When I hear the word ‘Davao’ I usually associate it with durian; now it’s Duterte. I’m not referring to the president though, but his son. Haha! All kidding aside, he is not the reason why I decided to visit the third most populous city in the Philippines. I mean who cares about a surfer with well sculpted abs, is smart, funny and easy-going, and who also happens to be a rock star? Definitely not me at all. *ugh my salivary glands are starting to act up now* haha!
But really, besides durian and Baste Duterte (okay no room for haters here, chill y’all), it’s really the sea that brought me to Davao City. The only one thing I am really and will always be attached to. I didn’t bother exploring the city since it’s really the least thing I’m interested in. Instead, I went straight to Samal Island and then Dahican Beach in Mati, Davao Oriental. Here are a few Davao travel tips for an amazing adventure out of Manila:
- GO STRAIGHT TO SAMAL. After landing in Davao International airport, I went straight to SAMAL ISLAND. There’s really nothing much to do in the city unless you want to get caught in traffic. Ride a cab from the airport to Sta. Ana wharf/port. Fare usually costs around 120-150Php and travel time takes about 25-35 minutes depending on traffic. From the port, you may choose which particular area in Samal you want to visit.
- KAPUTIAN ISLAND > BABAK SAMAL ISLAND. You can choose either of these spots when going to Samal Island. I personally prefer Kaputian since it tends to be less crowded. Yes, believe it or not, I very much enjoy staying away from people! Ha! Anyway, Babak Island is 15 minutes away from Sasa Wharf and it is where most of the prime accommodations are located. Boat fare is only 15Php via motorboat. Kaputian Island, on the other hand, is the peaceful side of Samal. It is 45 minutes away from the wharf via motorboat and fare is 50php. Whichever you choose, you can still enjoy the best of Samal through island hopping tours and land tours which are usually offered in all accommodations.
- DON’T BOOK VIA AGODA. it may look cheaper because they put all these discounts, but I found out that the hostel/hostels where I stayed at offers a cheaper price than the ones posted in Agoda (well, at least here in PH). Better Google search the contact number of the place you plan to stay at and book straight your accommodation. What I like about Agoda is that it gives you firsthand reviews on each place and they have a filter option for the criteria/consideration in choosing a place to stay (i.e. cost, ratings, location etc.). To guide you better, here are some listings in Samal Island you may want to consider.
- STAY IN ISLAND GARDEN RESORT, SAMAL ISLAND. Just so you know, this isn’t a paid advertisement. I just highly recommend this hidden resort in Pangubatan, Samal Island especially if you want a moment of peace and tranquility. Friendly staff, cheap rates, delicious food, best view of the sea and the milky way, and best of all, TREE HOUSES by the beach! I’ve got nothing bad to say about this place except for the slightly bumpy ride from the port to the resort. The view was superb anyway so I didn’t mind that soul-shaking motorbike ride. Haha! The resort also arranges island hopping and diving tours. Call or email them for reservations at (+6382) 284-0168, 09065630057, email@example.com
- LEARN BASIC BISAYA WORDS. I strongly recommend this because it helps bring you closer to the locals. Locals are the key to success! In all fairness to Davaoeños, they can be quite friendly and helpful! I swear I didn’t feel unsafe even a little while traveling solo in this town. Here’s some helpful phrases in their local dialect:
|Maayong Buntag/Udto/Hapon/Gabii!||“Good morning/noon/afternoon/evening!”|
|Daghang salamat/Salamat kaayo||“Thanks a lot.”|
|Wa’y sapayan||You’re welcome|
|Tagpila diri/ tagpila ni||How much for this?|
|Di ko kasabot||I don’t understand|
|Kamusta ka?||How are you?|
|Maayo man, salamat||I am fine, thank you.|
|amping/ ayo-ayo||Take care|
|Magkita unya ta pohon/ Kita ta sa sunod||See you soon/later|
|Gihugma ko ikaw||“I love you” ( you’ll never know, you might accidentally and unintentionally fall in love with a local, and this might come handy haha)|
- SPEND MORE TIME IN MATI. Actually, if I could go back, I would probably spend all my time here. Mati is located in Davao Oriental and it gives you a laid back experience of paradise. Mati is the home of pomelos, hot springs, wonderful beaches, falls, and one of the most breathtaking surf spots I’ve been to! Honestly, I didn’t think of even getting around Mati ‘coz the waves in Dahican Beach were too clean to resist! But if you’d prefer to go around, you can always rent a habal-habal or a tricycle for 300php. And by the way, you may want to consider visiting Mati on April for their annual summer music festival. Follow their page for more deets!
How to get to Mati:
From Davao City, ride a taxi and ask the driver to drop you off to a terminal going to Mati City in Gaisano Mall or Victoria Plaza. When you get there, ask the drivers for the van going to Mati. Fare is 200Php and travel time is about 3-4 hours. Ask the driver to drop you off at Mati. If you plan to go straight to Dahican Beach, take a habal – habal or tricycle. Fare is 40-60php and travel time is around 15-20 minutes.
- GO FOR SOME GROCERY SHOPPING. Well at least if you plan to stay in Dahican. There are not much food places in the area except in Lane’s Kalapyahan resort. Unless you’re good with a simple pancit canton and canned goods which are predominantly available in sari-sari stores, you may want to buy some food first in the town proper. Most of the resorts have grilling/cooking areas as well if you plan to have some barbecue night at the beach. Also, don’t forget the drinks. And you know I’m not talking about gallons of water. *wink*wink* Yaaas!
- STAY IN SURF VILLAGE HOSTEL. Although there are a lot of accommodations in the town proper, I recommend staying in Dahican Beach coz hey, life’s always better at the beach! Check-in at Surf Village Hostel as it offers really cheap rates and they have the friendliest staff as well! The locals were defo the coolest friends/tour guides/instant valentine dates during my stay. Surf Village Hostel has 6 different huts which can accommodate solo or group backpackers. They also offer surf lessons, surfboard rentals, and tours. For reservations, contact them at +63 946 299 2751.
- CONSIDER OTHER ACCOMMODATIONS in DAHICAN. There should always be a PLAN B ! In case Surf Village Hostel is fully booked, here are MORE suggested places by fellow travel blogger, James Betia.
- SHOW RESPECT AT ALL TIMES. Respect Mother Nature, the locals, and the peaceful city of Davao. Do your part in preserving this beautiful paradise and avoid littering the beaches and public places. Davao is definitely one of the cleanest cities I’ve been to and also the safest! I actually traveled around solo and came back to Manila alive with a happy and full heart! People in Davao respect their leader, they respect everyone, and the place they live in. A respectful community is also a safe one! (and hopefully you apply this not only in Davao but also to the beautiful country that we live in!)
I hope these 10 simple tips for a superb Davao experience works for you coz it sure did for me! Safe travels and magkita unsay ta (see you around)!
love, light, and glittering ganernderlust,