Summer is at its peak in the Philippines right now. If you haven’t been to our beautiful country, summer is experienced here between March to May while storms and rainy days are experienced between June to September save for the unpredictable imbalance of nature caused by global warming. The Philippines, being an archipelago, is actually divided into three major groups of islands. First – Luzon houses Manila, the country’s capital, with its own share of beautiful attractions. Visayas is the second major island with Cebu as one of the major cities and lastly, the third one, Mindanao lies in the southern part of the Pearl of the Orient.
Hagimit Falls in Samal Island, Davao.
For this particular article, I’ll be discussing Davao City, one of the most developed and main attractions down south. For the longest time, Mindanao has been hampered in achieving its utmost potential because of civil war and insurgencies. However, I assure you, Davao City is a very safe place. Thanks to its well-respected mayor.
#BackpackerTip: If you smoke, please be warned that the city imposes exorbitant penalties ranging from P 5, 000 to P 10, 000 or US$125 to US$250.
I. TRAVELLING TO DAVAO From Manila, you can have three options: first of course, is through aerial transportation. Like what I’ve said before, one can travel through the Philippines without paying a lot. Budget airlines like Cebu Pacific and Air Asia costs at around P 4,000 (or roughly US$100) for a round-trip ticket. If you ought Philippine Airlines, their fees range from P6, 000 or higher. Well, rates of these airlines are subject to a lot of factors such as promos, seat sales and season.
If you want to savor the moment, you can also try travelling to Davao City through a vessel. The price range is a bit cheaper all year round. However, it will take you roughly two days before arriving in Davao. If there’s no hurry on your part, I suggest you can try this one except during rainy season, of course.
Lastly, by bus which, I believe is exhausting. This is only advisable for those who have a very tight budget. If you’re a traveler who availed your leave from work, you won’t really spend your time and energy on the transportation right? So might as well reserve this option.
#BackpackerTip: Davao International Airport has direct international flights so you can book a direct flight in the city if you will come from another country.
There are over a hundred hotels scattered in the city and Samal Island where beautiful beaches are found. Booking through agoda.com or booking.com will help you in choosing the place that you’ll stay during your stay. I highly recommend agoda since they don’t have hidden transaction fees. We stayed in Tune Hotel. It’s actually very affordable although the amenities are very limited. The said hotel is known for being budget-friendly which also caters to different countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and even UK. In Davao City, Tune Hotel is located in JP Laurel Avenue. In my opinion, the location is very strategic. It’s near the airport, shopping malls and the barge to Samal Island. So I highly recommend that you book a hotel along this area to help you maximize your stay in the beautiful city.
At the Paradise Beach Resort.
If you’re a beach bum and you decided to head to quench your dry skin, staying in Samal Island is perfect. There are also great and affordable accommodations in the said area. For instance we went and stayed to different resorts. Paradise resort is beautiful with reasonable rates and pristine waters. Not to mention the food was great even though a bit pricey. It’s also highly accessible or roughly 2-3 kilometers from the port. We also stayed in Camp Holiday resort which is more affordable compared to Paradise. This resort has two large swimming pools and a play ground. In my opinion, this is only advisable if you’re travelling with children especially because it’s just right next to the port and the amenities are focused on the pools rather than the beach. Lastly, roughly 5-6 away from the port is the Pacific Heights Private Resort. The fees are also reasonable here. The beach was pretty much relaxing except for the big tarnished corals which may injure your feet while walking along the shoreline.
Beachfront of Pacific Heights Resort.
There various hotels in Samal Island which can suit your budget and taste. I do not guarantee that the places I mentioned are the best but they’re definitely reasonable.
#BackpackerTrip: Relaxing beachfronts of different resorts are scattered in the island which are mostly white sand.
III. TRANSPORTATION IN THE CITY
Jeepneys in the city are organized with their respective routes. The rate starts at P 8.00 and may increase depending on the destination that you will go to. Cab drivers are also all over the city. The flag down rate is P 40.00 just the same as Manila.
#BackpackerTip: Most drivers in the city are very honest and they will give you the exact change even if it’s coins. We had one bad experience in the airport though. The cab driver was asking for a fixed rate only to find out eventually that once such incident is reported to security guards in the airports or police officers around the city, the cab driver may be sanctioned. So take in mind that in Davao, taxi drivers are strictly bound by the city’s policies.
If you will travel from Davao City to Samal Island, you can ride a barge or a boat which directly transports to Paradise Island. Both ports are in Davao City-Panabo City Road.
IV. THINGS TO DO
There are many things that you can do in the city proper and its neighboring areas. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to experience white water rafting and Eden Nature Park which are some of the main highlights of Davao.
#BackpackerTrip: Davao is famous for the tropical fruit called durian. Infamous for its over pungent smell, this fruit can definitely excite your taste buds. In the down town area of Davao, a simple and peaceful park can be visited by tourists. It’s called People’s Park and it’s nearby the City Hall and local market. A couple of food stalls are accessible in the area so you might consider visiting it as well.
Davao City’s People’s Park.
If you’re travelling with children or at least fond of animals, atrip to Davao Crocodile Farm can be fun. The entrance fee costs P 200.00 (or roughly US$5.00). I find the fee too pricey though especially there are only few things that you can do inside the park. On a positive note, if you have an adventurous appetite, you might want to try the various dishes made of crocodile meat. The place also homes other animals such as ostrich, tiger, bear cat, among others. Adjacent to this place is a butterfly garden which is also open for tourists.
Map of Crocodile Park outside of the complex.
Samal Island, which was the highlight of our trip, offers beautiful beaches and serene waterfalls. Hagimit Falls is definitely a must-see. The entrance fee costs P 20.00 which will enable you to stay for the whole day. There are cottages and chairs nearby the falls which ranges from P150.00 to P 200.00. Overnight stay in a resort within the area is also possible. Rates of the overnight rooms range from P 1, 000 – P 3, 000.
#BackpackerTip: An environmental fee particularly in Samal Island is charged upon tourists which costs P5.00. I still wonder where and how the money is spent. We were actually asked to pay twice – in the port and in the entrance of Hagimit falls. Although the amount is very cheap, I really wish there will be tangible projects or benefits for the locals. T
here’s also a famous bat cave in the island with a very minimal fee but since we arrived at around 5:00 PM, we were not able to experience it so head to this place early so you can experience seeing these flying mammals up close.
V. FINAL NOTE
I definitely enjoyed in Davao despite not staying there for too long. Definitely, I will be going back to this city soon. People are generally nice and the city has a perfect blend of urban and rural ambiance. True enough, in my book, Davao City is one of the best tourist destinations in the Philippines.
So pack your bags now and enjoy summer while it still lasts.