Done with the usual summer destinations? Head south to Cagayan de Oro and discover why it’s the Adventure Capital of the Philippines
Thanks to the famous hospitality of Kagay-anons, CDO’s other alias is City of Golden Friendship. Combine a rich geography with a diverse cultural history and you get a melting pot that’s part big-city and part small-town, offering the best of both worlds. Here are 5 ways to have a blast in CDO this summer:
1. City tour
The DOT-accredited Tsada Kagay-an (Beautiful Cagayan) Tour is a great way to get acquainted with the city. Most of the stops are a few blocks away from Avida Towers Aspira.
On Fridays and Saturdays, Divisoria (“divider”—it served as the city’s fire wall in the early 1900s) turns into a Night Market filled with ukay thrift shops and food hawkers. It’s near St. Augustine Cathedral in Gaston Park, the location of the first Spanish settlement. The cathedral was built in 1841 and retains its beautiful Neo-Gothic architecture. Across it is the City Museum, built in 1921 and formerly the city’s water reservoir. Next stop is Cogon Market for sikwate (tablea hot chocolate) at Café Nanol’s, humba (Visayan pork adobo) at Violy’s, and vintage finds rivaling Dapitan Arcade.
For history buffs, Museo de Oro in Ateneo de Cagayan’s Xavier Center for Culture and Arts is the Philippines’ first folkloric museum. It houses historical and archeological displays about prehistoric and pre-colonial Mindanao. The Gen. MacArthur Marker has the largest replica of his cap to mark his landing on CDO.
Limketkai Center is a peek into how modern and urbanized CDO is, thanks to its full range of entertainment facilities, shopping centers, top restaurants, and other lifestyle amenities. One of these is Kagay-anon Restaurant, which serves sinugba (grilled), kinilaw (raw fish dipped in spices), ostrich and crocodile dishes.
The Museum of Three Cultures is not just another museum, but one of the most important ones in the country. It exhibits artifacts, musical and household instruments, weapons, and jewelry of the three dominant cultures in Northern Mindanao: Visayan Christians, Maranao Muslims, and Lumads. Exhibits include Posaka M’Ranao (Maranao Heritage), Kasaysayan (from pre-historic times to the early 20th century), Rawari (indigenous arts and crafts), and an Art Gallery for local artists.
It’s all accessible if you want to explore at your own pace. For instance, you can visit the Museum of Three Cultures from Centrio Ayala Mall on a motorela—CDO’s version of Thailand’s tuktuk. Bigger than a tricycle and smaller than a jeep, the ride is an experience in itself!
2. Whitewater rafting
When you’ve been properly introduced to CDO, it’s time for the one thing it’s world-famous for—whitewater rafting! It’s a three-hour guided tour through the Cagayan de Oro River’s 14 great white rapids. If you prefer something less intense, you can ride a canoe or kayak on the calmer parts of the river. For starters, check out the packages and booking info at Great White Water Tours.
3. Nature parks
CDO is unlike other destinations where there are hours of travel between the city proper and natural attractions. Just four kilometers from Aspira is the Gardens of Malasag Eco-Tourism Village, a cultural village and botanical garden that celebrates the culture of Northern Mindanaoan tribes along with the native flora and fauna of the region. Aside from the zoo and gardens, there are tribal houses, an Ethnic Museum, and gift shop to help the livelihood of indigenous people.
Within the mountains of Malasag is Mapawa Nature Park, a 2,500-hectare forest reserve 12 kilometers from the city. Mapawa features activities like a forest zipline, camping, canyoneering, river trekking, horseback riding, rappelling down a 65-foot waterfall, and cliff-jumping from 25 feet! Trail biking leads to a majestic 350-year-old Dao heritage tree.
Near Mapawa is Macahambus Adventure Park, where you can cross the 150-foot high, 135-meter long Sky Bridge, then ride down the 120-meter long zipline or rappel 100 feet. The Macahambus Gorge is a CDO heritage site, believed to have been formed by a cave that collapsed 200 years ago.
4. Cave spelunking
Macahambus Cave is both a natural and historical attraction, the site of the Filipinos’ first victory during the Philippine-American War. When you enter one of the chambers, you can exit another way—to a veranda with a breathtaking view of the river below. Oh, and it’s a literal bat cave.
About 10 kilometers from Macahambus is Mambuaya Cave. The entrance greets you with water flowing from an underground stream and only six inches of airspace, so you’ll need to submerge in your helmet and waterproof cap lamp to get in. Inside are stalactites and stalagmites, flowstones, and sparkling calcite crystals that can only be formed and shaped by centuries.
For most of these nature trips, travel with a group of five or more. It’s best for your safety and budget.
5. Beach trip
It’s hardly a summer getaway without the beach, and there are plenty around CDO! Ten kilometers from Centrio is Opol Beach, which isn’t really one beach but a long stretch of land with several resorts. Choose from the more rustic ones offering cottages and picnic sites to high-end suites with pools, restaurants and other hotel amenities, all with views of the Macajalar Bay and Camiguin island.
For an hour more of travel, you can reach even more beautiful beaches. Head to Jasaan and ride a boat to Aguyatan White Island, a crescent-shaped sandbar where you can go for a picnic or diving.
Also an hour away from the city, the white sands and attractions of the resorts along Initao Beach are definitely worth it.
Whether you’re a city explorer, water lover, nature hiker, or culture seeker, an awesome summer adventure awaits you in Cagayan de Oro!