Davao Travel Guide

Davao is one of the three metropolitan centers in the Philippines (along with Manila and Cebu City). It serves as gateway to the Mindanao region and has access to Mt Apo, the highest peak in the country.

This is a city of superlatives, home to many icons like the world’s largest eagle (which also doubles as the Philippines’ national bird) and the country’s tallest mountain. Both of these can be viewed on the same daytrip, combining a hike in the forests of Mt Apo with a visit to the Philippine Eagle Center.

The city itself is cosmopolitan, with plenty of dining, shopping and lodging options. It is a nice place to retreat and enjoy creature comforts after roughing it for a few days, especially for those who’ve just come back from the Mt Apo summit.

This is also a culturally diverse place, with myriad ethnic tribes coming together. Much of the Mindanao countryside is devoutly Muslim, while the cities are predominately Christian. In Davao all are present, and each has their own festivals and special observances.

What rounds Davao out is its access to the sea. So much of Mindanao is centered on interior attractions, but Davao sits squarely between impressive mountains and sandy beaches. In just a few minutes, visitors can transfer from the shore the resorts of Samal Island.

Davao - getting there

Davao’s airport is one of the most important in the country, with numerous direct flights to Manila (1 hour, 55 minutes) and Cebu (55 minutes). The only international connection is from Singapore, but these are infrequent. Ferries also connect Davao to Cebu and Manila, taking as long as two days. Taxis are the most convenient means of getting around the city or for visiting outlying attractions. Jeepneys are also available along with tricycles in more rural places.

In brief

Worth it? Davao is a key stopover for anyone visiting Mindanao.

What to do: climb Mt Apo, view Philippine eagles, relax on Samul Island, go museum-hopping.

Best time to go: rainfall is steady throughout the year, so the cool season from November to February is the most comfortable time to visit.

How long? Two days are enough to see the major sites.

Trivia: Davao is not part of any province.

Davao attractions

  • Museums: Davao Museum and Davao Historical Society Museum both have exhibits related to the region’s indigenous ethnic tribes and the city’s history.

Side trips from Davao

  • 2 Mt Apo: looming 10,000 feet above sea level, this mountain overlooks the city and challenges experienced climbers with a two- to four-day hike.
  • 1 Samal Island: a short boat ride from Davao leads to the resorts and white-sand beaches of Samal Island. A range of water sports are onsite.
  • 1 Philippine Eagle Center: home to the world’s largest eagle (an endangered species), this facility can be reached in a 45-minute drive from the city proper.