For visitors to Mati, the most popular leisure-time activities include surfing, skim-boarding, light-aircraft flights and, well, snoozing. The conditions in this southeastern gulf town on the fringes of the Pacific Ocean are perfect for doing all four in a single weekend, and vacationers from the nearby big city wouldn’t have it any other way. Before heading to Mati — be sure to stop at the Sleeping Dinosaur viewing point as you get close to town — pre-book your resort stay or pack tents and other camping gear.
Surf or skim-board at Dahican Beach
Dahican Beach, about 10 minutes from the city center by car, is Mati’s centerpiece. This 17km stretch of soft, beige-colored sand is ideal for sunbathing and has plenty of shade-providing palm trees. Kids who like to build things in the sand are sure to stay busy for hours, but be careful not to let them wander off unsupervised to the rocky sections of the beach, where sea urchins dwell amid the sharp coral.
Compared to other well-known surf-and-sand destinations, Dahican is a rather quiet beach with just a few resorts — a quick online search yields fewer than 10 results — that are well separated from one another. Stroll along the beach and eventually you’ll come across a lifeguard station that doubles as a surf shack, manned by lifeguards who rent out boards and give surf and skim-boarding lessons (it’s about PHP300 for the board rental and coaching). Dahican makes for the perfect classroom if you’re new to either sport — the waves here are manageable and break on the sandy beach.
Fly with the Mindanao Saga Flying Club
For a bird’s-eye view of the beach and most of Mati, for that matter, head to the city’s airport where the Mindanao Saga Flying Club (facebook.com/mindanaosagaflyingclub) offers 15-minute ultralight plane rides for just PHP1,600. Licensed pilots are available to take you on exhilarating flights that offer breathtaking views — of the city, the green fields beyond and the beach itself, where the plane swoops down until you can almost make out the faces of the sunbathers (how’s that for a thrill ride?). Prime flying hours are from 5.30-9am, when wind conditions are at their best, so be sure to turn up at the airport early.
Recharge beachside at Tropical Kanakbai
If you’re traveling with a big group (it’s always good to bring the party with you), rent a fully furnished beach house at Tropical Kanakbai (+63 927 287 1790; dahicanbeachclub.com). You’ll enjoy all the comforts of home and then some: alfresco dining areas, a garden dotted with coconut trees and a scenic beachfront that’s ideal for after-dark viewings of the moon and stars.
There are two luxury beach houses on the property, each with two bedrooms that can accommodate at least four people per room. You can book a room or and entire house and make full use of the kitchen facilities. Hit the market early in the morning to get first dibs on the catch of the day and let your designated chef whip up lunch while you lounge on beachside hammocks. If you think Davao City is laid back, be prepared for an even more blissfully unhurried pace in Mati City.
This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Smile magazine.