The peninsula is divided into three parts:
- Zamboanga del Norte — Dipolog (provincial capital) and Dapitan are the main cities.
- Zamboanga del Sur — Pagadian (the provincial capital) and Zamboanga City are the main cities.
- Zamboanga Sibugay — Ipil (the provincial capital) and Kabasalan.
- 1 Dapitan — the Shrine City of the Philippines
- 2 Dipolog — the "Bottled Sardines Capital" and the "Gateway to Western Mindanao"
- 3 Pagadian — known as the "Little Hong Kong of the South" for its mountainous terrain
- 4 Kabasalan — an old town that used to host a rubber plantation for Goodyear. The former residence of Goodyear's expats was converted into a resort, with overnight accommodations and a swimming pool and bar. Other attractions in the town include a hotspring, beaches, and mountain resorts. It is about 20 km east of Ipil, about 15-20 minutes by bus or jeepney.
- 5 Ipil —
- 6 Zamboanga City — the "City of Flowers" is one of the busiest port cities in the Philippines
This region has a Christian majority, in contrast to the Muslim majority in neighboring Bangsamoro (formerly the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM). Most people speak either Cebuano or Chavacano (a Spanish-based creole); many speak both.
Zamboanga Peninsula is rather a poor region, but it has a booming export-oriented economy. Major industries are agriculture, fishing, forestry, and mining. Zamboanga City is known for its canned sardine production.
The first inhabitants on Zamboanga Peninsula were the Subanon people, an animist ethnic group. Part of the peninsula became Muslim after an invasion by the Sultanate of Sulu. The Spanish arrived in 1569, and the region became an important outpost to protect the rest of the Philippines from Muslim marauders. The Spaniards faced constant war from the Muslim Filipino (Moro) pirates and warriors. While many towns still have heritage churches, many have been repeatedly damaged or destroyed by the marauding Muslims.
In the final stages of the Philippine Revolution, where the Americans invaded the Philippines, Zamboanga was a short-lived republic, which was eventually annexed into the rest of Mindanao, as part of the Moro Province under the American colonial government. Zamboanga became a separate province as the Moro Province was renamed into the Mindanao and Sulu department.
Zamboanga province, which included the provinces of Sulu Archipelago, composed the region of Western Mindanao until the formation of the ARMM in 1988. The province has since been split up into three provinces retaining "Zamboanga" in their name, while Zamboanga City became an independent city. Isabela City remains part of the Zamboanga Peninsula administratively, while surrounding Basilan joined an expanded ARMM.
Zamboanga Region used to be called Western Mindanao until it was officially renamed in 2015. The regional center has been transferred to Pagadian, which is to the ire of Zamboanga City's locals. That said, Zamboanga City has a more developed economy and a vibrant tourism scene.
Most of the people in Zamboanga Peninsula descend from Visayan migrants, and speak Cebuano (Bisaya), except in Zamboanga, where the Zamboangueño ethnic group are the majority. Zamboangueños are a result of intermarriage between Spaniards and the Austronesian peoples; they speak the creole language Chavacano and take pride in their Spanish ancestry and Spanish-based culture.
Zamboanga Peninsula is the ancestral homeland for the Subanen people, one of the Lumad indigenous peoples. They used to inhabit most of the region until Visayan migrations turned them to a minority mostly concentrated in Zamboanga del Norte. The Subanen have an approximate population of 500,000; they are mostly Christians, but about 3% converted to Islam and call themselves the Kalibugan. The Subanen also hold ancestral land claims on much of what is now Northern Mindanao.
Poverty is widespread in the region, with Zamboanga del Norte the poorest.
1 Zamboanga International Airport. (ZAM IATA) is the main port of entry, but despite its name, there are no international flights, except for short-lived services from Sabah in Malaysia. The provincial capitals of Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur, Pagadian (PAG IATA) and Dipolog (DPL IATA), respectively, has smaller airports, served by daily flights from Manila, Cebu, Jolo and Tawi Tawi.
Rural Transit connects most cities and provincial capitals in Zamboanga from Cagayan de Oro.
From the Visayas, Ceres Liner has a bus from Cebu City to Zamboanga City. From Luzon, Ceres Transport has a bus to Zamboanga City from Manila via Iloilo City, Bacolod, Dumaguete, and Dipolog. Those take the ferry between Dumaguete and Dapitan.
Asian Highway 26 enters Zamboanga from Lanao del Sur in the Bangsamoro region. Rtes 9 and 79 connect the region from Northern Mindanao. There are also RORO ferries from Dumaguete in Negros to Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte.
The primary way of travel across Zamboanga is by bus. Red Rural Transit buses practically serve much of the region, with frequent departures from Zamboanga City, Pagadian and Dipolog. Most other towns mostly only have bus service from smaller companies running ordinary non-AC buses.
UV Express vans are abundant, but in a lot of cases they are unmarked and unlicensed.
Jeepneys are available in Zamboanga City, but elsewhere, tricycles are the only way around, with jeepneys primarily used for trips to nearby towns
Visitors to Zamboanga Peninsula tend to have Zamboanga City at the top of their minds, but there are many hidden attractions waiting to be explored
The Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal, lived in exile at Dapitan after being arrested by the Spaniards for his revolutionary activities. Dapitan, a city since the 1960s, has a Spanish-era downtown, with a city square Rizal has designed. The hut where he once lived on is now a shrine.
Many rural municipalities have hidden natural sights.
While Zamboanga Peninsula is Christian-dominated, there remains risks from the spillover of the insurgency in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. In 2013, Zamboanga City was sieged by the then-insurgent Moro National Liberation Front. Chances of a terrorist attack remain low elsewhere, but likely in areas bordering ARMM.