Cagayan de Oro Travel Guide
In a nutshell
Cagayan de Oro is the gateway to Northern Mindanao and has become synonymous with whitewater rafting and kayaking. The city also prides itself on its warm-hearted inhabitants who actually earned it the moniker "The City of Golden Friendship".
Why go to Cagayan de Oro
If your thrill-o-meter jumps with the mere mention of rapids and cliffs, you will find paradise in Cagayan de Oro. It boasts class III and IV rapids attracting adrenaline junkies the world over to congregate along its riverbanks.
Besides extreme water sports adventure, the city also boasts forested reserves such as Mapawa Nature Park and Gardens of Malasag where nature and culture converge. There are also beaches not too far from the city centre as well as caves and falls.
Recently Cagayan de Oro has emerged as the lifestyle hub in the region offering a wide variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options available day and night.
For some history and cultural immersion, the city has no less than 4 well known museums that exhibit a huge collection of relics and artifacts giving us a clue on the lives of Kagay-anon's ancestors. If you wish to catch a glimpse of how the present day locals spend their days however, you only have to stop by Vicente de Lara Park, Gaston Park, and Plaza Divisoria. Additionally, it is a good jumping off point for visiting the neighbouring provinces like Camiguin, Bukidnon, and Iligan.
When to go to Cagayan de Oro
Unlike other provinces that are besieged by tropical storms during the wet season, Cagayan de Oro lies outside the typhoon belt so it can be visited any time of the year. However, if you want the best rapids, time your visit between June to November. For street festivities, visit during the Kagay-an Festival which is held during the last week of August.
Where to stay in Cagayan de Oro
Despite its popularity as an adventure destination, Cagayan de Oro has no backpacker district to speak of. Your primary consideration when choosing your base in the city will have to depend largely on your budget and proximity to the city centre.
Even though there are a good number of hotels a little outside the city, you have to consider that traffic can get really bad during rush hour. We would therefore recommend those places only when you have to be in that specific district for business or are staying for a long time.
Budget wise, we were surprised to find out that there are pod type accommodations that can be had for as low as 300PHP. This would be perfect for those traveling solo or in a transit to somewhere else in the region.
A lot of condominium owners are renting out their units for about 2,500PHP to 5,000PHP and seem to target business travellers. You will find these ones in business parks like Pueblo and Xavier Estates. If you want to be right in the heart of the city's vibrant night life, then station yourself along Corrales Avenue. Besides being an emerging nightspot with tons of restaurants and KTV Bars, there are also various hotels geared towards both budget and luxury travellers.
How to get around Cagayan de Oro
As a highly urbanized city, Cagayan de Oro has an excellent public transportation system cinsisting of jeepneys and multi-cabs, motorelas, taxis, and tricycles.
Jeepneys are converted army vehicles that ply the roads inside and outside city limits. Fare starts at 7PHP for the first 4 kilometres so this is your best bet if you're trying to travel on a budget. It's perfectly safe during the day and if it doesn't take you all the way to your destination, you can ask the driver to drop you off at another terminal where you can get on another one.
Meanwhile motorolas are unique to this region and look like a mix of a motorcycle and a horse carriage. A motorola can seat about 6 to 10 people. Motorola drivers normally charge 6PHP for destinations within the city and you will normally find them ferrying passengers in Carmen, Agora, Macasandig, and of course the downtown area. You can also hire them for a private ride for an agreed fixed price.
Taxis are also fairly common although it costs 10x more than what you would pay for a jeepney ride. All taxis are air-conditioned with a flag down rate of 40PHP for regular taxis and 70PHP for yellow taxis. Regular taxis come in white and yellow while airport taxis are mainly yellow. As a rule of thumb, always make sure the meter is on and do not try and negotiate on a price. Recently, taxi hailing apps like Grab add to the convenience of travellers.
Lastly, you will also find tricycles but these are more common in less urban areas.
How to get to and from Cagayan de Oro
If traveling by air, there are several airlines that fly daily to Cagayan de Oro from different destinations country-wide landing at the Laguindingan International Airport.
Cebu Pacific flights from Manila normally take about 1.35-hour and cost between 1,000PHP to 2,000PHP while flights from Cebu are available from 800PHP for 50 minutes. Davao–CDO route only costs about 1,500PHP to 2,000PHP for an hour flight.
Similarly, Philippine Airlines also serve the same routes but are relatively more expensive with tickets costing 3,000PHP to 6,000PHP for MLA–CDO and Cebu–CDO for 2,000PHP to 4,000PHP one way.
From the airport, the city is about 50 minutes away. You can get on a Magnum Express or LAX Shuttle for 250PHP or Super Five shuttle or bus for 50-85PHP. There are also air-conditioned vans for about 130PHP.
There are two integrated bus terminals with buses departing to and from the city at regular intervals of about 30 minutes to an hour. If you're heading to Camiguin, Surigao, Butuan, Gingoog, Bukidnon, General Santos, Davao, and Koronadal, catch a bus from Agora Integrated Bus Terminal. If going to Iligan, Dipolog, Zamboanga, Oroquieta, Ozamiz, and Pagadian, head to the bus terminal located in Brgy Bulua.
One can also take a ferry to Cagayan de Oro. SuperFerry 2GO have trips to and from Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, and Bacolod while Gothong Lines Ferry services Cebu, Jagna, and Dumaguete. Sulpicio Lines and Negros Navigation also have ferries from Cebu and Manila. Please check their websites for updated ticket prices, accommodation type, and schedule.
Is Cagayan de Oro a safe place to visit?
Most people would be concern that Cagayan de Oro is located in Mindanao but it is actually as safe as any other city in the country. If you use your common sense and stay aware of your surrounding, you should be alright. If extreme adventure is on your itinerary then we advice getting a good travel insurance policy.