Mingle with wildlife, go island-hopping and admire the natural beauty of Davao when you holiday in what’s often touted as the safest city in the Philippines.
Life’s a beach in Davao and we love it. Add Davao City to your bucket list of getaways in the region – this gorgeous yet underrated tourist destination is the third largest city in the Philippines. Fun fact: it’s home to the Philippine eagle; famous for tropical fruits like durian (you might know it as the country’s durian capital); and most notably the hometown of Rodrigo Duterte, former president of the Philippines.
Boasting beautiful beaches, nature escapes and dreamy islands, it’s vibrant and multicultural, earning it the nickname “Crown Jewel of Mindanao”. Best of all, it’s affordable and easy to get there with direct flights under four hours via carriers like Cebu Pacific. Up for an adventure? We visited over a long weekend to bring you the scoop on top hotels and things to do in Davao.
Davao City guide: All the best things to do
1. Encounter wildlife at the Philippine Eagle Center
Fancy meeting the country’s majestic national bird? Stop by the Philippine Eagle Center for a day tour – it’s the world’s only breeding and rehabilitation facility for the species. Prep your hat and portable fan if it’s a sunny day, and step into the green foliage. You’ll chance upon crocodiles, long-tailed macaques and birds of prey as you follow the path. Tip: if you visit during their meal time, you might spot eagles in the midst of lunch. Oh, and proceeds from your ticket will go towards its conservation initiatives.
2. Explore the beauty of Samal Island
Up for a day of island-hopping? Throw on your swimsuit and flippers for an ace afternoon in the sun. Just a ferry ride away, this is the country’s largest resort city. Think white sandy beaches, spectacular snorkelling and diving sites, as well as countless resorts for any budget. Dive into crystal clear waters at Angel’s Cove and Coral Garden, where fishes dart in and out of corals and the occasional starfish dots the ocean floor. For an educational underwater tour, head to the Giant Clam Sanctuary to feast your eyes on massive molluscs.
3. Try amazing local food offerings
There’s no shortage of good food in Davao City, trust us. We ate multiple lunches and dinners – all in one day, no less – and loved every bit of it. Put Balik Bukid Farm and Kitchen on your list for an excellent meal. Its emphasis is on sustainable living and farm-to-table cooking, and the eclectic interiors are designed with upcycled materials. You won’t be able to resist its charm!
Oh, and the tuna in Davao is divine. We’ll never look at that fish the same way again. To sample the best, swing by Marina Tuna Seafood Restaurant, where Duterte himself has dined. The sumptuous menu offers fresh seafood, seasonal fruits and tuna served in all kinds of delightful ways.
4. Grab street food at Roxas Night Market
When the sun sets, night markets abound – and this one is heaven for bargain hunters, street food enthusiasts and everyone in between. Snack on grilled seafood and meat skewers, fried dumplings, trendy goodies like potato swirls, ice cream, and local treats. When you’ve had your fill, stroll through the streets to pick out clothes, souvenirs and knick knacks that go easy on your purse strings.
5. Trek up Mount Apo
If you’ve got adrenaline in your veins, hike up the highest mountain and volcano in the Philippines. It’s no easy feat, which means you’ll have to be physically fit to take on the challenge. Depending on which trail you choose, the climb will take you about two to five days, going past tropical rainforests full of flora and fauna. Guides and porters are recommended.
6. Shop your heart out at Poblacion Market Central
For a spot of indoor shopping, hit up Poblacion Market Central for fabrics, antiques, souvenirs, snacks, and loads of pearl-studded jewellery. The place is a hip mish-mesh of apparel, accessories, food, art and culture, and it’ll make for a much-needed reprieve from the heat if you’re visiting during summer. On our pitstop, we picked up wallet-friendly bracelets and rings, as well as loads of chocolate bars in unique flavours.
7. Check out the Durian Candy Factory
You might wanna give this a miss if you’re not into the stink. But for everyone else who loves the King of Fruits, Lola Abon’s Durian Candy Factory is where it’s at. From humble beginnings in a home kitchen to one of Davao’s most well-known establishments, this store is the city’s version of Willy Wonka (minus the extravagant frills). Make your way there to snag durian macaroons, durian tarts, durian ice candy, durian ice cream, and durian candies flavoured with other fruits like pineapple and mango. The selection is endless, so go wild.
8. Say hi to reptiles at Davao Crocodile Park & Zoo
Got a thing for scaly creatures? Pop by the city’s Crocodile Park and get up close to these magnificent and menacing animals. The croc farm advocates wildlife conservation and also houses monkeys, bearcats, snakes, birds and other reptiles for you to meet and greet. Don’t miss out on the keeper talks and animal feeding sessions!
9. Discover skeletons at D’Bone Collector Museum
If you’re into natural history and animal bones fascinate you, add this museum to your must-see list. It’s owned by an American bone collector and houses hundreds of wildlife skeletons from across the globe. Perfect for curious kids.
Davao City guide: Best hotels and resorts
10. Eden Nature Park and Resort
Holidaying with the fam? Make your way up the mountain for cool breezes and thrilling adventures at Eden Nature Park and Resort. Home to rustic cottages, cabins and villas, it’s perfect for a family getaway. You’ll never get bored here, thanks to adrenaline-spiking activities such as the Skyrider, Skycycle, horseback riding, Skywheel and more. We gave the Skyswing a go and shrieked our lungs out during the 95 feet drop. But if that’s not your cup of tea, wander over to the bird walk, deer park, hiking trail or flower garden for scenic scapes.
11. Dusit Thani Lubi Plantation Resort
Step into a life of leisure and luxury at Dusit Thani Lubi Plantation Resort, which sits on its own island in the Davao Gulf. Couples can luxuriate in the exquisite rooms, while families can book the villas to enjoy striking sunset views from the private pool. Once you get off the dock, you’ll spot stunning corals and marine life as you receive a friendly welcome from the staff.
The pristine premises are home to lush coconut trees, sandy beaches and plenty of top-notch facilities to keep you entertained. We’re talking about a spa, gym, tennis court, playground, games centre, recording studio (for all your karaoke sessions), restaurants, and even a charming church that plays host to weddings. Imagine spending the morning in a crystal kayak, followed by a bout of paddle-boarding and jetskiing, rounding off with a lounge by the infinity pool and a game of mini golf before dinner. Talk about the ultimate tropical getaway!
12. Malagos Garden Resort
Another family-friendly option, Malagos Garden Resort is an epic agri-ecotourism destination that’s been around since 1994. Its grounds are home to all kinds of attractions and activities including animal encounters and bird shows.
Stay in a family suite or villa and make a date with the first-of-its-kind Malagos Chocolate Museum. Grown-ups will be intrigued by its behind-the-scenes look at turning cacao into chocolate, while little ones will love the Chocolate Laboratory. That’s where you’re invited to customise your own chocolate with nuts, fruits and marshmallows in moulds. And with places like the Butterfly Sanctuary, Bird Feeding Dome and Petting Zoo, you can get up close to wildlife without leaving the resort’s premises.
13. Pearl Farm Beach Resort
If you’re dreaming of an island escape, stay the night at Pearl Farm Beach Resort just off the coast of Davao City. From rooms and bungalows to suites and houses on stilts, each accommodation option is surrounded by the lush beauty of nature. Make a splash in the pool and enjoy the view, take up water sports, or check out the game area. Come sunset, plan a romantic candlelight dinner by the beach or head to the bar for a cocktail or two.
14. Seda Abreeza
For a fuss-free stay just minutes from the airport, Seda Abreeza fits the bill. The 186-room building is situated right next to Abreeza Mall for all your shopping needs. If the heat gets to you, cool down in the outdoor lap pool. Or hit the gym for a workout sesh with a pool view. From here, you can easily make your way to places like the durian candy factory or the Philippine Eagle Centre.
Now that you’ve got the lowdown on Davao, it’s time to book those flights!