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Samal Island – a Travel Guide to Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte

samal island davao travel guide

Right in the center of the Davao Gulf, you would find one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines: The Samal Island. Also known as the Island Garden City of Samal, it is filled with glistening beaches and lush tropical forests.

One of the best parts of Samal Island is that it has not been taken over by swarms of tourists yet. It’s a great escape for anyone that needs a break from the hectic city life.

Try exploring the beaches, waterfalls, and animal sanctuaries that surround this hidden gem island.

Hot Tip: To make the most of your time and experience in exploring the Samal Island, get an international driver’s license and rent a car from any of the reputed car rentals in Davao city or Davao Airport.

With limited public transport options at the Island and if the local shared bikes and taxis are not your cup of tea, this will make your visit independent and hassle-free.

Samal Island Quick information

samal island travel guide
Samal Island

Currency

Philippine peso, also known as PHP. 

1 USD = 51 PHP
1 EUR = 58 PHP
1 GBP = 69 PHP

ATM’s 

There are a couple of ATMs on Samal Island, but it is best to bring some cash. The ATMs here tend to be out of cash or broken. If using a foreign card, there is usually a fee of about 150 pesos. 

Time Zone

Samal Island is in the Philippine Standard Time (PST), and does not follow daylight savings. UTC/GMT +8 hours

Safety

Samal Island is known to be one of the safest parts of Davao, but it is still wise to be careful when visiting. 

Religion

The two main religions of Samal are Catholicism and Islam. Over half of the population fall into one of these two religions. 

Internet Connection

Most WiFi can be found at the resort you stay in, but if you need an internet connection on the go, you can buy a local SIM card. 

Tipping in Samal Island

Tipping is not common in the Philippines, so you do not need to tip. If you feel like the service was exceptional, you can tip if you want to.

Nightlife

Samal Island has become quite the hot spot for nightlife. Look out for their party boats, or even look for events happening at local Samal Island beach resorts. 

Where is Samal Island?

Located in the southern area of the Philippines, Samal Island is right off the coast of Davao. It is surrounded by the Davao Gulf which gives the island its famous sandy beaches. Samal Island is a grouping of smaller islands that are also in the Davao Gulf.

Samal Island is part of the Davao region and is about 10 to 15 minutes by boat from Davao City. Davao City is the economic center of Mindanao and its largest city. Davao is made up of a merging of the former municipalities Samal, Babak, and Kaputian. 

How to Get to Samal Island

Although Samal Island does not have its own airport, it is not too difficult to reach. The best way to get to Samal Island is via Davao City. Take a flight from Manila to either the Davao International Airport or Francisco Bangoy International Airport.

Once you get there, take a jeepney ride to either Santa Ana Wharf or Sasa Wharf. Whichever port you decide to go to, take the ferry heading towards Samal Island.

When you’re finally on the Island of Samal, one of the best ways to get around is with a habal-habal, taxi, or rental car. 

Best Time to Visit Samal Island

Samal Island weather is amazing. It is in a part of Mindanao that is rarely hit by typhoons, so you don’t have to worry about extreme weather issues.

If you want to experience the beaches at their best though, it’s recommended to go during the dry season (December to May), as then is the best time to visit the Philippines.

Like many other parts of the Philippines, Samal Island is home to many wonderful festivals. Most festivals in Samal are held from March to August.

The Igacos Festival is held in the first week of March and celebrates the founding of Samal. It is filled with unique competitions, colorful parades, and boat races. 

Where to Stay in Samal Island

Luxury Hotels and Resorts Samal Island

Pearl Farm Resort

Pearl Farm Resort samal island davao

The luxurious Pearl Farm Resort is nestled on 34 acres of soft white sands and has some of the best views of the Davao Gulf.

Whether you want to relax or have an active vacation there is something here for you. From infinity pools to coral reef tours, explore the wonders of Pearl Farm Resort. 

Check price on Agoda.com »

Chemas by the Sea 

In Limao, Samal, enjoy a private Samal beach resort at Chema’s by the Sea. With its combination of lush forestry and white sandy beaches, the resort provides the ultimate relaxing island vibes.

When you’re not resting on the resort’s daybeds, take a swim in the infinity pool or in the gentle ocean waves.

Check price on Agoda.com »

Midrange Accommodations Samal Island

Hof Gorei Beach Resort

Hof Gorei Beach Resort Davao

In Kaputian, Samal, you can find the hidden beach resort of Hof Gorei Beach Resort. The room options are great for both families and couples that want to celebrate a romantic occasion.

Lorelei Beach Resort

lorelei beach resort samal island

For the traveler that wants to stay close to the city and the beach, Lorelei Beach Resort is for you.

With its accessible location, you can experience snorkeling and swim at the resort’s private beach during the day. In the night, go out and have fun in Davao City’s lively night scene.

Check price on Agoda.com »

Budget Accommodations Samal Island

Punta Elai Resort

Punta Elai Resort Samal Island

Punta Elai Resort is an affordable Samal resort that doesn’t skimp out on amenities. Not only is it right by the beach, but it also has a spacious pool to enjoy as well.

Take in the relaxing views, or get your heart racing on the resort’s jet skis and banana boats. It is the best resort in Samal for those on a budget.

Punta Del Sol Beach Resort

Punta Del Sol Beach Resort

In the Babak District, you can find the cheap and relaxing Punta Del Sol Resort. It has many outdoor cottages right next to the beach, so guests can chat and bond in the lovely ocean breeze.  There are also diving experiences and a spa to enjoy at Punta Del Sol. 

Check price on Agoda.com »

Private Villas Samal Island

Seaview Studio overlooking Davao @ Castle View

Seaview Studio overlooking Davao @ Castle View resort

The Seaview Studio Airbnb is perfect for those that want privacy. The Airbnb is in a secure neighborhood and comes with a private entrance, kitchen, bathroom, and access to the infinity pool. Enjoy being near the beach, but with all the comforts of being in a home. 

Maxima Private Beach House Above the Sea

Maxima Private Beach House Above the Sea

The Maxima Private Beach House is a wonderful house right on the Samal coast that is great for families.

This Samal house has 4 bedrooms, open lounge areas, and a kitchen. It has enough space for everyone to enjoy their own space while taking in the wonderful Samal beaches.

Check price on Agoda.com »

Best Places to Visit in Samal Island

Explore Talikud Island

Talikud Island, Samal
Talikud Island, Samal

This small island is an amazing spot for beach enthusiasts. Talikud Island, Davao is essentially one long beach, covered in powdery white sands and crystal-clear waters.

Talikud’s clear blue waters are filled with marine life. Snorkel in the gentle waters and see what marine animals you can find here. 

Take the time to enjoy the lovely ocean views during the day, and stay overnight beach camping. Rent a tent, sleep on the white sands, and take in the awesome night sky views.

Vanishing Island

Vanishing Island, samal
Vanishing Island, Samal

Visiting Vanishing Island in Bicol is quite a unique experience. Just as its name suggests, half of the island vanishes during high tide. It makes it feel like you are taking a vacation in the open water. Worry not, when the tide is low again the island reemerges.

There are actually houses on the vanishing sandbar for visitors who want to spend the night floating on the water. Even if you don’t want to stay there, it is a cool site to see houses floating in the water. 

Monfort Bat Sanctuary

Monfort Bat Sanctuary Samal
Monfort Bat Sanctuary

The Monfort Bat Cave is home to over 1.6 million fruit-eating bats and holds the Guinness record of having the largest fruit bat colony.

There are many ways to tour the cave, but the best way to enjoy it is at night. When the night approaches, stand outside and watch as the bats emerge from the cave. Bats are nocturnal creatures after all.

Whether or not you are a bat lover, it is an interesting event to see. You can learn a lot about fruit bats and about their habitats.

Best Things to Do Samal Island

Go on an Island-Hopping Tour

samal island davao philippines
Samal Island hopping, Davao

There is nothing better than going island hopping on Samal Island. Rent a boat or take an island-hopping tour, and explore all the smaller islands that surround Samal. Some of the popular spots are Coral Garden, Isla Reta, and Starfish Island.

Wherever you decide to visit on your tour, you will be greeted by incredible beaches. Each with powder-white sands, and crystal-clear waters. Perfect for some awesome swimming or snorkeling. 

Swim at Hagimit Falls

Hagimit Falls, Samal Island

The Hagimit Falls is a group of incredible waterfalls that lie in the lush forests of Samal Island. The cascades are forming small, natural pools that vary from three to seven feet deep, which makes it a nice place to visit while traveling the Philippines.

It is a great place to swim – and you are surrounded by beautiful nature views the whole time.

There are tables and stores around the Hagimit Falls to have a lovely picnic with your family or friends.

Try Scuba Diving

scuba diving samal island
Samal Island scuba diving

With all the incredible beaches on the Island Garden City of Samal, it is obvious that there will be plenty of amazing scuba diving spots. The clear blue waters are chock-full of marine life, so take the dive and swim with the local fish.

Samal Island is known for its gorgeous coral reefs and long history. When you go scuba diving, be on the lookout for its coral reef and some sunken ships. The Davao Gulf has some sunken ships from World War II, so look carefully and see what you can discover. 

Go Hiking at Mount Puting Bato

hiking in philippines
Hiking in the Philippines

Taking a breather at the beach is wonderful, but sometimes you want a bit more adventure in your vacation. If that’s the case for you, go for a hike at Mount Puting Bato. It is an easy hike, so you do not need to be an experienced hiker to enjoy it.

Mount Puting Bato is not as tall as Mt. Apo, but you can still get wonderful panoramic views of Samal Island from atop the mountain. It is definitely one of the most instagrammable places in Davao. 

Samal Island Travel Tips 

  • Be Respectful of the Land

Samal Island is famous for its beautiful and clean beaches. Be mindful and dispose of your trash in a trash can rather than littering. Do not take seashells with you, it can cause environmental effects on the animals there. 

  • Ask First

Whenever you are taking pictures of local food stalls or people, make sure to ask first. If you take a picture of someone without their permission, it could cause you trouble. 

  • Book your activities through local stores

There are many places to book a Samal Island day tour, but some great places and cheaper than online providers are dive-in shops on the wharfs. Carabao Dive Center and Coral Dive are a few stores that offer relatively cheap day tours around Samal Island. 

Best Beaches in Samal Island

Isla Reta

isla reta samal island
Isla Reta, Samal Island

Located on Talikud Island, you can find the paradise-like Isla Reta. It is the perfect spot for beach lovers that want nothing more than to relax.

Grab a mat or towel, and rest on the fine sandy shores. Or, take a leisurely swim in the clear waters – the waves are wonderfully gentle. 

Paradise Island

paradise island samal
Paradise Island

For those that want privacy and fun, try visiting Paradise Island. This complex does not just have a private beach but also has wonderful gardens and water sports to experience.

It is a great place for family and friends to play games and have friendly competition while enjoying the beautiful Samal shores.

Kaputian Beach

Kaputian Beach, Samal
Kaputian Beach, Samal Island

Kaputian Beach is a popular Samal beach with locals. It has a laid-back vibe and is unspoiled by massive tourism.

You can enjoy the pristine beach without the busyness of many other popular beaches. If you need a break from the hustle and bustle, Kaputian Beach is a great option for you. 

Pearl Farm Beach Resort

Pearl Farm Beach Resort, Samal Island. Photo by jimpg2_2015

Although Pearl Farm Beach is part of a resort, you can still go to the beach there for a small fee. Since the beach is part of a popular luxury resort, you know you will find some of the best beach views in all of Samal Island.

Visitors can also rent water sports equipment and enjoy jet skiing, diving, kayaking, or banana boating.

Costa Marina Resort

Costa Marina Resort, Samal Island
Costa Marina Resort, Samal Island

Similar to Pearl Farm Davao, Costa Marina is part of a resort but is still accessible to the public for a fee.

The beach here is incredible with talcum-white sands and clear blue waters that are perfect for swimming. You can also try jet skiing, kayaking, or snorkeling while at Costa Marina Resort.  

Samal Island FAQ

Why is Samal Island famous?

Samal Island is known as the Philippines’ largest resort city. With its breathtaking beaches and plentiful beach resorts, it is no wonder many tourists love visiting the island. 

Is Samal Island safe to live in?

The island is known as one of the safest places in Davao, so you will not have to worry too much if you decide to move here. 

Who owns Samal Island?

The Island Garden City of Samal is part of the Philippines. There is no owner of the island. 

Why is Samal Island beautiful?

From stunning white sand coasts to lush green mountains, Samal Island is filled with stunning natural views. 

Is Samal Island part of Davao City?

Samal is part of Davao, but not a part of Davao City. It is a short 10-minute boat ride from Davao City. 

How big is Samal Island?

It is quite a small island, with an area of about 116 miles squared and a population of a bit over 116 thousand people.