Things to Do in Zamboanga
Zamboanga does not occupy the top lines in ‘What to do in the Philippines’ charts but it still has some easily reachable natural attractions and in-town landmarks to while away a couple of days in the city without getting bored.
Like the entire island of Mindanao, Zamboanga features some stunning waterfalls, which are a great place to cool off while you’re in the area. Merloquet Falls are probably the most famous in the area. While it is a two-hour journey from the city centre, it’s worth it. Entrance to the site is only PHP5, which is an absolutely incredible deal. And unlike some sites there’s not a tourist price and a local price.
From the parking lot there are 373 steps to the site, so bring suitable shoes to walk in. After traipsing through the forest, you will arrive at the falls where water gently cascades (or sometimes forcefully cascades after or during a rainstorm!) down into shallow pools where you can swim or just lounge. The falls are a popular site both among locals and travellers so expect to see families out for picnics (you can also rent a hut for a nice picnic for PHP100.)
If you’re a golfer, you may want to pay a visit to the Zamboanga Golf Course and Beach Resort. It’s the oldest golf course in the country and was established when the Americans were occupying the Philippines. If you have members in your family who don’t golf, they can lounge by the pool while you play 18 holes. The course features all the amenities of a golf course in your native country and even has ocean views on a few of the holes The prices to play the course are very reasonable, especially by western standards. Any day of the week, you can play 18 holes for PHP1650. The golf course also features a driving range if you just have a hankering to hit a bucket of balls.
Great Santa Cruz Island
Another attraction that would be hard to miss is Great Santa Cruz Island, which is just a boat ride away from the harbour in Zamboanga City. There are no overnight stays allowed on the island. Generally visitors leave the mainland at around 10am and return to Zamboanga during the afternoon at around 2pm or 3pm. The boat ride takes only 15 minutes and is PHP100 per person.
The biggest attraction on the island is the pink sand beach which is one of the only ones in the world. The pink sand, which gets its unique colour from the coral at the reefs around the site, is truly a site to see. It’s a good idea to bring lunch to the island because there are no restaurants or stores serving meals.
Plaza Pershing Park
Plaza Pershing is an interesting site at the centre of the city close to City Hall. It was named after United States Army General John "Blackjack" Pershing who put down an uprising by Muslim insurgents and was later appointed the governor of the area. It’s a well maintained park and is a popular place for locals to spend time and is an interesting place to spend time if you want to appreciate the culture in Zamboanga. It’s especially crowded at night when the street vendors come out to hawk their wares.
Cawa-Cawa Boulevard is where the locals and the tourists go to enjoy the sunset. Lined with streetlights so you can walk it at night also, it’s a nicely paved walking path, which is right along the ocean. Due to the sea breeze that comes off the water, it’s particularly popular as a jogging and walking spot for those looking to get some fitness outside of their hotel fitness rooms. This is another place where street vendors come out after the sun goes down and it’s a great spot to grab a cheap and delicious meal.