Cagayan de Oro Travel Guide and Itinerary

Whitewater rafting in Cagayan de Oro

A thriving culinary scene, historic sites, nature parks, paragliding — there’s more to CDO than just being the country’s white water rafting capital. 

About Cagayan de Oro 

Cagayan de Oro is a fast-growing city where you can both get a taste of urban living, and also experience nature in all its raw beauty. 

The center of government, commerce and education in the region, Cagayan de Oro (known by its initials, CDO, throughout the country) is the gateway for journeys into Northern Mindanao. It sits along the coastline, flanked by the mountains and plateaus of neighboring provinces. Traveling north from CDO across the sea takes you to Visayas, while heading inland to the south leads you to other major cities of Mindanao, including Davao to the southeast 

Cagayan de Oro’s roads are increasingly getting congested with traffic, but the highly urbanized city still somehow retains a small-town vibe. Skyscrapers are few and share the skyline with a handful of shopping malls and commercial centers, nestled between old buildings and other heritage structures.  

In 2011, the city was one of the most hard-hit areas of Tropical Storm Sendong (internationally known as Washi), one of the most destructive storms in the Philippines’ history, but few traces of the devastation remains. Though it certainly hasn’t forgotten its losses, the city has recovered well to become one of the most competitive and resilient highly urbanized cities in the country today. 


Highlights for the Traveler 

Dubbed the City of Golden Friendship, this friendly and welcoming city wears the nickname well. Its rich history and heritage can be gleaned from ancestral architecture scattered around the city, as well as popular tourist attractions like the Macahambus Cave and the Saint Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral. The former is not only a marvel of nature but also the site of a historic battle the Filipinos’ first victory against American forces during the Philippine-American War. A visit to local museums like Museo de Oro and the Museum of Three Cultures allows one a deeper dive into the diverse cultures, traditions and folklore of the city.  

When the sun starts to dip, Cagayan de Oro morphs into a different creature in a way that only a burgeoning city in the province can — sleepy, dark and completely hushed in most sections, but also bright, loud and festive in a smattering of places. Most of the backstreets grow quieter at night while downtown areas like Corrales Avenue and the Lifestyle District come alive, especially on weekends, as people begin piling into cafes, restos, beer houses, clubs and karaoke bars. The city has its fair share of bars that are located on rooftops and hilltops, so there’s always the opportunity to go up high and enjoy great views of the city while sipping your favorite drink. 

Like any other Philippine city, Cagayan de Oro takes its annual fiesta celebration seriously. Every August, the city becomes enlivened with activities for the Higalaay Festival, a celebration that culminates on the 28th, which is the feast day of Saint Augustine, the city’s patron saint. The celebration features major events like parades, processions, fairs, festival sales and various types of competitions, but the whole month is filled with highlights like singing contests, music concerts, sporting events and more. It is during this time that the city’s energy is at an all-time high. The best thing to do? Just go with it. 


Just Outside Cagayan de Oro 

A short drive — less than 10km from town — can take you to the Gardens of Malasag, a 7.2ha biosanctuary of flora and fauna. Or head over to Mapawa Nature Park, part of a 2,500ha property where you can hike, trek and zipline, a mere 12km away from the city.   

For thrill seekers, there’s always white water rafting, which is what the city is best known for. It’s the only Philippine city that offers the activity all year round. And if getting wet in the wild rapids isn’t enough, you can take to the skies by paragliding off the city’s highest peak. 


By Leah Angue, as of January 2020.

Recommendations to be updated.

Recommendations to be updated.

Recommendations to be updated.

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