Samal Island Travel Guide: Where to Stay, What to Do and Sights to See
Samal Island is officially known as the Island Garden City of Samal and sometimes referred to as IGaCOS. It’s a 4th-class city in Davao del Norte, Philippines and a part of Metropolitan Davao.
Samal gets its income from agriculture, fishing, and tourism. Aside from the plantations and fishing businesses in Samal, its tourism economy is remarkable. It’s the largest resort city in the country and where different beach resorts are located.
In this Samal Island Travel Guide blog, we listed helpful DIY Samal Island travel tips and advice on how to get there, get around, itinerary, restaurants, best hotels, tour packages and more.
Best Time to Visit
The people of Samal enjoy good weather all year round despite the occasional rain showers and windy season. Dry months start from December to May and the height of summer is during March. It rains from June to November.
There are several fiesta celebrations in Samal so if you’re looking forward to visiting during those times, you should take note of the dates of the festivals below.
Currency and Accessibility to ATM Machines
If you ever run out of cash, there are ATM machines in Samal Island.
There’s a mobile signal on the island and most resorts offer free WIFI.
How to Get There
From Manila (by air or land)
Cebu Pacific flies directly to Davao City and you have 5 routes which you can choose from to take you to Samal Island.
Choose from these rides;
• Sasa Ferry Boat Landing – from Davao International Airport, Downtown Davao City
• Panacan Ferry Boat Landing – from Downtown Davao City
• From Sta. Ana Wharf, Magsaysay, Davao City
• From SamCo Building – buses which go directly to Samal Island via Sasa Ferry Boat
From Cebu (by air or land)
Just get on any of the ride choices after you’ve landed on Davao International Airport.
Things to Do
Watch the Festivals of Samal Island
Igacos Festival – This is the foundation day of Samal and celebrated for one week (March 1-7). This is the time when you can check out the sand sculpture competition and a parade of colorful boats (Samal Regatta). During this time, there are banca race, beach volleyball, and other activities to keep everyone busy in remembrance of how the city was founded. The festival also showcases the colorful Stilts (karang) Mascot Competition.
Pangapog Festival – is a thanksgiving celebration for a bountiful harvest of the city. If you go from August 1 to 7, you’ll see shows like motorcade parade, singing and other ethnic performances by the indigenous people of Samal Island during these times.
Dive Festival – happens every year which aims to promote the beach activities of Davao Gulf around Samal Island. A big number of the best beach resorts in Samal Island participate in this event. They also come out with special offers during the festival.
Kabasan Festival – celebrates the harvests from the sea. The locals are endowed with rich waters that give fresh catch each day and this festival honors that. You can go to Samal Island in the last week of May to join the festivities.
Hugyaw Madayaw Samal – is a fun-filled event to highlight the culture of the Sama tribe of Samal Island. There are performances by the lumads (natives of Samal Island) so you can witness a lot of music, dance and other presentations during this time.
Visit the Monfort Bat Cave
If the sight of millions of bats doesn’t scare then you must visit this cave on your trip to Samal Island. A whopping 57-acre of truly captivating cave is where these bats stay for most of their lives. The popularity of the place landed it a spot on Guinness World Record in 2010. There are day and night tours of the place.
Go Cliff Diving and Giant Clams Exploration
Sabang Cliff can be found in Katipuan. It’s a popular attraction in Samal Island for thrill seekers and visitors who like to take photos. The location lets you into two adventure; scuba diving and cliff jumping. There are three jumping spots ranging from 14 feet above sea level to around 40 feet. This isn’t for the faint-hearted but it’s a rewarding experience to try.
The giant clams of Samal Island tell that this place has a healthy marine life. It’s located in a sanctuary in Barangay Acedor. There are more than 3,000 kinds of giant clams in this area and everyone who goes there can have their photos taken.
Climb Mt. Puting Bato
Mt. Putting Bato stands at 1,345 ft. above sea level. It’s a beginner-friendly mountain and its summit is reachable in two ways; Tayopoc Trail (for first-timers) and Guilon Trail (for expert climbers). The scenery of the mountain varies. There are grassy parts while the other parts have lush trees. Prepare yourself for a 2-hour hike.
Swim at Hagimit Falls
Don’t think what you’ll see in Samal Island is only limited to its beaches because they do have some waterfalls where you can chill and swim like Hagimit Falls. This glorious beauty features dramatic rock formations and beautiful trees. You can ride a jeepney which goes to the area.
Where to Eat
The Bahay Kubo Restaurant
Location: Fernandez Beach, Samal Island
Ordinary isn’t in the dictionary of this restaurant. They serve international menu and you can accompany your meal with their wine offerings. The ambiance of the restaurant is friendly and each meal served is definitely Instagram-worthy.
Location: Babak, Kaputian Highway, Samal Island
The simplicity of Island Kopi makes it homey and inviting. You’ll be greeted with colorful monoblock chairs when you enter the premises and they cover their monoblock tables with a bright placemat. Their servings are huge at an inexpensive price.
Farmers V Resto and Grill
Location: Kaputian Road, Babak, Samal Island
The first thing you’ll notice about the restaurant is its appearance. It’s made of local materials and the place is all wood. They serve mostly native dishes which are what most tourists want. Some of the most notable offerings in their menu are grilled chicken, pancit and tuna belly.
Where to Stay
Hotel Precious Garden of Samal
Location: Sitio Libudan, Barangay Miranda, Babak, Babak District, Samal Island
Price for Matrimonial Bedroom starts at USD33++
You’ll love the hotel’s breezy ambiance and own private beach where you can just relax while waiting for the sunset. Its proximity to many attractions like Museo Dabawenyo and D’bone Collector Museum makes the hotel a nice place to stay at.
Basanvilla Beach Forest
Location: Barangay Audnanao, Igacos, Samal District, Samal Island
Price for the whole house per night starts at USD55++
The beaches of Samal Island are already astounding on its own but when you’re staying at an authentic tropical native retreat, you’ve got a piece of paradise. Plus points for this place for accommodating only one guest or one group at a time so you have the house all by yourself. They have a bathtub, linens, and kitchenette.
Pearl Farm Beach Resort
Location: Kaputian, Island Garden City of Samal, Samal Island
Price for Mandaya House starts at USD223++
This could be your home away from home if you’re looking for a luxury accommodation. The facilities are top notch and they keep the place clean all the time. You have access to a picturesque beach and can relax at their spa or garden.
Read Also: Best Hotels and Resorts in Samal Island
- Philippine National Police 0942 9319 998
- City Investment and Tourism Officer 0932 9844 082/0917 6395 843