Try to visit Zamboanga City and it may become your favorite city in Mindanao, too! This beautiful and historically & culturally rich city goes by many names, including “Asia’s Latin City,” the “Sardines Capital of the Philippines” and as per myself the most colorful city I’d been to in the Philippines. Here are the top Zamboanga City tourist spots + things to do in Zamboanga City!
- 1. Go on a city tour
- 2. Yakan Weaving Village
- 3. Sta. Cruz Island (Pink Beach)
- 4. Once Islas
- 5. Merloquet Falls
- 6. Paseo del Mar
- 7. Go on a food trip
- 8. Enjoy a seaside staycation
- 9. Day trip to Basilan
- 10. Rainbow Mosque
- 11. Taluksangay Mosque
- 12. Lantawan Grassland
- 13. Hermosa Falls
- 14. Join a farm tour
- 15. Bird watching
- 16. Canelar Barter Trade Center
- 17. Join the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival
- What to read next:
1. Go on a city tour
Due to its history as a main stronghold of the Spanish force during the colonial era and its diverse population (a mix of Samal, Yakan, Tausug and Badjao people), Zamboanga boasts a rich culture to explore. And what better way to do that than to go on a city tour?
Some of the interesting places you can visit in the city are:
- Panasonca Park (including El Museo de Zamboanga, Boy Scout Camp & Memorial Park and the Tree House)
- Fort Pilar Shrine
- City Hall of Zamboanga City (including the I love Zamboanga signage)
- Plaza Pershing
It is possible to do a walking tour from the Fort Pilar Shrine to the City Hall to Plaza Pershing. You can do this DIY or with a local tour agency, where you can get a local guide to show you around. Your guide will give not only historical info but also insights on the actual life of Zamboangenos (and how it differs from what you know in the media) and even point out landmarks you might miss on your own.
A walking tour is a great way to feel & experience the city. What I liked about the walking tour personally is I get to see how open and ordinary the city is. I was also interested at the ancestral buildings that have been kept or remodeled, including ordinary houses and commercial ones like BPI and McDonalds.
2. Yakan Weaving Village
The Yakan Weaving Village is one of the must-see Zamboanga City tourist spots. It’s a small village composed of several commercial stalls where you can see and buy traditional woven products by the Yakan, such as cloths, bags, purses, hats and accessories. The fabrics in these products have various colors and bold geometric designs. You can also witness a live demonstration of traditional weaving.
For a bit of background, the Yakans are a Filipino tribe native to Basilan. They have a tradition of weaving dresses (called semmek) using plant fibers such as abaca and pineapple. Nowadays, they have expanded their craft to include other products to be sold to locals & tourists in Zamboanga City.
Fun fact: Each product takes days to complete. For example, a malong may take 5-7 days to weave and is sold in a reasonable price.
Honestly, the products here are a great buy considering the labor and quality of the woven fabrics. I’m surprised a lot of the cloths don’t go by the thousands. My favorite buys here are a pair of woven earrings and wallets.
3. Sta. Cruz Island (Pink Beach)
In the past, there was Boracay, Palawan and Sta. Cruz in Zamboanga. These were the most popular beaches in the Philippines. The Great Sta. Cruz Island, more popularly known as the “Pink Beach” may have been shadowed by other islands in recent times, but it still remains a great destination for beach bummers. In fact, recently it has been included in National Geographic’s Best Beaches in the World.
Aside from swimming in the Pink Beach, there are other activities you can do in this island such as going on a vinta ride, getting a close encounter with stingless jellyfishes (similar to that in Sohoton Cove) and enjoying a seafood lunch.
4. Once Islas
Once Islas is a newly opened eco-cultural island hopping destination in Zamboanga. It had its soft opening sometime in July 2018. Here, expect to see pristine islands and white-sand beaches managed by the local communities. Although there are 11 islands in total (hence the name), currently only 3-4 are open to the public. These are Bisaya-Bisaya, Sirommon, Baung-Baung and Buh-Buh islands.
5. Merloquet Falls
If you’re nature trekking, you’ll appreciate a visit to Merloquet Falls. Merloquet Falls is a two-tier waterfall located in Barangay Sibulao. Its main charm is the waterfall at the bottom, which stands 10 meters high and 15 minutes wide and features a stair-like rock formation. Many agree that it’s one of the most scenic waterfalls in the Philippines.
Merloquet Falls is 1.5-2 hours away from the city and it involves a trek down a 370-step stair. Due to its location, it’s best to allot a day to visit this waterfall.
6. Paseo del Mar
Paseo del Mar is a seaside promenade where you can enjoy the afternoons off, but the real magic happens at night when it becomes alive with live band performances and street food hawkers. If you’re visiting Zamboanga City but don’t have time to visit specific restaurants, most likely you’ll find the local food you’re looking for here.
This is also where you can find the registration area for Sta. Cruz Island.
7. Go on a food trip
Forget your diet once you step foot in Zamboanga City! There are a lot of good restaurants in Zamboanga City serving local delicacies and snacks.
Some of the must-try dishes here are curacha crab served with alavar sauce, the many flavors of a plateful of latal, and knickerbocker for dessert. Due to its advantageous location, the city also enjoys plentiful catch from the sea, so if you want cheap & fresh seafood, you’ve come to the right place!
Zamboanga has a lot of local snacks and dishes to try, so make sure to allot time and budget for eating galore.
8. Enjoy a seaside staycation
If you’re looking for some R&R, head over to Vista del Mar Resort & Recreation Center in Zamboanga City. This beachfront resort has amazing views — you can spend a whole afternoon just gazing out at the sea and the occasional sail vintas.
This resort offers charming casitas for overnight stays. It also has an alfresco restaurant that serves fresh seafood such as curacha and other local delicacies. Their in-house restaurant is personally one of my favorites during our Zamboanga City food trip!
Vista del Mar: Book discounted rooms here
9. Day trip to Basilan
From Zamboanga City, the province of Basilan is only a ferry away. Most tourists go here for a day tour at Malamawi White Beach, which is one of the most beaches in Mindanao. Malamawi White Beach is a beachfront resort boasting white sand and blue water. If you’re not rushed for time, you can also visit another island called Lampinigan Island, where you can find a local community and one of the best beaches you’ll find in the Philippines.
10. Rainbow Mosque
Rainbow Mosque (or Masjid Al-Islamia) is said to be one of the most beautiful mosques in the Philippines. It’s visited not just by Muslims but other locals and tourists as well for its inspiring architecture. The color is said to represent the various colors of Zamboanga City and signifies peace and unity. The interior and exterior of this mosque is adorned with traditional Maranao designs.
11. Taluksangay Mosquehttps://www.instagram.com/p/BS4XIypFLQm/
Although it’s not as popular as other tourist spots in Zamboanga City, Taluksangay Mosque is a great place to see especially for those interested in history. It’s considered the oldest mosque in Zamboanga Peninsula and it’s said that this is where Islam began to spread to the rest of the region.
Taluksangay Mosque was built in 1885 by Hadji Abdullah Maas Nuno. Its distinguishing features are two minarets. It’s located in the southeast coast of the city, a little off-the-beaten-road from most tourist attraction.
12. Lantawan Grasslandhttps://www.instagram.com/p/Cm6cguiJn1Q/
Lantawan Grassland is a hidden gem in Zamboanga City. It’s a scenic hill located about 20-25 minutes away from the city proper, offering panoramic views of Zamboanga City. From here, you can also see Mount Pulong Bato and the Pasonanca Natural Watershed, one of the oldest watershed in the Philippines.
This area is developed, with open cottages, tables, and even food stalls so tourists can enjoy a snack while enjoying the view.
It’s suggested to go here in the late afternoon for sunset viewing. However, if you prefer lesser people, then drop by in the morning.
13. Hermosa Falls
If you’re up for some trekking and nature tripping, you can visit Hermosa Falls in Zamboanga City. From the city center, you need to travel for 40 minutes to Barangay Pamucutan and then proceed through narrow roads via a motorcycle until you reach the jump-off point to the waterfall. From there, it will only take you a 5-minute walk to reach the waterfall.
Hermosa Falls features two small streams and a wide basin, where you can swim and even cliff jump. While it isn’t as grand as other waterfalls in Mindanao, the feeling of having discovered this hidden gem in Zamboanga City is a reward enough for tourists.
14. Join a farm tour
If you’re interested in having a nature & agricultural tour, you might want to visit the farms in Zamboanga City.
NJB Farm offers activities such as carabao ride, mango picking and tours to the milk station and mini forest. Meanwhile, Dragon Fruit Farm lets you see and taste how dragon fruits are taken care of and harvested.
15. Bird watching
Zamboanga City is one of the best places in the country to observe bird life. All in all, you can find over 180 species of endemic and migratory birds here.
Pasonanca Watershed is the home of endemic species such as Zamboanga Bulbul, White-eared Tailorbird and Wattled Broadbill. Meanwhile, ZSCMST Bird Sanctuary is the breeding ground for what was once a migratory bird species, the elegant white Great Egret.
Another great place for bird watching is Kabug Island in Siay, which is 2.5 hours from Zamboanga City.
16. Canelar Barter Trade Center
Before you go home from Zamboanga City, make sure to stop by the Canelar Barter Trade Center to buy your pasalubong!
This place sells not only local products in Zamboanga but also food from Malaysia and commercial products from Indonesia. You can buy packs of Maggi mee goreng, teh tarik or Old Town coffee. Or clothing, scarfs, bags and wallets for your friends and family back at home.
On your way here, you may also pass by carts selling fruits like sweet lansones and mangosteen for cheap, compared to the inflated prices in Manila. 😉
17. Join the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival
Every October, Zamboanga celebrates the Hermosa Festival in honor of Our Lady of the Pillar. It’s a month-long celebration filled with activities, competitions and food fests! From an exciting boat race using traditional vintas to a colorful fashion competition with mascota gowns and a climatic street dance, this event is one of the things you should definitely experience in Asia’s Latin City.
Make sure to stay for at least a few days to see the highlights of the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival. We stayed for 5-6 days and it was amazing.
How to get to Zamboanga City from Manila
For hassle-free day tours in Zamboanga City, we recommend the services of iTravel Tourist Lane by Errold. Please say Hello from us!
So that’s our list of the best Zamboanga tourist spots + things to do in Zamboanga City! What other activities would you recommend doing in Zamboanga City? Let us know in the comment section below!
What to read next:
Planning a trip to Zamboanga? Here are our articles on Zamboanga:
- Zamboanga City: Travel Guide + Itinerary
- Zamboanga City Tourist Spots + Things to Do
- Where to Eat: Best Zamboanga City restaurants
- Zamboanga Hermosa Festival
Places to see in Zamboanga City:
Backpacking in Zamboanga and other places in Mindanao? Here are our guides:
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Katherine Cortes is a long-time backpacker and a freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).