Travel Guide: Zamboanga City- Basilan- Sulu, Philippines 5 Day Itinerary

Visiting Zamboanga City is not complete without having side trips to the unlikely destinations down southwest of Mindanao- the islands of Basilan and Sulu. Immerse yourself to the culture of our Muslim brothers and sisters in this five-day itinerary plus visit amazing nature wonders. 

Zamboanga City, Basilan and Sulu map.

Day 1

  • Flight to Zamboanga City from Manila. Book the earliest flight. There are daily flights going to the city via Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Air Asia and other airlines. 
  • Take trike going to your hotel. You can leave your bags first in the reception since most of the hotels check-in time is after lunch. Book hotels at the city center. 
  • Head to the Zamboanga City Hall. Few steps away is the Fort Pilar. Explore the fort, the museum and the Shrine of the Pillar of Zaragoza. 
  • Just across the Fort is Plaza Pershing. Here, ride a jeepney going to Taluksangay and asked to be dropped off in the Taluksangay Mosque, known for its red dome and one of the oldests in Zamboanga Peninsula. 
  • Go back to the city and check-in at your hotel. Have some rest and head to Dennis Coffee Garden in Labuan – Limpapa National Road.  Indulge yourself in a variety of local dishes and pastries plus taste the Sulu Coffee. 
  • Go back to the city center and visit the modern Metropolitan Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. Beside it is the Ateneo de Zamboanga, the second oldest schools in the Philippines. 
  • Go to Plaza Pershing to enjoy the cool breeze from the sea. At night, the famous dancing fountain take its performance. There are stalls and shops here where you can have light or heavy dinner.  

Day 2

  • Wake up early to have breakfast. Head to Paseo del Mar to take the boat going to the Pink Beach at the Santa Cruz Island. Enjoy the pinkish sand and clear waters. You can also explore the lagoon. Before lunch time, head back to the main island. 
  • Take a quick lunch and go to the van terminal at the Gateway Shoppers Mall. Ride the van going to Vitali. Alternatively, you take a bus. Get off at the Vitali check-point and ride a habal-habal or motorcycle going to the jump-off point then take a walk to Merloquet Falls. Make sure you head back to the city before the sun down. 
Must visit places in philippines
Santa Cruz Beach.

Day 3

  • Be early in going to Zamboanga City Port to go to Isabela City, Basilan. You can take a fast craft with travel time of approximately one hour, or through a ferry boat that will take approximately two hours. It is best to seek assistance from the Tourism Office for safety but you can also just ask around in the port on how to go to the island. People of Basilan is one of the friendliest. Take a passenger boat in the port with approximate travel time of up to 20 minutes depending on the current of the sea. Fare is Php10 per person but you can also rent a boat for Php 100- Php 150. Once you are on the wharf of the Malamawi Island, look for habal- habal or motorcycles. Just tell the driver to take you to the Malamawi White Beach. One habal- habal can take up to two passengers. Rental is about Php 200- Php 300 for two way already (back and forth). Travel time is more or less 30 minutes where you will take on unpaved roads cruising fields of corn (when in season) and coconut trees. Asked to be picked-up by the habal- habal to be driven back to the Malamawi wharf at 12 to catch the 1pm ferry or fast craft schedule going back to Zamboanga City. 
  • Have a short rest in the hotel and freshen-up. Check-out in the hotel. You can leave some of your belongings and just bring things that you need for a night trip going to Sulu, a day tour and another night trip going back to the city. 
  • Head to Alavar Seafood Restaurant to taste the best the famous crab dish- Curacha in Alavar Sauce– made from coconut milk, aligue and various spices. The restaurant also serves other seafood such as shrimp, fish and others. It is located in Don Alfaro St, Zamboanga City. 
  • Go to the Zamboanga City Port for a night trip going to Sulu. 

Best beaches in philippines
Malamawi Beach. Photo credit to White Beach Resort Malamawi FB page.

Day 4

  • Be greeted by the Masjid Tulay Mosque reach the port of Jolo, the capital of Sulu Province. You will never be mistaken because of its dominant green dome and it majestically stand near the coast line. 
  • Eat breakfast in restaurants nearby. Try the chicken satay and have Sulu coffee. 
  • Take a jeepney going to Patikul to visit Maubo Beach. You will find here local kids jumping into the water from the wooden harbor. 
  • Head to Mayor Samier Tan Beach Resort in Maimbung that is surrounded by mangroves and  you’ll find wooden bridge to the water cottage. Have you lunch here. 
  • Head back to Jolo. Ride a trike going to the Sulu Provincial Capitol. The building has a  golden dome and towers. Relax and enjoy the  garden that is well manicured and meticulously maintained. You can also find here the National Museum Sulu that houses ethnographic collections of Sulu culture. 
  • Ride a trike going to the Jolo Market where you can find souvenirs and products imported from Malaysia. Make sure you’ll be there before 4pm because store closes at 5pm. 
  • Have dinner in restaurants nearby and take the ferry for overnight trip going back to Zamboanga City. 
Must visit places in philippines
Sulu Provincial Capitol.

Day 5

  • Pick-up your things in the hotel if you left some of your belongings then Take a jeepney going to Personanca. Here, enjoy the lush greens, take a swim in the swimming pools, climb the tree house and visit the Boy Scout Ground. 
  • Travel going back to the city then visit one of the three barter markets to buy souvenirs and delicacies that are budget friendly. One of these is the Canelar Trading Center. Have a quick lunch at the nearby restaurants. 
  • Ride trike going to the  airport for the flight to Manila. Book the late afternoon flights so that you have the whole day to spend and enjoy the Personanca Park and buy pasalubongs. 


  • The Zamboanga City can be explored through trike. Just make sure that you always haggle with the driver if you are renting it. Regular fare per person is Php 10-15 per way depending on the distance.  Jeepney, bus or van are the mode of transportation going to places outside the city. 

Where to stay:
Here is a list of some of the accommodations located around the city of Zamboanga.

  • Lantaka Hotel By the Sea – Mayor Valderos St. , Zamboanga City
  • Garden Orchid Hotel – Gov. Camis Avenue , Zamboanga City
  • Grand Astoria Hotel – Mayor Jaldon St., Zamboanga City
  • Zamboanga Hermosa Hotel – Jaldon St., Zamboanga City
  • Woodland Resort & Restaurant – Zambowood, Zamboanga City
  • Vernell Farm & Mountain Park – Cacao, Zamboanga City
  • New Inland Resort & Restaurant – Boalan, Zamboanga City
  • Hotel Perlita – Mayor Jaldon Street, Zamboanga City
  • Hotel Preciosa – Mayor Jaldon Street, Zamboanga City
  • Azenith Royale Hotel – Gov. Camins Avenue, Zamboanga City
  • Blue Shark Pension House – Mayor Jaldon Street, Zamboanga City
  • GC Hotel – T. Claudio cor. Gov. Wood
  • Jardin de la Via – Fidela Bldg., Gov. Alvarez Ave., Zamboanga City
  • Hotel Salwa – Gov. Camins Avenue
  • Yang Hotel Tourist Inn – T. Claudio Street, Zamboanga City
  • Viva Pension House – Urdaneta Street, Zamboanga City
  • La Casa Maria Pension House – Sta. Maria, Zamboanga City
  • Platinum Tourist Inn – 4 Barcelona Street, Zamboanga City
  • MagV Royal Hotel – San Jose Road , Zamboanga City
  • Hotel Paradise Pension House – P. Reyes Street, Zamboanga City
  • David Inn Pension House – La Purisima Street, Zamboanga City

Where to eat and tips:

  • There are plenty of restaurants in Zamboanga City that serves local dishes and those that we are very familiar with. Just make sure that you bring ready to eat food when exploring areas that are outside the city. 
  • When visiting Malamawi Island, it is best to bring food and drinks  instead of buying in the stores in the resort. The prices are skyrocketing. 
  • Same when taking the overnight ferry going to Sulu, bring food and drinks. 

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