Mindanao had been on my travel list ever since we moved to the Philippines and a recent surprise trip made it happen: A beach getaway to the Pearl Farm Resort led us to Davao, the capital of Mindanao – and it’s a lot better than its reputation!
Why should I go? The attraction that brought us to Davao are the beaches on Samal island, just across the narrow channel of sea. Samal is to Davao what the Hamptons are to New York – close enough, but a completely different getaway. And people come for different things – the serenity of a peaceful resort – or to party the weekend away!
If you have a more active trip in mind, you might want to consider hiking Mt Apo, the highest peak of the Philippines. You’ll need a permit and a guide to start the tough hike. It’s a multi-day hike, so you need to be well prepared for it. That’ll have to stay on my “list” for a future trip.
Davao is the capital of the South and the food and culture are distinct from Manila in the North. We enjoyed our short stay and I’m sure I’ll be back to explore the city more!
Traveltips: Davao is a lot better than its reputation: many foreigners and even Filipino expats consider Mindanao dangerous, but those claims are out of date! The violence you can read in the news about occurs in the very South Eastern islands, far away from mostly Christian Davao. The statistics make it the safest city in the Philippines with regards to crime statistics – the city’s tough mayor has seen to that!
Davao airport can be easily reached from Manila, Cebu and other domestic destinations, as well as from Singapore via SilkAir! Once you arrive at the conveniently small and pretty new airport, head out to find a taxi. Avoid the “fixed rate” (aka skammer) taxis on the right, cross the road and head to the very left. Metered taxis are arriving there and will pick up passengers – no issues. Taxis are safe (the first ones I had in the Philippines to actually obey the speed limit!) and we had no trouble to get them to use the meter!
If you are heading to Samal, the boats leave during the daytime (till around 5pm) from different piers – make sure to arrive early in the day or plan on a night in Davao. Get the exact pier location from your hotel – Google Maps is unreliable and the taxi drivers might need directions.
If you plant to spend time in Davao (and you should), the three top hotels are the Park Inn Davao, near the SM Mall, the Seda Boutique hotel, near the Ayala mall and the Marco Polo, near the old town. All of them are less than $100, making them a pretty good value for what they offer. Make sure to leave your hotel for dinner though – the food in Davao is as good as people say!