From island to highlands, what to see in Davao City in one day

Angelo G. Garcia

Posted at Oct 29 2017 06:57 AM

DAVAO CITY -- Despite the current martial law status that looms over Mindanao, life and business continue on the island. Although some businesses, especially in the tourism sector, felt a slight dip during the beginning of the proclamation, it has since steadily picked up again.

According to Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao hotel manager Bryan Yves Lasala, they were only slightly affected by the martial law. He said that occupancy was affected by eight to 10 percent as there were cancellations of bookings last June and July.

But after people realized that there's no real danger, tourists started coming back.

The sprawling lawn of Waterfront Insular Davao. Photo by author

Waterfront Insular, which is an icon in Davao City, is the only resort hotel in the metropolis. Built in 1961 and originally named Islandia Hotel, it has been managed by several companies until it was purchased by the Waterfront Group in 1999.

It has undergone several renovations, but today, it's already showing its age. Although quite clean and still has its beautiful signature sprawling garden and lawn, its years of service can be seen in the hallways of the buildings and the dated room furnishings.

However, Lasala announced that renovations would start soon. With a budget of P400 million, the Waterfront Group plans a major overhaul of the place, especially since new property developments are being built in their part of the town.

“For now we want to keep it as is because it has its own character. Like I said it's the only hotel with a beachfront and a sprawling green property,” he said.

“It's a resort hotel that offers easy access to the islands like Samal and at the same time access to the highlands, the inland resorts like Malagos Resort and Eden. The development of Davao is heading to this direction. We are primarily located where development is going,” Lasala added.

The hotel's pool. Photo by author

Popular for nuptial events because of its lawn and view of the Davao Gulf, the hotel targets to add at least 300 rooms to its existing 159 rooms. And instead of being a tourist hotel, they are shifting their focus on MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) events, since the hotel is already a top choice in this sector.

“We have plans of developing this property into a mixed-use type of business. The target is to do renovations first on the existing buildings, starting with the lobby, function rooms, restaurants, ultimately going to the guest rooms. It would start by next year,” he said.

For now, the hotel is encouraging more tourists to visit Davao. Since the hotel has easy access to the city and province's tourist spots, they offer a perfect spot for visitors who are planning to see Davao. These destinations can be visited in one day.


Chema's by the Sea's beachfront on Samal Island. Photo by author

Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao is located at the tip of Davao nearest to Samal Island. The island, famous for its beautiful white sand beaches, is just a five-minute boat ride away from the hotel's jetty port.

The hotel can give the contacts of the resorts on Samal because there are several resorts along the island's coastline. One of these resorts is Chema's By the Sea, a rustic resort in a lush garden setting. It has its own private beach and an infinity pool. Inspired by Balinese design, the rooms are very tropical but also has touches of Filipino design.

The white sand beaches are perfect for a morning dip. Visitors also have a glimpse of Davao City's skyline just across the gulf.


Eden Nature Park and Resort's flower garden. Photo by author

Just an hour drive away from the hotel, Eden Nature Park and Resort is Davao's answer to Cavite's Tagaytay. Sitting 3,000 feet above sea level, the park is a cool getaway from the city. Covering a massive land area of 80 hectares, it was developed as a nature sanctuary by the Ayala family of Davao (not to be confused with the Zobel de Ayala clan).

Formerly a banana plantation, the land was converted into a man-made forest, with various tropical and indigenous trees. It still has sections dedicated to farming like hydroponics greenhouses cultivating vegetables like lettuce and tomato. It also has land dedicated to growing yellow dragonfruit, various herbs, and a sprawling mangosteen groves. The park grows them all organically.

There are several recreational areas as well like a zipline, horseback riding, skyswing, fishing village, swimming pool, skycycle, and many more. The park's flower garden is a must-visit, showcasing a field of colorful flowers and an amphitheater that features a rainbow arch. The park resort also offers accommodations and several dining options for guests.


Roxas Night Market. Photo by author

The Roxas Night Market along Roxas Blvd. in downtown Davao City was a site of a bombing tragedy last year. However, the market is back to its busy and lively vibe, with tighter security of course.

The vendors mostly sell street food like grilled meats, but there's also a selection of fresh juices, full meals, and even international cuisine like Japanese sushi rolls. There are also vendors that sell ukay-ukay or used clothing.

The market is also beside Aldevinco, a complex that houses several souvenir shops where visitors can buy South Sea pearls and native crafts among others. There are several fruit stands as well for tourists planning on buying pomelo, durian, mangosteen, and other Davao fruits.