Where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in Davao—the Crown Jewel of southern Philippines that's brimming with charm, curious delicacies and vivid sights.
Dabaw, as the locals call it, is the largest city in the Philippines with a land area of 2,443.61km². The city is located in Region XI, in the southeastern part of Mindanao. Though it has many similarities with cities across Southeast Asia — the hot and humid climate, the crowds and cacophony of industrial sounds — it also has plenty of wide, open spaces and pockets of tranquility within and near the city.
To get a sense of Davao’s history, pay a visit to Museo Dabawenyo, which showcases the city’s rich heritage. During the Spanish occupation, the building served as the Court of First Instance located along Pichon Street. It is now temporarily relocated to the Folk Arts Museum of the Philippine Women’s College in Juna Village and is set to be transferred to its permanent site in the People’s Park by 2021. Visiting the museum is free.
About 7km from Museo Dabawenyo is the Davao Museum of History and Ethnography in Insular Village. The museum tour, which also features Davao’s history and different ethnic groups, takes about two hours. Entrance fees are ₱100 for adults and ₱20 for students and senior citizens.
If you’re here to get away from city life, it is not that hard to find peace and quiet even in the middle of the metropolis. The Lon Hua Buddhist Temple, the biggest Buddhist temple in Mindanao, is located along JP Cabaguio Avenue in the Agdao District. Lon Hua, or Temple of the Dragon, has become a respite for city slickers, tourists and Buddhists alike. Entering the gates, one can feel time slow down. The architecture and atmosphere, redolent with the smell of incense, give off a serene and tranquil vibe. Say hello to the monks and they’ll surely smile back.
About 27km from the city down to Gadi Road in Talomo is where you’ll find one of the most popular family destinations in Davao City: the Davao Crocodile Park. With the aim to educate the public on conservation, the park is home to different species and sizes of crocodiles, including the country’s largest living croc, the 18-foot Pangil. The reptiles also share the farm with a wide variety of birds, big cats, snakes and lizards.
Nature Spots In Davao
Nature lovers will find much to love about Davao. Eden Nature Park and Resort, about 35km from the city, offers family-friendly activities in a scenic setting. Get on a skycycle and pedal your way through the air with views of the city and the lush greenery below.
A quick boat ride from either Santa Ana Wharf or Sasa Wharf will take you to Samal Island, a white-sand beach dotted with resorts. Families and tour groups can enjoy various beach activities like snorkeling, jet-skiing, banana boat rides and kayaking, which are offered by the island resorts. While on the island, take a jeepney ride to Hagimit Falls, where the cascading waters and the forest backdrop make perfect photo ops. The island also has a sanctuary for giant endangered clams in Barangay Adecor, aspart of the local government’s ecotourism and preservation efforts. Check out the clams of different shapes, sizes and colors while snorkeling.
Serious climbers might consider trekking up Mount Apo, the country’s highest mountain peak at nearly 3,000m above sea level. But you’ll need to allot additional time for this as the mountain is located about 143km outside the city and the trek itself takes about three days. It is advisable to hire an expert guide for safety.
Visit Davao For Its Festivals
Probably the best time to visit Davao is during the Kadayawan Festival, which happens every August. The city streets are flooded with vibrant colors and dancing (Indak-indak sa Dalan) to celebrate a good harvest and honor the unity between indigenous peoples. Dabaweños also give everyone a spectacular visual treat with the much-awaited Floral Boat Parade. Be ready for a loud and rowdy party and keep a bottle of water handy — this party can really heat up.
If you run out of gas at the street party, you can recharge at the Hudyakaan sa Kadayawan at Rizal Park. It is a food oasis after a hot day of festivities, a three-weeks-long food bazaar set up for hungry tourists joining the Kadayawan Festival. Fans of hawker food will relish the endless dishes on offer, from grilled meat on skewers to native delicacies such as kalderobo (a cross between the popular Philippine pork adobo and caldereta) and crispy fish and shrimps. While you’re having your fill of Davao delicacies, you might want to get a taste of durian, a prickly fruit with a distinctive pungent smell. If you’re not feeling that adventurous, try durian-based treats like tarts, candy and even coffee.
The Dayaw Market is a great place to take a walk after a filling meal. This is not your usual trinket shopping destination as it offers organic and sustainable produce and products. Choose from a wide array of indigenous beadwork, woven fabrics from Mindanao, and maybe even take a rare artifact home. End the day at Jack’s Ridge Resort and Restaurant, up in the Shrine Hills in Matina, which offers a breathtaking view of the city and some Filipino comfort food.
By Patricia Barcelon.
As of January 2020.
Bahay ni Tuding Inn & Resto, 160 San Pedro St; +63 82 295 2487; bahaynituding.com — A clean and modern inn located in a quiet compound downtown. $
Eden Park Nature Resort $, Barangay Eden, Toril, Davao City, Tel. +63 82 286 0383, +63 86 286 0385; edennaturepark.com.ph — Revel in the laid-back atmosphere that allows guests to relax within nature’s confines and indulge in an authentic mountain experience — marked by cool crisp mountain air as you enjoy the spectacular views of pine trees. The resort also offers various outdoor activities for the family: View the city on the skycycle, tour the farm on horseback, zip through the forest canopy on the sky swing, or just hang out by the swimming pool. Rooms and villas are also available for overnighters. $
Pearl Farm Beach Resort, Barangay Adecor Kaputian, Samal Island, Tel. +63 82 235 1234; pearlfarmresort.com — An international tourist destination, this five-star island resort offers luxurious lodgings that draw on Mindanao cultures. You can opt to stay in two-storey private suites with a view of the ocean, or even stilt houses — influenced by the shelters of Samal tribes — built on saltwater. $$
Seagull Mountain Resort, Buda National Highway, Marilog District — A highland resort offering a breath of fresh air (quite literally!) from the city, and picture-perfect mountains. Situated a two-hour drive away from the city proper. $
Seda Abreeza, J P Laurel Ave, Bajada; +63 82 244 3000; sedahotels.com/abreeza — This hotel’s proximity to offices and commercial establishments makes it ideal for business travelers. $
The Apo View, 150 J Camus St; +63 82 221 6430 — This local icon was built in 1948, making it the Philippines’ second-oldest hotel. $
The Royale House, 34 Claro M Recto Ave, Poblacion District; +63 999 888 3630 — A centrally located, two-star hotel with air-conditioned rooms. $
Abuelo’s, Circumferential Rd, Marfori St; +63 922 394 5185; fb.com/abuelossisig — This restaurant is considered the granddaddy of Filipino comfort food, with dishes priced very affordably.
Ahfat Seafood Plaza, Bajada; +63 82 224 0002 — Indulge in fresh yet inexpensive seafood such as steamed crabs and slipper lobsters.
Balik Bukid Farm & Kitchen, Quimpo Blvd; +63 917 302 1208 — Serves up fresh Filipino dishes made with organic produce from its own garden.
Belito’s Vineyard, Palm Dr, Bajada; +63 82 227 6726; fb.com/belitosvineyard — The kinilaw (seafood ceviche) at this rustic backyard restaurant is a must-try.
Blu Gre Coffee, DSR Compound, Ponciano St; +63 82 285 3073; blugre.ph — Try the restaurant’s durian-infused coffee for a uniquely Davao experience.
BU Tapas, Pelayo St; +63 82 284 6364; fb.com/butapasbebidasybodega — Come here for imaginative seafood dishes, such as grilled tuna flakes in a deep-fried bun.
Davao Dencia’s Restaurant, General Luna St, Poblacion; +63 918 319 4425 — This establishment, which serves up hearty Filipino-Chinese fare, is popular among locals and tourists alike.
Rekado Filipino Comfort Cuisine, 1050 Emilio Jacinto Extension, Barangay 11-B, Poblacion District, Davao City; +63 82 224 3031 — Filipino food for sharing with family and friends.
Belito’s Vineyard, Palm Drive, Davao City; +63 0922 857 6727 — A cozy place to wine and dine — do not miss out Belito’s Paella Negra and shrimp gambas!
Marina Tuna, JP Laurel, Davao City; +63 82 233 2666 — Serves a mix of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino dishes, specializes in tuna and other seafood dishes.
Giant Clam Sanctuary, Barangay Adecor, Samal Island; +63 908 118 5162 — Enjoy snorkeling and spotting the rare giant clams of the island.
Pearl Farm Beach Resort; Barangay Adecor Kaputian, Samal Island; +63 82 235 1234 — A beach resort which offers luxurious lodgings and stilt houses with full-board buffet meals.
Davao Crocodile Park and Zoo, Diversion Front/Riverfront, Corporate City; +63 82 286 8883; crocodilepark.ph — Meet a menagerie of delightful animals — eagles, ostriches, orangutans, snakes, crocodiles and one Aira Iguana, charmingly described as a good swimmer — in this sanctuary. The attraction is home to a crocodile farm that’s equipped with modern facilities and equipment, and encourages visitors to respect our connections with nature. Guided tours available. $
Lon Hua Buddhist Temple, Cabaguio Ave, Agdao — One of the biggest Buddhist temples in the Philippines and the biggest in the island of Mindanao. Italian marble slabs make up the walls of this temple; it also hosts a gold Kuan Yin, wood carvings featuring the life of Buddha, and lily ponds. Visit for some peace and meditation. $
Davao Museum of History and Ethnography, Zonta Building, 113 Agusan Circle, Insular Village 1, Lanang; ±63 82 233 1734. Immerse yourself in Davao’s rich culture and history with a two-hour tour.
Eden Park Nature Resort, Barangay Eden, Toril, Davao City, +63 82 286 0383, +63 86 286 0385 — A nature resort that offers various outdoor activities for the family. View the city from a skycycle, tour the farm on horseback, zip through the forest canopy on the sky swing, or just hang out by the swimming pool. For overnight visits, there are rooms and villas available.
Gap Farming Resort, Green Meadow, Ma-a; +63 82 244 0156 — This mountain resort is a popular weekend destination, with horseback riding facilities, picnic areas, various orchards, a campsite and an Olympic-size swimming pool.
Giant Clam Sanctuary, Barangay Adecor, Samal Island; +63 908 118 5162 — Enjoy snorkeling and spotting the rare giant clams — locally known as Taklobo, and are the largest living bivalves whose size can reach up to 1.5m — of the island. Formally known as the Marine Reserve Park, it highlights the indispensable role of marine protected areas in giant clam conservations. Taklobo Tours offers tourists a one-of-a kind underwater adventure. Take the two-hour tour (including travel time) from Sta. Ana Wharf in Davao City, or just a five-to-seven-minute boat ride from Barangay Adecor to the Marine Reserve Park. $
Hagimit Falls and Nature Park, Poblacion Peñaplata, Samal Island; +63 999 705 5330 — Admire the beauty of the Hagimit Falls. You can choose to stay overnight in the park, either by pitching tents or renting cozy cottages.
Mel’s Davao City Food Tour, +63 947 361 3544 — Dive into Davao’s delicacies with a six-hour tour that will take you to various food stops and historical sites.
Philippine Eagle Nature Center, philippineeagle.org/center — A conservation breeding facility for the critically endangered Philippine Eagle. View these majestic creatures up close, along with other birds, mammals and reptiles endemic to the country.
Samal Island, samal-island.com — A popular beach paradise that’s just a 10-minute ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of Davao City. Hike up Mount Puting Bato and enjoy beautiful views of Davao Gulf at the summit.