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Zamboanga City: Exploring Asia’s Latin City

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As one of Mindanao’s major cities, Zamboanga still has its “softer side” when it comes to giving tourists a fair share on what to experience in the city. As it is known as Asia’s Latin City, Zamboanga is also home to one of the oldest and still-surviving Spanish creoles in the world – the Chavacano dialect. “Chavacano” is a hybrid dialect that combines the Spanish language with that of the Visayan dialect.

Plaza Rizal Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

As one of the biggest cities in the island of Mindanao, Zamboanga also has a lot to offer when it comes to tourist attractions. Here are some of the places I went and explored in Asia’s Latin City:

Read also: Zamboanga City Travel Guide

Places to See and Things to Do in Zamboanga City

Zamboanga International Airport (ZAM)

Zamboanga International Airport | Turista Boy

Zamboanga International Airport (IATA: ZAM) is one of the major airports in Zamboanga Peninsula together with Pagadian Airport in Zamboanga Del Sur and Dipolog Airport in Zamboanga Del Norte. It services routes to and from Cebu, Manila, Davao, and Tawi-Tawi until it ceased several international operations. Two of the country’s largest air carriers – Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific fly through this airport.

Zamboanga International Airport | Turista Boy

One thing I also noticed when I was there when I was en route to Tawi-Tawi is that the airport closes after the last flight in the evening and resumes operations at around 0400 H. Although highly guarded, passengers are left waiting outside the airport to sleep until the airport opens for business the next day. It just surprised me that an international airport such as ZAM would “close” and resume operations the next day.

Canelar Barter Trade

Canelar Barter Trade Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

The Canelar Barter Trade is more of a myriad of souvenir shops that sell affordable and quality stuff (such as tapis, bags, weaved materials, etc.) Most of Zamboanga’s products are showcased here – from weaved products, keychains, souvenir shirts, bags, sarongs / shoals, and even products from nearby Malaysia. Their products are relatively cheap compared to the major shopping centers in the city.

Zamboanga City Hall

Zamboanga City Hall | Turista Boy

The Zamboanga City Hall is one of the most iconic City Halls I have seen so far. With still having that Hispanic influence on its architecture, the city hall never loses its Filipino touch. Being one of the city’s symbols, vinta sails were also adorned and attached to the city hall when I first visited in 2016, adding to that “Filipino flavor.” The Zamboanga City Hall was also once the provincial capitol building of the province of Zamboanga.

BPI Museum

BPI Museum Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

One of its kinds in the Philippines, the Bank of the Philippine Islands’ Museum in Zamboanga City showcases the peninsula’s rich culture coinciding with the bank’s history in the region as well. Built on a mestiza-type house, this branch of BPI is one of the most picturesque I have seen in the country, considering its history.

As part of the historic branch’s opening on August 17, 2012, the foundation unveiled the lifestyle museum on the 2nd floor to celebrate the Zamboanga office’s centennial celebration. The museum takes people back to the beginning of the 20th century and depicts the life and culture of Zamboangueños during the Spanish and American colonial periods. Antique furniture, vintage photographs, and an exhibit are found all throughout the six rooms also featuring a grand sala. There is an array of material on BPI history and the Zamboanga branch’s history as well.

National Museum – Zamboanga City (Fort Pilar)

National Museum Zamboanga Fort Pilar Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Housed within Fort Pilar, the National Museum – Zamboanga City cradles some of the artifacts that are borne from the peninsula and nearby provinces of Muslim Mindanao. It will give you a taste of the perfect combination between Islam and Christianity, also giving you a glimpse of the cultures and traditions of the different peoples living in the region. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 0900 – 1700 H.

National Museum Zamboanga Fort Pilar Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Fort Pilar was the stronghold of the City against the Spanish forces during the Spanish Colonial Period. Although small for its size, the fort is the symbol of the City’s “strength and valor” as it withstood several wars before succumbing to the colonizers’ rule.

Strategically located fronting the Basilan Strait, you can see the mountains of nearby Basilan province which is only 1.5 hours away via ferry (through the Zamboanga port). If you are lucky enough to see vintas strung ashore, grab the chance to ride on one of them.

Plaza Del Pilar

Plaza del Pilar Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Plaza Del Pilar is just adjacent to Paseo Del Mar and Fort Pilar. This is a plaza of different shops offering different finds from food, beverages, and clothing among anything else.

The plaza is Zamboanga’s first-ever all-in-one pasalubong center where locals and visitors alike can buy souvenir items, eat out or simply pass time. Plaza del Pilar also makes an interesting haven for food enthusiasts of all ages in acknowledgment of the Zamboangueños’ love for food.

Fort Pilar Shrine

Pilar Shrine Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Located behind the fort, the Fort Pilar Shrine that was built to venerate Nuestra Señora La Virgen del Pilar de Zaragoza, Zamboanga City’s Patron Saint. It is a one-of-a-kind quaint shrine because it is open-air and is located opposite the entrance to Fort Pilar. From afar you can see the Great Sta. Cruz Island and the mountains of Basilan.

Paseo del Mar

Paseo del Mar Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Paseo del Mar Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Paseo Del Mar opens at around 1700 H every day and it features food stalls across the Baywalk. At night, too, there is a dancing fountain show set up as an added attraction. This is where I tried the so-called original knickerbocker (for only ₱ 100 ($ 2)).

Plaza Rizal and Plaza Pershing

Plaza Rizal Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Plaza Pershing Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Built in honor of the country’s national hero, Jose P. Rizal and John Joseph Pershing (Governor of the Moro Province, 1909-1914) respectively, Plaza Rizal and Plaza Pershing are strategically located just near and in front of the Zamboanga City Hall in the Central Business District.

Pasonanca Park

Pasonanca Park Aviary Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Pasonanca Park is one of the ‘more peaceful’ parks in the City. Located in Barangay Pasonanca, this park houses the Aviary, Jardin Maria Clara Lobregat, Paseo De Jardin, Zamboanga Museum, and Boy Scouts’ Camp and Tree House. Although they open by midday, the shops at Paseo De Jardin open in the late afternoon (to give you a taste of their nightlife). By foot, the park can be reached in an hour and if you’re riding a Pasonanca-signed jeepney, the trip will be around 15 – 20 minutes.

The park is also considered to be the main attraction in the City. With many park divisions, it is one-of-its-kind in the country. It is adorned with trees, flowers, different plants, and roughly 600 species of orchids. This project was initiated by John Joseph Pershing in 1912 and was finished during Frank Carpenter’s term.

R.T. Lim Boulevard

R.T. Lim Boulevard Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Similar to that of the famous Roxas Boulevard in Manila, Zamboanga City has their own version, too, namely the R.T. Lim Boulevard. Overlooking the Great Sta. Cruz Island and just beside the Zamboanga Port, the boulevard is named after Roseller T. Lim, who is the first and so far the only politician from Zamboanga to be elected to the Philippine Senate. This is where you will find the Boy Scouts’ Monument and the I Love Zamboanga letters. The boulevard is also scenic, especially during dusk.

Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Also known as the Zamboanga Cathedral and located just beside the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is a modern-type cathedral in a white façade. The design of the cathedral itself is striking and unique because it is not a typical kind of a church’s structure. It is also one of the seats of the Catholic faith in Zamboanga City.

KCC Mall de Zamboanga

KCC Mall de Zamboanga | Turista Boy

So far the biggest mall in Mindanao that I have visited, the KCC Mall de Zamboanga is the biggest mall in the Zamboanga Peninsula. It has a lot of things to offer – from food, clothing, lifestyle, and entertainment. Security is quite tight upon entering the mall.

It is like you are entering an airport with the x-ray scanners and metal detectors right at their doorstep. The mall is also easily seen when coming from Pasonanca or from the airport (5 minutes drive). Dispatch areas for tricycles and baobaos are also right in front of the mall.

Sta. Cruz Island

Sta. Cruz Island Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

The Great Sta. Cruz Island is also one of the tourist drawers in Zamboanga City. With just a 30-minute boat ride from Paseo Del Mar, Sta. Cruz Island is also known for its pinkish sand and lagoon (in favorable weather conditions). The island also encourages the disuse of single use plastics and I recommend that you bring your own food before going to the island on a Clean-As-You-Go basis.

Vinta Boat Sta. Cruz Island Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

The island is open from 0700 – 1400 H. Cut-off for the boat ride is at 1100 H. Boat ride costs ₱ 1000 per boat and the entrance fee is ₱ 30. There is also a canteen and some souvenir stalls on the island.

Port of Zamboanga

Montenegro Shipping Lines Jolo Sulu | Turista Boy

The Port of Zamboanga is one of the major hubs in Western Mindanao. It serves routes to and from Manila, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Sandakan (Malaysia).

Rainbow Mosque (Masjid Al-Islamia)

Masjid Al-Islamia Rainbow Mosque Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

One of the newest tourist attractions in Zamboanga City is the Rainbow Mosque (Masjid Al-Islamia). Located at the Veterans Avenue Extension, it is only a 10 – 15 minute ride from KCC Mall. The mosque features a colorful facade (hence, the name) and is one of the newest places of worship in Zamboanga City.

Where to Eat in Zamboanga City

Jimmy’s Satti Haus

Jimmy's Satti Haus Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Jimmy's Satti Haus Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

Originating from Sulu, Jimmy’s Satti Haus is one of the most popular Satti Houses in Zamboanga City. As recommended by fellow bloggers who have been to Zamboanga City, Jimmy’s Satti is really one to remember – it is overflowing! Their satti has the perfect balance between sweet and spicy and it compliments every food item on their menu. Not to mention, their food items are very affordable, too! Its humble space makes it feel more like home for me – it is just a typical karinderya (eatery) but their food is what you would be surprised of. I swear!

Alavar’s Seafood Restaurant

Debatably home to the best curacha recipe in Zamboanga City, Alavar’s Seafood Restaurant is the product of a lovely family with a deep love for culture and food, of course. With their famous and secret “alavar sauce,” this restaurant gained the reputation for serving the finest seafood dishes in the City.

One of their bestsellers is a quite rare variety of crab, locally known as ‘curacha’ or the deep-sea crab. Sourced mainly in the peninsula’s waters, these crabs give a distinct taste making it one-of-a-kind.

Myrna’s BakeHouse


Myrna's Bake House Zamboanga City | Turista Boy

One of the famous bakehouses in the City, a taste of Myrna’s BakeHouse baked goods should not be missed. What I have tried during my visit are their cookies and cream miniature cake and blueberry smoothie. Eats yummy! 🙂

Where to Stay in Zamboanga City

(Will update this when I come back to ZAM!)

Atilano Compound

Atilano Compound Zamboanga City | Turista Boyq

Atilano Compound is famous for offering affordable accommodations especially to backpackers exploring Zamboanga City. It has at least 5-6 different pension houses offering cheap room rates for the thrifty backpacker:

Pic of atilano building

(1) N. Atilano New Pension House

(2) Casa Don Atilano

(3) Chang V Atilano Pension House

(4) Atilano New Pension House

(5) KNC Atilano Pension House

Price ranges from ₱ 500 (single fan room with common comfort room) to ₱ 1100 (aircon room for 3 pax with private bathroom), depending on the pension house you will be staying in. Price range plays around these figures.

Sample Itinerary when Visiting Zamboanga City

Zamboanga City is quite a large city to explore. Also given its very warm weather and worsening traffic conditions, going in and around Zamboanga City can be quite challenging. Here is my sample itinerary when you plan to visit Asia’s Latin City.

Day 1

Zamboanga International Airport

Leave things at KCC Mall de Zamboanga (if early for check-in)

Breakfast – Jimmy’s Satti Haus

Paseo del Mar

Go to Sta. Cruz Island

Explore Sta. Cruz Island / Vinta Boat Riding

Lunch at Alavar’s Seafood Restaurant


Freshen Up

Go Back to Paseo Del Mar (for nightlife)

Dinner at Paseo Del Mar + Knickerbocker

Day 2

Fort Pilar (National Museum – Zamboanga)

Fort Pilar Shrine

Breakfast – Plaza Del Pilar

R.T. Lim Boulevard

Zamboanga City Hall

Plaza Rizal + Plaza Pershing

BPI Museum


Canelar Barter Trade

Rainbow Mosque (Masjid Al-Islamia)

Dinner – Palmeras Restaurant

Day 3

Pasonanca Park

Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Ateneo de Zamboanga University

Brunch – Myrna’s BakeHouse

*(if time permits) – Merloquet Falls


*Note that the places, prices, and information written as of publication date and time are true and are given best during my visit. Changes may occur without prior notice. If you notice any changes to the information given above, you can e-mail me here so we can dish things up!*

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10 thoughts on “Zamboanga City: Exploring Asia’s Latin City

  1. Christina says:

    I’ve never heard of Zamboanga City and actually there’s not a lot of information online about Mindanao either. Is southern Philippines safe to visit at the moment?

    1. Yup, it’s generally safe to go in Mindanao, Christina. Just avoid (for the meantime) visiting Sulu and Basilan, even some parts of Cotabato. 🙂

  2. Christina says:

    I have always been fascinated by the region of Mindanao. It seems so different from the rest of the Philippines. Zamboanga City looks like it will be a great introduction into the region. I would especially like to try all the different foods. The deep-sea crab looks amazing!

  3. Vyjay says:

    I haven’t heard much about Zamboanga city, so this is a fresh and new city and post for me. The city looks charming and colourful. This is a detailed post with a information that is pretty helpful for visitors.

  4. Indrani says:

    What a detailed elaborate post! With this info I doubt if anybody can ever get lost there.
    I like such tried and tested ready itineraries. Thank you! 🙂

  5. Sheena says:

    I’ve never heard of Zamboanga City but this is a very comprehensive guide for anyone planning to visit, including me one day I hope!

  6. Kat says:

    Wow, how detailed. 🙂 I’m planning to go to Zamboanga and explore the city a bit then go to its beaches. I’m just waiting for a seat sale, but so far there hasn’t been cheap promos yet. 🙁 The cheapest I saw was P2k per way.

  7. Darlene says:

    Wow. I’ve been to zambo twice in 2012 and really enjoyed it despite some situation that time. Seems there’s a lot more to discover and explore there.

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