Zamboanga City is one of the most vibrant cities in the country, with its historical architecture and colorful vintas. Personally it’s one of our favorite cities to visit in the Philippines! Here’s your ultimate travel guide to Zamboanga City.
Zamboanga City is also known as Asia’s Latin City, due to the fact that its local fluently speak Chavacano which is a Spanish creole. Don’t be surprised to hear locals Spanish when you visit! It’s considered the commercial center in the Zamboanga Peninsula Region. It’s actually an independent city but it’s grouped under Zamboanga del Sur for statistical purposes.
- Things to know before you go
- How to get to Zamboanga
- How to get around
- Things to do in Zamboanga City
- Where to eat
- Where to stay
- 3 Days Itinerary in Zamboanga City
- Budget and expenses
- Tips when visiting Zamboanga City
- Festivals and special events
- What to read next:
Things to know before you go
Here are some frequently asked questions about Zamboanga City.
Is Zamboanga City safe to visit? The answer is yes! I’d already been here twice and both trips were amazing. It’s honestly one of my favorite cities in the Philippines.
When is the best time to visit Zamboanga City? You can visit the city all-year round, but undeniably the best time for tourists is during the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival every October. Just make sure to reserve your accommodations in advance during these dates.
Is there a dress code in Zamboanga City? There is no conservative dress code required. You can wear shorts and skirts with no problem.
How to get to Zamboanga
The easiest way to get to Zamboanga City is thru its airport, the Zamboanga International Airport, which has routes from Manila and other major cities in the country.
From Manila, take a local flight to Zamboanga City via Cebu Pacific or PAL. Travel time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.
From Manila, you can take a ferry to Zamboanga City via Dipolog and Dumaguete via 2Go. Travel time is 1.5 day.
How to get around
Airport to city proper
From Zamboanga airport, there are tricycles and taxis that can take you to your destination around the city.
Alternatively, you can also walk outside the airport and then ride a jeep with “Canelar” signboard. Get off at the corner near the plaza. This is close to major attractions in the city. There are also different vehicles available here depending on where you want to go.
Getting around the city
The cheapest way to get around the city is via public jeepneys.
There are also habal-habals and tricycles available; rate depends on your destination. Based on our experience, it’s best to ask the rate from the driver beforehand there are cases when drivers would ask for overpriced fare.
Things to do in Zamboanga City
There are the best things to do in Zamboanga City, especially if it’s your first time visiting. It’s recommended to stay at least 3 days to cover these locations.
For more activities, we’ve written a separate guide on the Best Things to Do in Zamboanga City.
1. Walking city tour
Go on a DIY walking tour from Fort Pilar Shrine to the City Hall and the statue in Plaza Pershing. You can also visit Panasonca Park, where you can see El Museo de Zamboanga, Boy Scout Camp & Memorial Park and Tree House.
There are also guided tours available in Zamboanga City.
2. Visit the Great Sta. Cruz Island
More popularly known as Zamboanga’s Pink Beach, the Great Sta. Cruz Island is a popular beach getaway in the city. Its shore boasts pinkish sand due to crushed red corals mixed with sand.
The Great Sta. Cruz Island is only 10 minutes away from the port in Paseo del Mar. Only a limited number of tourists are allowed per day to visit the Pink Beach, so make sure to reserve in advance.
3. Island hop in Once Islas
Once Islas is the newest island hopping destination in the city. It’s composed of 11 islands (hence the name) but only 3 are open to tourists: Bisaya-Bisaya Island, Sirommon Island and Baung-Baung Island.
This is a great place for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking. You can also buy fresh coconuts from one of the islands to enjoy during your stay.
Once Islas is about 2 hours away from the city. Reservation is required at least a day before your visit.
4. Visit the Yakan Weaving Village
The Yakan Weaving Village is a small village featuring commercial stalls selling traditional woven products made by the Yakan Tribe. Here you can buy table mats, malongs, bags and purses, shoes and other types of accessories such as earrings.
A visit to Zamboanga City wouldn’t be complete without witnessing an actual yakan weaving demo and taking home of an authentic product from the Yakan tribe.
5. Buy pasalubong in Canelar Barter Trade Center
The best place to buy pasalubong is in Canelar Barter Trade Center. This is a huge shopping strip where you can buy not only local delicacies but also products imported from Malaysia and Indonesia including clothes, malongs and scarfs and bags. There are also food & drink available, including packs of Old Town Coffee, Maggi Goreng and chocolates.
The barter trade center is popular because of the variety of its products and reasonable prices.
Where to eat
Zamboanga has a colorful food scene. You can find local , Spanish and Malay-Indo dishes. Food from neighboring provinces are also available here.
Here are some of the restaurants you shouldn’t miss! We’ve also written a separate guide on Where to Eat in Zamboanga City.
Satti is a staple breakfast food in Zamboanga City. Andi’s Satti is one of the highly recommended satti-han restaurants in the city. There are other options as well, including Jimmy’s Satti and other lesser-known satti eateries.
Alavar Seafood Restaurant
Alavar Seafood Restaurant is one of the most popular restaurants in Zamboanga City. They created the famous alavar sauce which is used for curacha, also known as spanner crab or red frog crab.
Aside from this, the restaurant also offers other fresh seafood dishes. Their drinks are also a must-try, particularly the Zamboanga White, a shake made with lychee and pineapple.
Paseo del Mar
Paseo del Mar is a leisure park near the city center. At night, it’s lit up with colorful food stalls and restaurants. This is a favorite local hangout of those who want to have dinner while enjoying the sea breeze.
You can taste several of Zamboanga City’s pride dishes here, including seafood with alavar sauce and knickerbocker (a dessert similar to halo-halo).
Where to stay
There are various budget and mid-range accommodations in Zamboanga City.
- Cityinn Hotel. A popular budget hotel located in the city center. Book discounted rooms here.
- Winzelle Suites. Another hotel located in the city center, close to commercial establishments and tourist attractions. Book discounted rooms here.
- Ever O Business Hotel. Another hotel located in the city center. It also offers free airport pickup/dropoff and breakfast buffet for a minimal fee. Book discounted rooms here.
Mid-range and up
- Vista del Mar Beach Resort. A beachside lodging offering casitas and treehouses. This is ideal for those looking for a relaxing stay in Zamboanga City. The resort also has its own restaurant which serves seafood with their own unique curacha sauce. Book discounted rooms here.
- Garden Orchid Hotel. A 4-star hotel recommended for business and leisure travelers. It has a swimming pool, restaurant and bar. It’s located near the airport. Book discounted rooms here.
- Marcian Garden Hotel. A luxury hotel featuring Spanish-Moroccan design with the colors of Zamboanga. It has a swimming pool, spa and souvenir shop, event and function rooms, restaurant and bar. It’s located near the airport. Book discounted rooms here.
Did not find what you’re looking for? Click here to search for other accommodations in Zamboanga City.
3 Days Itinerary in Zamboanga City
Here’s a sample itinerary in Zamboanga City:
|Arrival in Zamboanga City
– Pasonanca Park
– City center: Fort Pilar Shrine, National Museum, Zamboanga City Hall and Plaza Pershing
– Yakan Weaving Village
|Island hop in Once Islas
|Day tour to the Great Sta. Cruz Island
Buy pasalubong at Canelar Barter Trade Center
Departure from Zamboanga City
Budget and expenses
(Updated as of 2020) For a 3-day stay, a safe budget would be P4000-5000 per person for a group of 2 people.
Zamboanga City is also solo traveler-friendly. To save expenses, you can join with other groups on island hopping in Once Islas and Pink Beach once you get to the registration area.
Tips when visiting Zamboanga City
- You can drop by the City Tourism Office to get the most accessible routes to the city’s tourist spots and other information you may need during your stay.
- It’s best to book an accommodation located right in the city center, just walking distance to attractions such as Plaza Pershing. However, if you’re in a group, you can find cheaper accommodations in areas about 10-15 minutes away from the city center.
- Wear durable slippers or shoes especially if you plan to do a walking tour in the city center.
Festivals and special events
Here are the festivals and special events held in Zamboanga City:
- Zamboanga Hermosa Festival. This is a month-long celebration of the Lady of Pilar. It’s celebrated with various activities and competitions such as Regatta de Zamboanga and Streetdance. When: October.
- Dia De Zamboanga. Also known as Zamboanga Day. When: February 26.
- Zamboanga Summer Festival. When: April and May.
- Pascua de Zamboanga. Zamboanga City welcomes the holiday season with various events and activities, including the Grand Lighting Ceremony in the city hall. When: December.
For inquiries about traveling to Zamboanga, you may contact their tourism office: Facebook – Turismo Local de Zamboanga.
Has this travel guide to Zamboanga City been helpful to you? Do you have other questions? Let us know in the comments below!
What to read next:
Planning a trip to Zamboanga City in Mindanao? 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 Resorts for Pleasant Staycations
- Zamboanga Hermosa Festival
Places to see in Zamboanga City:
Backpacking in Zamboanga and other places in Mindanao? Here are our guides:
Katherine Cortes is a long-time backpacker and a freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).