General Santos City or GenSan for short is best known for being the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines” and hometown of our boxing champ Manny Pacquiao. But there’s so much more to GenSan and we’re here to share with you all the places you can visit and things to try when in GenSan.
If you’re wondering when is the best time to visit GenSan, locals say it’s always summer here because the city enjoys dry and sunny weather almost all year round so we would say anytime is a great time to visit! But if you want to maximize your stay, you can consider going during the Kalilangan Festival in February or the Tuna Festival in September.
Places to visit
Our first stop was at Isla Jardin Beach Resort, a piece of tropical paradise located in Glan, Sarangani, which is around more than an hour drive from GenSan. Whether you want to just chill or have a fun filled day, Isla Jardin will not disappoint.
Enjoy the view of the beach with a sumptuous seafood spread from their in-house restaurant. You can then have an exciting afternoon and try out their water activities like the Banana boat, Jetski, Flying Fish and water bike.
Being the Tuna Capital of the Philippines, you can’t go to GenSan without visiting the General Santos Fishport Complex. If you want to completely experience the hustle and bustle at the fishport, it’s best to come as early as 5:30 AM. We promise you’ll be amazed at how the fishermen move like clockwork carrying around massive freshly caught Tuna at their backs to be weighted for buyers and exporters.
No need to go to Japan for some legit tuna sashimi because GenSan offers premium sashimi-grade Tuna.
Perched on top of the hills of Tambler in General Santos is Sarangani Highlands and Garden, a haven for all the PlanTitas and PlanTitos. The place is teeming with beautiful flowers and lush greenery, every corner is absolutely IG-worthy!
They also host an exceptional view of Sarangani bay and Mt.Matutum. Come visit them on April if you want to experience the Summer Flower Festival.
Take an educational tour at the Felicidad Organic Farm, the first DoT accredited Agri-farm in the Soccskargen region. The farm is owned by Captain James “Bong” Reamon, who retired from being a commercial pilot to start his passion for farming.
He personally gave us the tour where he talked about organic farming and showed us different agricultural plants they have in the farm like vegetables, herbs, cacao, fruits and 16 varieties of banana.
At the end of the tour, you can enjoy their fresh garden salad and refreshing signature tea which they’ll show you how to make.
For a cultural immersion, visit the home of the T’boli tribe, Lake Sebu, which located in South Cotabato just around an hour drive from GenSan.
Visit the lake early in the morning to see the lotus flowers in full bloom. You can ride the wooden canoes and cruise around the lake for a mystical experience.
Don’t forget to experience the exhilarating 7 Falls and Zipline, known to be one of the highest zipline in Asia, standing at around 180 meters above ground.
If you’re afraid of heights, you’ll forget all about it once you see the breathtaking view of the forest and waterfalls below. Totally worth it!
Before leaving Lake Sebu, drop by the Cooperative of Women in Health and Development (COWHED) Souvenir for beautifully handcrafted traditional souvenirs. It’s a small nipa hut a few meters from Lake Dolores Hotel, here you can buy some unique pasalubong like intricate woven T’nalak cloth, Brass works, wood crafts and colorful beaded accessories.
For some quick city stops, you can visit the Plaza Heneral Santos and take a relaxing stroll along the well-manicured garden. Unwind for a bit, breathe in the fresh air and check out the monument of General Paulino Santos here, the man behind the name of the city.
Last bonus place to visit to end your trip is the public market just around Hotel Dolores where you can buy some local snacks and you’ll also find huuuuge ukay-ukay stores nearby with piles and piles of clothes that go as low as P5 only!
Where to eat
A favorite dining spot for locals is the Tiongson Arcade, you’ll know when you’ve reached the arcade when you smell the delicious aroma of barbeque wafting through the air. At an affordable price, you can indulge yourself with freshly caught seafood cooked your way. Do try the Chicharong Tilapia, Grilled Tuna Belly and the special Pinaputok na Tilapia as recommended by Nicoy Tiongson himself.
For street food adventures, just go outside the Sydney Hotel during nightfall, and you’ll find a long strip of food stalls at the Pioneer Avenue. There are all types of street food, from the typical fishballs to other fried snacks like calamares and kwekwek. The options are overwhelming but don’t leave here without trying the Pastil.
Pastil is a Maguindanaoan snack that’s composed of steamed rice topped with shredded meat then wrapped in fragrant banana leaf. Imagine with just P10, you can have a whole meal already! And if you add another P10 to your Pastil order, you get unlimited toppings like chili garlic and adobo eggplant! Ooooh our mouth is watering just remembering all the yummy toppings.
For Tilapia lovers, get ready to feast on all the Tilapia dishes you can imagine at the Lake Dolores Hotel in South Cotabato.
They have Daing na Tilapia, Embotido style tilapia, Nilagpang na tilapia and so much more. You name it and they probably have it! Did we forget to mention they have Tilapia Ice cream too?
YES. TILAPIA ICE CREAM. It’s a strange flavor for ice cream but hey it’s surprisingly good!
If you’re craving for something a little more fancy, go to The Kitchen Table located inside the Avior Hotel.
They serve Spanish-Mediterranean-Asian dishes plated to perfection that taste as good as they look. Our must tries are the Slow Cooked Pork Baby Back Ribs, Tuna Belly Mediterranean Style and the Beef Bourginon.
Where to Stay
If you want to be at the center of the city where everything is accessible, we recommend staying either at the Sydney Hotel or Hotel Dolores.
For someplace more peaceful and closer to nature, you can stay at Mt. Sabrina Panoramic Resort. The resort offers a relaxing atmosphere and a spectacular view of the Sarangani Bay. Fun fact: They have a unique swimming pool in the shape of a tuna!
What are you waiting for? Book your flights to GenSan now with Cebu Pacific Air and experience magandang GenSan!
Special thanks to the Wow Gensan Association of Travel Agents and CEMCDO team for organizing our whole trip and Ms. Joquezelle Gangoso for immersing us in her culture and showing us the beauty of GenSan.
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Words by: Zyllah Gatchalian
Photos by: Lucky Alabado & Ivan Lantin