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Samal Island is a popular tourist destination located in the Davao Gulf, just a short ferry ride away from Davao City in the southern part of the Philippines. The island is known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a variety of outdoor activities such as snorkeling, diving, and island hopping. Samal Island is also home to several resorts, hotels, and restaurants, making it a great place for a relaxing getaway.

A Glimpse to Samal Island Philippines

Samal Island was initially inhabited by indigenous groups originating from the northern and eastern coasts of the undivided Davao Province, forming the Sama Tribe, a diverse mix of Mansakas, Mandayas, and Muslims. These early settlers lived in organized communities under the rule of a Datu until the American Regime.

In the 18th century, Christianization led to a shift in governance. The first mass was held in Barangay San Jose in 1928. On June 8, 1948, Samal became a District Municipality of Davao Province, and on May 28, 1953, Babak Municipality was established.

The Second District, named SAMAL, honors the indigenous Sama Tribe, while Peñaplata comes from the Sama term “Malibasa,” meaning a place where honorable people who love peace live harmoniously. The First District, BABAK, is named after the abundant shrub “Tagbak” and a large tree called “Bakbak,” used as a landmark. The Third District, KAPUTIAN, derives its name from the local term “Puting Balas,” referring to the white sand along the shoreline.

samal island port
Samal Island Port

Samal Island saw continuous development and population growth, eventually becoming a government tourism zone. In 1996, officials led by Congressman Rodolfo P. del Rosario and Governor Prospero S. Amatong envisioned a modern urban center in a rural environment. 

Congressman Del Rosario’s bill, Republic Act # 8471, integrated the three municipalities into one local government unit, the Island Garden City of Samal, signed by President Fidel V. Ramos on January 30, 1998. The people overwhelmingly approved this integration during the plebiscite on March 7, 1998. The new city officially began exercising its corporate powers on June 30, 1998.

Things to Know Before Going to Samal Island Philippines

How to Get to Samal Island 

Here are some ways to get to the beautiful island of Samal:

Fly to Davao City:

davao international airport

One of the most convenient ways to reach Samal Island, Philippines is to fly to Davao City. Davao City has an international airport, the Francisco Bangoy International Airport, that serves both domestic and international flights. From the airport, you can take a taxi or a van to reach the ferry terminal.

Take a ferry from Davao City: 

samal island port
Samal Island Port

From the Sasa Wharf in Davao City, you can take a ferry to Samal Island. The ferry ride takes around 10 to 15 minutes. Several ferry operators offer daily trips to Samal Island, including Island City Express, Paradise Island Ferry, and Samal Ferry.

Take a private boat: 

If you have a private boat, you can also reach Samal Island by sailing from Davao City. There are several marinas in Davao City where you can dock your boat.

Ride a Bus: 

The only bus company that runs between Davao City and Samal Island is Island City Express. The ferry price is already included in your bus fare.

From Agdao in Davao City, you can ride this bus to Sasa Wharf. After that, the bus is put into the ferry for the trip to Samal Island as a RORO (Roll-on, roll-off) conveyance.

Once you arrive on Samal Island, you can explore the island by renting a motorcycle or a tricycle, or by hiring a tour guide.

Best Time To Visit Samal Island

philippines samal island
photo from Unsplash by Maynard Magallen

In my opinion, the best time to visit Samal Island is from December to May. This is the dry season, and the weather is usually sunny and pleasant, with occasional rain showers. During this time, the sea is calm and the water is crystal clear, making it perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.

From January to March, the island is also home to a beautiful display of blooming orchids, which is definitely worth checking out. Additionally, the island is less crowded during this time, making it easier to explore the beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and other attractions without having to deal with large crowds.

However, if you are interested in witnessing the island’s vibrant festivals, then visiting during the months of March, May, and August is a good choice. These months are when the island celebrates the Igacos, Hugyaw Madayaw Samal, and Kabasan festivals, respectively. These festivals are a great opportunity to experience the local culture, enjoy the traditional food, music, and dances, and witness the vibrant parades and other festivities.

5 Options for Getting Around Samal Island 

Samal Island is a relatively small island, and getting around is relatively easy. Here are some of the ways to get around Samal Island:

1. Motorcycle: Renting a motorcycle is one of the most popular ways to get around Samal Island. Motorcycles can be rented for around Php 400-500 ($7-9) per day. The tour allows you to explore the island at your own pace.

2. Tricycle: Tricycles are also a popular mode of transportation on Samal Island. They are cheap and can accommodate up to three people. Tricycles are usually used for shorter distances, such as getting from your accommodation to the beach or to a nearby restaurant.

3. Habal-habal: Habal-habal is a type of motorcycle taxi that can carry up to two passengers. Using this method will allow you to get to a more remote area of the island.

4. Private car or van: If you prefer a more comfortable and convenient way to get around, you can hire a private car or van. This is a good option if you are traveling with a group or with a lot of luggage.

5. Walking: Walking is also an option if you are staying in a central location and want to explore the nearby attractions. Samal Island has many beautiful beaches and scenic spots that are within walking distance of each other.

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Contact Information and Location Details

Best Island Activities in Samal Island Philippines

As someone who has explored the beautiful Samal Island, here are my top recommendations for things to visit and do on the island:

1. Visit the Hagimit Falls

hagimit falls
Hagimit Falls

A breathtaking destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. Located in the lush green forests of Samal Island in the Philippines, this waterfall offers a picturesque landscape and a refreshing swimming experience in the natural pools.

The sound of water cascading down the rocks is a treat to the ears, and the cool mist in the air is a refreshing escape from the heat. A visit to the Hagimit Falls is a must for anyone seeking a serene getaway in nature’s beauty.

2. Island hopping 

An excellent way to discover the stunning surroundings of Samal Island is by taking a boat ride around the island and visiting nearby islets like Talikud Island and Angel’s Cove. The boat ride offers scenic views of the island’s coastline and nearby islands, making it a perfect way to appreciate the beauty of the area.

Talikud Island is a popular destination for snorkeling and diving, with its pristine beaches and clear waters. It is home to several dive sites that are teeming with marine life, including sea turtles, barracudas, and colorful tropical fish.

Angel’s Cove, on the other hand, is a secluded cove that offers privacy and serenity. It is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and taking in the beautiful scenery.

3. Snorkeling and diving

Samal Island is a paradise for marine life enthusiasts, with its clear waters and rich marine biodiversity. Snorkeling or diving in the island’s waters is a must-do activity for anyone visiting the island.

With over 900 species of fish and 400 species of corals, Samal Island is a haven for underwater explorers. Among the marine life that can be seen in the island’s waters are giant clams, sea turtles, colorful tropical fish, sea snakes, and even whale sharks.

4. Explore the Monfort Bat Cave

Monfort Bat Cave

Visit the Guinness World Record holder for the largest colony of Geoffrey’s Rousette fruit bats and witness the spectacular sight of thousands of bats flying out of the cave at sunset.

5. Visit the Vanishing Island

Vanishing Island, Samal Island

Vanishing Island is a unique sandbar located in the waters off the coast of Samal Island. As its name suggests, the island disappears during high tide and reappears during low tide, creating a magical and ever-changing experience. 

A boat ride can be taken to the sandbar during low tide and walk around the sandbar, enjoying the clear waters and stunning views. Samal Island is a must-visit destination for those who enjoy unique and unusual experiences, and is a highlight of any trip to Samal Island.

6. Trek to the top of Mount Puting Bato

For the adventurous traveler, a trek to the top of Mount Puting Bato is a must-do activity on Samal Island. This moderate hike takes around two hours to complete and rewards trekkers with stunning panoramic views of the island and the surrounding sea. 

Along the way, visitors can also see endemic species of birds and butterflies as well as a wide range of flora and fauna. The trek is an excellent way to appreciate the island’s natural beauty and enjoy some exercise in the great outdoors.

7. Enjoy the local delicacies

photo of Durian fruit
Durian Fruit

Samal Island is known for its delicious seafood and exotic fruits such as pomelo, durian, and mangosteen.

8. Experience the island’s festivals

hugyaw madayaw samal
Image: Hello Travel

Join the locals in celebrating the Kadayawan and Hugyaw festivals and witness the colorful parades, traditional dances, and delicious food.

Where to Stay in Samal Island (Beaches & Resorts)

Kaputian Beach

Samalan Camp and Sea Resort
Samalan Camp and Sea Resort in Kaputian

A long stretch of white sand beach with water that is crystal clear and offers stunning views of nearby Talikud Island.

Location: Kaputian, Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte

Pearl Farm Beach Resort

Pearl Farm Beach Resort

Experience paradise at Pearl Farm Beach Resort, a private beach resort on Samal Island. With crystal-clear waters and white sand, the resort offers a relaxing atmosphere. The resort also offers a variety of water activities, including snorkeling, diving, and kayaking, making it ideal for those who love the sea. 

Enjoy world-class amenities and excellent dining options while taking in the breathtaking vistas of the landscape around the sea.

Location: Brgy, Babak – Samal – Kaputian Rd, Babak, Island Garden City of Samal, 8119 Davao del Norte

Canibad Beach

canibad beach resort
Canibad Beach

Escape the crowds and experience privacy and serenity at Canibad Beach, a secluded beach on the southern side of Samal Island. The beach features crystal-clear waters and white sand, making it perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. 

Visitors can enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and stunning views while taking in the natural beauty of the area. Canibad Beach is a must-visit destination for those seeking a peaceful and serene beach experience.

Location: purok 4 Aundanao Island Garden city of samal , Samal, Philippines

Paradise Island Beach Resort

paradise island park
Paradise Island Beach Resort

The Paradise Island Beach Resort is a top-of-the-line destination that provides guests with a lavish experience. The resort boasts exceptional facilities and services, including world-class amenities such as an on-site spa, a fitness center, and gourmet dining options. 

Visitors can also enjoy their own private beaches and admire breathtaking views of the sea. It is the perfect destination for people in search of a relaxing and indulgent vacation.

Location: 4M27+XG2, Babak, Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte

Final Thoughts

As someone who has visited Samal Island, I can say that it is truly a magical place that exceeded all of my expectations. The island’s natural beauty, friendly locals, and relaxed vibe made it the perfect destination for a peaceful and refreshing getaway.

One of the highlights of our trip was exploring the island’s stunning beaches, each with its unique charm and character. I also enjoyed snorkeling and diving in the clear waters and seeing the colorful marine life up close.

In addition to its natural wonders, Samal Island also has a rich culture and history that are worth exploring. I learned a lot about the island’s traditions and way of life by interacting with the locals and visiting the cultural sites and landmarks.

Overall, visiting Samal Island was an unforgettable experience that left us with a sense of peace and contentment. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation filled with natural beauty and cultural experiences.

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