DAVAO CITY is king in many ways. It is the largest city in the Philippines based on land area and is home to a lot of royal marvels: from Mount Apo, the country’s highest mountain (king of Philippine peaks), to the critically endangered Philippine eagle (king bird), the quintessential Southeast Asian fruit durian (king of fruits) and the beautiful waling-waling (queen of orchids).
Nicknamed as the “King City of the South” and the “Crown Jewel of Mindanao,” Davao City is a highly-urbanized city located in the southeastern part of the island of Mindanao. Expect a fine blend of bustling modern metropolis and charming provincial vibe in your next visit to Davao, which is less than two hours away from Manila by plane.
This multicultural city was also dubbed as one of Asia’s most livable cities by the now defunct Asiaweek magazine. It is a melting pot of diverse cultures where ethnic tribes live alongside the local residents and the migrants from different places and walks of life.
Davao City is a prime location for education, tourism, trade, commerce and finance in the Southern Philippines, making it an emerging property investment hub. So if you’re searching for a viable place to invest, and reap the benefits of its thriving economy and favorable business climate. Plus, you’ll get to experience the warm hospitality of the Dabawenyos while discovering what the city has to offer! So, if you’re ready for some sightseeing and adventure escapades, we came up with a list of the best things to do in Davao:
10 Best Things to Do in Davao City
1. STOP BY THE MUSEUMS
One of the best ways to acquaint yourself in a new town is to have a date with its history, arts and culture. Learn more about Davao’s diverse cultural heritage and legacy by dropping by Museo Dabawenyo, which has well-curated galleries showcasing artifacts and crafts of the indigenous tribes of Davao. It also displays the rich history of the city that springs from the Spanish, American and Japanese colonial era as well as the fascinating works by local artists and artisans.
Due to the pandemic, this museum located at the University Avenue, Juna Subdivision, Matina is temporarily closed. It will soon be relocated inside the People’s Park as a five-storey building with a durian-inspired exterior. Admission will be free once it opens.
If you have a sweet-tooth, don’t miss going to Malagos Chocolate Museum, which is the best part of the famous guided walking tour at the 12-hectare nature-themed park named Malagos Garden Resort.
Malagos Chocolate Museum
Fulfill your Willy Wonka fantasy in the country’s first chocolate museum and enjoy a delightful tree-to-bar experience. It all starts with some interactive lessons about the intricate art of growing cacao and making homegrown chocolates.
Kids will surely love playing with the mascot, as you take snapshots of the colorful, Instagrammable museum. Then, you can satisfy your sweet cravings and grab a bite of chocolatey treats at the Chocolate Bar.
You can even experiment with local flavors by making your own Malagos chocolates in the Chocolate Laboratory! Note that the Malagos Garden Resort had to close for the meantime because of Covid-19, but it will open its doors to visitors again soon.
History and culture buffs may also check out other interesting museums in Davao City such as the Davao Museum, the Philippine-Japan Historical Museum and the D’Bone Collector Museum.
2. VISIT THE PHILIPPINE EAGLE
Wouldn’t it be nice to pay a courtesy call to a monarch while you’re in Davao City? Meet the majestic Philippine eagle, locally known as “haribon” or king bird, which is one of the largest eagle species in the world. It was previously called “monkey-eating eagle” because of its appetite for monkey flesh. With its massive size and wingspan, it can be a fearsome bird of prey but despite that, the Philippine eagle is on the verge of extinction. Due to hunting and deforestation of its natural habitat, the country’s national bird is now considered as critically endangered.
The Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos serves as the forest sanctuary of these endemic birds. It aims to rescue and conserve the eagles by breeding them and eventually releasing them back into the wild. Educational tours and birdwatching activities are offered here to raise awareness about wildlife conservation. You can also do your part in protecting the Philippine eagle by donating to the foundation and supporting their initiatives especially in this time of coronavirus crisis.
3. HIKE AT MOUNT APO
Perhaps it is every Filipino mountaineer’s dream to reach the summit of Mount Apo, a potentially active stratovolcano called the “grandfather of Philippine mountains.”
At 9,692 feet (2,954 meters) above sea level, it is the highest peak in the country. If you’re up for a thrilling climb, prepare your stamina for an adventure of a lifetime and Mother Nature will reward you with panoramic views of beautiful landscapes.
Experienced local and foreign hikers can choose from different trails depending on the level of difficulty they prefer. Along the way, tourists will encounter picturesque rivers, hot springs, waterfalls and rare species of plants and animals.
Some backpackers camp near Lake Venado at night before catching the magical sunrise from the summit. The best time to trek is from November to May during the dry season.
4. FIND RESPITE IN NATURE
Reconnect with nature with an ample dose of adventure and a touch of culture in this 80-hectare resort nestled in Davao City’s Toril District. Eden Nature Park is a lush haven of flora and fauna that is a perfect getaway for those who want to take a breather from the city. Enjoy the refreshing ambiance of the beautiful greenery and fresh mountain air while taking a stroll to see its flower and vegetable gardens, butterfly pavilion, greenhouses, fish pond, deer park and bird sanctuary.
If you’re in the mood for outdoor fun, you will never run out of recreational activities to try like exploring the hiking trails, horseback-riding and swimming. For more heart-pumping adventures, you can try the famous Skyrider, Skycycle, Skyswing and Skywheel. Those who want to satisfy their curiosity for Mindanaoan culture can visit the Tinubdan park where you can learn more about the customs, traditions and beliefs of the indigenous people of Mindanao.
5. HAVE PICNIC AT THE PEOPLE’S PARK
If your family and friends love the outdoors as much as you do, why not invite them for a simple picnic at the People’s Park? It is a four-hectare cultural theme park known for its durian-shaped dome, a gigantic eagle sculpture, mini-forest and dancing fountains. Kids can have fun at the playground or read books at the children’s library while fitness enthusiasts can jog around the oval for their morning cardio exercise. Tourists who want to slow down and relax may visit the man-made waterfalls, fish ponds, large sculptures of indigenous people, lovely gardens and other attractions in the park. Entrance here is free.
6. ESCAPE TO SAMAL ISLAND
Missing the beach vibe? If you wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life in Davao City, just go to the port (either Sasa Wharf or Santa Ana Wharf) and ride a ferry to a coastal paradise called the Island Garden City of Samal or simply, Samal Island. Its pristine waters and white sand beaches make it a tourism hotspot among travelers especially for those who are staying in Davao City. Tucked in the heart of Davao Gulf, this tropical gem offers a plethora of scenic destinations like charming resorts, powdery beaches, fantastic snorkeling and diving spots, mariculture park and botanical garden.
Whether you’re looking for thrill or chill, this slice of heaven has everything set for you. Why not conquer your fear of heights and try cliff diving in Sabang? Go spelunking in Baga, Balete and Magongawong caves; hike Mount Puting Bato; take a soothing dip at Hagimit Falls; sunbathe at Kaputian Beach; check out the Vanishing Island and visit the Monfort Bat Cave.
Exploring the colorful marine life in Talikud and Ligid Islands is a must. You wouldn’t want to miss the out-of-this-world underwater beauty of Coral Garden & Marine Reservation Park, Angel’s Cove, Giant Clam Sanctuary and Aundanao Fish Sanctuary.
Love festivals? You’re in the right place! Samal celebrates various festivities in the island such as Kabasan, Hugyaw Madyaw, White Nights and Caracoles Festival. Join and witness the street party, regatta, street dance, banca race and a lot more!
7. TAKE A DAVAO FOOD CRAWL
Treat your taste buds to Davao’s mouthwatering local delights!
Davao is well-known for its moniker “Durian Capital of the Philippines” so don’t pass on the chance to taste this popular Southeast Asian delicacy. Durian aka the “king of fruits” draws its reputation from its pungent aroma, however, this spiky tropical fruit is also adored by many for its distinct flavor. If the fresh fruit pulp is too strong for your palate, you can try durian coffee, durian cheesecake, durian crepes and durian ice cream instead. Don’t forget to take home a bunch of durian candies as pasalubong or gifts for your loved ones.
Aside from the exotic durian, Davao also has abundant harvest of local fruits such as pomelo, mangosteen, marang, rambutan, lanzones, mango, banana and pineapple, thanks to its favorable weather and fertile soil. This is why the city is also known as the Philippines’ fruit basket. So while you’re in Davao, don’t forget to shop for fresh fruits in Bankerohan Market and Magsaysay Fruit Stands.
Do not leave Davao City without satisfying your cravings for fresh seafood, especially tuna. Visit MarinaTuna Seafood Restaurant for its signature 10-way tuna, wherein appetizing tuna dishes are cooked and served in 10 different ways such as tuna sashimi, tuna kinilaw, tuna eye soup and tuna kare-kare.
For a unique gastronomic experience with a breathtaking view of the city, head on to Jack’s Ridge Resort and Restaurant. What used to be a part of the Japanese headquarters during the Second World War was turned into a popular dining destination in Davao City, but remnants of its rich history are still preserved. Go to the main restaurant (Taklobo Restaurant) and order authentic Dabawenyo cuisines such as grilled tuna, sinigang, kinilaw, adobo and chicken and pork barbecue.
You can cap the night by munching on local street food in Roxas Night Market, where food stalls are filled with delicious treats such as skewered isaw (grilled pork or chicken intestine), balut (fertilized duck egg), sinuglaw (combo of grilled pork belly and fish ceviche), fruit juices and the crowd favorite, Mang Danny’s Ice Cream. Score the cheapest bargains in the bazaars and find a nice souvenir to take home. You can also find a lot of massage parlors in the area if you want to relax and unwind.
8. MEET THE CROCS
Want to see crocodiles and other wild animals up close?
Spend the day by meeting and interacting with them in an educational trip to the Davao Crocodile Park & Zoo. Both kids and the young at heart will have a fun and awe-inspiring experience of feeding the animals, learning about their natural world and enjoying live shows. Don’t forget to say hi to Pangil, an 18-foot saltwater crocodile considered as the Philippines’ largest crocodile in captivity!
The park takes pride in its state-of-the-art crocodile farming system. It aims to conserve the crocodiles and other wildlife animals and raise awareness among the people. Aside from the crocs, the zoo also houses 72 exotic animal species such as raptors, snakes, bearcats, monkeys, birds and other reptiles. In addition to that, it serves as a field laboratory for students and wildlife animal enthusiasts.
9. PRAY AT THE SAN PEDRO CATHEDRAL
Dedicate some time for reflection, tranquility and prayer at Davao City’s oldest church, the San Pedro Cathedral. The original structure of the church referred to as Davao Cathedral is said to have been built by Spanish settlers way back in 1847. Situated at the heart of the city, the cathedral is regarded as a historical landmark and a National Cultural Treasure. It veers away from the traditional gothic design of churches in the old days. After undergoing remodelings, its present architectural style is that of a modern building which seems to have a unique fusion of the Christian and Muslim features of Davao with its curved vinta-like roofing and a cross. San Pedro Cathedral currently serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Davao.
10. PARTY IN THE KADAYAWAN FESTIVAL
There’s nothing like the experience of immersing yourself in a new place by attending local festivals. Celebrating the rich and colorful culture of the indigenous peoples of Davao, the Kadayawan Festival serves as a ritual of thanksgiving to the Supreme Being “Manama” for a bountiful harvest. Kadayawan is derived from the word “madayaw,” that means beautiful, good or valuable. True enough, Davao City is a land of plenty, blessed with abundant agricultural and floral gifts of nature.
Hailed as “The Festival of Festivals,” it is also a tribute to the Lumad (a collective term for the indigenous peoples in the southern Philippines) and Moro communities of Davao. There are 11 tribes in the city namely Ata, Iranun, Tagabawa, Klata-Guiangan, Matigsalog, Sama, Ovu-Manuvo, Maranao, Maguindanaon, Kagan and Tausug.
It’s the time of the year when locals and tourists troop to streets for the annual festivity held during the third week of August to witness grandiose events such as the Pamulak sa Kadayawan (floral float parade) and Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan (street-dancing). Other highly anticipated activities are the Hiyas ng Kadayawan (beauty pageant), Tribuhaning Pasundayag (tribal cultural show), Subang Sinugdanan (fluvial parade), Dula Kadayawan (indigenous and Muslim traditional games) and more. You also shouldn’t miss going to the art bazaar, trade expo, agri-trade fair, food booths and weekend market where you can fill your tummy and shop some souvenirs!
Indeed, “The City of Royalties” is oozing with life and color. That’s why it can be tempting to pack our bags to travel or even live there. Leave your worries behind because Davao is a warm and welcoming place for everyone where different communities co-exist to live a vibrant and peaceful life. The city fosters unity among people with diverse cultural and religious beliefs. Thus, having an affordable condo in Davao as a home or an investment can be perfect for travelers, students, young professionals, starting families, businessmen and retirees.