Palawan is one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines. Many of the tour requests that we receive are about this western island group, which is blessed with beautiful beaches and unspoiled nature.
Palawan – “the Philippines’ Best Island”, “the Philippines’ Last Frontier” and, according to the Spaniards, “The Land of Promise” is a province stretching from the northern border of the Visayas. Although the number of inhabitants of this nearly 15,000 km² province has doubled in the past 25 years, to almost one million, the province is still idealised as the most desirable tourist destination compared to other provinces.
Lots of space for recreation and adventure in Palawan
Palawan is recognised for its abounding coral reefs, for its picturesque bays with beautiful sandy beaches surrounded by turquoise coloured sea water and stunning rock formations. It is known for its abundance in animal and plant life and the untouched jungles within its interior.
There are many endemic species in the Philippines. A large number of them reside in Palawan, such as the Palawan Hornbill, the Palawan bearcat or “binturong”, the Philippines Forest Turtle, and the Calamian Hog Deer, to name but a few.
Palawan Trips with Obstacles
Although traveling the Philippines has become more popular in recent years, the number of tourists making their way to these shores is still far smaller than, for example, Thailand. Northern Palawan has often been likened to Thailand’s more beautiful islands, minus the hordes of tourists. Why is that? Assuming that the Philippines is even on a travellers’ radar, there are many reasons for this reluctance to visit, including the perceived political instability, threats of kidnapping and violence in parts of the south, poor infrastructure in many areas and the inconvenience of time consuming travel between islands. Not to mention the natural threats like typhoons, earthquakes and floods which cause a lot of damage each year.
However, one of the positives of lower tourist numbers is the lesser impact on natural surroundings, which is particularly appealing to nature and adventure enthusiasts. The island province of Palawan has earned this respect with a unique position in Southeast Asia. Similar natural landscapes can be found in Eastern Mindanao on Dinagat Islands or around Bucas Grande, which is, however, once again much more difficult to travel – but is even more adventurous.
Puerto Princesa and Sabang
Travel to Palawan is usually by plane to the capital Puerto Princesa (via Cebu Pacific), to Coron Town (Busuanga) or El Nido (Air Swift). Although a ferry service (“Milagrosa”) is also possible, we would not dare to experience this adventure again.
Puerto Princesa is often the jumping off point for visitors, starting from here to head to Honda Bay and later to the “Underground River” in Sabang. About 80 kilometers separate the underground sights of this beautiful harbor town. This means a ride with the van or jeepney from about two to three hours on a rather bumpy road.
Not only the Underground River makes the small fishing village Sabang a dream destination on the island of Palawan, but also the spectacular vegetation and the fascinating animal world. Beautiful karst forests and unusual bird species can be admired in Sabang in abundance.
We recorded this video in September 2008: “sunrise” on the beach of Sabang.
El Nido – Optical Highlight for Naturefriends
El Nido is a small town located about 250 km north of the provincial capital Puerto Princesa. El Nido is also the name of this unique park, which is distributed more or less equally in marine and landscape protection zones over an area of almost 1000 square kilometers.
El Nido town is the gateway to the world-famous Bacuit Archipelago. The islands and islets in this area are a must-see, and most visitors join in one or more of the island hopping tours offered almost everywhere (A, B, C, D).
Island Hopping in Palawan
Since a large part of El Nido Natural Park is located in and under the ever warm and turquoise sea water, the Philippine bangka (fisher boat) is the most important means of transport. This also applies in a similar way to many other destinations in the Philippines. The simple and charming wooden boats are among other things ideal for day trips in the context of a so-called Island Hopping Tour, which is particularly worthwhile around El Nido with over 40 islets and beautiful beaches.
Each of the numerous islands in the Natural Park has its own character and its own charm. With some snacks and enough drinks for the day, the island hopping is always a great experience. The bangkas are supervised by a small boat crew and safely controlled by the small island world.
The many beautiful islands of Palawan are ideal for island hopping. If you start a small tour on your own, you can often experience great adventures. For this we have a few insider tips for you:
• If you are looking for a suitable boat, you should ask the locals, who usually find a fisherman who makes his bangka ready for you.
• The price often depends on your negotiating skills.
• Some boat engines are somewhat “outdated” and / or very loud. Then earplugs come handy, to make a pleasant journey possible.
• If the weather is a bit rainy, bring a light jacket, as it can get cool.
• You should also have a diving mask and snorkel on board to explore the corals extensively.
• Bring sun screen.
• Real professionals are looking for fresh fish at a nearby market, which is then best served on an island by the fisherman and cooked deliciously over the fire. For a delicious sauce, among other things, soy sauce, onions, chili, vinegar and calamansi should be bought; rice and drinks round off a delicious lunch.
Such events offer ideal opportunities to get to know the local Filipinos and get to know a lot about their way of life.
Tubbataha Reef, Tabon Cave and Busuanga
Other highlights on the dream island of Palawan in the south-west of the Philippines are the Tabon Caves near the city of Quezon and the Tubbataha Atoll (Tubbataha Reef) located in the Sulusee, which have already been declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Both destinations are easiest to reach from Puerto Princesa. Tubbataha is known by many divers as the best diving area in the Philippines – here, besides whale sharks and others, there are also huge schools of grouper fishes, sea turtles, tunas and everything that makes the diver’s heart beat faster. If you want to take a trip there, you should book early in the year one of the coveted “live-aboards”, which start their journey to this diving paradise between March and May.
Furthermore, Port Barton, Busuanga and Coron Island are popular destinations in Palawan. Around Busuanga Island there are, for example, rare manatees (Dugong), and breeding grounds of turtles (on Dimakya Island), which make a visit more worthwhile.
If you choose Palawan as your destination, you can easily spend one or two weeks there without getting bored. If you have enough time, this western island group can of course also be combined with other destinations, such as Northern Luzon or a few islands in the Visayas. However, for a usual three week holiday, we strongly recommend that you do not have more than two other main destinations aside from Palawan on your list.
If you are interested in a well organized round trip to Palawan, then you can send us a contact inquiry, and we will get back to you in no time. We count some of the famous luxury resorts (El Nido Resorts) to our partners as well as more affordable cabanas and private villas.