Curious about Cagayan Valley tourist spots? Get to know its caves, islands, beaches, and food with this Cagayan attractions travel guide!
Visiting Cagayan Valley is very challenging even for local travelers. The road trip itself from Manila could take up to 12 hours, and even from the province, many Cagayan tourist spots are located quite a distance from each other.
Yet, many Filipino travelers who aim to visit all 81 provinces in the Philippines know that ignoring Cagayan Valley meant missing a lot. Located between the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and the Cordilleras, Cagayan has preserved both its cultural heritage and natural wonders. From rivers, caves, and hills, to the culinary heritage of ethnic groups of Itawit, Ibanag, and Itawis, there is much to see on the road less traveled going to North Luzon.
Let’s take a trip to the Northeast edge of Luzon. Here;s a travel guide on Cagayan attractions for your next road trip:
How to go to Cagayan Attractions
- By air: Take a flight going to Tuguegarao City airport via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. The trip takes 1 hour from Manila.
- By land: Ride a bus from Manila, Clark, Tabuk, Ilocos, or Abra going to Cagayan Province. You may alight at Tuguegarao City. If you’re going to Palaui Island, take a UV going to Sta. Ana.
- Getting around Cagayan tourist spots: Public transportation is accessible so you may opt to take vans, tricycles, or jeepneys going to your destinations. Van or car rental from Tuguegarao City is also possible. In Sta. Ana, you may rent boats for island hopping.
Years ago, my dream wedding venue was Callao Cave. It’s found after a hike up to 184 steps to the “cathedral” seven-chambered limestone cave. There are wooden pews and altars, as Catholic masses are held by the locals here every Sunday.
One of the earliest national parks in the Philippines, Callao Cave rests at the foot of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and within the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape. An interesting artifact from this cave is the Callao Man found in 2007 and a new human species called Homo luzonensis found in 2010 (of which the Callao Man is reclassified as).
- Callao Cave fees: PHP 25/pax; Guides are required at no cost but you may choose to give tips. They take really good photos!
Palaui Island, Cape Engaño Lighthouse, & Anguib Beach
Located at the tip of Cagayan’s municipality of Sta. Ana is Palaui Island, also made popular by the reality TV show, Survivor. The primary attraction here is Cape Engaño Lighthouse. After a bouncy boat ride from Port of San Vicente, tourists can take a short trek to the lighthouse to be rewarded with amazing views — lush greenery contrasted against the blue sea, crashing waves from the Pacific Ocean, cliffs, and windy weather. It was once listed in CNN’s World’s 100 Best Beaches list for its “raw beauty”.
An island hopping tour of Cagayan attractions also includes Anguib Beach, which is known for its golden sands and clear blue water — some say, rivaling that of Boracay Island. Due to its remoteness, the amenities and provisions might not be convenient or accessible.
Crocodile Island is also a popular stop. The weathered tree-less rock formation in a brown “sandbar” is shaped like a crocodile — there are no actual crocodiles! Lastly, there is Punta Verde, where tourists can stay overnight. The island was also a site of the Survivor show, as the locals can take you to their shooting spots. You may also hike to Baratobot Falls.
- For updated contacts of Palaui Island boat rental and tours, please send me a message on Facebook.
Iguig Calvary Hills, Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat, & Tuguegarao Church
You do not need to be Catholic to enjoy the rolling hills, an 18th-century church, and the windy landscape beside the Cagayan River of Iguig Calvary Hills. It’s a great place to relax after the long road trip, though the place transforms into a Stations of the Cross pilgrimage site during the Philippines’ Holy Week. Iguig Church meanwhile was built in 1765, as seen from the red-bricked exteriors.
The Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat is called the “Pilgrimage Center of the North”, as devotees flock to the church to see the more than 400-year-old Black Virgin Mary. It is one of the twelve minor basilicas in the Philippines, recognized by the Vatican pope.
Lastly, Tuguegarao Cathedral, also known as St. Peter Metropolitan Cathedral, is one of the largest churches in Cagayan Valley. For sure, Cagayan Valley should be on your list if for visita iglesia during the local Holy Week pilgrimage tradition.
Cagayan Delicacies and Food to Eat
During my trip, a lot of friends from Cagayan and Tuguegarao City messaged me recommending Cagayan delicacies and food to try. A lot of these are related to noodles soups and carabao products! Here’s a list of Cagayan food to eat:
- Pancit Batil Patong. The most popular Tuguegarao food is made of miki noodles, sauteed meat (typically pork, beef, or carabao meat called “carabeef”), bean sprouts, and vegetables mixed with onions, vinegar, soy sauce, and lime. It is topped with egg, as the name suggests — batil means “beat the egg” and patong means to “place on top”. It is typically served with soup.
- Chicharabao. One of the snacks my friends recommended is the Tuguegarao chicharon. Chicharabao is made of deep-fried, crispy carabao skin. It comes in three flavors: garlic, onion, and vinegar.
- Ybanag Longganisa. These sausages are a typical Filipino breakfast, and each region has a unique recipe. Ybanag Longganisa is made from carabeef and garlic, though a pork version is also available.
- Putoflan. A combination of two Filipino desserts, fluffy puto (rice cakes with flour and egg yolk) and sweet leche flan, makes for a great afternoon snack.
- Sinanta. Noodle dish of the Ybanags made from sotanghon, miki noodles, chicken, pork, and clam soup with fish sauce. This is typically served as afternoon snacks or during birthdays. It can also be served with pinakufu (sweet rice cake) and hot chocolate.
- Carabao milk candy. If you want to buy sweets as pasalubong, try carabao milk candies, which is much like pastillas with a firmer texture. You can buy them from Dairy East, Alcala Sweets, and Teaño Alcala.
Tips on your visit Cagayan Tourist Spots
- Cagayan Weather / Best time to go to Cagayan attractions. Located at the Northeast tip of Luzon Island, Cagayan is known for a colder and wetter climate that consists of rainy season from July to February. The dry season is from March to May, while the coldest is December. It’s highly advisable to visit during the dry season, as monsoon season may make the waves perilous for island hopping in Palaui Island.
- Things to bring. Since the roadtrip to Cagayan is long, one of the primary things to bring is motion sickness medicine, powerbanks, and water bottles. This also comes in handy for long boat rides during Palaui island hopping. Since most of the Cagayan attractions are outdoors, bringing sun protection is a must. Lastly, bring a lot of cash as there are many opportunities to buy Cagayan delicacies and food!
- What to wear. For an all-around travel outfit, I advise wearing sandals and a cap especially for the island hopping activity. For visita iglesia and Tuguegarao city tours, it’s okay to wear your best OOTDs.
North Luzon Attractions
If you have any questions, send me a PM on Facebook. I answer everything!