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.

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.

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