The town of Peñablanca in the province of Cagayan has been called the “Caving Capital of the Philippines” for a good reason: it has more than 300 known caves that have been documented by the National Museum of the Philippines, and arguably one of the most fascinating but also the most challenging caves to explore are the San Carlos Caves. The town and its caves are situated to the south of Cagayan Province, near the provincial capital of Tuguegarao. Close to the famous Callao Cave National Park, the San Carlos Cave is located within the Callao Caves Tourist Zone, along with the Sierra, Roc, and Callao Caves.
The San Carlos Cave is a living Philippine river cave. It is considered one of the most difficult to explore among the Philippine caves due to its many narrow passages which require a great deal of crawling. It is also necessary to swim and wade a great deal while going through the San Carlos Cave due to the subterranean river that runs through much of the cave. Due to its technical difficulty, exploring this cave can take as much as an entire day and can only be done by those with some knowledge of caving techniques and with appropriate spelunking equipment. Sharp and rough stones could scratch skin and tear clothing. The cave may be explored with authorized guides from the Sierra Madre Outdoor Club (SMOC).
The San Carlos Cave is classified as a karst cave as well as a river cave, which means that it is a limestone cave that was formed over the years through the dissolution of the limestone by water with carbon dioxide. A wide variety of interesting living geological formations can be seen inside the cave.
Its most distinctive geological feature is the chamber known as the Ice Cream Parlor for its clusters of white stalagmites are thought to resemble large scoops of ice cream. One of the most challenging parts of this cave is the John the Baptist Chamber. The chamber has jagged stone walls and an extremely deep underwater sump or water-filled pit. Much of the John the Baptist Chamber is submerged in water, so in order to reach the other side of the chamber, it is necessary to inhale deeply then swim underwater. The jagged stone walls may cause cuts and scratches in those exploring this chamber.
The cave also features many tight passages which can only be explored by crawling. This is the main reason that the San Carlos Cave is considered one of the most technically challenging caves in the Philippines
The San Carlos Cave has an icy underground river running through it and is also known to be prone to flooding. In addition, underground waterfalls can be found within the depths of the cave. Altogether, about half of the cave is filled with water. Thus, those planning to explore the cave must be prepared to do a great deal of wading and swimming in cold subterranean waters.
How to get there?
From Manila, you can ride a bus going to Tuguegarao city, the provincial capital of Cagayan. You can ride from different bus companies like Victory Liner, Dominion, Autobus, Baliwag transit Inc., Florida, EMC and Dalin Lliner. From Tuguegarao, you can ride a tricycle going to Peñablanca.
Should one wish to stay for sightseeing over a number of days, these are the nearest hotels that offer lodging at reasonable price:
• Ivory Hotel and Suites located at Buntun Highway, Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley / Isabela.
• Villa Blanca Hotel can be found at 13 Pattaui St.Ugac Norte, Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley / Isabela
• Mango Suites located at 1 Rizal St. corner Balzain Road, Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley / Isabela
For avid cave explorers or just casual sightseers, you trip here will give you an exciting, challenging and unforgettable adventure. So add this cave to your list of places to visit in the province of Cagayan.