Surrounded by high mountains and stunning beaches, this province will lure you in with its natural beauty. Explore why the province of Zamboanga del Norte charmed the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal, into making it home.
Zamboanga del Norte is one of the major provinces that make up the Zamboanga Peninsula region in Mindanao, south of the Philippines. It is boarded by Sulu Sea on the north and the west, and boasts an irregular coastline stretching at around 400 kilometers from north to south, with plenty of undiscovered beaches left to be explored. Mount Dabiak in Katipunan is the highest peak in the mountainous region at 2,600 meters.
You can take a flight from Manila, Cebu, or Davao to Dipolog City, the province’s capital and regional airport.
You also have the option to take a ferry or “fast craft,” which is a chartered speed boat from Cebu to Dipolog, and back.
There are buses available for you to board if you need to travel from one town to another. The tricycle is also a primary mode of transport when taking a tour within a town. On the other hand, nothing beats walking when you explore tourist hotspots. You can also ask a local if you can rent a bike.
Visit the Rizal Shrine Park in Barangay Talisay, the 16-hectare property personally developed by our national hero during his residency at Dapitan. Ask any local and they will tell you that he decorated the central plaza by planting hibiscus and acacia trees. The property also features replicas of the homes rebuilt using bamboo and nipa in their original structures and locations. The structures include Casa Residencia, Rizal’s main house, and Casitas de Salud, where Rizal has treated many patients.
The Dipolog Cathedral located along Padre Ramon Street, is a century-old church built by the Spanish friars. What’s fascinating about this is that the church is its mix of both old and modern architecture, with a huge arch leading to the main door and a main belfry just above it. Dedicated to the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, the Dipolog Cathedral is actually designed by no other than Rizal.
You can also learn more about the Filipino heritage by visiting the Filipino-Japanese Memorial Park, located in Barangay Dicayas, and the Onay Museum, which houses the life and work of General Alexander Badong Yano, the first Air Force of the Philippines Chief of Staff from Mindanao.
Swim, snorkel, or simply chill out at one of the many beaches in Zamboanga del Norte. The most popular one is at Dakak Beach Resort. Once in the resort, travellers will be beckoned by a white sand beach at around 800 meters long. To complete your tropical island experience, book a native hut or a bahay kubo, as they are called, to stay in.
You can also check out Aliguay and Sinilog Islands, Sicayab Beach, Galas and Olingan Beach, Pinahon Island, Maja by the Sea Beach Resort, or Napo White Beach if you can’t get enough of the beach.
Zamboanga del Norte has a lot of natural and man-made attractions that can give you the thrill you need. Plan a trip to Libuton Cave in Manukan, Sanao Cave, the Liboran River, Sicayab Cliffs, and the Rizalina Peak.
If you’re a kid at heart, head to Gloria de Dapitan Amusement Park. Gloria’s Fantasyland, which is inside the park and the largest outside of Manila with over 30 rides.
You can never go wrong with seafood, especially if they are served sutukil (grilled-stewed-raw) style. Try the local seafood in Sindangan, which is an hour and a half away from Dipolog City.
The city of Dipolog is famous for its Spanish-style sardines. Buy bottles of these sardines at Montano for pasalubong or gifts.
Eating barbecue at Dipolog Boulevard is a delightful experience. Facing the Sulu Sea, a section of the 3.5 kilometer seawall is decked with hawker stands with barbecue, and tables and chairs to dine and chill. If you want the more usual fare, head at Big Joe’s, a casual dining cafe serving traditional Filipino dishes, homemade desserts, and specialty coffee.
Zamboanga del Norte’s capital, Dipolog City, is fast embracing urban development and modernization. There are 24/7 hawker stalls, pizzerias, milk tea shop, resto bars, videoke, disco lounges you can choose from to have a casual drink or two. On special occasions like fiestas, majority of the cities and towns host dances and even live band concerts in public spaces.
Ariana Hotel along Airport Road in Minaog have very reasonably priced and comfortable rooms. Guests who check in will feel as if they’re in a resort.
If you’re on a budget, there are several inns that offer accommodations with breakfast. Travelbee Heritage Inn, an ancestral house in a quiet neighborhood in Dapitan.
If you intend to make the most out of your experience in Zamboanga del Norte, there are luxury resorts that offer the best of everything you desire on a tropical vacation. Dakak also offers exclusive amenities and facilities, outdoor and water activities, and even tours for its guests.
When visiting a heritage site, observe house rules, especially when it comes to taking photos. Some sites do not allow flash photography for preservation purposes.
Majority of the locals speak Bisaya. Practice a couple or more friendly phrases to use when greeting and asking locals for help.
Check your local hotel or resort for any tour or activity package deals you can avail. These hassle-free tours usually are inclusive of transportation, guides, and meals.