Limao, Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte
Rates start at P8,950 (best available rate)
At a Glance
Rooms: Spacious room, soft bed and pillows, foot baths, and pool access
Food and drinks: Great curation for lunch buffet, the sweetest coconut juice you'll ever drink in your life, and the best tom yum and laksa by the resort's Thai chef
Staff: Helpful and accommodating
Why you should stay: Stay for the gigantic pool, the private turquoise white sand beach, and the coconut juice
(SPOT.ph) Davao del Norte's Samal (a.k.a. Island Garden City of Samal) is known for its white-sand beaches, dive spots, caves, and waterfalls. Best of all, it's not as crowded as other tropical tourist destinations in the country. If your soul is yearning for some peace and quiet in the beautiful Samal, Discovery Samal by the Discovery World Corp. is a six-hectare five-star hotel that's conveniently less than 30 minutes away from the airport.
Discovery Samal has 153 villas and suites on four different levels of the property. There's the Junior Suite (rates start at P8,950.50), which boasts a panoramic view of the whole estate; the Executive Suite (rates start at P12,545), which separates the bedroom from the living room, has its dining table, and a private terrace with a view; and the One-Bedroom Suite (rates start at P16,445), which is more superior as a massive pool is right outside its door.
More luxurious options include the One-Bedroom Villa (rates start at P30,800), Two-Bedroom Villa (rates start at P72,800), and Three-Bedroom Villa (rates start at P60,800), which are more private and exclusive. Each villa has a private pool and a bigger pool called the Villa Amenity pool that's exclusively for guests who are booked in the villa.
During our trip to Discovery Samal, we got to stay at the Junior Suite. Upon entering the dark grey building and going through a maze-like entryway to get to the main entrance, you'll step into a huge room with a king-sized bed with the softest mattress and pillows, foot bath, Nespresso machine, refrigerator, smart television, and a gigantic turquoise bayong guests can use only while inside the property. Still, it can be bought for a price if a guest wants to bring it home.
The four-story building for Junior Suites has a private terrace with an overlooking view of the infinity pool and the ocean. It's nearest the infinity pool and The Shoreline, the dining area where the breakfast buffet is served.
There are three swimming pools at Discovery Samal, excluding the villas' private pools. The Hotel Swimming Pool is the largest pool on the property and is an infinity-style pool that, from an angle, flows beyond the edge and connects to the sky; the Villa Swimming Pool is the shared swimming pool among villa guests for a bit more tranquility; and the Beach Club Swimming Pool which is the pool nearest the beach, the Morning Catch restaurant for grub, Haribar Lounge for drinks and happy hour, Samal Escape Spa for a post-swimming or pre-slumber massage, and the Fit Studio for your more-than-basic gym needs.
The private beach is one, if not the best, thing to experience at Discovery Samal. Although Samal doesn't have a showstopping sunset like Boracay, Discovery Samal's beach easily makes up for it just by having soft white sand and clear, blue waters—so clear and clean that you can see fish without snorkeling gear (but still better to have it on hand). Guests can also use crystal kayaks, paddleboards, and an inflatable bed.
Discovery Samal will soon have its chapel, the Divine Grace Chapel, for a resort wedding at the topmost level of the estate. When it opens, the Diving Grace Chapel will have the Davao cityscape and seascape for all the wedding photos.
Soup may be the last thing you'd want on a hot day by the beach. Still, it would be such a loss on your part if you didn't get to try the resort's Seafood Coconut Chowder, which has chunks of seafood swimming in a creamy, salty soup—and since it's served in a coconut husk, there's also a tinge of sweetness to it, especially if you scoop the coconut meat and eat it with the soup. The Shoreline's Tom Kha Gai and Tom Yum Goong are both Thai soups that are spicy, tangy, and herb-filled but with different proteins—Tom Kha Gai uses chicken, and Tom Yum Goong uses prawn. Then there's the classic, no-frills, no-fuss Tomato Soup with pungent and pleasant sourness.
After swimming in the pool or while island hopping and the expected craving for grilled meats manifests, nothing beats the classic Inihaw na Liempo with lots of rice and your go-to sawsawan that you can eat kamayan-style. And for something fancier, the Surf and Turf has grilled seafood and tender steak, served with mashed potatoes and garnished with greens.
For refreshments, Discovery Samal has, most likely, the best coconut juice you'll ever taste in your life. The young coconut used is so refreshingly sweet that you wouldn't want to drink anything else, not even water or a fruit shake. The only exception to this coconut juice promise? Haribar Lounge's happy hour promo on cocktails.
Morning Catch, The Shoreline, and Haribar Lounge are the three dining establishments that are currently open at Discovery Samal. Soon, the resort will open its own café, Garden City Café, and a steakhouse called The Bistro.
Discovery Samal can arrange inland and island tours for guests by request. Just proceed to the front desk and ask about customizing a by-boat or by-car tour in and around Samal.
The price range for an island hopping tour is P15,000 to P20,000, depending on the number of people. A sample itinerary of this tour includes snorkeling at Talikud Island, a boodle fight-style lunch, cliff diving at Sabang, and seeing the gigantic clams at Taklobo.
As for an inland tour, you can spend a half-day touring Samal by car. A few minutes away from the resort takes you to the Monfort Bat Cave, which the Guinness World of Records awards as the largest bat cave of Geoggrey's Rousette Fruit Bats (Rousetteus amplexicaudatus), Sanipaan Marine Park to see the "Vanishing Island," and a stop at the Tourist Rest Area for pasalubong.
Discovery Samal is at Limao, Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte. Rates start at P8,950 (best available rate).