Sprawled along the north coast of Mindanao, the city of CAGAYAN DE ORO makes an ideal introduction to the island, with a smattering of sights and fine restaurants in the city, and a handful of enticing attractions in the mountains beyond, including whitewater rafting on the Cagayan de Oro River.
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Cagayan de Oro sits on the eastern bank of the wide Cagayan de Oro River and stretches from Vicente de Lara Park in the north, with its age-old mahogany trees, to circular Gaston Park in the south, once the site of city executions, bull-fights and parades. You’ll find the San Augustine Cathedral, a dour off-white stone edifice rebuilt in the 1950s just south of Gaston Park, with a gold-plated altar and immense stained-glass windows. The City Museum nearby occupies a water tower built in 1922 and contains a few old photos, ceramics and bits and pieces chronicling the history of Cagayan.
The lush, mountainous terrain around Cagayan de Oro contains several worthy attractions, not least the whitewater rafting on the Cagayan de Oro River. Closest to the city is the Gardens of Malasag Eco-Tourism Village (open 24hr; P30 day entry, P50 night entry; swimming pool additional P50; t088/855-6183), located in a reforested area in hills south of Cagayan de Oro. The “village” contains faithful replicas of various tribal houses in the region, hosts tribal singing concerts (daily 4.30pm) and has panoramic views of Macajalar Bay. Taxis from the centre should charge P250.
Rafting the Cagayan de Oro River
Whitewater rafting along the fourteen major rapids of the Cagayan de Oro River gained popularity after former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took a ride here in 2002. The jump-off point is at Barangay Mambuaya, a 30- to 40-minute ride from the city proper. The wet months of September and October are best for intermediate and professional levels (when the rapids range from class 3 to 4), while the rest of the year is OK for beginners.
Reliable operators include Great White Water Tours (t088/310-5495, wwww.riverraftingcdo.com) which offers half-day tours (3–4hr) or full days (6–7hr), inclusive of snacks and meals, from P1200. It also offers a P1999 package with Dahilayan Zip Zone, with pick-up from your hotel. Otherwise the normal prices include transportation from P. Joe’s Diner at the Limketkai Center. Bugsay River Rafting (t088/309-1991, wbugsayrafting.com) tailors trips from beginners (12km, 3hr; P700) to extreme thrill seekers (15km, 4hr; P2000).