Samal Island Travel Guide: Everything You Must Know for a Perfect Vacation

Samal Island Travel Guide: Everything You Must Know for a Perfect Vacation
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Located in the heart of the Davao Gulf, Samal Island has always been a favorite tourist destination, especially for those living in Davao City not just because of its proximity, but because the island is tranquil, brimming with pristine beaches, and full of life. 

While the Island Garden City of Samal is so popular, it is not overcrowded—making it a perfect destination to escape the stress brought by work or the busy city life.

Best Samal Resorts to Check Out

Considered as the “largest resort city in the Philippines”, the Island Garden City of Samal is popular for its amazing resorts that travelers come for. Here are some of the best Samal resorts you must check out if you want an ultimate vacation:

  1. Pearl Farm Beach Resort
  2. Costa Marina Resort
  3. Kaputian Beach Park Resort
  4. Chema’s by the Sea
  5. Indo Bali House
  6. Punta Del Sol Beach Resort
  7. Precious Garden Resort Samal
  8. La Vida Hostel

Read on to discover what Samal Island Davao has to offer and how to make the most of your trip!

What to See and Do in Samal Island

Make sure to tick off these things in our Samal Island guide for an amazing trip! This place will not disappoint you.

1. Go Island-Hopping

samal island davao

Like many other famous destinations in the Philippines, island-hopping is a popular activity in Samal. To explore the island, you can rent a boat on your own or avail tourist packages from travel agencies. Usually, the places included in the itinerary are Coral Garden, Isla Reta, and Starfish Island. Beach lovers will definitely enjoy Samal island hopping because the sands are fine and white and the waters are clear blue.

2. Take a Dip at Hagimit Falls

One of the falls at the Hagimit Falls in Samal
One of the falls at the Hagimit Falls in Samal.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Hagimit Falls is one of the must-visit Samal Island tourist spots. It has multiple cascades and pools ranging from 3 to 7 feet deep perfect for a quick (or long) dip, and a nice way to get a massage. There are tables, chairs and stores inside so it’s perfect for a picnic with the family or friends. Hagimit Falls is also surrounded by a lush forest so you can still enjoy nature at its finest. 

Samal Island’s Hagimit Falls features a series of cascades ranging from 3 feet to 7 feet deep, forming varied shapes of natural pools. You can take a relaxing dip or jump into the crystal clear waters.

3. Visit Monfort Bat Cave

The Fruit Bats at the Monfort Bat Cave
The Fruit Bats on the Monfort Bat Cave Number Three.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Monfort Bat Cave is home to thousands of fruit-eating bats. This is where you’ll see them in their natural habitat. 

4. Day Trip at Pearl Farm Beach Resort

stunning view of pearl farm samal

Photo credits to Pearl Farm Beach Resort

Pearl Farm Beach Resort is known as one of the top and most luxurious Samal beach resorts. But don’t worry because even if you’re traveling on a budget, you can still visit Pearl Farm through a day tour. You can lounge on its fine white sand beach and try water activities like jet skiing, banana boat, diving, and kayaking. 

5. Explore Talikud Island

Talikud Island

Another Samal Island Davao tourist spot you must not miss is the Talikud Island. It features a long stretch of powdery white sand and clear blue waters brimming with rich marine life. You can go snorkelling, scuba diving, or just lounging around to get your much-needed tan. No wonder Talikud Island is one of the top Samal beaches.

6. Go to Vanishing Island

vanishing island

Photo credits to Paul Lewin via Flickr

If you still can’t get enough of the Samal Island beaches, head to Vanishing Island. It’s called as such because half of the 80-hectare shoal emerges as a sand bar during low tide but vanishes during high tide creating the illusion of vacationing in the open seas. Vanishing Island is one of the best Samal beaches you shouldn’t miss. 

7. Slide Your Way to Fun at Maxima Aquafun

a man sliding at the Maxima Aquafun

Photo credits to Crocodile Park

If you want to experience a different kind of island trip, go to Maxima Aquafun. Like other Samal beach resorts, Maxima Aquafun offers a great island getaway but what makes it more fun is its 40-meter slide that leads directly to the sea!

8. Discover Samal’s Amazing Underwater World Through Scuba Diving

The Island Garden City of Samal is not just teeming with pristine beaches but also has a stunning and rich marine life. And what better way to discover its great underwater world than scuba diving? 

From colorful coral reefs and fishes to sunken ships dating back to World War II, Samal Island has everything!

9. Go Hiking at Mt. Puting Bato

If you can’t brave Mt. Apo in Davao, the highest mountain in the Philippines, you can still experience a mountain that’s beginner-friendly. Standing at 1,755 feet, Mt. Puting Bato is a great place for hiking and seeing a panoramic view of the beautiful Samal Island. 

10. Lounge at Kaputian Beach

If you want to enjoy a laid-back beach day, consider visiting Kaputian Beach. It is popular among locals because of its tranquil ambiance, white sand shore, and cool blue waters. 

Where to Eat in Samal Island

We’ve curated a list of must-try dishes and best restaurants in Samal Island for you to have an extraordinary gastronomic experience. Here’s the list: 

1. HABAK Habhaban sa Babak

HABAK Habhaban sa Babak samal

Photo credits to HABAK Habhaban sa Babak

Want some seafood delight? Have your tummy be satisfied at HABAK Habhaban sa Babak. They serve fresh seafood in different ways, from grilled and fried to soup. 

2. Samal Mango Haven

Samal Mango Haven interior

Photo credits to Samal Mango Haven

If you’re health conscious, Samal Mango Haven is the best place to be. They serve fruit smoothies and other healthy drinks along with a lunch buffet. But it doesn’t stop there! You can also detoxify by taking a dip on their kawa hot bath.

3. The Bahay Kubo Restaurant

Tucked in a narrow path near the beach in Penaplata, The Bahay Kubo Restaurant is a hidden gem you shouldn’t miss. The restaurant gives you an extra island feel because of its open-air rustic interior. They serve a fusion of Filipino and European cuisine. You should try their tuna steak, roast beef, fried potatoes, and beef meatballs.

Must-Try Food in Samal

1. Sutokil

While Sutokil is popular in Cebu, it is also a must-try in Samal. Sutokil is a mix of fresh food sourced from the island—seafood or meat—prepared and served in a different way as the name suggests—Sugba (grilled), Tola (from tinola/boiled), and Kinilaw (from Kilawin/marinated in vinegar).

So, when you order a Sutokil, expect a delightful feast as you’ll be served with kinilaw na tuna (tuna ceviche), grilled liempo (pork belly), and fish or chicken tinola.

2. Amik

Amik is a Samal delicacy you shouldn’t miss. It looks like thin noodles but it’s made from cassava or corn. It is crunchy and sweet. 

3. Pasayan

Pasayan is a dish made of deep-fried shrimps cooked with oyster sauce. It’s a perfect treat when on the island and best paired with cold beer. 

Best Time to Go in Samal Island

Since Samal Island is located in Mindanao that isn’t always hit by typhoons, it is an ideal travel destination all-year. Their local government even boasts that they’re typhoon-free so no need to watch out for weather updates too often. 

But if you want to enjoy the beaches at its finest, go there during summer from March to May.

It’s also great to visit Samal in March and August where several festivals are held.

How to Go to Samal Island

Samal doesn’t have its own airport so your main jumpoff point is Davao City. but don’t worry, it’s not a long journey though. Travel time can take about an hour only. 

From Manila, take a flight bound for Davao International Airport or Francisco Bangoy International Airport. Upon arrival, you will have to take two jeepney rides to reach your preferred port, either Sasa Wharf or Santa Ana Wharf. Once at the port, take the ferry bound for Samal Island.

Getting Around Samal Island

There are different ways on how to get around in Samal like other tourist spots in the Philippines. These are through: habal-habal (motorcycle), tricycle, boats, and private vehicles.

Where to Stay in Samal Island

Samal is considered as the “largest resort city in the Philippines”. Hence, you’ll find a lot of resorts ranging from cheap beach resorts in Samal to luxurious. So you don’t have to worry about where to stay in Samal Island. 

1. Pearl Farm Beach Resort

stunning view of pearl farm samal

Photo credits to Pearl Farm Beach Resort

When we say Samal Island resorts, Pearl Farm first comes to mind. The 14-hectare property is one of the most popular and luxurious beach resorts in Davao where most celebrities check in. It has a good view of the sea, stunning rooms and oh-so-fine beach.

2. Costa Marina Resort

Costa Marina Resort samal island

Photo credits to Costa Marina Beach Resort

Just 15 minutes by boat trip, Costa Marina Beach Resort is one of the closest white sand beaches to Davao City. Aside from the beach, they also offer water activities like kayaking, jet skiing, snorkeling and more. 

3. Chema’s by the Sea

Chemas by the Sea in samal isalnd

Photo credits to Chema’s by the sea

Chema’s by the Sea features scattered rustic cottages and cabanas with a touch of Balinese style. Most cottages have a balcony overlooking the ocean, and alfresco dining with garden views. 

4. Indo Bali House

Indo Bali House

Photo credits to Indo Bali House

As the name suggests, this vacation house is Bali-inspired. It is located just a few minutes away from Babak Port and is also surrounded by a lush tropical garden.

5. Punta Del Sol Beach Resort

tourists on banana boats at Punta Del Sol Beach Resort

Photo credits to Punta del Sol Samal Island Beach Resort

Another beachfront resort in Samal swarming with a nice island ambiance, Punta Del Sol Beach Resort gives money for value plus an ideal escape perfect for relaxation.

6. Precious Garden Resort Samal

Hotel Precious Garden of Samal

Photo credits to Precious Garden Resort Samal

Precious Garden Resort Samal is a plantation mansion-turned-resort that provides brightly-lit rooms perfect for those who are always in the mood for some good lighting for the ‘gram.

7. La Vida Hostel

La Vida Hostel

Photo credits to La Vida Hostel

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly place to stay in Samal, La Vida Hostel offers a great option. They have dormitory rooms with 8 beds.

8. Kaputian Beach Park Resort

Kaputian Beach Park Resort is a government-owned facility located in the southernmost part of Samal Island. It is famous for its white-sand shoreline and its affordability. Entrance fee here is only PHP 10 and cottages and rooms are also affordable.

Tips on Traveling to Samal Island

1. Safety

While Samal is considered as one of the safest cities in Davao, it won’t hurt to be extra careful when roaming the place. 

2. Language

The main language spoken in Samal is the Cebuano dialect, English and Tagalog. 

Sample Itinerary in Samal Island

For a complete experience, we recommend a 4-day Samal Island itinerary. To help you plan your trip, here’s a sample itinerary.

Day 1: Arrival and Island Tour

  • 11 AM – Arrival at Samal Island
  • 12 PM – Lunch 
  • 1 PM – Rest and check-in
  • 2 PM – Take a dip at Hagimit Falls
  • 5 PM – Visit Monfort Bat Cave
  • 6 PM – Sunset at the beach
  • 8 PM – Dinner

Day 2: Island-hopping, Snorkeling/Diving, Cliff Diving

  • 7 AM – Breakfast
  • 8 AM – Island-hopping tour
  • 9 AM – Visit the Vanishing Island
  • 12 PM – Lunch at Talikud Island 
  • 3 PM – Back to main Samal Island
  • 4 PM – Fun adventure at Maxima Aquafun
  • 6 PM – Sunset dinner
  • 8 PM – Kawa hot bath at Mango Haven (optional)

Day 3: Pearl Farm Resort day tour

  • 7 AM – Breakfast
  • 9 AM – Day tour at Pearl Farm Resort
  • 12 PM – Lunch
  • 4 PM – Shopping for souvenirs
  • 5 PM – Free time

Day 4: Departure

  • 8 AM – Breakfast
  • 10 AM – Check-out and travel back to Davao City

Frequently Asked Questions About Samal Island

Q: How do you get to Samal Island?

A: From Manila, take a flight bound for Davao International Airport or Francisco Bangoy International Airport. Upon arrival, you will have to take two jeepney rides to reach your preferred port, either Sasa Wharf or Santa Ana Wharf. Once at the port, take the ferry bound for Samal Island.

Q: What are the best Samal Island tourist spots?

A: The island has so many great places to visit. These are:

  1. Pearl Farm Resort
  2. Hagimit Falls
  3. Monfort Bat Cave
  4. Talikud Island
  5. Kaputian Beach
  6. Vanishing Island
  7. Mt. Puting Bato
  8. Maxima Aquafun

Q: What are the best resorts in Samal?

A: Here are some of the best Samal resorts you must check out if you want an ultimate vacation:

  1. Pearl Farm Beach Resort
  2. Costa Marina Resort
  3. Kaputian Beach Park Resort
  4. Chema’s by the Sea
  5. Indo Bali House
  6. Punta Del Sol Beach Resort
  7. Precious Garden Resort Samal
  8. La Vida Hostel

Q: How do I get from Samal Island to Talikud Island?

A: From Samal, take a boat to Talikud Island. When you arrive at the island, you can walk to the nearest beach resort or hire a tricycle or habal-habal to take you further.

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