Philippines

Zamboanga Peninsula Quick Travel Guide

Located in Western Mindanao, Zamboanga Peninsula is composed of three provinces there are many beautiful places to visit. Although there’s an impression that it is not safe to travel to the area, the Zamboanga Peninsula like any other places in the Philippines is very much safe, has a unique culture of its own and just like any other Filipinos, the people are warm, welcoming and hospitable. Here’s a quick guide when planning to explore the peninsula:

Province of Zamboanga del Norte

Dipolog City

Dipolog, being the capital city of the province also has the airport that serves the northern part of the peninsula. Both Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have frequent flights here. Dipolog is a third-class city surrounded by rolling hills to the south and the Sulu Sea to the north. It is also known for its sardines industry having great access to rich shores, and wild orchids. Some of the places that can be visited include Cogon Eco-Tourism Park, 3003 Steps Linabo Peak, Sungkilaw Falls, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral, and Dipolog Sunset Boulevard. The main means of transportation are tricycle (around Php 60 from the airport and Php 8 around the city proper) and motorcycle or habal-habal (about Php 60 from airport to the city proper). Buses and mini-buses are also available for destinations further than the city. Hostels and hotels are limited with a price that ranges from Php 500 to 3000.

Dapitan City

Historically known to be the place where Philippine here Jose Rizal was exiled by the Spaniards, Dapitan is as old as it can be. Like Dipolog, it faces the Sulu Sea to the north and hilly south. Dapitan is only a few minutes away from Dipolog (about 30 minutes and Php 25 by bus from Dipolog Bus Terminal). Fishing is one of the main sources of income for locals. It is home to Dakak Beach Resort which boasts a fine white sand beach with turquoise-colored water. Old houses and churches St. James Church are present around the city. In Rizal Shrine, a museum that houses some of the Filipino hero’s works like sculpture, paintings, and letters. Replicas of the buildings within the lot where the hero lived can be visited like Casa Redonda, Casitas Hospitales, and Casa Cuadrada.  These structures will give you a feel of colonialism through its design and architecture. Like Dipolog, the main transportation used around the city is tricycle (Php 9 per within the city proper) and habal-habal. From nearby municipalities, it can be reached by bus. Trips by ferry from Cebu and Dumaguete is also another option to enter the city. Hostels and hotels are also limited with a price that ranges from Php 500 to 3000 or more (in Dakak)

Province of Zamboanga Sibugay

Ipil

This 1st class municipality of the province also serves as its capital. It is about 3 hours by land from nearby cities of Dipolog, Pagadian, and Zamboanga. It is located in the opposite side of Dipolog City facing to its South the Sibuguey Bay. No commercial flights are available to reach this city although Ipil Airport is present in Barangay Sanito. Ipil also has a seaport that serves nearby towns. Tricycle (fare starts from Php 9 around the city) and habal-habal are the main means of transportation around the municipalities, and bus, van, and jeepneys to nearby municipalities. Hostels and hotels are also limited with prices around Php 400 to 5000. Bulusan Island Marine Sanctuary is probably the main attraction where you can snorkel to see the beautiful marine life underwater and also watch the sunset. In its Provincial Capitol Site, replicas of some of the world’s most famous amusement parks like Legoland of Malaysia, Harry Potter Castle of Japan, Hongkong Disneyland, etc. are on display. Rotunda Obelisk showcases writing in “alibata” while colorful architecture that incorporates local culture can be seen in the Provincial Capitol Building. Moalboal Cave in Titay and Kabug Mangrove Park and Wetlands in Siay-Kabalasan are emerging tourist spots.

Province of Zamboanga del Sur

Pagadian City

The capital city of Zamboanga del Sur province, Pagadian is situated on the eastern side of the peninsula surrounded by the hilly municipalities of the rest of the province and Pagadian Bay on the southeast. The capital is also closer to Ozamiz City compared to the province’s largest city of Zamboanga. Pagadian has a unique and iconic type of tricycle that is inclined at 20 to 40 degrees designed to adapt to its sloping terrain. As for natural attractions, Pulacan Falls offers a scenic view perfect for relaxation. The islands of Dao-Dao Dako (big) and Dao-Dao Gamay (small) can be visited also for swimming, fishing, and just boating. Also, visitors can walk during low tide to Dao-Dao Gamay from the bigger island. For that fine sand beach, Puting Balas Beach is your way to go. The typical mode of transportation is tricycle with fares that starts from Php 9 and habal-habal from Php 30 (Although it’s better to rent it for 7 hours -negotiate for the rate!).

The 45 degrees tricycle of Pagadian City
The 45 degrees tricycle of Pagadian City (c) Robin Barquilla

Zamboanga City

This “Latin City” located in the southern tip of the peninsula is the largest and busiest among the cities in Zamboanga Region. It’s one of the center of commerce in Mindanao where visitors can easily find Malay and Indonesian products from Canelar Barter Trade. Zamboanga City is also a melting pot of Islamic, Christian and Tausug culture. It is also the nearest gateway to the nearby island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi to the mainland Mindanao. Going around the city can be by tricycle, taxi, habal-habal, and jeepneys with fares ranging from Php 50 above. Business hotels and hostels are plenty mostly located in the city center with prices ranging from Php 1000 above for the former and around Php 500 for the latter.

The Spanish influence is can be seen in old structures in the city like in Zamboanga City Hall and in the religious shrine of Fort Pilar. Great Santa Cruz Island is a few minutes away from the city center and probably the most famous attraction in the city. It brags its unique pink sand beach, peaceful and taintless lagoon with mangroves, and endemic stingless jellyfish. Merloquet Falls, Onse Islas, Dulian Falls and Mount Pulong Bato among others can also be visited in the outskirts of the city. Every October, the city holds Zamboanga La Hermosa Festival in which colorful vintas race in Regatta de Zamboanga.

Being the main transport hub that connects the Sulu Archipelago to Mindanao’s mainland, a quick side trip to Malamawi Beach in Isabela City, Basilan is possible within a day! It boasts fine white sand beach similar to Boracay Island with dead corals spread all around.

The Zamboanga Peninsula is one of the least visited places by many tourists because of safety issues but contrary to that, this area is definitely safe! Nature is unspoiled and the local culture is diverse but still very Filipino at the core – friendly, hospitable, and very warm!

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