Travel to Mindanao’s adventure paradise, Cagayan de Oro, the whitewater rafting capital of the Philippines. Find out the best time to go, how to get there, where to stay, top things to do, and places to visit, and learn how to plan your itinerary with this travel guide.
Cagayan de Oro or CDO is a highly urbanized city located in the Misamis Oriental region of Northern Mindanao, Philippines. Cagayan de Oro tours are mainly extreme activities like whitewater rafting, ziplining, and kayaking that's why it's a top destination for adventurous travelers.
Amidst the city landscape, the history, nature, and culture of Cagayan de Oro still shine through. With parks, old-age churches, and restaurants selling delectable local dishes, CDO is a place you won’t want to miss when picking out new places to discover in the Philippines.
The hospitality, friendliness, and warmth of the CDO locals are so apparent that the municipality is known as the City of Golden Friendship. It’s home to almost 700,000 Filipinos, making it the ninth most populous city in the country.
In this guide, you’ll be able to plan your Cagayan de Oro trip, maybe even squeeze it in as a side trip from Camiguin or Davao! Bookmark this page so you can quickly go back to it when planning for your visit to CDO.
Cagayan de Oro’s weather fares well throughout the year. While it isn’t wholly free of rainfall, it’s luckily been able to stay clear of typhoons. This makes it a great tourist spot regardless of what month of the year it may be for thrill-seekers on the hunt for adventure.
It’s worth noting, however, that there are some peak seasons you may want to be aware of if you’re after specific activities that are dependent on the weather like whitewater rafting.
You can also get a glimpse of CDO’s culture with its Higalaay Festival. It’s a fulfilling experience with food, tons of dancing, and bright colors. Keep reading to see what your CDO getaway could look like from the festival, holidays, and other occasions to visit.
Dry and Peak Season | September to March
Starting September, the weather cools down with winds coming northeast of the Philippines. The temperature typically ranges from 25°C to 30°C.
You won’t have to worry about getting caught in the rain or unexpected flight and ferry delays. This dry season is also the ideal time to do all your trekking adventures. You avoid both the blistering summer heat and the crowd that comes along with it.
Cagayan River Whitewater Rafting Season | July to December
For the adrenaline junkies looking to bank on some thrilling activities, whitewater rafting in Cagayan River is one way to go. On its calmer periods, the water is clear, giving life to its immediate surrounding flora and fauna.
During its swollen season in July to December, the river rages on as a challenge for whitewater rafters keen on getting an experience for the books.
Higalaay Festival | August
Also known as the “Friendship Festival,” the Higalaay Festival is Cagayan de Oro’s hallmark celebration. It’s held every 28th of August, coinciding with the feast day of St. Augustine, the patron saint of the city. Here they run the country’s longest culinary show, have a colorful parade of floats and icons, and end the evening with brilliant pyrotechnics.
Street-dancing competitions liven up the city too. You’ll fit right in if you’re raring to party amidst an energetic crowd and colorful costumes.
The festive spirits usually begin as early as the first week of August, so this month could be a particularly interesting time to drop by the region.
Climate and Weather
In general, you can expect CDO to have the same humid weather felt across the Philippines. There isn’t much fluctuation in temperature either. Its coldest period from December to February can range from 24°C to 31°C, while its hottest average in April is 33°C.
Since Cagayan de Oro is most known for its outdoor activities, it’s worth taking into consideration the amount of rainfall you should be anticipating for your trip.
While there is rain that occurs throughout the year, peak wet season is June to October. By November downpour gradually starts to lessen up until the Philippine summer of March to May.
Here are the average monthly Cagayan de Oro temperature and rainfall:
Source: Weather Spark
What to Wear
Regardless of where you’re going in the area, may it be trekking in the mountains or celebrating the Kadayawan festival in the city, there’s going to be a big chance that it will be humid. The best option is to go with cool, lightweight clothes.
If you’re going to adventure parks, a good choice would be to wear garments with dri-fit material to keep your skin cool and dry, especially during intense activities.
For good measure, bring activewear and beach essentials for a spontaneous trip to an Eco Park or beach nearby.
There are a few ways to reach CDO depending on your budget and preferences. If you’re planning to visit for a couple of days, the best choice is to go there via plane. Other methods such as sea or land take up more time, but could also be an interesting experience.
Photo by Philippine Airlines
You can easily book plane tickets to Cagayan de Oro via Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, or Philippine Airlines. The former two offer direct flights every day, while PAL flies thrice a week.
From the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, you can reach the Laguindingan Airport after approximately 90 minutes of travel.
From Clark, Cebu, Davao, or Iloilo
Major Philippine Airlines also service direct flights to Cagayan de Oro from other main parts of the country, such as Clark, Cebu, Davao, and Iloilo. .
If you’re not a fan of flying by air or you’re nearer to a port, you can travel to CDO via sea. Depending where you’re coming from, it could take more than a day to get to Cagayan de Oro.
2Go Travel sails two to three times a week from Manila going to Cagayan de Oro. Because of the distance, it can take 35 hours or more to reach your destination.
Trans-Asia Shipping Lines sails daily from Cebu going to Cagayan de Oro. Coming from Cebu will cut your trip time much shorter, which would take less than 10 hours.
Yes, it’s possible to reach CDO by land! Just like traveling by sea, expect it to take a while, especially if you’re coming from Luzon. This option is best explored if you’re coming from the Mindanao area already.
The Philtranco bus offers daily rides from their Pasay terminal to Cagayan de Oro. It takes around 30 hours to get to CDO from Manila.
You can take the Davao City Overland Transport Terminal bus and reach Cagayan de Oro in under eight hours. They have multiple trips every day that you can choose from. Coming from Butuan, Surigao, and North Cotabato is also possible via land.
Traveling to the different points of interest in CDO will give you a similar experience as most major cities in the Philippines.
If it’s your first time in the country, you won’t be missing out—jeepneys, taxis, and buses are abound in the area. As a bonus, you’ll get to experience a unique mode of transport here called the motorela. Learn more about it below!
The jeepneys in CDO are pretty much the same anywhere else in the Philippines, but if you’re a foreigner who hasn’t tried it yet, then it’ll surely be an experience! This is by far the cheapest mode of transportation and will get you to most major landmarks in the city.
A motorela is almost like a cross between a tricycle and a jeepney. It’s a motorcycle with a passenger compartment at the rear. This mode of transport is unique to CDO as it was invented here. It’s safe to say you should miss out riding one when you see them on the streets!
There are motorcycles for rent around Cagayan de Oro if you want to enjoy the city at your own pace. This is an excellent choice if you’re a solo or pair traveler with a limited amount of time to go around.
Taxis are a common choice for roundtrip airport transfers as they’re air-conditioned and can carry your luggage. The ride-hailing app Grab is also available in Cagayan de Oro for your convenience.
The buses in CDO don’t typically go around the area but rather escort you on tours or travel to other parts of Mindanao. Always read the signages before hopping on so you know where you’re headed!
There are a lot of homestays and hotels in Cagayan de Oro that can make a much more comfortable experience. Read on to find out which type of accommodation will best suit your taste.
Finding the right hotel or hostel to stay in is crucial for any trip. In some cases, it can even make or break your experience!
The trick is to look for top-rated accommodations and then check them against your budget. The important thing is that you feel secure and comfortable with any place you end up staying in.
B&Bs and Inns
This option is probably the most budget-friendly one out of the bunch. Inns are usually boutique hotels with all the necessities you’d need for a one or two-night stay. This is a great option for backpackers, solo travelers, and budget-conscious couples or families.
Condotels are the perfect accommodation pick in most city getaways. You’d be more inclined to choose this option if you want somewhere private and comfortable, you’re planning to travel with a larger group, or you want access to more amenities in the place you’ll be sleeping in.
Cagayan de Oro is also home to some stellar 4- and 5-star hotels that will elevate your out-of-town or out-of-the-country experience. Enjoy top-rated amenities, exemplary service, and more when you book a luxury hotel for your trip.
Cagayan de Oro is made up of 80 barangays: 24 in the first district, and 56 in the second district. The Cagayan River acts as a natural boundary between the two. That aside, it’s still quite easy to get around CDO. Need a snapshot or map of the area during your visit? Here are the most popular areas you could be staying in during your trip.
Barangay Carmen in the first district is the most populous area of CDO, and perhaps this is the reason why many consider it to be the heart of the city. This is the ideal place to stay for both your city adventures and adventure sports tours since it’s relatively close to all attractions.
Cugman is also in the first district but has a more laid-back vibe than that of Carmen. It’s nearer to eco attractions such as the Mapawa Nature Park and the Garden of Malasag Eco-Tourism Village. If you’re planning to spend most of your time here, it might be better if you book your accommodations in this area.
Limketkai Center is a huge shopping district in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. It is referred by the locals as Ketkai and is owned by Limketkai Sons, Inc. They are the largest factory and business district developers in the city. The Limketkai Luxe Hotel is found in this area. This is located in the second district of CDO.
What better way to ensure that you’ll have a comfortable stay in Cagayan de Oro than by choosing the right place to stay in? Below are some top-rated options you can consider, depending on your budget.
Traveling on a budget is now possible with affordable homestays popping up in every corner. The best part is, these budgetels don’t scrimp on the necessary things you’d need for a comfortable stay.
The Urban Pod
Photo by The Urban Pod
The Urban Pod Hotel is a great budget hotel option with a lot of modern amenities. They have a restaurant, bar, lounge, ATM, and free private parking on-premises. The best part? It’s near key attractions, like the Museum of Three Cultures and the Kagay Whitewater Rafting site.
Rich Manor Pension House
This budget hotel has great value for money while also providing comfort and convenience to guests. There’s free wifi, flatscreen TV, and air conditioning available for travelers like you. It’s family-friendly, too!
This last option is great for solo or pair travelers who just need a quick place to stay in for resting or freshening up.
Looking for a nice in-between for budget hotels and luxury options? Check out some of the recommended hotels below that can hit your sweet spot.
Red Planet Hotel
Photo by Red Planet Hotel
The Red Planet Hotel is a short walk from the Centrio Mall, the Limketkai Centre, bars, restos, and shops. It’s one of the most famous value hotels in the city and offers a great experience for its guests.
It’s also near popular points of interest, such as the Gardens of Malasag Eco-Tourism Village, Xavier University Folk Museum, and La Castilla Museum.
Mallberry Suites Business Hotel
Going on a work trip? The Mallberry Suites is the perfect choice for this! With conference facilities and meeting rooms, you can be sure to balance work and play with this hotel option. They also have airport transfers, a pool, and free breakfast included in their rates.
Stargate Dream Vacation Resort
Stargate Dream Vacation Resort is a dreamy, home-like 3-star hotel that’s a sure hit for families and large groups. This place is more than its cute aesthetic, as it offers modern comfort and at an affordable price.
If you have room to splurge, you’re definitely free to go all out with luxury accommodations in Cagayan de Oro! Here are some of our top picks.
Photo by Seda Centrio
Seda Centrio is a modern hotel right beside Centrio Mall. It has a contemporary design, featuring wooden floors, wide sliding windows, and soft beds.
If you stay in an upgraded room, you can access their club lounge, which comes with complimentary breakfast and cocktails! If you’re bringing children under 12 years of age, they can stay for free.
Limketkai Luxe Hotel
This hotel is the tallest building at the Limketkai Center. It can cater to a lot of guests, boasting 218 guest rooms, eight function rooms, and a private infinity pool.
They also have an in-house bar that celebrates happy hour every day, and a restaurant that holds the record for the longest buffet line in the city. It’s the best place to stay in for luxury entertainment and the best of what CDO has to offer.
There are tons of tourist spots in Cagayan de Oro that will tickle your fancy. It’s home to its handful of water activities, adventure parks, eco farms, and trekking territories that will make you love the city even more. See the breakdown of must-see attractions below.
Go Whitewater Rafting at Cagayan River
Kick-off your adrenaline rush in CDO with whitewater rafting at the Cagayan River. The body of water spans as long as 48 kilometers over 59 rapids, and it’s sure to take you on a wild ride—especially from July to December.
You may need quite a bit of preparation to brave the river, though. It usually takes 5 hours and a lot of arm muscle to paddle on and conquer the turbulent waves.
Zipline across Macahambus Adventure Park
There are a ton of ways to catch breathtaking views in CDO. Macahambus Adventure Park provides you with just another alternative that you’re definitely going to want to experience for yourself. One look at the photos on its Facebook page and you can already tell you’ll be in for a pretty intense trek.
Don’t worry, the journey through the park to visit Makahambus Gorge is riddled with a variety of activities that aren’t limited to solely climbing up and down rolling hills. You’ll also be taking a zip line, cross bridges, and rappel between trees thickening up the park’s greenery.
Paraglide from CDO’s Highest Mountain at Amaya View
Breakaway from the usual city routine and feel the wind on your hair as you fly over the city skyline. Amaya View lets you paraglide from the top of Cagayan de Oro’s highest mountain peak for a full aerial view of the city. It’s a stunning moment you’re going to want to experience at least once in your life.
Go for a Hike at Mapawa Nature Park
Feel like taking a walk in the park? This might not be the kind of park you imagine. Mapawa Nature Park is a 2500-hectare eco-destination that requires a lot of cardio and just a bit of bravery. A trek through hilly terrain will get you the reward of swimming through hollows or jumping off waterfalls.
Speed through Slides at Seven Seas Waterpark
Whether you’re young or young at heart, you’re bound to have fun at Seven Seas Waterpark. Making the trip with family or friends won’t make a difference in making you feel like a kid again.
It’s packed with a variety of 12 exciting slides like “The Cyclone” and the “Plank Drop” (which, by their names alone will make your heart race) and several other laidback pools for relaxing.
It’s best to plan out what day you’re going. The park’s regular schedule notes that it’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, minus public holidays.
Explore the Mangroves in Tubajon Aquamarine Park
Far different from the adrenaline of water slides and ziplining, is a mangrove forest you can explore in Tubajon Aquamarine Park. Within the expanse of 22 hectares, you can get firsthand experience in seeing the way an entire ecosystem works underwater. You can explore by wading through mangroves, swimming, or kayaking.
Visit Dahilayan Forest and Adventure Park
Photo by Travels With A Hobo
Adrenaline junkies should add a day tour to Dahilayan Adventure Park in their itinerary. It’s located a little way out of Cagayan, in Bukidnon, but if you don’t mind going out of your way for a rush of fun, then this is definitely a must-visit. You can take zip lines, glide through canopies, go bungee jumping, and brave a rope course.
Laidback exploring, on the other hand, is something else you can do at Dahilayan Forest Park. Another family-friendly location to fill in your itinerary with, the forest park offers a series of activities that are suitable for all ages. Try riding an ATV, playing mini-golf, or go-cart racing.
Learn History at the Museum of Three Cultures
Take a breather from the activities CDO has to offer and soak in a little bit of its history in the Museum of Three Cultures. It was created to showcase Northern Mindanao’s three dominant cultures: indigenous people, Maranao Muslims, and Christians.
The museum itself was established in 2008, housed at the ground floor of Capitol University. The school’s owner, Madame Laureana San Pedro Rosales contributed a significant portion of the collection now on display.
After all the thrill of adventure and exploration, you may be looking for something to recharge. What better way to regain your strength than with a hearty meal you can only find in Northern Mindanao, right?
The Kagay-anon palate mixes the taste of sweet and spicy with zestiness you know you’ll look for long after you’ve had it. CDO delicacies range from sweet and comforting to exciting and exotic.
One such example of their unique food is Binaki (Sweet Tamales), made from ground native corn, milk, baking powder, sugar, eggs, and salt. It’s wrapped in corn husks that are folded into the shape of a frog. Kagay-anons refer to a frog as “baki,” which is where the food gets its name.
Another dish exclusive to CDO is Remember Me, often called Soup No. 5 or RM. This particular dish is one that tourists tend to try because it’s supposedly an aphrodisiac. The soup contains bovine innards, tendons, and bull’s testicles.
Apart from dishes, you’ll want to watch out for fresh fruits from CDO’s Kadayawan festival such as durian and bananas. You’ll also be able to find ostrich and crocodile meat at select groceries and restaurants.
Recommended Best Restaurants and Bars
It’s pretty easy to work up an appetite in CDO, considering all the activities there are to do within the metro. Luckily there are some pretty great places to get your fill of tasty flavors.
A well-known restaurant in CDO, Kagay-Anon Restaurant serves its home-cooked food on your regular serving platters. What makes it just a little more special is that all the food is tucked neatly into a bed of banana leaves, contributing to its Filipino ambiance.
Its taste is uniquely Kagay-anon. Among their variety of dishes made of beef and seafood, you’ll find some more exotic types of meat on the menu as well such as crocodile and ostrich.
Photo by Gracia's Fastfood
Gracia’s Fastfood is a popular catering and canteen business in CDO. It’s known for its affordable homemade Filipino food. You’ll feel right at home with its warm interiors and relaxed energy. It’s open as early as 7 am, but closes early, too, at 2 pm. Best to come with their schedule in mind.
Photo by Restaurant Damaso
Looking to try something different from the local flavors? Restaurant Damaso offers Asian Fusion cuisine that does not disappoint. Its dishes range from a variety of seafood viands to flavorful meats and veggies. While waiting for your food, you’ll have a great view of paintings from local artists.
The Wine Cellar
Cap off a tiring day with a drink at The Wine Cellar. This bar holds an impressive collection of wines and liquor, both local and international. Simply pick your poison and get the option to hang inside or lounge alfresco.
If you’re lacking company or just in the mood to learn about what they have to offer, the staff is well-informed to discuss the selection.
The Oak Room
Photo by The Oak Room
The Oak Room is a speakeasy found at the heart of CDO. It’s the perfect spot to unwind with friends over a few cocktails or a good whiskey. The atmosphere is cozy with warm wood tones and plush leather seats.
The main currency in the Philippines, including Cagayan de Oro, is the Philippine Peso (PHP). If carrying another currency, you can easily change what you have in the airport. You may also withdraw Peso directly from the ATMs in the city, provided that your card is internationally accepted.
The primary language spoken in Cagayan de Oro is Cebuano. However, many of the locals are also well-versed in English. Afraid they might not understand you? Kagay-anons show pride in being one of the friendliest people in the country, so don’t be scared to approach them if you have a question! They’ll gladly find a way to help you out.
What to Bring
If you’re going to CDO, chances are, you’re going to try some extreme sports. Make sure to coordinate with your tour operator about the safety gear you should bring or if they can provide everything to you onsite. Don’t forget to bring your essentials, like medicine, toiletries, first aid kit, and lots of water so you’ll be sure that you’re hydrated during the trip!
With all the fun activities and tourist spots that Cagayan de Oro has to offer, where do you start? Here's a sample 3-day itinerary to help you plan your trip to the whitewater rafting capital of the Philippines.
07:00 am - Arrival at Hotel
07:30 am - Check-in and breakfast at the hotel
09:00 am - Head for Cagayan River for whitewater rafting
1:00 pm - Lunch at the end of your course
2:00 pm - Back to Hotel, rest
3:00 pm - Head for Museo de Oro
4:00 pm - Chill out at Divisoria Park
6:00 pm - Have dinner at High Ridge
Photo by the Philippine Department of Tourism
08:00 am - Breakfast at the hotel
09:00 - Visit Mapawa Nature Park for ziplining, horseback riding, or hiking
12:00 pm - Head to Kagay-Anon Restaurant for lunch
1:00 pm - Have a fun afternoon day tour at Dahilayan Forest Park
6:00 pm - Head back to the hotel to freshen up
7:00 pm Have dinner at The Oak Room
08:00 am - Breakfast at the hotel
09:00 am - Visit the St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral
09:30 am - Head for the Capitol University Museum of Three Cultures
10:30 pm - Check out the Gardens of Malasag Eco-Tourism Village
12:00 pm - Have lunch at Restaurant Damaso
02:00 pm - Check out of the hotel
Plan Your Cagayan de Oro Adventure!
Photo by the Philippine Department of Tourism
Travelers, it’s time to pack your bags! Whether you want an action-packed vacation or something more chill, CDO is one of the best places to experience the beauty and unique culture of the Philippines. It’s guaranteed to leave a mark.
You can easily include this in your Mindanao highlights tour or simply soak in CDO for all it has to offer. Whitewater rafting, nature parks, and scrumptious food await you in this travel destination.
If you need more help with your CDO itinerary, check out Cagayan de Oro tours and activities that will add more fun to your trip!