Pearl Farm Beach
The Philippines is an archipelago of thousands of islands – more than 7,000, to be precise -- and they're all warm, tropical and surrounded by azure blue water. It's hard to pick just one to travel to for a vacation getaway, but opting for Samal Island, just off the coast of Davao City, is a sure bet for a splendid holiday. And the Pearl Farm Beach Resort, with 70 types of accommodations, is guaranteed to roll out the sparkling, sandy carpet to give you a holiday you'll never forget. There are houses on stilts; cabins, villas and cottages here – something to suit just about everyone's taste.
Samal Island is just 900 meters off the city's coast; you can actually see it from Davao. And combining a holiday in both places – urban adventures and island experiences – is one way to get the biggest bang for your holiday buck.
Once you've stowed your suitcases at your hotel, and there are plenty to choose from, book a boat tour to take you island hopping, and start with Samal. The Pearl Farm Beach Resort sits beside clear, pristine waters that are a protected marine sanctuary, so when you go swimming, diving or snorkelling, you'll be getting the purest aqua experience imaginable.
You can take lessons here or, perhaps, at Maxima Aquafun, and the latter also has an amusement and theme park, so it's ideal if you're travelling with family. The Bluejaz Beach Resort and Water Park is another terrific option – whether you're on your own, travelling with family and you've got small kids in tow. Water slides drop you (safely) down 30 meters, and produce such shrieks of delight, they bring out the kid in everyone.
After towelling off and enjoying some refreshments, be sure to stay to see the fire dancers; they perform at several venues on the island, including the Bluejaz Beach Resort, Pearl Farm, and several others.
Other spas on the island offer manicures, pedicures and massages, too, including Samal Mango Haven – also a spa and resort combined. Bali-Bali Beach Resort offers those services as well, along with a pool, restaurant, mini-golf and boat excursions.
Tour Samal Island by bicycle or on foot, and make your way around the two hundred acres of Samal Maricultural Park in the Kaputian district. There are plenty of amazing sites, including the Monfort Bat Conservation Park, which happens to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for its number of bats. If that's a little too Bella Lugosi for your tastes, consider taking diving lessons at Pearl Farm, or one of the other numerous beach resorts on the island. Samal is all about beaches, swimming, snorkelling, free diving and other aqua adventures, and there is no shortage of opportunities to indulge them.
If you prefer being on top of the water, so to speak, book an island hopping tour with Island Banca Cruises, in Davao. Or talk to a local on the island, book a tour with their boat, and you'll get a tailor-made outing just for you – one, two or even four hours. Plus, you'll be helping the local economy, and that's always a worthwhile endeavour.
The Giant Clam Sanctuary is a “must see” on the island, and asking a local to take you there is your best bet. The entrance fee serves as a donation to the sanctuary's vital work with these bi-valves, so you'll be helping marine biology at the same time you're having fun. Everybody wins.
D'Bone Collector Museum is fun for all, and a great learning experience whether you're fiveor 50 years old. The exhibits of animals and birds are all explained by knowledgeable guides, who tell you about each one in a variety of languages.
Gloria's Fantasyland is a theme park – replete with carousels – and is a great option for the entire family.
There is a host of options for accommodations on the island, but the Pearl Farm Beach Resort is your best bet if you're looking for five-star luxury. It has, of course, fantastic swimming and diving opportunities, but it also has a spa, lounge, pool, fitness center and restaurant. It has so much, in fact, that it's safe to say you could relax in your suite on stilts and never want for anything, never even poke your head out your door.
But that would be no fun, right? Not when there's still so much left to do. And you've got to eat, right? Luckily, there are all kinds of restaurants serving all kinds of cuisines on the island, and you're certain to find delicious choices to tempt your taste buds.
There's the Aznebo Grill & Restaurant, where you'll find Asian food and (of course) seafood. Chema's By The Sea lets you eat your meal surf side.
Head to Precious Garden Restaurant and Coffee House if you have a hankering for mango pizza, or hop over to Davao and try French food at Bon Appetit! La Boutique.
If you'd rather stay on Samal Island but still want fine dining, there's Bahay Kubo Restaurant, where you'll find seafood, European, Asian and even vegan choices.
Your options are almost endless, whether you want a casual meal, fine dining or a quick snack, and many of the island's hotels and resorts have their own restaurants, which mean you can go from the beach to your breakfast table in no time flat.
Pearl Farm Beach Resort has its own spa, so after a meal but before your swim, getting a mani-pedi is a great way to relax and digest your meal.
No matter where you stay on Samal Island, and how much – or how little – you do while there, you're bound to take home a boatload of memories that will stay in your heart and soul a very long time. The aqua adventures, along with the warm, welcoming people, make Samal Island a tropical vacation that is second to none.