Davao Travel Guide and Itinerary

Monument of Peace & Unity and the Legislative Building in Davao (Photo: Jojie Alcantara)

Where to stay, where to eat and what to do in Davao, the Crown Jewel of South Philippines that's brimming with charm, curious delicacies and vivid sights.

About Davao City 

Dabaw, as the locals call it, is the largest city in the Philippines, with a land area of 2,443.61km², and the third most populous in the country. Davao City is the regional capital of the southern Philippines’ Davao Region (Region XI), which in turn is made up of the provinces of Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental and Davao Occidental — so when you’re talking to a local about “Davao”, it’s worth making sure you’re talking about the same Davao. 

Geographically, Davao City is found within Davao del Sur, but politically, Davao City stands apart, being governed independently from the province. The greater Davao City area, known as Metro Davao, includes Digos (also in Davao del Sur), and Tagum, Panabo and Samal (which are in Davao del Norte).  

It’s also proudly known as “the Crown Jewel of Mindanao” and as such, makes for a good gateway for further expeditions into other parts of Mindanao. Davao City offers historical and cultural explorations in a highly urbanized setting, while nature and adventure destinations — including Mount Apo — are within a day’s journey. 

 

Highlights for the Traveler 

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.   

 

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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.  

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 25km 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 5.5m-long Pangil. The reptiles also share the farm with a wide variety of birds, big cats, snakes and lizards. 

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 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 that caps the festival. 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 fest, 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 street 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. 

 

Just Outside Davao City 

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, as part 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 experienced guide for safety. 

 

 

By Patricia Barcelon, as of January 2020.


Recommendations to be updated.

Recommendations to be updated.

Recommendations to be updated.

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