Manila & Davao: City Guide

The Philippines, known for its pristine beaches and city life, has been on my list for some time, and I’ve always looked forward to planning a trip to the island country. I finally visited the Philippines and explored 2 of the country’s largest cities, Manila and Davao City, and Samal Island, located a few minutes away from Davao City.


Manila is among the busiest cities in the world and is known for several attractions like its colonial architectures, Baywalk and Nightlife district. We stayed at the Manila Hotel, a historic 5 star hotel located along Manila Bay. Built in 1909, it is one of the oldest hotels in the Philippines, but more than the age of the hotel, what excited me was the legacy of famous celebrities that have lived there: Michael Jackson, The Beatles, and John F. Kennedy to name a few. The hotel also had some great food, good rooms and lovely ambience. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience there.

Since Manila is a city steeped in history with a colonial past, I recommend a half day Manila City Tour, where you must check out the below sites:

–          The famous Rizal Park named after Dr. Jose Rizal, a Philippine national hero. This is an ideal place to immerse yourself into the contemporary political history of the Philippines.

–          Intramuros, also known as the walled city, that was considered as important as Manila itself during the Spanish colonial period.

–          San Agustin Church and Manila Cathedral, among the oldest in town.

–          Fort Santiago, which is probably the most important historical site in Manila. Several lives were lost in its prisons during the Spanish colonial period and World War II. Jose Rizal was imprisoned here before his execution in 1896.

For shopping, you must visit SM Mall of Asia and Greenbelt. I also visited Shangri-La Hotel which has amazing sunset views of the city and indulged in some upscale luxury shopping at the Shangri-La Plaza.

After the City tour and shopping, we were understandably tired and could not think beyond a spa. And the Marina Bay Spa was the answer; a fantastic place to relax and enjoy a massage. Post this, we explored a bit of the nightlife. There are several clubs and lounges in the city to explore, depending on one’s tastes for vibe and music.

The next morning, after a lovely breakfast, we said good bye to Manila.

Davao City and Samal Island

Our Davao City experience started with the Eden Nature Park. It is an absolutely stunning place and we loved the half day we spent there. Greenery, butterflies, mountains, adventure and excellent food define this place. It has everything you need for a perfect day. You can explore the flower garden, or go for a bird walk, perhaps visit the butterfly garden or embark on a cultural journey of Mindanao. We opted for a guided shuttle tour for 45 minutes that took us around the entire resort and visited most of the attractions. The Skycycle was an adrenaline rush, a terrific experience biking on a cable that was 60 feet in the air and 200 meters long. The Skyrider, more commonly called a zipline, was fun too and presented views of Davao City and Davao Gulf that were spectacular. Skyswing was a first-time experience and I admit I shouted my lungs out when it started. All this was definitely enough of an adrenaline rush for the day and was an experience to remember for a lifetime. The resort also had a great buffet and we ended the day there with a scrumptious lunch. I must mention that their home made ice-creams are a must try. After Eden we checked in to the Marco Polo, a comfortable hotel with some good city views.

Things to do at Davao:

–          Monfort bat cave: there are about 2 million bats living inside this conservation park, quite a fascinating place, kids would love to see this.

–          Philippine Eagle Center is a famous destination for tourists, and home to a number of Philippine Eagles and other birds, mammals and reptiles. It is managed by the  Philippine Eagle Foundation which is tasked with providing sanctuary to and protecting this endangered bird.

–          Malagos Chocolate Museum was again a fun place to visit, where we all made chocolates with the help of the staff and sampled fresh cocoa. Yummy scene!!

–          We also visited the Tagbaibo Village to experience the local tribal life and were treated to local delicacies and coffee freshly made with corn. They performed ritual dances and presented a cooking demo. If you are bored of city life, this is your go-to place.

–          A great place for lunch was the Club Samal Resort facing the sea. Very authentic and the staff are super nice.

–          We spent half a day island-hopping Samal Island. Cruising the coast line and exploring the coral reef was breathtaking.

The Eden Nature Park and exploring the coral reef at Samal Island were among my best experiences at Davao.

So that’s about it regards my short and sweet trip to the Philippines. I am definitely going to go back to explore more. Until my next travel, Adios!

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