Last updated on February 8th, 2019 at 09:48 pm
Rachel and I decided to pack our bags and plan another month long trip, visiting Samal Island Davao as the first leg of our journey from Davao City going up to Cebu. Philippines is definitely an island gem, or should we say, a gem filled with thousands of amazing islands. There are many things to do in Samal Island, Davao. It is sometimes surprising how not everyone knows about this amazing country. If you are traveling from the the US, Europe or other Western Countries, the Philippines is definitely a great place to spend your money in, as the country is extremely cheap, and have a variety of places you can explore. Since we are currently based in the north Philippines, as digital nomads, we do travel while bringing our work with us a lot. In order to build a solid base for our blog and online work, we chose stay in the Philippines the longest; we are currently our 6th month here as of writing this Samal Island travel guide.
So, today, we are here to give you a view of our first stop in our spectacular journey: Samal Island Davao in the province of Mindanao. We will be telling you how to get to Samal Island, Davao, best time to visit Samal Island, best things to do in Samal Island and where to stay in Samal Island Davao.
How to get to Samal Island Davao
Our chosen route: We flew from Manila with Air Asia to Davao City and spent around 2 hours on the plane. From Davao International Airport, you can ride 2 jeepneys to reach the pier. From there, you will ride a boat to go to Samal. There are boats at the port that leave as early as 4 AM. Since we weren’t really in a hurry, we stayed in the airport for the night and got going at around 10 AM.
From Davao City to Samal Island Davao
Option 1: Take 2 jeepneys from the city to Sta. Ana Wharf and from there, ride the Palboros boat to go to Kaputian, Samal. This is the cheapest option and it will cost around 20 PHP for the jeepneys and 60 PHP for a one-way boat.
Option 2: Take 2 jeepneys to Sasa Wharf and from there, ride the bus. The bus will go on board a vessel ship to Samal. We really love these local experiences in our travels. From Penaplata, you can ride the shared tricycle to Kaputian for 75 PHP each for around 20 kilometers. This can be an option if the weather is bad since the ferry takes only 5 minutes to get to Samal Island.
We had to choose the second option (we definitely wanted the first), as there were some locals who informed us that the boats from Sta. Ana Wharf were not sailing the day we were traveling due to some weather complications.
From Kaputian, we walked a few minutes to Purok Cacao, where we stayed with Russian friends while doing Couchsurfing. Turns out, there was a small Russian community in this area, which made our trip visiting Samal Island much more interesting.
Samal Island Travel Guide
Best time to visit Samal Island
Like any tropical destination, Samal Island is best explored during dry and sunny days. Of course, it’s always necessary to use sunscreen and to stay hydrated in these months. Luckily, the climate in the Philippines is very predictable as it only has 2 seasons: wet and dry. Sunny weather stays for quite a long time in the area. From December to May is the best time to visit Samal Island Davao. You can swim, catch a tan and enjoy exploring the island in Davao’s driest months.
Transportation around Samal Island
For those planning to go around the island instead of staying at the resort, there are actually a few transportation options for travelers here. The best way to go around would be to rent a motorbike or to ride a habal-habal, which is basically a motorcycle taxi. For those traveling in big groups or with children can opt for renting a multicab, which has the structure similar to a jeepney but is much smaller.
For more information about how get around the island, you can contact your hotel or resort for more details. You can reserve your accommodation in Samal Island before your trip with Booking and Agoda.
ATMs and Currency in Samal Island
The country uses the Philippine Peso as its currency, where $1 USD = 53.55 PHP. Your dollars and euros can afford a lot of things in the Philippines and the island of Samal. There are also numerous ATMs here so you don’t have to worry about withdrawing a lot of cash all at once. ATMs usually have a withdrawal fee of around 150 PHP for foreign cards per transaction, though, so keep that in mind. Click here to know the exact exhange rate!
Daily Budget for Samal Island
Since Samal is a pretty small island, the cost of food, transportation, accommodation and entertainment come quite cheap compared to other locations. You can get good food for as low as $1-3 USD in local restaurants, while mid-range places offer meals at around 400-800 PHP ($7.50-15 USD) for lunch or dinner for two people.
For around 400-700 PHP, you can book a room at a nice B&B or a small resort in Samal Island. Those looking for a mid-range hotel can find one at around 2,500 PHP (or $47 USD) while a luxury accommodation in Samal Island goes for more or less $56 USD. You can also find Airbnb around $15 USD per a room in Samal Island.
Click here to get $30 USD off your first booking with AirBnB!
Things to do in Samal Island Davao
1. Snorkeling in Samal Island Davao
The waters in Samal is definitely super clear, even in the port area! We stayed in Kaputian, and instead of swimming directly in the resort (where there is an entrance fee), we walked more towards where the local boats were parked and started to swim there. In the Philippines, you need to pay for every local beach that you visit. So we swam and snorkeled as much as we could. You can easily see fishes, corals and even starfishes in the crystal clear waters.
2. Swimming in Samal Island
Of course, if you are near the beach, it will be a crime not to swim. Mind you, there were a couple of beaches in Asia we didn’t get to swim. Such shame, we know. But with accessible, very beautiful waters like the one in Samal Island, we made sure we swim all the time.
3. Island Hopping in Samal Island Davao
If you want more of those good island vibes, you can visit Talikud Island. It´just a few minutes away from Samal Island and almost an hour away from Davao. Talikud is the perfect place to watch the sunset, relax in the beach and do some snorkeling.
More Things to do in Samal Island Davao
4. Watch the Sunset
Our favorite time of the day is whenever we get to watch the sunset with a beer in our hands. It´s a special moment that you feel at home wherever you are in the world.
5. Meeting New People
Can you believe that the locals we met in Samal were actually Russians? We stayed in a small Russian community of 6 adults and 3 children, and they were all raw vegans. It’s actually a challenge to do that in the Philippines, but since they are in the islands, they have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Also they home-grow a lot and helps them keep their food fresh and delicious. Pretty amazing, right? There are so many interesting people you can meet and cool stories to hear when you travel!
6. Maxima AquaFun
If you’re visiting the wonderful island of Samal with the family, you will surely enjoy a getaway to Maxima AquaFun. It is one of the best things to do in Samal Island for big groups because of the super slide, banana boats, jet skis, snorkeling and diving gear you can enjoy. The entrance fee is only 300 PHP for majority of the activities in the resort. You can take a boat that goes to Maxima Aquafun from Sta. Ana Wharf at 9 AM and heads back at 4 PM. A round trip tickets costs 150 PHP per person.
7. Hagimit Falls
You can also make the most out of your stay in Samal Island by visiting Hagimit Falls, one of the coolest places to visit in Samal Island. Here, you can enjoy the falls’ waters and spend the whole day relaxing on the cottages. You can even pitch your own tent and stay overnight! There is only a small entrance fee of 60 PHP which even includes the environmental fee. It is one of Samal’s untouched attractions. You better come visit before everyone discovers this hidden gem in the Penaplata area.
8. Mount Puting Bato
With a trail that’s manageable even by beginners, travelers from all over will enjoy hiking Mount Puting Bato. This is actually the highest peak in Samal at 1,755 feet above sea level so you will get wonderful views of the island and other neighboring provinces from here. Mount Puting Bato is also an excellent training ground for those who want to climb Mount Apo, the Philippines’ tallest mountain.
9. Monfort Bat Sanctuary
Wondering how far your 100 PHP will take you in Samal Island? You can pay for the entrance and visit Monfort Bat Sanctuary with as little as that. The place is surprisingly breathtaking because it is home to the biggest colony of Rousette fruit bats in the world! There are more than 2.5 million bats living in the cave that has 5 different entrances to explore. Nature lovers will surely appreciate this spectacular sight.
10. Vanishing Island
Another must-see in Samal Island is a unique area a few minutes from the coast of Tambo, Babak. Vanishing Island, as its name implies, goes underwater during high tide and resurfaces during low tide. It has crystal clear waters that are perfect for snorkeling when the water gets deep and is also fun to walk around on and explore during low tide. A boat to this stretch of sand costs around 250-300 PHP and usually comes with lunch and a 3-hour stay on the island.
11. Talicud Island
The word “Talicud” literally means behind, as this paradise is located just behind Samal Island. Like many of the beaches in Samal Island, Talicud Island has beautiful stretches of sand and gorgeous waters. It also has a diverse marine life perfect for snorkeling and has protected sanctuaries to visit and explore. There are several resorts in the island with entrance fees of around 75 PHP for a day trip and 50-150 PHP for an overnight stay in a tent. On the other hand, cottage rentals cost around 400-1,800 PHP and is ideal for larger groups.
12. Spelunking Baga Cave
Located in Talicud Island is a huge cave that visitors explore not just for its beauty but for the legend that surrounds it. Baga Cave is involved in many stories of local folkore because of its huge chambers and seemingly endless depths. After all, the cave got its name from the Filipino word for “lungs,” as the chamber is shaped like the capillaries of the organ. The longest trek in this cave lasts 4 hours but you can always decide how long you’ll stay.
13. Moving around the island by motorbike
Another great way to explore Samal Island aside from visiting tourist attractions is riding a motorbike. You can get a feel of the place by people-watching and going to local spots. This is something you need to try for at least a day in Samal Island so that you won’t only see the touristic spots of the island but also the local culture and everyday life of its people. If you don’t know how to drive a motorcycle, you can always rent a habal-habal, the motorbike taxis of the Philippines.
What to eat in Samal Island Davao
If you are very new to the Philippines, you will know that the locals have a very different diet. It consists mostly of meat, especially in the cities. We live in Northern Philippines (the country has 3 main divisions). And in our own city, people really like to focus on meat as a main ingredient for their dishes. It’s definitely different in the South. Just looking at their regular local carinderias (Filipino term for canteens or eateries), you will see various vegetable options. We definitely needed a much more balanced diet and this was very refreshing. Seafood, fruits, and vegetables – there are so many healthier options! Vegetables are definitely more affordable compared to the city.
Where to stay in Samal Island Davao
Pearl Farm Beach Resort
If you’re into panoramic ocean views, gorgeous beach fronts and luxurious spaces, Pearl Farm Beach Resort is the place for you. This is the only 5-star resort in Mindanao and takes pride in its promotion of local culture and products. The resort also offers plenty of thrilling water activities and tours. It has a spa for relaxation and a lounge for movie nights. The rooms are spacious and have enchanting decor.
Those looking for budget hotels in the island will find a B&B that goes for as low as 600 PHP. Mid-range resorts typically cost around 2,500-3,750 PHP while other luxury spots can be afforded at 5,500 and above.
Festivals in Samal Island Davao
Celebrated on the 7th of March by Samaleños is the Igacos Festival, a three-day day event that honors the founding of Samal launching sand sculpture competitions, fluvial parades, boat races, mountain biking tours, a mascot competition and many more. Each event highlights what makes Samal Island special and is the best time to visit Samal Island if you’re looking to soak in their culture.
Another much awaited event in Samal Island is Kabasan Festival. It is a celebration of the abundance of marine life that greatly defines the identity of Samaleños. “Kabasan” literally means “seashells” and is the perfect thanksgiving event during the last few days of May as the summer months come to an end.
Click here to get $30 USD off your first booking with AirBnB!
Samal is definitely an amazing island, highly recommended to visit in the South of the Philippines. Read our blog posts of Bantayan Island, Moalboal, Malapascua and Kawasan Falls for more beach inspiration in the Philippines.
If you want to know more about what places to visit in the Philippines, read our full guide. Or click here, if you want to visit more beaches and know about our adventure in Boracay. And Tagaytay one of our favorite destinations in Luzon!