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.
When you’re visiting Isabela, make sure to stop by these tourist spots:
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@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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@example.com.
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).
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.
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.
Guests are free to enter Gonzaga Farm.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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: