Among the most beautiful cities in all of Asia, Davao City is the Philippine ‘capital of the south’. Located in the island of Mindanao, it has some 1.4 million inhabitants, and it has developed into a center of business and international trade, while also maintaining its traditions and unique flavor.
Getting around Davao
Davao is the most crime-free city in the Philippines, especially for tourists, who are guarded not only by the police, but also by the people around. The easiest way to get around is by taxi – an average ride costs 2-3 dollars, and unlike most places in the Philippines, the driver doesn’t try to negotiate a higher price if he sees you’re a tourist. Buses are also an option, though they don’t cover the entire city. You can also rent a jeep, if you wanna get more adventurous or do what the locals do. Another, more interesting way to get around are water taxis – if you want to get to a nearby island (which we’ll get to soon), waterfront restaurant or any beach, you can do so with ease with a water taxi.
Davao is a smoke free city! This means that smoking in all public buildings, resraurants, clubs, etc is not allowed! If you do happen to smoke, you risk a big fine ($2-300), but you also risk being jailed for a few days – which is definitely not something you want to do.
Attractions in Davao City
Mount Apo is the largest mountain in the Philippines – a large stratovolcano that reaches 2,954 metres above sea level. The mountain can be climed all year round, thought you should bring your fitness along if you want to climb to the top – which is definitely worth it. The view is unlike anything you get to see in Europe, and along the way, you’ll pass Lake Venado, one of the highest lakes in the Philippines, the old crater and the fumataras – cracks in the earth through which steam and gases are emitted.
But even if you can’t climb all the way, it’s still a trip worth doing. You can also take some time to meet people from the six indigenous groups: the Manobos, Bagobo, Ubos, Atas, K’Iagans and Tagacaolo, who believe the mountain is a sacred place. Visiting their tribes provides for a unique, off the beaten path experience.
This island is so close to Davao, you can practically consider it part of the city – it’s ; it’s an absolute must visit, especially if you love beaches! It’s the best place to sunbathe, take long walks on the beach or just sip your mojito and chill. The island is also perfect for snorkeling and diving due to the crystal clear water.
The Island Garden City of Samal features classy, luxurious (and expensive) resorts, but there are also really nice budget-friendly alternatives; be sure to try the local specialties – the food is really awesome.
While on the island, you should also visit Monfort Bat Colony (Guinness World Record holder for having the world’s largest colony of Geoffroy’s Rousette fruit bats). As a matter of fact, Samal has some 70 caves, most of which are (or were) inhabited by these bats. The 1,000-foot-long Monfort Bat Cave is home to about 2.4 million bats.
All in all, this paradise island is definitely something you want to visit – you can even plan your entire trip around it, though it would be a pity to miss out on the other attractions in Davao.
Eden Natural Park
A respite, an adventure, a spiritual retreat, a cultural excursion – this really sums up Eden Natural Park. A place where travelers and campers can enjoy some of the most exotic plant and animal species. A truly magnificent outdoor experience, perfect for the entire family, for those with lots of mountaineering, as well as for those with little or zero experience; great for the kids too.
The only thing you should be aware of is that it’s pretty far from the city proper, so if you don’t have your own car, you’ll probably have to exchange two or three rides. The tours are also really great and cheap, and you can schedule them with a day in advance.
Philippine Eagle Centre
If you’re a nature lover and you liked the Eden park, you’ll definitely enjoy the Eagle Centre. This sanctuary has lovely staff, well kept grounds, and a number of other animals around it (aside for eagles, of course).
It’s good to see just how much effort is put into preserving the Philippine eagle, which is endemic to the area. I really recommend hiring a guide, which can provide insightful and interesting information about the species and the project.
Davao Crocodile Park
The name is pretty much a misnomer in this case – you get to see tigers, ostriches, and of course, hundreds of crocs. Not really a lot to do except see the animals and eat, but it’s a really great experience – one which you shouldn’t miss out.
Lon Wa temple
Moving on to more cultural activities, the Buddhist Lon Wa temple is definitely one of the highlights. It’s a place of peace and tranquility, with koi fish in ponds and free tours. The guard at the entrance is very knowledgeable about the area, as he’s been working there for 25 years, so be sure to ask him questions about the temple.
DECA Waterboard park
It may look simple, but waterboarding is a very demanding and tiring sport. Its great for beginners and the staff is really good at explaining and helping you in the start. For the more advanced, it’s a challenging experience! You can also opt for white water rafting, which will get your adrenaline as well as your muscles pumping.
Davao Zorb Park
Take your loved one, your best friend, or whoever – because it takes two to Zorb! Zorbing is hands down one of the most unique things you can experience anywhere in the world – just be prepared to shout a lot! Basically, somebody pushes you down a hill in giant a see through ball – what’s not to like?
Tamayong Prayer Mountain
Get off the touristic path, and visit Tamayong Prayer Mountain – a one of a kind in Davao. Far from the crowded places, far from the noise and the commotion – just fresh air, lovely flowers, and a wonderful garden to commune with nature. Looks like you are in a foreign, idyllic country.
No entrance fee, just meditation, relaxation and self discovery. No matter what religion you are, or if you’re not religious of all, this is definitely the place to find your peace.
Beaches… beaches everywhere!
Davao is probably most famous for its beaches – most of them are awesome, while the others are just really great; no matter where you go, you’ll find lovely sand and clear water.
This being said, these are just a handful of the attractions in Davao – and even just these can keep you busy for months! Other places you might want to check are Maxima Aqua Fun, Malagos Garden Resort, Davao Museum and Museo Dabawenyo, as well as many outdoor walks or cruises.
All in all, Davao City should provide a fantastic experience no matter what you like – be it culture, lovely beaches, exotic wildlife or religious serenity.