I never knew Davao had access to probably one of the best beaches in the Philippines. I only found out recently that Samal Island was accessible from the city. It’s just 30 minutes away by boat. So if you’re ever feeling stressed at work in Davao, just ride a boat and let the beach take all your worries away.
Sounds good to be true? Nah. It’s real and true.
Just look at this beautiful beach. If I were to compare it to another beach in the Philippines, it would be Kalanggaman Island (sorry, I haven’t been to Boracay yet sooooo). Both islands had fine, white sand and the waters surrounding them are clear and turquoise blue in color.
It’s paradise, I tell you.
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About Samal Island
The Island Garden City of Samal, also known as IGaCoS, is a part of the Metropolitan Davao area. It’s for everyone wanting a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
This island is quite blessed with abundant marine life, white sand beaches, flourishing flora and fauna, and spectacular rock formations. Apart from that, it is also home to the well-known Pearl Farm Beach Resort, which according to its name was once a pearl farm.
Packed with adventure and inland treasures, Samal Island is where travelers can go for an island hopping, snorkeling, diving, and beach bumming activities. This is one of the must-visit places if you’re going to Davao anytime soon.
Currency: $1 USD = 52.26 PHP
How To Get Around: The best way to explore Samal island is by riding a habal-habal or renting a motorbike. You can also rent a mutlicab (a smaller version of a jeepney).
ATMS: There are a few ATMS on the island. However, I’d recommend you to bring some cash in case the ATMs aren’t working. For foreign cards, there’s a withdrawal fee of around P150 per transaction.
- Kabasan Festival – (28th day of May) “Kalabasan” in local terms means “seashells”. Kalabasan Festival is an annual celebration of the abundance of marine life. This is a week long event which showcases the culture, native products and local talents in the island.
- Igacos Festival- (1st to 7th day of March) Icagos Festival is a week long event which celebrates the Island Garden of Samal’s founding anniversay. You can find here sand sculpture competitions, mountain biking tours, fluvial parades, boat races and a lot more.
Best Months To Go: The best times to go is during the dry season from January to May. The rain is minimal and the waves are calmer. August is also one of the best months to visit since its the fruit season. You can buy mangosteen, marang, durian, rambutan for a very cheap price.
Where to Eat: There are a lot of karinderias that offer home-made Filipino dishes for only P60 to P100 per meal. Most meals consist of meat, vegetable, and seafood.
How To Get There
Let’s start the adventure.
- Fly from Manila or Clark to Davao City. Time of travel is around 2 hours. You also have the option to fly from Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, Iloilo, or Singapore. You can book your tickets on Cebu Pacific, PAL Express, and Philippine Airlines. For international flights, direct flights are offered by Singapore Airlines and Silk Air.
- Upon arrival at Davao International Airport, you’ll need to ride 2 jeepneys or a taxi to get to the pier. This is where you’ll need to ride a boat going to Samal Island.
- At Sta. Ana Wharf, ride the Palboros boat to get to Kaputian, Samal for around P60 (for a one-way ride). The boat ride is around 45 minutes long.
- Another way to get to Samal Island is via Sasa Wharf. Here, you will have to ride the bus which will go onboard the vessel ship going to Samal Island. The ferry ride only lasts 5 minutes!
Travel Tip: Check schedules and availability of buses, ferries, taxis or flights to book online with 12Go Asia.
What To Do
Diving and Snorkeling
The coral gardens and marine life surrounding Samal Island is superb! You can see here lots of fishes, corals, starfishes, giant clams and a whole lot more! Here are the best places to snorkel and dive in Samal:
- Giant Clam Sanctuary
- Coral Garden Marine Park
- Angel’s Cove
- Aundanao Fish Sanctuary
The Carabao Dive Center in Davao City offers diving activities at the Coral Garden. An intro dive costs around P850 with your own dive master and equipment included in the payment.
Location: F. Hermanos Bldg., Sta. Ana Pier, Monteverde St., Davao City
Contact: (0928) 504 7642
Samal is one of the cheapest places to dive in the Philippines. Intro Dives are at P850 pesos and Open Water Certification starts at P12,500.
On the other hand, snorkeling with giant clams will set you back around P1,900 per person (for a group of five).
Talicud Island, Malipano Island and Ligid Island are only some of the islands near Samal that you can explore with a boat. You can also request your boatmen to go to the best snorkeling spots so you’re hitting two birds with one stone while you’re at it.
The Samal Island Hopping Tour Agency offers island hopping tours for as low as P650 per head with the buffet lunch, docking fees, entrance fees, and cottages included.
You can also book a Samal and Talicud Island Tour on Klook.
Watch the Sunset
The Philippines offers some of the best places and beaches to watch the sunset. Samal island is one of those. It’s one of the most magical moments at the end of the day to spend with your loved ones. So don’t miss this.
Dip in a Kawa Hot Bath
Detoxify when you take a dip in a kawa hot bath at Samal Mango Haven for only P299 for 30 minutes. The chirping birds and rustling leaves as you soak is definitely the best way to destress and relax in Samal. Aside from the kawa hot bath in Samal Mango Haven, you van also enjoy a body massage or venture into the Japanese caves. Oh and don’t forget to stay for their lunch buffet.
Location: Samal Mango Haven, Babak, Island Garden City of Samal
Contact: (0945) 107 8474
Banana boats, snorkeling, diving, jet skis and super slides going straight to the ocean are just some of the exciting things that Maxima Aquafun offers. Entrance fee is only P300 per head. To get here, you’ll have to ride a boat at 9:00 AM at Sta. Ana Wharf then head back at 4:00 PM for only P150 per person (round trip tickets).
Despite not among the most popular waterfalls in the Philippines, Hagimit Falls is a beauty to behold on its own. The small and gentle cascades you’ll find provides a serene place to rejuvenate.
Fee: P60 per head (includes environmental fee)
You also have the option to rent cottages (P350) or tables (P200). If you prefer to camp, pitch your tent and stay for the night.
Mount Puting Bato
If you prefer to hike, there’s the Mount Puting Bato in Samal island. It’s great for beginners and those training to climb Mt Apo, the tallest mountain in the Philippines. Standing at only 1,755 feet above sea level, you’ll get the best panoramic views of the island and the neighboring islands at the summit.
Monfort Bat Sanctuary
Recognized by Guinness as the largest colony of Geoffrey’s Rousette Fruit Bats, Monfort Bat sanctuary. In 2016, the bat population here was at 1.6million. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you can witness such beautiful creatures in personal. You can choose to join the Bat Emergence Night Tour to watch the bats emerge from the cave. Entrance fees only cost P100.
Location: Sitio Dunggas, Brgy. Tambo, Babak District
Contact: (0917) 705 4295
Sinkhole rappelling is only open upon request at the local tourism office. Make sure you book in advance. Bet Depression is one of the best and most interesting destinations in Samal with its hectare wide depression and 500 hundred ft depth. Enjoy your rappelling adventure and be rewarded with a magnificent brook inside a cave at its deepest parts. Beware though, there’s no cleared path going back up so you’ll have to deal with a grueling hike.
The Baga Cave in Talicud island is one of the best places to go spelunking. The surrounding local folklore about this cave will make you want to explore its depths and chambers. Its name was derived from the Filipino word for “lungs” because the champers are shaped like capillaries. The trek inside will last you around 4 hours however, you can decide on how long you want to stay here.
Check Out Talicud Island
If you’re staying in Samal island, the Talicud island is a paradise found at the back of Samal. The stunning beach and fine sand in Talicud island will make you wish you never leave. The diverse marine life is great for snorkeling, too. Entrance fee for day trips is at P75 while camping is at P50 to P150. For larger groups, you can opt to rent a cottage for only P400 to P1,800.
You also have the option to book a tour at Isla Reta Beach Resort for only P100. To get here, you’ll have to ride a habal-habal or van to Kaputian beach. From here, you can rent a boat going to Talicud Island for only P30.
Visit Vanishing Island
The Salipaan Shoal only shows up during the low tide. For this reason, it was called the “vanishing island”. It’s worth a visit if you’re going to Samal Island. Its crystal clear waters are great for snorkeling, too. Rent a boat for only P250 to P300 to get here. This usually includes lunch and a 3-hour stay on the island.
Blue Bird View Deck
Just pay P10 to get access to the view deck and witness the stunning view of Samal Island, Wishing island, Taklobo Giant Clam Sanctuary, and South Malipano.
Where To Stay
La Vida Orchard Samal Bed and Breakfast
Free WiFi, airconditioned rooms and private bathroom, what more can you ask for? La Vida Orchard Samal Bed and Breakfast is one of the most hospitable bed and breakfast on the island.
Rates start at P700 (breakfast included)
Book discounted rates here
Hof Gorei Beach Resort Davao
Expect air-conditioned rooms with balcony, terrace, minibar, TV and a private bathroom when you book a room at Hof Gorei Beach Resort Davao. There’s also an outdoor pool and tropical gardens around the property.
Rates start at P2,840 (breakfast included)
Book discounted rates here
Kalipay sa Baybay
Kalipay sa Baybay has clean, white sands and clear blue waters. With accommodating staffs, this resort is one of the best places to relax.
Rates start at P2,500
Book discounted rates here
Chema’s by the Sea
Chema’s by the Sea provides standalone cottages and an outdoor swimming pool. Free WiFi is also available. Each cottage is fully air-conditioned and has a refrigerator, TV, toiletries and private balconies.
Rates start at P4,363
Book discounted rates here
Beach Room Studio
This is the perfect getaway for discerning guests, enjoying spectacular views with a large infinity pool overlooking Davao City and the Gulf, to find solitude and to completely relax to make your stay truly unforgettable.
Rates start at P3,500
Book via Airbnb
Featuring a swimming pool, a garden and a bar and views of the sea, Lankenua Lodgings is set in Samal and offers homestay accommodation with free WiFi.
Rates start at P4,370
Book discounted rates here
Pearl Farm Beach Resort
Amidst the lush greenery and white sad, Pearl Farm Beach Resort has 2 outdoor swimming pools, bar, and restaurant. Each room was designed with local and traditional materials.
Rates start at P10,820 (breakfast and dinner included)
Book discounted rates here
Aside from hotels and resorts, you can also opt to stay at an Airbnb.
Responsible Travel Tips
When traveling to one place, make sure you practice responsible tourism. Here are some tips to do so.
1. Respect the environment
Don’t litter. Please hold onto your trash until you find a garbage can. Don’t bring home the sand or any seashell. Leave them where they belong. Missing seashells can have potential detrimental environmental impacts.
2. Avoid single-use plastic
Bring your eco bag and refuse single-use plastic.
3. Shop local
Keep the traditional crafts alive and support local artisans. Buy from them. And try not to haggle, P20 may seem small to you but it can mean a lot to them.
4. Always ask permission
Be sure to ask for permission first when taking photos or videos especially when it comes to children
What to Pack for Samal Island
- Eco-friendly Reusable Water Bottle
- Light Rain Jacket (especially from June to November)
- T-shirts, a Nice top, and a Long-sleeved Shirt
- Aqua Shoes
- Day Bag
- Dry Bag
- Power Adapter
- Universal Waterproof Phone Case
- Packing Cubes
- Microfiber Towel
- Travel Insurance
- Money Belt
- Sneakers, Hiking Shoes (if you’re planning to hike) and Some Flats
- Reusable Straw and Reusable Bag (no to single-use plastic!)
Related Article: The Only Travel Packing List You’ll Ever Need (Trust Me)
Our Camera Gear
- Mirrorless Camera: Fujifilm XT3
- Lenses: Fujifilm Fujinon kit lens (18-55mm) | Fujinon 35mm f2 | Fujinon 50mm f2
- Drone: DJI Mavic Pro 2
- GoPro: GoPro Hero Black 7
- Power Bank: Romoss Powerbank
- Camera Backpack: Case Logic Camera and Laptop Backpack
- Monopod: Ifootage Cobra 2 a180
- Mic: Rode VideoMicro
- Gimbal: Zhiyun Weebill-S
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Johanes is a digital nomad and a web content writer who loves to go on spontaneous travels. She also likes to go camp under the stars and play with her dog and cats.