seven chambers, with only a few accessible to tourists. One chamber is even converted into a chapel. This limestone cave is also where the supposedly 67,000-year-old bone of the Callao Man was discovered.
Another must-see cave is the Odessa-Tumbali Cave. One of the longest cave systems in the country, it is home to amazing limestone formations and lakes where explorers can take a dip.
The Pinacanauan River, one of the tributaries of the Cagayan River, passes through the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape. Boating and kayaking are just some of the popular activities in the river. The scenic cruise lets tourists enjoy a view of the lush forests within the protected area.
Cagayan also has an amazing coastline that will entice beach bums for a swim. Palaui Island in the town of Sta. Ana is home to many marvelous coves. It is an untouched paradise whose raw beauty earned it the 10th spot in CNN Go's 2013 list of the 100 best beaches in the world. Island hopping is a popular activity as well as visiting the century-old Cape Engaño Lighthouse. The white sand Anguib Beach is also a must-see.
The town of Iguig's primary tourist draw is the Calvary Hill. It is a frequented pilgrimage site, especially during the Lenten season, because of the dioramas of the Stations of the Cross on its hilltop.
The Cagayan Museum and Historical Research Center in Tuguegarao City is another must-visit, especially for history and culture buffs. This museum houses an impressive collection of relics, fossils, and artworks for tourists who want to know more about Cagayan province's past.
Events and Festivals
The Aggao Nac Cagayan Festival is a province-wide celebration of the foundation of Cagayan province's civil government. Held every June 23 to 39, the feast showcases colorful parades, cultural performances such as street dancing competitions, trade fairs, and other contests and competitions to hype up the locals and tourists.
The Sambali Festival coincides with the Aggao Nac Cagayan. It is held every June 23 to 30 in the town of Piat and is primarily a religious festival that honors the Our Lady of Piat.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
Many of the fast food chains in Cagayan are located in Tuguegarao City. There are branches of homegrown favorites like Jollibee, Mang Inasal, and Chowking, and international fast food chains like McDonald's and KFC.
Restaurants and Carinderias
One of Tuguegarao's specialties is the scrumptious pancit batil patung. Eateries like Jomar's, Gretchen's, and J-Ren's are the most recommended places that offer this native delicacy. Aside from pancit batil patung, tourists can also enjoy delicious Filipino meals at Crown Restaurant, the delicious pizzas and pastries at Pan De Cagayan, and the hearty buffet-style meals at Kusina Cagayana.
Chelsea's Diner is one of the popular restaurants in Aparri, where tourists can indulge in an array of international dishes.
Where to Shop
The malls in Cagayan are mostly located in Tuguegarao City Visit Robinsons Place Tuguegarao, Paseo Reale, Mall of the Valley, and Fragante Citimall Tuguegarao.
What to Buy
There are many pasalubong centers and shops where tourists can buy the popular take home items from Cagayan. Hopia Ibanag and Cagayan longganisa are popular delicacies from Tuguegarao, while milk candies and peanuts are the best pasalubong from the town of Alcala. Cagayan souvenirs such as T-shirts, keychains, and other merchandise are also available.
ATMs and Money Changers
There are many banks and ATMs in Cagayan if you need to withdraw cash. You can find them in the city centers and commercial areas.
Fare: PHP 600.00 to PHP 1,000.00 (Bus fare); PHP 3,000.00++ (Airfare)
The bus fare differs depending on the distance as well as the amenities of the bus you've chosen. Some bus companies offer "sleeper" buses with cabin beds to make the 12-hour bus ride more comfortable.
Meanwhile, the airfare to Tuguegarao Airport from Metro Manila starts at PHP 3,000.00.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 250.00
Meals at a carinderia is affordable at PHP 50.00, but if you prefer eating at restaurants, expect a budget of PHP 150.00 to PHP 250.00 per meal.
Shopping: PHP 50.00 to PHP 300.00
You can buy a pack of Alcala's Milk Candy for PHP 40.00 or a box of hopia Ibanag from Tuguegarao for PHP 50.00. For souvenirs, small trinkets like keychains and magnets cost about PHP 20.00 apiece, while T-shirts range from PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00, depending on the design.
Accommodation: PHP 500.00 to PHP 1,600.00
There's a variety of accommodations in Cagayan for travelers with different budgets. Backpackers can enjoy an overnight stay at an air conditioned inn for as low as PHP 500.00. For tourists who want to stay at a hotel, a budget of PHP 1,000.00 to PHP 1,500.00 per night is recommended.
Activities: PHP 20.00 to PHP 500.00
For your spelunking trip to Callao Cave, make sure to set aside PHP 20.00 for the entrance fee and about PHP 300.00 fee for your hired guide. The boat ride in Pinacanauan River towards the entrance of the cave costs about PHP 20.00.
Meanwhile, boat rentals for an island hopping trip to Palaui Island cost around PHP 3,000.00 for about five to six persons. There are also guide fees if you decide to hire a guide when you trek to Cape Engaño Lighthouse. In addition, there is a PHP 30.00 entrance fee at Anguib Beach.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 50.00
Pay the PHP 50.00 environmental fee at San Vicenter Port, the jumping-off point for boat rides to Palaui Island.
||Have breakfast at a fast food chain in Tuguegarao City.
||Visit and offer a prayer at the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral.
||Catch a jeepney to the town of Iguig.
||Arrive at Iguig Town Proper. Walk towards Calvary Hill and admire the Stations of the Cross.
||Head back to Tuguegarao.
||Arrive back in Tuguegarao. Have a late lunch of pancit batil patung from Jomar's.
||Check in at your desired accommodation.
||Ride a van to the town of Piat.
||Visit the Basilica Minore of the Our Lady Piat.
||Arrive back in Tuguegarao. Buy some souvenirs like T-shirts and keychains from a souvenir shop.
||Grab some dinner at Kusina Cagayana.
||Have breakfast at Gretchen's carinderia.
||Catch a van to the town of Sta. Ana.
||Once you get there, buy food, drinks, and supplies for your camping trip.
||Ride a tricycle to the San Vicente Port.
||Arrive at the port. Pay the environmental fee at the tourism office then make arrangements for boat transfers to Palaui. Hiring a guide is also recommended. Once everything is set, start departure for Palaui Island.
||Arrive in Punta Verde in Palaui Island. You can choose to check in at a homestay or pitch a tent. Have some lunch after getting settled. The homestay also offers some meals if you failed to bring a packed lunch.
||Enjoy beach bumming and exploring.
||Have your dinner at the homestay.
||Grab some breakfast and pack some lunch for your trekking trip.
||With the help of a guide, start your trek to Cape Engaño Lighthouse and its cove.
||Arrive in Cape Engaño. Take photos with the lighthouse and enjoy swimming in the cove.
||Feast on your packed lunch.
||Head back to Punta Verde.
||Arrive back in Punta Verde then prepare for check-out.
||Ride boat back to San Vicente Port.
||Arrive back in San Vicente Port. Ride a tricycle to Santa Ana's town proper. At the terminal, ride a van back to Tuguegarao.
||Arrive in Tuguegarao City.
||Have dinner at Pan de Cagayan.
||Have breakfast at a fast food chain.
||Take out some packed lunch for your spelunking adventure.
||Ride a tricycle to Peñablanca.
||Arrive at the jumping-off point for Callao Cave. Hire a guide and avail of the Pinacanauan River boat ride towards the entrance of Callao Cave.
||Arrive at the cave's entrance. Enjoy your packed lunch.
||Start your spelunking adventure. See some magnificent cave formations and the naturally-lit chapel in one of the chambers.
||After spelunking, ride a boat back to the jumping-off point. From there, ride a tricycle back to Peñablanca town proper.
||Arrive back in Tuguegarao. Do some last-minute pasalubong shopping. Don't forget to buy a box of hopia Ibanag and a pack of Alcala milk candy.
||Check out from your accommodation.
||Hop on a bus back to Manila.
It's best to visit Cagayan during the dry season, which usually runs from the months of December until May. Just be mindful of the scorching temperatures, especially in Tugegarao. Wear light clothing and bring water with you at all times when going outdoors.
For your trip to Cagayan, don't forget to bring some medicine, first aid supplies, and insect repellent, especially if you'll be outdoors for most of your stay. There are some hospitals and clinics in the province that you can visit should you be in need of any medical assistance.
Safety and Security
While Cagayan may be a generally safe place, it's best to exercise caution in case of any untoward event that may occur during your vacation. Always be aware of your surroundings and be mindful of your personal belongings.