Isabela is the second largest province in the Philippines, so it’s no surprise that it is brimming with activities for every type of traveler. There are attractions for religious devotees, history lovers, foodies, and even those who enjoy high-adrenaline adventures.

700-meter high cable car ride of Ilagan Sanctuary, Ilagan, Isabela. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

When you’re visiting Isabela, make sure to stop by these tourist spots:

Stay here:

Zen Hotel
Maharlika Highway, Villasis, Santiago

Zen Hotel is the first three-star hotel In Isabela and Cagayan. The hotel offers 54 rooms with your standard amenities and facilities, which are a welcome treat after a long day of exploring the province.

Make sure to check out the spread at Zen Restaurant, with a diverse menu that covers Filipino, Chinese, and western cuisine.

Try local classics like crispy pork binagoongan (pork cooked in shrimp paste), beef kare kare (beef stew in peanut sauce), and chicken and pork adobo (chicken and pork cooked in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black peppercorns).

The Chinese menu is just as varied, with favorites like pancit (noodles), congee, and dim sum. For something a little more international, there’s the baby back ribs, fish and chips, chicken enchilada, and a range of pasta dishes.

To book a room, contact Zen Hotel at +63 917 871 6955 / +63 917 877 3744 / +63 933 857 6225 / +63 (078) 305 2351 or at [email protected].

Mango Suites
City Road, Brgy. Calao East, Santiago / Quezon Street, Brgy. District 1, Cauayan

You can choose between two Mango Suites locations depending on your itinerary. One is in Santiago, while the other is in Cauayan. Both are situated right in the heart of the city, making it accessible to establishments like banks, restaurants, drugstores, and hospitals.

Mango Suites is a boutique hotel. This means fewer rooms, but this gives the staff the opportunity to provide what they call sincere yet enthusiastic service to its guests. The Santiago hotel has 50 rooms with modern facilities, while the Cauayan branch has 90.

The rooms can fit solo travelers, pairs, and groups of friends. Its Triple Sharing room is designed for three people with solo beds.

To book a room at Mango Suites Santiago, contact the hotel at +63 916 582 1956 / +63 943 137 3106 / +63 078-305-4233 or at [email protected].

To book a room at Mango Suites Cauayan, contact the hotel at +63 977 699 9120 / +63 928 722 8412 / +63 (078) 325 8529 or at [email protected].

Day 1:

Bretania Organic Food Products
Purok 7, Barangay Bannawag Norte, Santiago

Bretania Organic Food Products is known for its patupat, a rice cake wrapped in buri (palm) or coconut leaves and cooked in sugarcane juice overnight until it thickens. They have been making it since 2006 and tourists from Manila, other provinces, and even abroad buy it as pasalubong (souvenir).

Gonzaga Farm
Villa Gonzaga, Santiago

The farm started in 1997 when Engr. Claudio Gonzaga retired in the Philippines after being based in New York City in the US.

Gonzaga Farm plans to use their organic pomelos in producing their own pomelo wine. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

The 2.4-hectare farm began as a simple plot of land planting calamansi (Philippine lime), pomelo, honeydew, and other produce. Their harvest soon expanded to lettuce, eggplant, okra (ladies’ fingers), alugbati (malabar spinach), kale, arugula, and more. Even then, the farm has practiced organic methods since Engr. Claudio wanted a healthy lifestyle and a nutritious diet.

Today, their sun-roasted peanuts cooked in sand are popular, with a 125g bag selling for just PHP 50 (USD 0.99). A kilo of these coveted peanuts costs just PHP 300 (USD 5.92). Other crowd-pleasers are their homemade salad dressing, which uses olive oil, honey or muscovado sugar, organic apple cider, crushed basil leaves, powdered black pepper, and salt. There are plans to produce pomelo wine.

Known as one of their best-sellers, sand roasted peanuts cost Php 300 per kilo. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Guests are free to enter Gonzaga Farm.

Dariuk Hills
Barangay Balintocatoc, Santiago

Religious devotees will enjoy the life-sized Stations of the Cross at Dariuk Hills. The pilgrimage begins at the foot of the hill, and guests must climb up to follow the journey Jesus Christ took to his crucifixion.

Dariuk Hills in Santiago City, Isabela serves as a peaceful place for pilgrims during Holy Week. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

At the summit is the Church of Transfiguration, which offers a view of the surrounding flatlands. A useful tip is to go in the morning since the Shrine of Our Lady La Salette and the viewing deck are strategically placed to face the sunrise.

Dariuk Hills is open to visitors free of charge all week long from 7 AM to 6 PM.

Balay na Santiago
Melegrito Street, Santiago

Balay na Santiago is a barangay hall (the smallest administrative division in the Philippines) that was transformed into a museum showcasing the city’s genteel past.

Balay Na Santiago in Santiago, Isabela showcases a collection of the ethno-linguistic lifestyle of those who made Santiago the melting pot of culture that is today. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

The structure itself is also a sight to behold. It is built like a bahay na bato (house of stone), an architectural style that dates back to the Spanish colonial period. It was associated with affluent families with stature in society.

Inside, guests are transported back in time as the museum recreated the home of Santiaguenos from the past. The living and dining rooms are decorated with antique furniture, religious items, and bulol (demigods carved in wood). A four-poster bed, a rocking chair, and a dresser stand guard in the bedroom.

Guests are free to enter Balay na Santiago daily from 8 AM to 12 NN and 1:30 PM to 5 PM.

Day 2:

Mangi Food Hauz
Pan-Philippine Highway, Ilagan

Mangi Food Hauz showcases the different ways you can eat corn. This isn’t surprising as Isabela is known as the corn country of the Philippines. Here, you can try snacks like corn coffee and pastillas (a milk-based confection). Corn coffee tastes just like a regular cup of joe except it has no caffeine.

Another must-try at Mangi Food Hauz is the inatata, a type of kakanin wrapped in banana leaves and steamed for five minutes.

Bonifacio Park
Pan-Philippine Highway, Ilagan

Start your second day in Isabela with a quiet morning at Bonifacio Park. Enjoy a cup of coffee and breathe in the air at this park, and take in the view of the giant butaca.

A butaca is an armchair in Ilagan that symbolizes the “ipabalem” or the feel-at-home hospitality of Ilagueños.

The municipal government commissioned a giant one measuring 11.4 feet high, 20.8 feet long, and 9.7 feet wide. Fifty craftsmen from Alinguigan, dubbed the furniture capital of the Cagayan Valley, created this armchair, using narra wood and rattan. It was built in 29 days.

Ilagan Japanese Tunnel
Barangay Sto. Tomas, Ilagan

The Ilagan Japanese Tunnel is a man-made passageway discovered under the city. It spans 40 meters in length and 3.66 meters in height, and it is theorized that it connects to other tunnels found around Ilagan.

The Ilagan Japanese Tunnel is a war tunnel that was part of a military base built by the Japanese government as headquarters for its soldiers during World War II. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

The tunnel was used by the Japanese during World War II as headquarters. Today, guests can explore the space and see memorabilia such as guns, swords, and bombs up close.

The area around the tunnel has been revamped into a picturesque park. Tourists can rent a kimono and women can have their hair done like the Japanese. They can take photos at the Japanese bridge, the koi pond, and the kamikaze plane. A food court serving Japanese fare is available for refreshments. Furin bells, which are said to grant wishes, can be purchased and hung on a fence.

Visitors can also try wearing Japanese Kimonos and have their hair styled like Japanese women then have their pictures taken. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

The Ilagan Japanese Tunnel is open from 8 AM to 5 PM, with a PHP 50 (USD 0.99) entrance fee. This comes with a free tour.

Ilagan Sanctuary
Jct National-Sta Victoria Road, Ilagan

Ilagan Sanctuary is touted as an all-in-one nature park and for good reason: it has almost every ecotourism activity imaginable.

Ilagan Sanctuary is the most visited tourist spot in Ilagan City today. It is a protected area located in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range in Brgy. Santa Victoria, Ilagan City, Isabela. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

For starters, there’s hiking, swimming, kayaking, boating, wall climbing, rappelling, horseback and ATV riding, biking, and ziplining. The zipline, which is 700-feet high, is said to be the fastest in the Philippines. Just how fast? Imagine traveling 350-meters in less than a minute.

As the name suggests, the nature park is also a sanctuary for people, animals, and plant life. A zoo called Animal Kingdom cares for tigers, wild boars, monkeys, crocodiles, and a 120-kilogram reticulated python. There is also an aviary filled with different species of birds. A treetop adventure involves a hanging bridge surrounded by endemic trees.

The cable is the fastest way up the hill for the zip line. It can carry up to four people at once. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Guests who want a relaxing stay can hike to Pinzal Falls and enjoy a picnic there. They can also ride a swan boat in the man-made lake. The Prayer Mountain is a peaceful retreat, with a church for Catholics, a mosque for Muslims, and a temple for Chinese Buddhists. Those who feel like a day trip isn’t enough can book any of the cottages for an overnight stay.

This Nature Discovery that Isabelinos take pride of is 15 kilometers away from the City proper of Ilagan. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

The 200-hectare space, which is part of the protected 819-hectare Fuyot Springs National Park, is so big that there’s a train that goes around the property. There’s also a cable car that can transport guests to a viewing deck that offers a glimpse of Ilagan.

Guests can visit Ilagan Sanctuary and pay PHP 100 (USD 2) for locals and PHP75 (USD 1.50) for visitors as the entrance fee. Tour packages are available. Make sure to contact and book a visit via the City of Ilagan Tourist Information and Assistance Center ahead of time.

Day 3:

Francing’s
015 Arrellano Street, Tol Village Saranay, Cabatuan

Francing’s has been making moriecos for more than 30 years. Moriecos is a type of kakanin (rice cake) wrapped in fresh banana leaf and made with galapong, or ground glutinous rice mixed with water, and stuffed with latik (caramelized coconut syrup).

Bonsai Forest
Dinapigue

This forest is filled with bonsai formations ranging from a foot high to seven feet tall. Estimates say that the forest ranges from 5,000 to 20,000 hectares.

Blue Lagoon
Palanan

The Blue Lagoon is an inviting spot where you can take a dip in its cool waters. As its name suggests, the lagoon’s water is blue, and there is a myth that this is due to the fairies that bathe here.

Human tourists are free to bathe here, too, along with the freshwater fishes that are occasionally found.

Crocodile Sanctuary
San Mariano

The sanctuary is home to the Philippine crocodile, a critically endangered species and considered to be the most threatened crocodile in the world.

Baby crocodiles are gathered at the rearing station and raised in holding tanks. They are transferred to enclosures when they grow bigger and are then released into the wild.

Here, guests can handle crocodile hatchlings, with the supervision of caretakers.

Travel Safely!

Tourist destinations in Isabela are ready for local travelers! Guests are required to wear a face mask, practice social distancing, and regularly wash hands before dining in. These places have sanitary and contact tracing procedures such as registration and temperature check at the reception and using alcohol to sanitize hands before entering the premises. To know more about Isabela, visit provinceofisabela.ph/.

To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.

Outsource the Planning

For a seamless trip, you may leave the planning to DOT’s accredited tour operator in Isabela:

Pink Diamond International Travel and Tours
[email protected]; http://pinkdiamondinternational.weebly.com/