Davao is the 11th most populous region in the Philippines. It also has the biggest population among the regions in Mindanao. The region has developed into a center for business, trade, and tourism. It is an important source of agricultural products in the country like bananas, pineapples, mangoes, pomelos, and the infamous Durian, also known as the "King of Fruits." Because of its industries, facilities, and natural attractions, Davao is visited by many tourists yearly.
Towering at 9,692 feet, the imposing Mount Apo is the highest mountain the Philippines. It was declared a national park by former president Manuel L. Quezon in 1936. The allure of the "Grandfather of Philippine Mountains" draws mountain climbers all over the country every year. From the summit, an impressive view of Lake Venado, the highest lake in the country, can be seen.
Davao City is the regional capital and it hosts the Kadayawan Festival, one of the biggest celebrations in the province. It is held every third week of August as thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest, lively culture, and peaceful living in the city. The festivities begin with a traditional ceremony followed by street dances, competitions, and parades. Shopping malls also go on sale during the said festival.
Another attraction in Davao is the Philippine Eagle Center, home to the famous monkey-eating eagle. The majestic animal is the largest eagle in the world in terms of length and wing surface. A number of these critically endangered eagles are being cared for in the center along with other animals.
The fastest way to get to Davao City is by plane. From Metro Manila, flights to Davao International Airport take less than two hours. Meanwhile, if you're coming from Cebu, it only takes a little over an hour to get there. Several commercial airlines like Cebu Pacific Air, PAL Express, and AirAsia offer daily direct flights to Davao so getting there is fairly easy.
By Land and Sea
Unknown to some, Davao can also be reached via a combination of land and sea travel. You can board a Philtranco bus bound to Davao at its terminal in Cubao or Pasay. After a long road trip, the bus will hop on a RORO (roll-on, roll-off) ferry that will finally take you to Davao. Total travel time takes about a day and a half.
How to Get Around
Jeepneys are the most popular mode of public transportation within Davao. In Davao City, you can also find "Nelson-type" jeepneys called uso-uso that feature modern designs and usually run faster than the normal jeepney.
Taxis are also available around Davao if you want a more comfortable way of getting around. You can even hire a taxi to tour some of Davao's popular tourist spots.
There are also tricycles around Davao, but there are some areas where you won't find one. And like taxis, tricycles can also be hired for a day tour.
What to See
Whether your intention in visiting Davao is to rest and relax, go on an adventure, or simply to sightsee, you'll find that this place has everything you need for an interesting stay.
As soon as your plane lands in Davao International Airport, you'll be able to see one of Davao's main landmarks: a giant durian sculpture. This work-of-art was made by Kublai Millan as a tribute, not only to Davao's most famous fruit, but also to its rich history.
San Pedro Cathedral in Davao City is also one of the first places that tourists visit in Davao. Those of the Catholic faith come here to say a prayer of thanks for their safe arrival and to ask for guidance for the duration of their trip. This 19th century church serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Davao.
Meanwhile, the San Salvador del Mundo Church (also known as the Caraga Church), is considered as the oldest Catholic church in Mindanao. It was established in the 1880s and is located in Caraga, Davao Oriental. The Shrine of the Infant Jesus is also worth visiting. It features an image of the Infant Jesus of Prague. Since it is found on top of Matina Hill, you can enjoy a most relaxing view of the lush surroundings. Aside from Catholic churches and shrines, you'll find other places of worship there like the Mindanao Taoist Temple and the Lon Wa Buddhist Temple.
Another notable landmark is People's Park, a favorite hangout among tourists and locals alike. It is the ideal place to relax and enjoy the clean and green surroundings. You'll also see more of Kublai Millan's artworks there like sculptures that depict the native tribes of Mindanao. The nightly dancing fountain display is also one of the highlights of this park.
From Davao, you can conquer the Philippines' highest peak, Mt. Apo. It stands at about 9,692 feet above sea level and has a hiking difficulty level of 7/9. Another mountain found in Davao region is Mt. Hamiguitan in Davao Oriental. However, the government has put a pause on hiking since it has recently been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its abundant and diverse flora and fauna.
At the foot of Mt. Apo is Lake Venado. This lake, though picture-perfect, has been the cause of the mysterious deaths and disappearances of some hikers in Mt. Apo. Swimming is allowed, but at your own risk, of course. Meanwhile, Davao also has some waterfalls for those who want to take a dip in relaxing waters. The town of Cateel in Davao Oriental is home to two magnificent falls: the Aliwagwag Falls which is considered as the country's highest and Mahan-ob Falls. Meanwhile, you'll find Panas Waterfalls in New Corella, Davao del Norte. But if you want to soak in warm waters, head to Mainit Hot Springs in Lupon, Davao Oriental.
The Sleeping Dinosaur Island is also a unique natural attraction that you simply can't miss. You can spot this dinosaur shaped land form on the way to Mati, Davao Oriental.
Of course, Davao also has its share of beaches and coves. Samal Island and Talikud Island are popular beach destinations, each boasting several beaches perfect for those who want to unwind and relax during their trip to Davao. But if you want a more underrated attraction, head to Dahican Beach in Mati. The sight of its white sands and azure waters will wash away all your stress and worries.
Davao is also a haven for scuba divers. It is home to several world-class diving sites including reefs, coves, and islands where you'll discover diverse marine life. Some of these dive sites can also be found in Samal and Talikud Island.
Wherever you are in the Davao region, you will not be bored with the many things to do and see.
Aside from People's Park, there are more parks to see in Davao City. Relax in the rich garden surroundings in Eden Nature Park and see some crocodiles, along with species of birds, reptiles, and mammals at Crocodile Park. Also in the Crocodile Park Riverfront Complex is the Tribu K'Mindanawan where you can immerse yourself in the traditions of the ethnic groups in Mindanao. Meanwhile, if you want to see the Philippine eagle in the flesh, head to The Philippine Eagle Center. You can also enjoy wakeboarding at Deca Wakeboard Park.
Dahican Beach is not only a place to swim in Davao Oriental, you can also unleash your inner adventurer and learn how to surf and skimboard while there. And if that's not daring enough, you can head to Aliwagwag Falls in Cateel where you can enjoy zip-lining.
Events and Festivals
Davao City's Kadayawan Festival is one of the much-awaited events in the region and one of the most popular festivals attended by visitors from all over the country. This festival serves as the thanksgiving event of the locals for their bountiful harvest. It is usually held every third week of August and is made colorful and vibrant with events such as street dances, parades, and competitions. Meanwhile, Araw ng Davao Festival is Davao City's foundation celebration usually held every March 16.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
Davao also has branches of your favorite food chains, and most of them can be found in Davao City. So if you're craving for some Jollibee or McDonald's, check out the commercial centers and malls in the city.
Davao has a wide variety of restaurants, each offering different kinds of cuisine. From local dishes to European, Asian, American, and even exotic dishes, you'll definitely satisfy your cravings.
For those who are on a budget, eateries are the perfect place to eat in Davao. These carinderias mostly offer local dishes so make sure you have an appetite for Filipino food.
Since durian is one of the main products of Davao, you can try some durian flavored dishes in some of the restaurants there. For example, Lachi's is a restaurant famous for its durian sansrival. The local coffee shop Blu Gre, which has several branches in Davao City, even offers durian-flavored coffee. Also, Davao serves delicious seafood dishes made from the freshest ingredients.
Bars and Clubs
You'll also find some bars in Davao if you want to have a drink after dinner. Jack's Ridge is among the famous places for nightlife because of its lookout point that lets you see an amazing view of the cityscape.
Where to Shop
Some of the popular malls within Davao are usually found in Davao City. These are SM City Davao, SM Lanang Premier, Abreeza Mall, NCCC Mall, Chimes Mall, and Gaisano Mall or GMall. Each offers countless shopping optuions as well as entertainment and dining spots.
Bazaars and Pasalubong Areas
For those who want to bring home some souvenirs and pasalubong, Davao City Pasalubong Center has it all. Meanwhile, Aldevinco Shopping Center is the go-to place for handicrafts like woven bags and sarong. For some quality durian candies and pastries, head to Apo ni Lola's or Lola Abon's.
Bangkerohan Public Market is the best place to purchase Davao's famous fruits: durian and mangosteen.
ATMs and Money Changers
Banks, ATMs, money changers, and even remittance stores can be found in Davao City, so there's no need to worry about being short on money. You can easily withdraw or have your foreign money exchanged in these establishments.
Fare: PHP 2,000.00 ++
One-way flights to Davao range from PHP 2,000.00 to PHP 6,000.00, depending on which airline you'll be flying with. Meanwhile, a one-way bus ride is about PHP 1,900.00 to PHP 2,400.00.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 500.00
If you will be eating at carinderias or street food stalls, full meals (rice and viand) range from PHP 60.00 to PHP 80.00. Meanwhile, meals at restaurants or diners are about PHP 200.00 to PHP 500.00.
Shopping: PHP 50.00++
The cheapest pasalubong to bring home is a pack of durian candies which costs less than 50.00 per pack.
Accommodation: PHP 300.00 to PHP 4,000.00
You can choose from a wide variety of accommodations in Davao depending on your budget. There are budget inns, lodges, and dormitory type accommodations that offer no-frills fan and air conditioned rooms. Meanwhile, if you want access to facilities like restaurants and swimming pools, go for the mid-range to high-class hotels or resorts where a stay could go for as much as PHP 4,000.00 a night.
Activities: PHP 150.00++
Some attractions, especially in Davao City, charge entrance fees. For example, you'll have to pay PHP 150.00 to get inside Crocodile Park. Meanwhile, Eden Nature Park's entrance fee costs more or less PHP 100.00.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 200.00++
Make sure to set aside PHP 200.00 for Davao International Airport's terminal fee.
||Arrive at Davao International Airport. After landing, head to the Durian Sculpture and have your picture taken there.
||Arrive in Davao City. Board a bus in the city center going to Mati. Snap some photos of the Sleeping Dinosaur.
||Arrive in Mati. Have lunch at Venus Restaurant.
||Check in at any of the resorts. Some even allow you to pitch tents. After settling in at your chosen accommodation, head to Dahican Beach for some swimming, surfing, and skimboarding.
||From the city center, ride a habal-habal or a tricycle to Waniban Island. Upon getting there, explore its peaceful surroundings, and enjoy the lovely waters and the gorgeous white sand shores.
||After watching the sunset in Waniban Island, head back to Dahican Beach.
||Have early dinner at Lane's Kan-anan.
||See Mati from an ultralight aircraft. Mindanao Saga Flying Club at the Mati Airport will take you on a 15-minute introductory flight for PHP 1,600.00.
||Check out from accommodation and depart for Davao City.
||Arrive in Davao City. Have lunch at any of the carinderias there.
||Ride a ferry or boat from Sasa Wharf going to Samal Island.
||Arrive in Samal Island. Head to your desired beach resort. The most popular ones include Kaputian Beach Resort and Pearl Farm Beach Resort. Enjoy swimming and playing watersports. Come 2:00 PM, check in at your chosen accommodation.
||Head to the Monfort Bat Cave to see its colony of bats.
||Visit the General Moncado White House and take some photos.
||Head back to your resort.
||Have dinner at a nearby restaurant or eatery.
||Have an early check-out from your accommodation. Head to the port and ride a ferry or boat back to Davao City.
||Arrive in Davao City. Have breakfast at a Jollibee or any of the fast food chains in the city center.
||Head to Crocodile Park and go on a tour.
||Head to Eden Nature Park. There are lots of things to do there like zip-lining and sightseeing. There is also a swimming pool and various places where you can have lunch.
||Enjoy people watching in People's Park and have photo opportunities with its assortment of sculptures.
||Head to any of the pasalubong shops. For some sweet treats made from durian, visit Lola Abon's or Apo ni Lola's shops.
||Head to the airport and board a flight back to Manila.
||Arrive at Manila Domestic Airport.
The Philippines only has two seasons: the dry season from December to May and the wet season from June until September. For those who want to avoid the scorching summer heat, try visiting during the "ber" months.
Make sure to pack some medicine and first aid supplies before your trip. But in case of any emergency, Davao has a good number of hospitals where you can seek medical assistance.
Unlike other countries, the Philippines has no customary tipping practice. But if you insist, small bills like PHP 20.00 or PHP 50.00 will do.
For budget-conscious travelers, taking the jeepney is the cheapest way to get around. With fares starting at PHP 8.00, you'll be able to get to various impressive destinations. Meanwhile, the flag down rate for taxi is at PHP 30.00.
Safety and Security
While Davao may be considered a generally safe place, there's no harm in being extra careful when traveling there. Be mindful of your surroundings and always be on the lookout for suspicious persons. Make sure to also store your valuables in a safe place, and always bring your identification cards with you. Remember, it's better to be safe than sorry.