Santa Ana is located in the north-easternmost point of Luzon and is the home of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone. This little known gem of the north counts with deserted white sand beaches, waterfalls, wind and kite surfing and is also one of the best places for game fishing in the Philippines.
Santa Ana (and the north of Luzon in general) is perfect if you want to avoid the crowds and see something outside your regular Palawan, Bohol, Boracay tourist destinations. Although, as a much less travelled destination, you should expect a much less developed infrastructure. Resorts, hotels and restaurants may not be as fancy as in other places in the Philippines. Overpriced camping, and simple very affordable hostels catered to local barkadas are the most abundant lodging options, and the fancier resorts in our experience, may be a disappointment as they are for those looking to blow their cash at the casino, and care little about service standards, not to mention the food.
We booked a sea-view room at the Avalon Beach Club (also called Party Beach Resort) and were given a room facing the parking lot (no water visible unless it rained). The food was just not edible. Internet was (as it is almost everywhere in the Philippines) slower than a dial up connection, and the service… let’s just say there is plenty of room for improvement. At check out, they were nice enough (after much debating and having to show them on site, what we meant by sea-view) to give us a non sea-view rate, and we also should mention that the beach was beautiful and well maintained.
If you are looking for a place to stay, dont be deceived by appearances, and if you are looking for something to eat… This may be your time to get adventurous and try some of the local eateries! cheap and… Ma sarap!
If you love nature, a little adventure and the sea, Santa Ana is a place you should put high up on your list. Head over to Palaui island and treck to the Spanish-era Cape Engaño Lighthouse. Enjoy the beautiful Anguib and Nangaramoan beaches. Explore the Gotan mangrove forest and waterfalls, Padlas and Lamesa Falls or ride a Takuli and go firefly watching at Brgy. Casagan.
Santa Ana is a good four and a half hour ride from Pagudpud and a three hour ride from the provincial capital (Tuguegarao).
Having mentioned all of the above, if there is something we would like to highlight about Santa Ana and Cagayan, that would have to be the ride itself. We rode into Santa Ana from Pagudpud and we went to Baler after. The landscapes tell a visual story that changes constantly. A 12 hour journey (Santa Ana to Baler) became a visit to natures very own art gallery, offering incredibly beautiful views of the Sierra Madre on one side and the Cordillera Central on the other. Definitely a must if you are looking for something a little less ordinary.