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Your 24-Hr Travel Guide to Davao City- What to Do, Where to Eat and Stay!

Durian

My supposedly 4-day stay in Davao City was shortened to only one since I decided to spend most of my time in South Cotabato. Davao City is the main trade, commerce, and industry hub of Mindanao. Home to over 1.6 million people, it is the third most populous city in the Philippines.

Related Article Here: Lake Sebu, South Cotabato

Davao City is dubbed as the Durian Capital of the Philippines, because of the abundance of Durian in the region. It is also where Mt. Apo, the highest mountain in the country, is located. Many would agree that Davao is one of the safest cities in the Philippines. I, and most especially, the locals, could attest to that despite the criticism.

My first impression of  Davao City was unforgettable. It happened the moment I stepped out of the airport.

I arrived in Davao City before sunrise. Visiting South Cotabato wasn’t part of my plan, but that was what I ended up doing.

Getting there involves a little adventure because of the lack of direct transport. From Davao Airport, I hailed a cab and asked the driver to take me to Ecoland Bus Terminal. As we were about to leave the airport, someone knocked on the window. Had the taxi driver not told me to open the window, I wouldn’t realize that it was a military man who was knocking, as I was busy browsing the web on my phone. The man in uniform asked me, “Name, Sir?”

I didn’t respond until he repeated the question twice or thrice. The driver called my attention and said, “Sir, ano raw pong pangalan nyo?” (Sir, he is asking for your name)

I found it unusual for a man in uniform to be asking about my name before I left the airport. Even so, I obliged and only then we were allowed to leave. I asked the driver why he asked for my name. The driver explained that in Davao, it is a protocol to get the names of tourists, so if something bad happens, they can easily identify the tourist involved. That’s part of their security measures. Well, that makes sense and it certainly made me feel safer inside the cab. Davao City brags about being the safest city in the country and, in fairness, I did feel safe there.

There are also checkpoints on the city’s borders. All vehicles coming into the city are being inspected. On my way back to Davao City from South Cotabato, we had to get off the bus, so they could conduct a thorough inspection before they allowed us to proceed.

What to do in Davao?

I’m more of a beach person than a city person that was why the first thing that came to my mind when I got to Davao was the Island Garden City of Samal.  Davaoeños are fortunate to have such a beautiful island which is only 15 minutes away from the city. How I wish we had something like that in Manila.

 

Maxima Aqua Fun

 

The Island Garden City of Samal is composed of 7 islets located on the Gulf of Davao. The city is physically unattached to the mainland of Mindanao, 900 meters east of Davao City. Its coastline stretches for over 118 kilometers and has an extensive mountain range on the eastern coast, a number of isolated hills and uneven distribution of lowlands. Indeed, this place is heaven for people who are looking for a break from a busy city life.

Maxima Aqua Fun resort is one of the famous resorts on the island, offering exhilarating water activities. It is known for its 40-meter super slide that leads you from the top of a hill all the way down to the 120-foot sea. I didn’t want to miss that opportunity.

 How to get to Maxima Aqua Fun

The most convenient option is to take MB Maxima IV Shuttle from STA. ANA WHARF to Maxima Aquafun Resort.

Shuttle Schedule: Friday to Sunday

Departs Sta. Ana Wharf to Maxima Aquafun Resort at 9:00 AM

Departs Maxima Aquafun Resort to Sta. Ana Wharf at 4:00 PM

Since I wasn’t able to catch their boat, I rode a bus from SASA WHARF to Peñaplata (PHP50), then took a habal-habal going to Maxima (PHP60). Entrance to Maxima Aqua Fun is PHP250php for adults.

I wouldn’t deny that the slide looks scary. It leads straight to the ocean and you can’t control your speed. Wearing a life jacket is a must. They will not allow you to slide down, or even swim around without a life jacket even if you know how to swim.

I was a bit nervous to take on the adventure especially that I was traveling on my own. I didn’t have a friend with me to talk to who could serve as a diversion, so I wouldn’t focus on the activity.

But when I did it, it felt great! It was awesome! The moment I hit the edge, I felt like I was thrown off the slide and pushed into the water. I tried it more than five times which made me exhausted.

One of the activities I enjoyed the most, though risky, was the water blob. It’s an inflatable cushion on the water. You would have to jump from a high point. The right way to do it is to land on your butt; not on your back. It was painful when I landed on my back the first time I tried. What made it more fun was I sat at one end and the guide jumped onto the other end, then boom! I flew up in the air and into the water. It was an amazing experience!

 

What else to do in Davao City?

 

Peoples park Davao City

Photo Credit to Ahl Dee

 

  • Walk around the People’s park. It’s a very lively park where children are playing, students are dancing, family and friends are walking around.
  • Visit Museo Dabawenyo to see a glimpse of the past scenes of Davao in the Philippines. Picture taking is restricted inside the Museum.  Admission is free!
  • Stroll on the streets of Davao. Take interesting photos, observe how organized the city is and observe the daily lives of Davaoeños.

If you have more time in Davao you might want to check this out!

  • Reconnect with nature at Eden Nature Park
  • See some Philippine Eagles at the Philippine Eagle Centre
  • Discover what’s inside D’ Bone Collector Museum

 

Eden Nature park

Photo Credit to Winston Fernandez

 

Where to Eat in Davao?

When in Davao, something you shouldn’t miss is the Durian. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the smell, but it’s the scent of the city. It’s like a street food in the city.

If you’re looking for affordable food selections, walk along Roxas Ave. which turns into a night market.  There are eateries, tiange, massage and lots of ihaw-ihaw (grilling station) along the road.

You might also want to check Tripadvisor’s number 1 restaurant in Davao City

Where to Stay in Davao

If you are on a tight budget, I recommend staying at Homitori Dormitel.  Male and female guest are housed in separate buildings. The rooms and restrooms are clean and the staff are helpful. It is located near Chinatown which is close to the port. They offer free breakfast. Although, it’s just egg and rice.  But who am I to complain? Their rate is affordable. You can even book with them online!

Recommended mid-range accommodations that you can book online!

Luxury accommodations in Davao City

As I walked on the streets of Davao, I felt like walking on the streets of Old Manila. The city is a mixture of old and new buildings. I ask my friend, “Why do I rarely find a tall building in Davao?” I expected that it was similar to Metro Cebu which has skyscrapers.

She said most buildings in Davao cover vast land areas that’s why they don’t need to be tall. Well, it make sense, as Davao City is the largest in the Philippines in terms of land area.

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