Layag-Layag Mangrove Village, Zamboanga (Photo: Lester Ledesma)

Where to stay

  • Ever O Business Hotel, Tomas Claudio St corner La Purisima St; +63 62 955 8049; A bright and pleasant business hotel with 24-hour housekeeping and free WiFi.
  • Garden Orchid Hotel, Gov. Camins Ave; +63 62 991 0031. One of the largest hotels in Zamboanga, located just minutes away from both the airport and the commercial district.
  • Hacienda de Palmeras Hotel and Restaurant, Pasonanca Rd, Brgy. Sta. Maria; +63 62 991 3284. A quiet and comfortable retreat located on the outskirts of the city.
  • Lantaka Hotel by The Sea, N S Valderosa St; +63 62 991 2033. An old-school hotel with great views of the bay.

Where to eat

  • Andy’s Special Satti, C. Atilano St, Brgy. Tetuan. Sample satti with tamuh – essentially barbecued and skewered beef or chicken with sweet-spicy sauce, served with rice cooked in woven balls of palm leaves.
  • Alavar Seafood Restaurant, Don Alfaro St; +63 62 991 2483. Be sure to order curacha (deep-sea crab) with Alvar sauce (a blend of coconut milk and spices) – one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.
  • Big Dawg’s Bistro, Pasonaca Rd; +63 62 955 6646; Favorites here include the buffalo wings with garlic butter dip, and the baby back ribs.
  • CARLS by Chef Mikoy, Canelar St; +63 62 955 8164; Serves hearty Jambalaya rice bowls and toothsome homemade cinnamon rolls, among other dishes.
  • Dennis Coffee Garden, Labuan-Limpapa National Rd; +63 62 957 1131; Head here for both Sulu and Malaysian cuisine. Order the tiulah itum (beef in a broth of roasted coconut and spices), and the bangbang sug pastries.
  • Don Vicente Restaurante Latino, Crispin Atilano St, Brgy. Tetuan; +63 62 926 5799; A little restaurant serving up Italian and Mexican cuisine, with a twist of Filipino flavor.
  • Dulang Restaurant, Rizal St. Try the chicken pianggang (spicy chicken soup) with vegetable side dishes and unlimited rice at this Halal restaurant.
  • Hacienda de Palmeras Hotel and Restaurant, Pasonanca Rd, Brgy. Sta. Maria; +63 62 991 3284. Feast on seafood canton, sizzling gambas and bacalao rice. Those with a sweet tooth should order the famous Knickerbocker, a variant of halo-halo made with mixed fruits, shaved ice, gelatin, milk and ice cream.
  • Jimmy’s Satti Haus, Pilar St. Serves up grilled beef and chicken on rice, all topped with a delightfully moreish, sweet-spicy sauce.
  • Mano-Mano na Greenfield Restaurant, Governor Ramos St, Brgy Santa Maria. Use your bare hands to tuck into hearty and affordable dishes like baby back ribs, chicken sisig and kare-kare (oxtail stew).
  • RED Restaurant by Tony’s, Kilometer 5 Pasonaca Rd; +63 917 798 4392; Offers authentic Chinese and Filipino cuisine and Filipino dishes, including a boodle fight (where food is spread on banana leaves and eaten with bare hands).
  • Southwoods Resto Bar, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay; +63 935 547 8672. One of Ipil’s best eateries, with an awesome seafood platter.

What to do

  • Canelar Barter Trade Center, Brgy Canelar. Shop for malongs (traditional tube skirts), scarves and shawls at affordable prices. There are different varieties of pearls available, too.
  • Capitol Hills, Zamboanga Sibugay. This iconic Muslim-, Christian- and Lumad-inspired building provides 360-degree views of its three adjacent town municipalities – Ipil, Titay and R.T. Lim.
  • Fort Pilar (Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza). This 17th century Spanish military fort is now a regional museum of the National Museum of the Philippines. Exhibits include dioramas of archaeological excavations, 18th- and 19th-century prints, and ethnographic materials from the Yakan, Subanun, and Sama peoples.
  • Great Santa Cruz Island. Take a 20-minute boat ride from Paseo del Mar to this small island, famous for its pink coralline sand – great for Instagram shots! The island is also home to a few families from the Samal tribe.
  • Justice R.T. Lim Boulevard. Punctuate a stroll along the waterfront with a meal at one of the restaurants lining the boulevard.
  • Merloquet Falls, Sibulao. This majestic, two-tiered waterfall is located around 78km from the city proper. Hop on a bus that’s bound for Pagadian, Dipolog or Ipil, before hiring a habal-habal.
  • Paseo del Mar, Valderosa St (beside Fort Pilar). Admire the sunset from this boulevard, which comes alive with a variety of performances in the evenings. It is also the jumping-off point for Sta. Cruz Island.
  • Pasonanca Park, Pasonanca Rd. A beautiful public park where you’ll find plenty of trees, ferns and over 600 species of orchids, as well as a treehouse.
  • Rio Hondo. A picturesque Muslim village laid out on stilts over the water. Inquire at the Zamboanga Department of Tourism (DOT) about the best ways to visit.
  • Yakan Weaving Village, Brgy. Sinunuc, Calarian. Shop for woven goods, brassware, and batik fabrics in bright colors and geometric patterns.
  • Zamboanga City Hall, Valderosa St; +63 62 991 4526. This beautiful colonial-era building is an excellent example of Spanish architecture.
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