SPOT.ph City Guide: Davao City
Where to eat, drink, have fun, and get your durian initiation
(SPOT.ph) Davao City has been in the spotlight a lot lately thanks to a certain election candidate, but if you’re a tourist just seeking to soak up the city’s charms, we suggest you pay no mind to the politics and get the most fun out of your stay.
As Mindanao’s commercial hub, Davao City has a plethora of lifestyle picks for travelers: restaurants, bars, cafés, shopping malls, nature parks, adventure activities, cultural spots, and hole-in-the-wall haunts, and if those are still not enough, the option to take a 10-minute boat ride to nearby Samal Island for an idyllic beach getaway.
Of course, you have to play by the city’s rules—no smoking in public places except in designated areas, no buying of liquor when the clock hits 1 a.m., no going beyond 30 kph in downtown areas—but if the locals can follow all these and still have a ball of a time, surely you can, too.
City Hall of Davao
San Pedro Street
The City Hall of Davao—where that city mayor holds office—was built as a municipal hall in 1926 and was declared a historical site by the National Historical Commission in 2012. Right beside it is the Sangguniang Panlungsod, which houses the offices of the vice-mayor and the councilors from Davao City’s three congressional districts.
Perfect for: Tourists who want to take in historical sights (and check out the place where Mayor Rodrigo Duterte holds court while at it)
San Pedro Cathedral
San Pedro Street
The ecclesiastical seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Davao, the San Pedro Cathedral stands right across the Sangguniang Panlungsod. First built in 1847, the city’s oldest church has undergone two renovations, resulting in its present hulking form with a curved roof that mimics the shape of a vinta—a nod to the city’s Catholic and Muslim roots.
Perfect for: Travelers looking to hear mass while they’re in town
Pelayo Street corner Palma Gil Street
Open from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
When you spot that odd, durian-shaped dome, you’ll know you’ve reached People’s Park. Traverse this sprawling, four-hectare public park, be greeted by sculptures of Bagobo children by Mindanao art icon Kublai Millan (the same artist behind the giant durian monument at the Davao International Airport), and see over 1,000 species of plants from elsewhere in Southeast Asia to as far away as Australia, Africa, and South America.
Perfect for: Visitors who want to sneak in some exercise (this park is a popular jogging spot)
ART AND CULTURE PITSTOPS
A. Pichon Street corner C.M. Recto Street
Contact: (082) 222-6011
Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Monday to Saturday)
To learn more about the city you’re visiting, drop by this local government facility which orients guests on Davao’s cultural and historical heritage through exhibits covering its indigenous beginnings to its colonial history. Its Bahaghari Space also offers a venue for local artists to exhibit their works.
Perfect for: Tourists who want to soak up some culture and learn a thing or two in the process
Ponce Suites Gallery Hotel
Corner Roads 3 and 4, Doña Vicenta Village, Bajada
Contact: (082) 227-9070
Whether or not you’re checking in, pay a visit to Ponce Suites, a fascinating hotel tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood that’s covered from floor to ceiling with paintings, sculptures, poetry, photos, and assorted mixed-media creations by artist Kublai Millan, who happens to be the son of hotel owner Min Ponce. No wonder it has taken on the moniker “The Unconvention Center.”
Perfect for: Artists and art enthusiasts who want to check out local talent
WHERE TO EAT
Davao Dencia’s Restaurant
Gen. Luna Street
Contact: (082) 227-6777, (082) 226-4336
Open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (daily)
Davao Dencia’s Restaurant is practically an institution in Davao, its arroz caldo and lugao goto timeless treats that Davaoeños grew up craving. It first opened as Dencia’s Kitchenette in Manila in the 1950s, but when the owners moved to Davao City in the 1960s, they set up shop as Davao Dencia’s Restaurant, and proceeded to make a mark in the city’s culinary consciousness.
Must-tries: Tokwa’t Baboy (P75), Arroz Caldo (P65), Lugao Goto (P65), Pancit Canton Especial (P155), Dencia’s Chop Suey (P195)
Perfect for: Families and groups hankering for a filling, affordable meal of Chinese dishes and Filipino favorites
Roxas Night Market
Open from 5:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. (Monday to Friday), 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. (Saturday and Sunday)
Every evening, a considerable stretch of Roxas Avenue transforms into a street market offering delicious, dirt-cheap smorgasbord of grilled delights, fried eats, dirty ice cream, fresh fruits, and more. Walk further down the avenue and you’ll be surrounded by more affordable goods, with ukay-ukay piles, accessories, brand knockoffs, and even massage services all vying for your pesos.
Must-tries: Mang Danny’s Famous Ice Cream (starts at P20, with each additional scoop at P5), spring potato (P25), dragon ball (P10/piece), isaw (P5/stick), barbecue (P5/stick), proben (P5/stick ), chicken skin (P10)
Perfect for: Tourists looking for budget-friendly, no-frills eats who don’t mind getting blasted with city sounds and barbecue smoke
Aling Foping’s Halo-Halo, Atbp.
Matina Town Square, MacArthur Highway
Contact: (082) 285-1203
Open from 1 p.m. to 12 a.m. (Monday to Saturday), 3 p.m. to 12 p.m. (Sunday)
Never leave Davao without a visit to Aling Foping’s, which lets you customize the well-loved Filipino dessert to your absolute liking. While Aling Foping’s also has a branch at SM Lanang Premier, it’s best to try the treat at its flagship branch at Matina Town Square, where you can wander through more homegrown restaurants, bars, and music venues within one compound.
Must-tries: Special Halo-Halo (P70 for petite, P105 for regular, P165 for ultimate), Chili con Carne (P105), Croquetas (P60)
Perfect for: Tourists looking for a cold dessert to combat the Davao heat
With branches at Matina Town Square, MacArthur Highway; Landco Corporate Center, J.P. Laurel Avenue; Abreeza Mall, J.P. Laurel Avenue; SM City Davao, Quimpo Boulevard; SM Lanang Premier, J.P. Laurel Avenue; Gaisano Mall of Davao, J.P. Laurel Avenue; and Davao Doctors College, Malvar Street
The signature drink of this homegrown coffee concept is the Durian Coffeeccino, a coffee blend that contains real durian pulp. It’s perfect for both tourists who have fallen in love with the divisive fruit and those who are curious yet cautious about sampling the real thing. With branches in commercial hotspots all over the city, you won’t be able to escape the (pungent) call of the king of fruits.
Must-try: Durian Coffeeccino (P150 for tall, P165 for grande)
Perfect for: Coffee lovers who are down to experience a twist in their cuppajoe
Claude’s Le Café de Ville
Rizal Street corner Bangoy Street
Contact: (082) 222-4287
Open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Monday to Saturday), 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Sunday)
Feeling fancy? Look no further than this French-Mediterranean restaurant named after its French chef and owner, Claude Le Neindre. It’s a magnificent sight to behold, too; its current home is the restored Oboza Heritage House, a landmark in Davao City that has stood proudly in its spot since 1929.
Must-tries: Fillet of Beef Tenderloin with Pepper Sauce (starts at P715 for 200 grams), Fillet of Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom Sauce (starts at P670 for 200 grams), Foie Gras de Canard (P1,250), Duck Liver Pâté (P1,250), French Onion Soup with gruyere cheese crouton (P195)
Perfect for: Traveling couples looking to splurge on their last date night in Davao City
WHERE TO HANG OUT AT NIGHT
Huckleberry Southern Kitchen & Bar
Rizal Street corner Bangoy Street
Contact: (082) 285-2586
Open from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. (daily)
A favorite watering hole among Davao’s posh and beautiful, Huckleberry serves lipsmackingly good Southern American cuisine and has a mean selection of poison to go with it. Nestled within the charming environs of the Oboza Heritage House compound (right beneath Claude’s Le Café de Ville), Huckleberry racks up even more points for ambiance.
Must-tries: Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles (P330); Hot Fish & Chips (P345); Shrimp Po’Boy (P280); Fresh Oysters (P270 for a half-dozen); Huckleberry Hound (P175); Cacao Old Fashioned (P200); infused rum in mangosteen, mango, pineapple, rambutan, santol, ginger, sili, and cacao flavors (P80/shot)
Perfect for: Discerning diners and drinkers looking to knock back a few (or several) glasses
STRE3TS Urban Lifestyle Pub
JJ’s Commune, Loyola Street, Obrero
Open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. (daily)
Only less than a year old, this pub has been reeling in locals with its tasty bar chow, flavored draft beers, and inventive cocktails. Add to those its chalkboard-inspired walls where guests are free to scribble away and a space that’s always packed on weekends, and it’s easy to see why this is a must-visit for young, fun-loving tourists.
Must-tries: Hot Fingers (P220); Potato Madness (P250); Sausage Platter (P230); Burgers (P250); Tiny Joe (P160); flavored draft beers in salted caramel, strawberry, or green apple (P100); Beergarita (P250 for solo, P450 for squad bowl)
Perfect for: Teenaged and 20-something tourists who want to experience Davao’s laid-back take on partying
Sales Bar Tekanplor
692 Sales Street
Open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Monday to Saturday)
Discovering this night spot is like being initiated into a secret club; from the street, there’s no way of knowing that an alterna-bar awaits just beyond the nondescript façade. Sales Bar regularly holds gigs featuring local bands and Manila acts; on gig-less nights, everyone troops to the rooftop, where patrons binge on drinks and good music while having the night sky as their canopy.
Must-tries: Kilawing Tenga (P120), Chicharon Bulaklak (P150), Sisig (P160), Fried Pork Adobo (P140), beers at P45-P55/bottle
Perfect for: Tourists who want to scope out Davao’s "hipster" scene
Jack’s Ridge Resort and Restaurant
Shrine Hills, Matina
Contact: (082) 297-8830 to 31
At night when the stars are out and the lights are bright, take a trip to Jack’s Ridge and soak in the Davao City skyline. Jack’s Ridge is a favorite escape for couples, who can be found sitting side-by-side at the sprawling amphitheater or standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the view decks. Trivia: The land on which Jack’s Ridge was built was inhabited by retreating Japanese forces in World War II—an ideal spot since it offered a view of the Davao Gulf where American ships lay.
Perfect for: Lovers wrapping up their Davao vacay with a great view..and maybe a kiss
WHERE TO ENJOY NATURE AND ADVENTURE
Davao Crocodile Park
Riverfront Corporate City, Diversion Highway, Ma-a
Contact: (082) 286-8883, (082) 221-7749
Open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Monday to Thursday), 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Friday to Sunday)
Entrance is P250 for adults and P150 for kids aged two to 12 years old
Davao Crocodile Park boasts a state-of-the-art crocodile farming system and is home to other exotic animals such as raptors, monkeys, bearcats, snakes, birds, and other reptiles. Got an appetite for adventure? Go ahead and try whitewater rafting through Davao Wildwater Adventure, which holds headquarters within the park.
Must-tries: Davao Wildwater Adventure whitewater rafting (P1,700/head); pandan ice cream with crocodile bits (P80) and durian crocodile ice cream (P80), available at the Crocodile Ice Cream shop
Perfect for: Thrill-seeking vacationers; families and groups with kids
Philippine Eagle Center
Malagos, Baguio District
Contact: (082) 324-1860
Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entrance is P150 for adults and P100 for kids aged 18 and below
Located at the foothills of Mt. Apo, the 8.4-hectare Philippine Eagle Center is both a conservation breeding facility for the endangered Philippine Eagle and an exhibit center where Philippine Eagles as well as other rare birds, mammals, and reptiles can be viewed.
Perfect for: Families and groups with kids; any tourist who wants to see our majestic yet elusive national bird with his own eyes
Malagos Garden Resort
Malagos, Baguio District
Contact: (082) 221-1545, 0917-625-2467
Open for day tour from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (daily)
Entrance is P100 for adults and P80 for kids
A short drive away from the Philippine Eagle Center, this 12-hectare nature theme park and accredited wildlife farm houses a bird park, a butterfly sanctuary, an orchid forest, a petting zoo, and Abueva in the Gardens, an exhibit of works by National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon V. Abueva.
Must-tries: Malagos Farmhouse cheeses (around P190) and Malagos Chocolate bars (around P150), available at the View Deck Café and Grill
Perfect for: Families and groups with kids; tourists looking for a serene garden escape away from the concrete jungle
Eden Nature Park and Resort
Bo. Eden Toril
Contact: (082) 299-1020, (082) 296-0791
Open for day tour from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (daily)
Entrance with snacks is P220 for adults and P190 for kids aged four to 10 years old; entrance with buffet lunch is P550 for adults and P350 for kids aged four to 10 years old
Hie off to this mountain resort and explore itslush landscapes dotted with thousands of pine trees. Daredevils will love the adventure activities—Skyrider, Skycycle, and Skyswing—that take you 2,500 feet above sea level and are clearly not for the faint of heart.
Must-tries: Skyrider (P150), Skycycle (P200), Skyswing (P300 for single, P400 for double)
Perfect for: Thrill-seeking vacationers; nature-loving sightseers; families and groups with kids
WHERE TO SHOP FOR PASALUBONG
Aldevinco Shopping Center
C.M. Recto Avenue corner Roxas Avenue
Contact: (082) 226-4715
Open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Monday to Saturday), 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Aldevinco Shopping Center is the undisputed pasalubong capital of Davao. Since 1965, this arcade has housed the city’s widest array—over 100 shops in all—of clothing, accessories, food products, and souvenir items from Mindanao. Head to Aldevinco to stock up on pearls, trinkets, and vibrantly colored clothing and fabrics—and don’t forget to get your haggle on.
Perfect for: Tourists with a lengthy pasalubong list—you can find everything here!
Bankerohan Public Market
Davao is known for its bountiful fruits, and you can see them on colorful display at bustling, booming Bankerohan. Visit Davao City during Kadayawan in August when the fruits are in season; you’ll be able to score durian, pomelo, and mangosteen at Bankerohan for much cheaper than you would at more commercial outlets.
Perfect for: Tourists who don’t mind getting down and dirty for a good bargain
Photos by Glen Santillan (City Hall of Davao, Museo Dabawenyo, Davao Dencia's Restaurant, Bankerohan Public Market); Red Agreda (San Pedro Cathedral); Rudolph Alama (People's Park); Joseph Yzrael Agra (Roxas Night Market); Jad Montenegro (Sales Bar Tekanplor); and from the management of Huckleberry Southern Kitchen & Bar; from the official websites of Jack's Ridge Resort and Restaurant; Aldevinco Shopping Center; and from the official Facebook pages of Ponce Suites Gallery Hotel, Aling Foping's Halo-Halo, Atbp., Blugré Coffee, Claude's Le Café de Ville, STRE3TS Urban Lifestyle Pub, Davao Crocodile Park, Philippine Eagle Foundation, Malagos Garden Resort, and Eden Nature Park and Resort