Isabela Travel Guide

Itinerary, Things to do, How to get there and more

Isabela, located within the Cagayan Valley Region, is the second largest province in the Philippines (by land area) and the 10th richest province in the country in 2011. Formerly known as ‘Isabela de Luzon’, the province was named after Queen Isabela II of Spain. It is regarded as the “Melting Pot of the Northern Philippines” because of the immigration of different ethnic groups in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The province has 3 cities, with Ilagan as the capital, and 34 municipalities. Isabela is the home of Magat Dam, a major source of power and water supply of the Northern Luzon. Agriculture is the main industry in the province. It is the biggest producer of corn and Asia’s largest post-harvest corn processing plant is located in the municipality of Reina Mercedes. The province also boasts of rich forest land and watershed areas but also one of the most vulnerable to typhoon because of its location near the Philippine Sea. Founded in 1856, Isabela, nicknamed as the “Queen Province of the Philippines” is one of the most progressive provinces in the Philippines.

Where to go in Isabela

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Abuan River

Ilagan City (capital), Isabela, Cagayan Valley, 3300, Philippines

Ancient Burial Site

Brgy. Dimolit Palanan, Isabela, Cagayan Valley, 3381, Philippines

Balay na Santiago

Melegrito Street City Of Santiago, Isabela, Cagayan Valley, 3311, Philippines

Camp Samal

Brgy. Arcon Tumauini, Isabela, Cagayan Valley, 3325, Philippines

How to Get Here

Getting Here
Isabela is accessible by all kinds of transportation. There are airports, seaports and the Pan-Philippine Highway that serve the province.

By air: The Cauayan Airport in Cauayan City is one of the three commercial airports in the province; the other two are the Palanan Airport and the Maconacon Airport. Cebu Pacific has 7 flights-in-a-week to Cauayan Airport from Manila. Travel time is 1 hour and 5 minutes with ticket price that starts from Php 2,500.00.

By sea: There are 2 minor seaports in Isabela, the Divilacan Port and the Palanan Port.

By land: Land transportation is favoured by many when going to Isabela. There are buses that offer daily trips to the province -- one can take a bus that goes directly to Santiago or Cauayan. It is 8 to 9 hours of land travel for a cost that starts from Php 400.00 – Php 700.00.

Bus companies plying the route of Manila- Santiago City are:
● Victory Liner
● Five Star
● Florida

Popular Food

Isabela’s signature dish made of vegetables and fried fish cooked in ‘bagoong-isda’ or anchovy sauce-based broth is called inabraw. This is the province’s version of ‘dinendeng’, a vegetable dish that originated in Ilocos Region.

(c) @dhieeeautiful /

A popular noodle dish, Isabela’s own version of pancit, is called ‘pancit Cabagan’. Originated in the town of Cabagan, this pancit uses miki bihon, cooked with vegetables and topped with lechon Carajay and boiled quail eggs and a bit saucy.

(c) @babyjane1990 /

Isabela has its own version of suman as well. Called ‘binallay’, it is a sweet delicacy made from glutinous rice and water dough. It is wrapped in banana leaves, steamed in a low heat and served with sweet coconut curd sauce.

(c) @coolnicx /

Another variety of suman in the province is called inatata. Glutinous rice is the main ingredient of this ‘kakanin’, lightly sweetened and then wrapped in banana leaves before steaming. It is cylindrical in shape and tied in bunches of 10 that makes it look like an ammunition belt of a machine gun.

(c) @alexisorodio /

Best Time to Go

Isabela’s major festival, Bambanti Festival, held every January 22 to 27, packs hundreds of visitors from nearby provinces as well as travelers from Manila. “Bambanti” is the local term for scarecrow, used by the farmers to scare away birds from eating the crops. But Bambanti Festival is not just about scarecrows – it is a colorful celebration of the bounty of the province of Isabela with street dancing, the search for the Festival King and Queen and a lot more entertaining activities.

The province is somewhat wet during the months of May to October due to the onset of typhoons. November to April are good moths to explore each towns as climate is relatively dry. Be sure to wear light clothing and keep yourself hydrated.

What to Do

See and try to sit on the giant ‘butaka’
The world’s largest butaka or armchair was made in the city of Ilagan and currently on display along Maharlika Highway. It is 11.4 feet tall, 9.7 feet wide and 20.8 feet long.
Say hello to the Queen
A park in honor of Queen Isabela fronting the expansive 8 hectare compound of the Isabela Provincial Capitol is a nice spot to take photos. It features a magnificent monument of the queen and includes a huge open air amphitheatre.
Have a stroll in Magat Dam
A must-see tourist spot in the province is the rock-filled dam known as Magat Dam. One of the biggest dams in the country and the Asia, Magat Dam is a multi-purpose dam. It provides scenic view of the Magat River and its surrounding mountains.
Pay a visit to century-old churches
The province is home to beautiful and grand old churches. Be amazed with the rich history and architecture of each church – they are silent witnesses to Isabela’s glorious past.
Discover its different natural attractions
From hidden waterfalls, to beautiful unspoiled beaches to its unique bonsai forest, the province is a tourist destination worthy to see.
Pay a visit to century-old churches
The province is home to beautiful and grand old churches. Be amazed with the rich history and architecture of each church – they are silent witnesses to Isabela’s glorious past.

Estimated Costs

Estimated Cost per Person
Getting Around
The most common means of transportation in the province is tricycle with a minimum fare of Php 12.00 per person, with higher fares for longer journey. In going to another town, there are jeepneys and mini-buses as mode of transit.

Affordable – Php 780.00
Mid range – Php 1,350.00

Php 80.00 – Php 150.00

Tourist attraction entrance fee
Php 100.00

Average price per day
Php 1,250.00 – Php 1,400.00