Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines fly daily to General Santos City in South Cotabato. From Metro Manila, it's only a two-hour flight to General Santos' Tambler Airport.
How to Get Around
By Bus, Van, and Jeepney
Hop on the buses, vans, and jeepneys that ply the roads of South Cotabato to get to the towns and cities.
By Tricycle and Skylab
Tricycles and skylabs, or Mindanao's version of the habal-habal with more passenger seats, are the main modes of transportation when it comes to getting around a certain city or municipality.
Motorcycles can be hired to get to far-flung areas such as waterfalls.
What to See
Some parts of South Cotabato may be known as places of strife, but little do people know that this province has plenty of beautiful attractions that should not be overlooked.
The sculpture that stands on a roundabout in the municipality of Surallah is a must-see landmark in South Cotabato. The monument, which is a masterpiece of renowned Mindanaoan artist Kublai Millan, features an obelisk-like two-stringed lute pointing to the sky and depicts the diverse yet rich culture of the province.
The town of Lake Sebu is not only famous for its cool climate which earned it the moniker "The Summer Capital of the South." It is also a treasure trove of natural wonders. Perhaps its most famous offering is Lake Sebu, a placid lake tucked amongst highlands and verdant forests and with a handful of islets. If you want to explore the lake, the surrounding resorts like Punta Isla Lake Resort can arrange cruises.
Aside from the lake itself, Lake Sebu's famous seven waterfalls are also popular among nature trippers. If you have the energy, go on a trek to reach all seven falls. But if you're wiped out from all the exploring, you can opt to ride Lake Sebu's zip-line which offers a view of the four waterfalls.
General Santos City is also home to some must-visit natural attractions. One of the most popular is the Kalaja Karsts Park. With its beautiful karts formations and handful of waterfalls and caves, this biodiverse area ensures tourists will have plenty to do. Just near the park is the Malakong Gorge, an ideal spot for rock climbing and camping. The Amilok Falls is also a must-visit when in General Santos City.
For the ultimate adventure, challenge yourself to a hike up Mt. Matutum. Although it is an active volcano, its last eruption occurred in 1911.
A trip to South Cotabato will not be complete without visiting the T'boli village at Lake Sebu and seeing the T'nalak weavers in action. The T'nalak is the traditional fabric of the T'boli tribe woven by women called the Dream Weavers. Their designs are based on outlines that come to them through their dreams as well as the traditional patterns which have been passed down from one generation to the next. The T'nalak weaving center used to be the home of the late Lang Dulay, a T'nalak weaving master who was declared a National Living Treasure.
If you want to have additional knowledge on the culture of South Cotabato, head down to the South Cotabato Community Museum in Koronadal City. There are many artifacts, relics, and artworks displayed there that illustrate the rich culture of the province.
For some fun in the sun, head to Paraiso Verde Resort Water Park in Koronadal. This resort has plenty of swimming pools, including a wave pool, and offers a wide variety of watersports.
One of the country's largest pineapple plantations is located at the foot of Mt. Matutum in Polomolok. The Dole Plantation spans close to 20,000 hectares produces pineapples for export and a variety of other fruits as well. There is also a golf course and a clubhouse within the plantation.
Of course, if you want to see the bustling tuna industry of General Santos City, make sure to visit the General Santos City Fish Port Complex.
Events and Festivals
South Cotabato's celebration of the T'nalak Festival should not be missed. Held every July, this week-long feast showcases the rich culture of the T'boli tribe and highlights the T'nalak weaving tradition.
Another festival that tourists must experience is General Santos City's Tuna Festival. Every September, the city pays homage to its bountiful seas. If you're a seafood lover, you'll definitely enjoy the tuna dishes that are served in the event.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
There are branches of popular fast food chains like Jollibee, McDonald's, and KFC in South Cotabato, particularly in General Santos City and Koronadal.
Seafood dishes will be the highlight of your culinary journey in South Cotabato. In General Santos City, there are plenty of restaurants that not only serve tuna but a variety of seafood and Filipino dishes as well. Some of the popular ones include Gensan Arpochi Seafood Restaurant, Grab-A-Crab, and Ranchero's Grill and Seafood Restaurant. Meanwhile, tourists will enjoy both sumptuous dishes at Sarangani Highlands Restaurant and a panoramic view of the skyline.
Lake Sebu's signature fish, on the other hand, is the tilapia. Guests can enjoy grilled tilapia, tilapia sisig, and of course, tilapia chicharon. Tourists can go mad over tilapia dishes at the restaurants of the various resorts there, including Punta Isla Lake Resort, Estares Lake Resort, and Monte Cielo Resort to name a few.
Lantaw Marbel is one of Koronadal's most famous places to eat. Featuring lush green surroundings, this restaurant serves delicious Filipino dishes and offers a gorgeous view of the city.
Apareja Buko Halo-Halo is a favorite dessert stop located in Koronadal. This establishment is made famous because of its unique twist on the favorite Pinoy dessert halo-halo. Apareja' version of the halo-halo is served in a coconut and topped with ube ice cream.
Budget travelers can enjoy the affordable seafood dishes served at the carinderias at Tiongson Arcade in General Santos. Rows upon rows of eateries serve freshly-cooked meals that are guaranteed to be made with the freshest catch of the day.
The food in South Cotabato are not only limited to seafood. One of the local delicacies is balbacua, made with cow skin broth. Aweng's is one the best known places serving this delicacy.
Where to Shop
Most of the malls in South Cotabato can be found in General Santos City. It has SM, Robinsons, KCC Mall, and Gaisano. Meanwhile, Polomolok also has a Gaisano Mall, while Koronadal has branches of both Gaisano Mall and KCC Mall.
Kablon Farms in the town of Tupi is a popular pasalubong shop in the province. It sells a variety of fresh fruits and fruit products including juice concentrates, jams, jellies, and even chocolate bars. Make sure to buy some durian-flavored chocolate while you're there. In addition, the South Cotabato Pasalubong Center in Koronadal also sells some food and fruit products, along with souvenirs like shirts, keychains, and handicrafts.
Tourists can also buy T'nalak fabric straight from the weaving center in Lake Sebu.
ATMs and Money Changers
Banks and ATMs are available in South Cotabato for those who wish to withdraw cash.
Fare: PHP 3,500.00
A one-way flight to General Santos City from Manila is around PHP 3,500.00.
Food: PHP 100.00 to PHP 300.00
There are plenty of budget-friendly dining options for budget-conscious travelers. You need only to spend PHP 100.00 to PHP 150.00 if you'll be eating at a carinderia or a fast food chain. But if you prefer to eat at restaurants, make sure to allot a PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00 budget per meal.
Shopping: PHP 100.00 to PHP 300.00
Shopping for food products at Kablon Farms or South Cotabato Pasalubong Center will cost you PHP 100.00 to as much as PHP 200.00. Meanwhile, if you want to bring home T'nalak cloth as a souvenir, one meter's worth ranges from PHP 300.00 to PHP 600.00.
Accommodation: PHP 400.00 to PHP 2,000.00
Accommodations in South Cotabato are very affordable. For only PHP 400.00, two people can already spend a night in an air conditioned room at a pension house. But for those who want to vacation in style, overnight stays at a midrange to upscale hotel range from PHP 1,300.00 to PHP 2,000.00.
Activities: PHP 10.00 to PHP 500.00
The entrance fee for South Cotabato Community Museum costs only PHP 10.00, while the minimal entrance fee for Paraiso Verde Resort Water Park is at PHP 150.00. Zip-lining at Lake Sebu is about PHP 300.00. And if you want to visit the T'nalak Weaving Center, make sure to hire a guide and offer a cash donation. The guided trip will probably cost you a total of PHP 500.00.
||Arrive in General Santos City from Manila.
||Grab some breakfast at a fast food chain like McDonald's or Jollibee.
||Visit the General Santos City Fish Port Complex.
||Travel to Koronadal. When you pass by the Dole Plantation, make sure to take lots of photos.
||Arrive in Koronadal and feast on delicious local dishes at Lantaw Marbel. Afterwards, have Apareja Buko Halo-Halo's famous halo-halo for dessert.
||Head to Paraiso Verde Resort Water Park for an afternoon of fun. Enjoy the wave pool and try out the available water sports.
||Have a late check-in at your chosen accommodation.
||Buy a few pasalubong at the South Cotabato Pasalubong Center.
||Have dinner at any of the fast food chains at Gaisano Mall Koronadal.
||Have a quick breakfast at any open fast food chain.
||At Koronadal's bus terminal, hop on a bus bound to the town of Surallah.
||Arrive in the town of Surallah. See Kublai Millan's famous sculpture at the roundabout and take lots of photos. Afterwards, head back to the bus terminal to catch a jeepney bound for Lake Sebu.
||Depart for Lake Sebu.
||Arrive at Lake Sebu. You can hire a motorcycle at the tourism office to take you to the lake.
||Arrive at the lake. Grab some lunch at any of the resorts there. Make sure to order some tilapia dishes.
||Start your Lake Sebu Tour. You can go on a cruise, rent a kayak, trek to the waterfalls, or try the zipline. While you're there, make it a point to visit the T'boli village and witness the T'nalak weaving process.
||Head back to Koronadal City.
There are only two seasons in the country: the dry season which runs from December until May, and the wet season which runs from June to November. Of course, it's best to visit South Cotabato during dry season so you can fully enjoy your stay.
Make sure to bring some medicine, first aid supplies, and insect repellent on your trip to South Cotabato, especially if you'll be spending most of your time outdoors. Should you be in need of any medical assistance during your trip, the province has hospitals and clinics that you can visit.
Safety and Security
While South Cotabato may be a generally safe destination, there's no harm in taking extra precautions whenever you travel. Make sure to always be aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables in a safe place.