Travel Guide | 8 Things to Do in Zamboanga City, Asia's Latin City

Zamboanga City is one of the most underrated cities in the Philippines. Concerns about peace and order situation in the south is mainly the reason for this. But as soon as you set foot in this city, you will quickly realize how undeserving it is of the negative impression it has.

Things to do in Zamboanga City

Aptly titled as “Asia’s LatinCity,” Zamboanga City is the third oldest city in the country, having served as the main stronghold of the Spaniards in the South during the colonial period. As such, it is a city rich in history and culture. Arguably the one province which has the most enduring of all the Spanish influences, the people of Zamboanga’s native dialect is Chabacano, the only Spanish-based Creole language still in use in Asia. Zamboanga is also known as the “Sardines Capital of the Philippines” where 9 out of 12 sardines company in the country is currently operating. In terms of land area, Zamboanga City ranks as the third largest city in the country which means that one will simply never run out of things to see and explore.

The city of Zamboanga is a perfect fit for any kind of traveller as it has much to offer in terms of culture, adventure, religion, or even just for relaxation. Here are 7 things that one can do while exploring the city. 

1. Have a Blast from the Past

Being one of the earliest cities established dating back to the Spanish colonial times, any history buff will have a grand time here. As for those who aren’t so much into history, this city just might convince you otherwise. The following historic spots will make you realize that the Spanish influences are not only evident in Intramuros and Vigan.

Fortaleza Del Pilar/ Fort Pilar. Established in 1635, this served as a Spanish garrison and fortress. It is the city’s major landmark and a symbol of its rich and colourful history. It now houses the National Museum, a century old City Hall, a plaza and a shrine to La Nuestra Seňora La Virgen del Pilar

Things to do in Zamboanga City

La Nuestra Seňora La Virgen Del Pilar. On top of the eastern wall of Fort Pilar is a bas relief of the Virgin Mary, dedicated to Our Lady of Pilar, the patroness of the city. This is now an outdoor Marian Shrine where people who visit the Fort can also come and pray.

Things to do in Zamboanga City

Pettit Barracks. Another historical landmark in the city which served as a Spanish headquarters and later, as an American headquarters, hence the name.

Plaza Pershing. This plaza which is a two- minute walk from the city hall, is a typical Spanish ayuntamiento which was renamed in memory of Gen. John Pershing when the Americans came. Surrounding both the barracks and the plaza are century-old acacia trees that are silent witnesses to the city’s colourful history. A visit during the night time would give you a delightful treat courtesy of the dancing fountain. 

2. Witness a sunset that can rival the Manila Bay Sunset

Not far from Fort Pilar is the Paseo del Mar which is a leisure park and a favourite hang-out of the locals. Fronting the sea, the Paseo offers the best spot to watch that stunning sunset in the city. The Sta. Cruz Island and even the province of Basilan are pretty visible in this area as well. 

Things to do in Zamboanga City
photograph by: Glen Santillan|

3. Sail on a Vinta

If a view of the sunset doesn’t quite do it for you, you may find a ride at a vinta more rewarding. The vintas are Zamboanga’s most famous icons. Remember the pictures from you elementary history books? There’s nothing more dramatic than watching the sunset while sailing in a vinta and this experience is available at Paseo del Mar every Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 4:00- 6:00 pm, at very affordable prices. The ride usually lasts for about 15 minutes and is definitely a must- try experience. 

Things to do in Zamboanga City
photograph by: Glen Santillan|

4. Discover why pink is more fun than white

Beach-wise, that is. Just how many places in the world can claim to have pink sand for their beaches? While powdery white sand is always a delight to be in, pinks sand beaches are so rare they are interesting by default. One such beach can be found in Santa Cruz Island. Just a 15-minute boat ride away from the city, this is the ONLY pink beach in the country. That’s reason enough for a visit.

Things to do in Zamboanga City
photograph by: Glen Santillan |

5. Visit the beautiful Merloquet Falls!

More or less 78 kilometers away from the city proper, is Zamboanga Peninsula's most scenic and most popular waterfall - the Merloquet falls. Read more about Merloquet Falls.

6. Feast on local cuisine

The best way to get to know a place’s culture is by partaking of its food. More than sardines, Zamboanga is a definite seafood heaven with so many restaurants to choose from. The favourite among the locals (read: highly recommended) is Alavar Seafood Restaurant which serves the famous Curacha. If a crab and lobster got drunk and got together, the Curacha will probably be their lovechild. Also known as the spanner crab, this unique- looking crustacean is commonly found in the waters of Sulu and nowhere else, in the country at least. That’s why you should try it at Alavar’s as you might not come across this crab-looking lobster (or lobster-looking crab) elsewhere. Best to try the Alavar Sauce while you’re at it too. 

Things to do in Zamboanga City

Things to do in Zamboanga City

Another famous local treat and must-try is the knickerbocker. Available at Palmeras at Paseo Del Mar, the knickerbocker is like halo-halo in that it has many ingredients. It is a combination of different fruits like mango, pineapple, melon, banana, watermelon and apple. Add gelatin, shaved ice, milk and a scoop of ice cream and you get a healthier, more refreshing version of the usual halo-halo.

Things to do in Zamboanga City

7. Hone your haggling skills

There are four barter markets in the city but if you have time for only one, the Canelar Barter Trade is highly recommended. It has the cheapest and most varied choices of colorful sarongs, batiks, bags, and even imported chocolates and other goods from Malaysia and Indonesia. Perfect for all your pasalubong needs for officemates and friends. Just remember, haggling is key. 

Things to do in Zamboanga City

Things to do in Zamboanga City

Things to do in Zamboanga City

8. Learn about their Indigenous Culture

Get acquainted with the Yakan Tribe, one of the oldest and most creative tribes in Mindanao and famous for their weaving. Apart from shopping at Canelar, travellers can also purchase pasalubongs at the Yakan Weaving Village where you can witness these skillful weavers and buy intricately- designed hand-woven yakan fabrics. The Yakan weavers make use of pineapple and abaca fibers to make these strong and intricate patterns and produce various products like bags, table cloths, shirts and may others. Every penny spent here is definitely worth it as anything made by hand is definitely made with love. 

Yakan Weaving


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  1. Zamboanga City is a beautiful place indeed! You have a lot of things to do and enjoy there.
    You can also check this out for more travel tips and guide

  2. Zamboanga's a nice place to visit. They have an awesome culture as well as rich in seafoods.

  3. Thank you for the visit Kim and Mark! Zamboanga City is indeed a great destination

  4. Its really a lovely city to enjoy the lavish food and beach party and the beautiful sunset. And many thing to do in a single city..
    Kim |

  5. hi i love to travel in Zamboanga and chase waterfalls. Ive been to Davao and visited a few place in Surigao but never set a foot in southwestern part of the country. is it safe for tourists? THanks


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