Samal City: History and Tourist Spot

Hey there, adventure seekers! Let’s set our sights on a hidden gem in the heart of the Philippines, a slice of paradise known as Samal City. Have you heard of it? This place, sitting pretty in Davao del Norte, is more than just another dot on the map. It’s a tropical wonderland with a charm that’s hard to put into words, but I’ll give it a shot!

Think of soft sandy beaches, a sparkling sea that’s a thousand shades of blue, and lush greenery that goes on forever. It’s like Mother Nature went on a creative spree and decided to show off a little. Wait, you’re asking about the people? Well, they’re every bit as warm and welcoming as the island itself. And the food? It’s the kind of stuff that’ll convince you to stay forever.

Now, picture this: You’re lounging on a hammock, coconut in hand, watching the sun dip below the horizon. Can’t you feel the breeze whispering tales of the island’s rich history? It’s like you’re living in a postcard, right? But hey, don’t just take my word for it. Samal City awaits, ready to unfold its magic. Ready to pack your bags yet?

Beach in Kaputian, Samal City Island
By Daniel moygannon, CC BY 3.0

History of Samal City

Samal City, also known as the Island Garden City of Samal, is located in the southern part of the Philippines, specifically in the Davao Gulf. It is a part of the Metro Davao area. Samal City is the only city in the country that covers the entire island.

Originally, the native Samal group inhabited the city. However, in the early 14th century, waves of migrants from Malaysia and Indonesia arrived, transforming the demographic makeup of the area.

In 1848, Spanish conquerors claimed the island, integrating it into the province of Davao Oriental. They built forts and missions across the island, leaving an indelible stamp on its culture and history. Then, in 1898, the Spanish-American War broke out, and by the end of it, the United States had gained control over the Philippines, including the island of Samal.

Fast forward to the post-World War II era, the island saw significant changes in its administrative status. Specifically, in 1961, the Philippine Congress created the municipalities of Babak, Peñaplata, and Kaputian on the island. However, these three municipalities were later merged into the Island Garden City of Samal in 1998.

Over the years, Samal City has developed as a significant tourist destination in the Philippines. Its pristine beaches, rich marine life, and diverse flora and fauna attract tourists from around the world. Today, the city is home to more than 100,000 inhabitants and continues to flourish as an important hub for tourism and commerce in the region.

Culture in Samal City

The cultural heritage of Samal City is deeply rooted in its people’s traditions and customs. The locals, known as Samaleños, are warm and welcoming, making visitors feel right at home. The city showcases a vibrant mix of indigenous influences, such as the Bagobo and Mandaya groups, which can be seen in their colorful traditional costumes and intricate handicrafts.

Food Cuisine in Samal City

The city’s food scene is a harmonious blend of traditional Filipino culinary techniques and bountiful local ingredients, seasoned with a dash of international influences.

Starting with the island’s seafood, let’s dive into the heart of Samal’s cuisine. Fresh fish, crabs, and shells are daily staples, sourced straight from the bountiful ocean surrounding the island. Grilled fish, locally known as “inihaw na isda,” is a must-try. Marinated in soy sauce, calamondin juice, and spices, the fish is grilled to perfection over hot coals, resulting in a smoky, savory, and tangy delicacy that will satisfy any seafood lover.

Transitioning from seafood to poultry and meat, let’s dig into “lechon manok” and “kinilaw.” Lechon manok, or roasted chicken, is a popular fare in Samal City. The chicken is marinated in a mixture of local spices, skewered on a bamboo stick, and slowly roasted over an open fire. The result is a succulent, flavorful bird with a crispy skin that’s a hit at any gathering. On the other hand, kinilaw, a dish akin to Latin America’s ceviche, typically uses raw tuna or Spanish mackerel “cooked” in vinegar and citrus juices, then mixed with onions, chili, and ginger for an appetizing kick.


Next, let’s discuss the fruits and desserts that bring a sweet ending to any meal in Samal. The city, like the rest of the Davao Region, takes pride in its fresh and succulent fruits, especially durian and mangosteen. Durian, known as the “King of Fruits,” may be an acquired taste due to its strong aroma, but its rich, custard-like flesh is undeniably delicious. Meanwhile, mangosteen, with its sweet-tart flavor, provides a refreshing counterpoint.

Leche Flan

Finally, no meal in Samal would be complete without trying the traditional Filipino dessert “leche flan.” This rich custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top is the perfect way to round off the flavorful journey through the city’s culinary landscape.

Tourist Spots in Samal City

Firstly, make sure to visit the Pearl Farm Beach Resort. Nestled in a serene cove in Samal, this luxurious resort offers stunning beachfront views, relaxing accommodations, and a variety of activities. Here, you can dive into the clear waters, explore the vibrant marine life, or simply bask in the sun while enjoying the picturesque surroundings.

Next on the list is Hagimit Falls. Found in the heart of the island, this natural wonder is a series of cascading waterfalls and pools surrounded by lush foliage. The cool, clear waters provide a refreshing escape from the tropical heat. The falls are a must-visit for nature lovers and those seeking a tranquil retreat.

Moving forward, don’t miss the chance to explore the Monfort Bat Sanctuary. This Guinness World Record holder is home to the largest colony of Geoffroy’s Rousette Fruit Bats. A tour offers an unforgettable experience of seeing millions of bats in their natural habitat.

Subsequently, set sail for the Vanishing Island. As the name suggests, this sandbar disappears during high tide and re-emerges during low tide. It’s a perfect spot for snorkeling and swimming, giving visitors an opportunity to discover the rich marine biodiversity of Samal.

Then, experience the thrill at Maxima Aquafun Resort. Known for its iconic giant slide that plunges you directly into the sea, this resort also offers other exciting water sports activities. From jet-skiing to banana boat rides, there’s no shortage of fun-filled adventures.

Lastly, take a step back in time at the Samal Tribal Village. By showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous Sama people, this living museum offers a unique perspective on local history and customs. It’s a place where you can learn about traditional crafts, dances, and daily life.

Festivals and Events

In January, the city celebrates the Araw ng Samal. This festival, marking the founding of the city, kicks off with a grand parade. Dancers in colorful costumes fill the streets, performing traditional routines that tell stories of Samal’s history and culture. The Araw ng Samal also hosts trade fairs, displaying the city’s local products and handicrafts.

White Nights Festival

Next, in March, the city’s beaches come alive with the White Nights Festival. This festival is a showcase of Samal’s pristine beaches and magnificent sunsets. During the White Nights Festival, people from all walks of life come together to dance, sing, and enjoy beach games under the clear, star-filled skies. Fireworks displays add a magical touch to the festival’s nights, while food stalls offer an array of local and international cuisines.

Caracoles Festival

Following this, in April, Samal hosts the Caracoles Festival. This is a unique event that pays tribute to the city’s marine life and environment. Participants wear sea-themed costumes and accessories, creating a vibrant spectacle that mirrors the city’s rich underwater ecosystem. The Caracoles Festival also includes a fluvial parade, where decorated boats sail along the city’s coasts, symbolizing the community’s efforts to protect and conserve their marine resources.

Pista’y Dayat Festival

Transitioning into May, the city honors its patron saint, Santa Cruz, with the Pista’y Dayat Festival. The festival is an amalgamation of religious devotion and local culture, featuring religious processions, cultural dances, and music performances. A highlight of the Pista’y Dayat Festival is the Balsa Festival, where people gather to sail on bamboo rafts, reflecting the traditional ways of Samal’s ancestors.

Kagikan Festival

Then, in October, the city holds the Kagikan Festival. This event embodies the diverse heritage of the three ethnic groups that first settled in Samal – the Sama, the Tagaolo, and the Kalagan. The Kagikan Festival showcases the traditional games, music, dance, and arts of these groups, offering a glimpse into the city’s historical roots.

Activities in Samal City

Samal City offers a plethora of activities for every type of traveler. If you’re a beach lover, you’ll be spoiled for choice with the city’s numerous pristine beaches. Spend your days basking in the sun, swimming in the clear waters, or engaging in thrilling water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving. The island is also famous for its captivating marine life, making it a haven for underwater enthusiasts.

For nature enthusiasts, a visit to the Hagimit Falls is a must. Surrounded by lush greenery, this enchanting waterfall provides a tranquil escape from the bustling city life. You can take a refreshing dip in its cool waters or simply relax by the cascading falls, immersing yourself in the beauty of nature.

Another popular attraction in Samal City is the Monfort Bat Sanctuary, which holds the Guinness World Record for having the largest colony of fruit bats. Witness the awe-inspiring sight of thousands of bats hanging upside down and learn about their vital role in the ecosystem.

How to Get to Samal City

Getting to Samal City is easy and convenient. The city is accessible by air, with flights available from major cities in the Philippines to Davao International Airport. From there, you can take a ferry or a motorized boat to reach the island. The boat ride is a thrilling experience itself, offering panoramic views of the surrounding waters and the chance to spot dolphins and other marine life.

Once in Samal City, getting around is a breeze. Tricycles, and motorized pedicabs, are the primary modes of transportation, providing a fun and efficient way to explore the city. You can also rent a motorbike or a car if you prefer to have more freedom and flexibility.

People Also Read: Tourist Spots in San Carlos, Negros Occidental


So, here’s a question: What’s stopping you from making the leap? From feeling the sand between your toes and the sea spray on your face? From discovering the magic that waits in every nook and cranny of Samal City? But remember, it’s not about ticking off a new location on your travel map. It’s about immersing yourself in the culture, the people, and the beauty that is Samal City.

After all, life’s too short for ‘what ifs,’ right? So, let’s make those travel dreams come true. Let’s soak up the sun, dive deep into the blue, and let Samal City weave its spell. Until then, keep those wanderlust vibes strong and stay curious, fellow travelers!

Like this article? Spread it! ✨
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Scroll to Top