The peninsula is divided into three parts:
- 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 either speak Cebuano or Chavacano (a Spanish-based creole).
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 are 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 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 are repeatedly damaged or destroyed by the marauding Muslims.
At 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 is 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 Zamboanga Peninsula administratively, while surrounding Basilan joined an expanded ARMM.
Zamboanga Region used to the 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.
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 and Dipolog, respectively, has smaller airports, served by daily flights from Manila or Cebu.
Rural Transit connects most cities and provincial capitals in Zamboanga from Cagayan de Oro.
Zamboanga City is served by ferries from Luzon and the Sulu islands, and internationally, from Sandakan in Malaysia. Dapitan has frequent ferries from Dumaguete and Cebu.
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.
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.