Trip Index (what we have published so far):
Table of Contents
Things to do Davao – Annoyances
Davao is a city of 1.5 million inhabitants, all the way over on Mindanao – one of the most southern islands of the Philippines. Mindanao recently became infamous for terrorist activity in the unruly (and rather lawless) southern end of the island. It has been so bad that even tourists have been kidnapped.
However, Davao City has not seen any kidnappings and the crime rate is actually very low. I felt safe during my entire stay there.
Traffic & Pollution
Traffic is loud and pollution is bad, but there are fewer cars around than in other Philippine cities. When you are off the roads, you can almost forget about the air pollution – it’s not as bad as other cities. Traffic isn’t well organized and while drivers are careful, it’s often so chaotic that accidents can happen at anytime.
Taxis are plentiful and the drivers seem very honest, so no taxis scams in this southern city. Almost all cabbies spoke fluent English and had smooth jazz on full blast (this seems to be all the rage in the city right now).
Heat & Crowds
The heat in the city can be intense, just like anywhere in this island nation, but crowds aren’t a big issue in this city.
The chance of a terrorist attack in the city is slim. Security staff are alert and plentiful at any mall or public building and theft (including pickpocketing) is minimal. I would not hesitate to walk around outside at any time.
Touring the jungles of Mindanao is not a good idea, given the threat of kidnapping. You will easily stand out and ransom payments are high enough to have bands of criminals join this as an organized crime. For now, do not leave the city proper unless you go somewhere just as safe, like Samal Island.
best Things to Do in Davao – Sightseeing
This surprisingly modern, open air church is right at the center of the (sleep) Davao downtown. Since Catholicism plays such an important role in Filipino life you should come here during an actual service. It’s a great experience!
Now this sounds and looks like a Soviet experience – and frankly it is. It’s right in downtown Davao but it’s a sleepy place and given the supercharged temperatures you should preferably come at night.
The Davao City Hall is another landmark you will stumble across exploring downtown.
As in many other Philippine cities, the shopping malls form the only real area of public life. They are well-organized, clean and cooled down.
The Abreeza Mall is another example of how well malls work in the Philippines – this one is brand new and just makes for a great stroll.
Best Things to Do in Davao – Food
Davao isn’t a foodie heaven, as I learned – but that does not mean that you can’t eat delicious food there.
Don’t be fooled by the Cafe title – this is a proper Middle Eastern restaurant. It’s located at the same Gaisano Mall Annex where the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is. It’s very well hidden and most locals won’t know it even exists.
But it serves great Halal food, pita and hummus besides ok kebaps. If you just came out of the UAE this place will disappoint but if you want your kebabp fix after some time without Middle Eastern food this place rocks.
After unsuccessfully looking for the Manna Korean Restaurant in town (it seems to have kept moving around) I eventually walked into Seoul Ga Restaurant. It’s located just outside in the parking lot of the Victoria Mall. There are a lot of Korean restaurants there – do not get confused and keep searching.
The Bibimbap I had was delicious and very cheap (under $5). The Korean owner came by and introduced herself as well.
High remarks for this place.
Yellow Cab Pizza has a number of outlets around the city. I went to the location at Abreeza Mall. Man this place is cheap – I paid less than $3 for a huge vegetarian Pizza!
The pizza was very tasty as well and I could have taken the leftovers home for another meal. Amazing!
Harana Barbecue comes recommended as the best place to have barbecue – especially grilled Tuna in town. The atmosphere is a bit lacking – not very inspiring dining hall.
I liked the pork chops but wasn’t so happy with the tuna – it was rather dry and expensive ($10) per portion.
Things to Do in Davao – Daytrips
Samal Island is a rather big island that’s just off the coast of Davao. It’s huge, sparsely populated and host to a number of resorts.
I posted about ‘Paradise Island’ here – it is not really an island, but actually a resort area developed for the locals rather than foreigners. It’s still a great escape from the city and very much worth visiting!
The Pearl Farm Resort is probably the most famous resort. It boasts fantastic views and is very tranquil. Room rates start at $200+. The one day tour from Davao wharf costs about $70 (incl. transfers and lunch).
More resorts on Samal Island
There is a large number of resorts on the island – the trouble is usually getting there. I found it difficult to quiz the locals about the best options.
Samal also has a number of public beaches that are worth going to, but it’s almost impossible to do that as a day trip.
Things to do Davao – Conclusion
All in all, Davao is a pleasant little city, with the potential to be really great in the future – if it continues to drive home its focus on public safety, health and cleanliness.
Davao is not yet a shiny jewel, but give it 10-15 years and it might become one!
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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