Seven Ways to Enjoy Davao City’s Scenic Highlands

By Joseph Ciccanti. Photography by Annie Ciccanti

Depending on the worldwide travel situation, you may not get a chance to visit the Philippines right away. However, when you do, Davao City’s higher elevations give you some picture-postcard views. Consider the following seven options:

A big bold, and colorful sign reads, “Davao: Life is Here.” People exhibit liveliness in terms of their happiness, energy, and love for life. In this setting, you sit under the bright, moonlit sky atop Jack’s Ridge– one of Davao City’s most popular restaurants. Because of the brightness of the full moon, you could easily pick out a few low-level clouds. Under the mostly clear skies, the constant breeze provides you with plenty of fresh mountain air.

The sound of music travels through the air to meet your ears. Dressed in tribal attire with guitars, three Filipino men sing Ed Sheeran’s pop hit song, “Perfect.” One of their instruments resemble the guitarrón mexicano. The patrons sing along, absorbed in the moment. They love to get out and have a great time.

You gladly relax by the ledge next to the lit-up view of the city at night. Spend time taking it all in, and sit for a while at one of the dark, smooth square tables. At the table, you sip hot coffee with whipped cream and Davao City’s famous fruits in it. I chose the Guyabano fruit, which contains anti-cancer properties. Mangosteen and Durian round out the other choices. The sweet, fruit-filled coffee recharges you. As the host serves you your meal, you continue to relish the amazing night view of Davao City from high above. The lights look like they are twinkling as stars among the buildings.

 Jack’s Ridge boasts one of the most scenic of Davao City’s landmarks from higher up in elevation. The stunning daytime view extends beyond the arc of the city. At lunch time, the view includes the Davao Gulf and the Mountains of Samal in the distance. In the immediate vicinity, lots of green–trees, bushes, and flowers– surround this popular hangout. Colorful umbrellas hang from wires as decorations at one of the walkways. In addition, you will find a set of stairs leading down to a swimming pool. With these types of surroundings, you can imagine the perfect romantic opportunity to dine out. People hold weddings at this location. For these reasons and more, it’s not hard to imagine why Jack’s Ridge is a Filipino favorite. The features of this site draw you to relax, recharge, and enjoy the scenery.

This place presents another idyllic setting for vacationers. The site draws “early birds” who love a spectacular sunrise, the breathtaking mountain scenery, and the opportunity to take postcard-perfect photos.  On the trail leading up to Sonnen Berg mountain view, you pass by numerous trees on both sides including the papaya, coconut, and cacao trees. You then reach the top deck overlooking the mountains.  Nestled among the hills below the mountain peaks, misty white clouds lay resting– motionless as if they found a home. At the high elevation, the early morning temperature feels pleasant. The cool, light mountain breeze keeps you comfortable. The panoramic view shows mountains with dark clouds over some of the higher peaks in the distance. The mountains display a vast array of lush, green vegetation. The area looks saturated with life thanks to the tropical climate.

You look down at the clouds and across the sky to the horizon in the east. It is 6 a.m. Suddenly, you see a bright spot, and rays shine through the clouds. Then a few minutes later, the sunrise warmly welcomes you. Even with the sun beaming through the high-level east clouds, it does not feel too hot. The half-moon sits directly above the site in the center of the sky.  Looking at the distant, western horizon, the clouds gently and slowly ride over the top of the mountain range. As we observed the clouds below, they appeared content to stay in place. The sun’s rays illuminated the white clouds, which made the hills below the mountain peaks their home. Some cloud formations then dissipate. You can view all of this by the swimming pool or by the ledge.

Then, flash forward to 7 a.m. On this same deck with a seating area, the music plays softly in a jazzy style. As you enjoy the music, you sip some sweet, hot chocolate made directly from the cacao fruit tree. The Cacao Pod consists of the fruit inside, in which the seeds lead to the production of chocolate. This treat for your tastebuds provides early morning refreshment and relaxation. A huge part of this relaxation involves the comfortable weather conditions. Enjoy some early morning rest while riding to the site. Arriving at Sonnen Berg took about two to three hours from the Toril section of Davao City. All the people who visit the site consider the experience worth the trip.

Lush, green, and thriving describe Reel Place. Take time there to relax, eat, take pictures, walk around, and scan the scenery. Trees surround the site and provide plenty of cool shade. Trees include the cherry, pine, and jackfruit tree. In addition to trees, vast sections of green grass cover the area including one with bamboo. Bamboo grass is among the tallest in the world. Also, you will see thick, dense forest in the higher elevations. A chapel sits high atop one of the mountain slopes at this site. Reel Place boasts a restaurant, a hanging bridge, and a play area for the kids. At the Reel Place restaurant, you can sip some deliciously strong, sweet, rich coffee. You will find native chicken on the menu. Soups include chicken with gulay (vegetables). You can also order corn on the cob, rice, cucumbers, white onions, and ginger. After you eat, you might want to take some pictures if you did not already. We all took numerous pictures at the Sea of Clouds. My family and I rode only a short distance from Sonnen Berg View to this scenic location.

 If you love plant life, this is a place to explore. You will find lush vegetation, cultivated farm fields, and healthy lunch options at Bemwa Farm. Upon arriving, you feel a refreshing breeze at just the right temperature. Strong gusts of cool wind continued to give me respite from the tropical humidity. As I looked up, misty patches of grayish-white clouds drifted over one of the mountain peaks. The cloud patches became thicker and accelerated a bit downward. On the ground, you will walk in front of an herb garden, which includes mint, chives, parsley, kale, and lemongrass. As we leisurely strolled around the fields, farmers worked diligently tending the field. Some farm fields lit up as the sun passed through the clouds. The illuminated fields further revealed the picture-postcard scenery.

At the eatery there, I and others there drank some choco milk tea with black zagu, made of flour. It has a soft texture. Also, you can try roasted, Thai, or Okinawa milk tea. For lunch, you can enjoy the fresh Bemwa produce in the form of a tuna salad or other combinations. The heated version of the Filipino favorite dessert, Halo Halo satisfied me with the sweet potatoes and bananas. This hot, creamy dessert contained rice instead of normal element–ice.

Shortly after eating, we headed back from this third and final stop on the mountain. The location near Sea of Clouds and Reel Place made this an opportune and convenient visit. Bemwa Farm marked another place that provided no shortage of opportunities to add to your picture gallery.

In addition to the rich, natural scenery, an abundance of agriculture characterizes the Davao City region. Batu-Toril is one area where vast farmland takes up a good portion of the landscape. Fruit trees include Guava, pineapple, mango, and the guyabana trees. In addition to the rich agricultural area, the cooler but still relatively warm climate generates pleasant living conditions.

The environment provides a great setting for humans as well as animals. You hear roosters. Bird life occupies the air. Dogs, cats, pigs, goats, chickens and cows comprise the list of animals you will likely encounter.

As you tour the area nearby, you’ll discover areas replete with coconut trees where banana plants thrive under them. Also, gaze at the open space, dense forests, and mountainous areas in the distance.

Welcome to another place where you can take in Davao’s scenery and nature. Eden Park offers a guided shuttle tour. In the tour, you pass by an organic loose-leaf lettuce farm. You then stop at several locations where you can take photos, including the flower and herb gardens.

At the flower gardens, I observed the purple cone flowers, the vine morning glory, Golden Cuphea, among others. The herbs and spices include basil, arugula, chives, cilantro, cinnamon, parsley, celery, rosemary, and oregano. At another spot, take time to learn about the local, tribal history. Certain areas within Eden Park allow you to scan the elevated view of the city. The Davao Gulf and Samal Island mountains provide an excellent backdrop for you to gaze at the horizon.

At Eden’s Vista Restaurant, you spot a magnificent looking creature with a long tail. The peacocks with green and blue feathers calmly walk down the steps and under the fence. Before we went over to the buffet, we took pictures in front of the peacock. Inside the restaurant, the staff prepared organically grown vegetables from the gardens. I filled my salad plate with carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes. I also added eggplant salad.

For the main course dish, you might see Ala Pobre fresh fish, Beef Pendang or Tuna Sisig. The fresh, soft, veggie lumpia, a Filipino favorite, smoothly moved over my tongue.

Dessert included a choco mouse cake that contained the right amount of sweetness. Vista offered fresh fruits in the form of watermelon, papaya, and pineapples. The cold, refreshing pineapple juice energizes you as you feel the fresh, mountain air. Enjoy dining at this restaurant in the midst of a romantic and relaxed atmosphere with colorful decor and plants surrounding the venue.

Mt. Apo boasts the highest points of land in the Philippines, with the peak at nearly 9,700 feet. Stunning views of the mountain provide great photo-taking opportunities while visiting the city. Batu-Toril, G-Mall in the city, and Vales Beach among other places provide picturesque angles of the majestic peak. Often you will see clouds blanketing the top and sometimes the middle of the mountain.