Palawan, Philippines
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Palawan, Philippines Travel Guide: Island Paradise Exploration

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Palawan is a tropical paradise in the Philippines that offers stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and diverse wildlife. In this Palawan travel guide, you will find out the top things to do in Palawan, what to eat in Palawan, where to stay in Palawan, how many days to stay in Palawan, and the best time to visit Palawan. You will also learn about the transportation options for getting to and traveling around Palawan. This guide to Palawan, Philippines will help you plan your dream vacation and make the most of your time in this amazing destination.

Recommended Itinerary

Palawan Overview

Palawan, celebrated as the “World’s Best Island” by esteemed travel publications, is a Philippine jewel renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and deep cultural heritage. Within its vast expanse, you’ll discover captivating destinations like El Nido, offering island-hopping adventures and an array of water sports. Then, there’s Puerto Princesa, the provincial capital, home to the awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Underground River. Finally, Coron beckons divers with its intriguing sunken Japanese ships and vibrant coral reefs.

Beyond its natural beauty, Palawan bears a rich historical tapestry dating back over 50,000 years when the first humans settled in the Tabon Caves. Notably, Palawan embraces diverse indigenous communities such as the Tagbanua, Palaw’an, Batak, and Molbog, each nurturing unique languages, customs, and beliefs, contributing to the cultural mosaic of this extraordinary destination.

Top Things to Do in Palawan

Palawan is brimming with incredible experiences, and here are some of the must-see attractions:

  • Puerto Princesa Underground River: Venture into this UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The river meanders through a captivating cave system adorned with stalactites, stalagmites, and impressive rock formations.
  • El Nido Marine Reserve Park: Embrace the natural beauty of this protected expanse covering 96,000 hectares of both land and sea. Within, revel in island hopping, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and hiking. This ecological haven teems with diverse marine life and vibrant coral reefs.
  • Coron Bay Shipwrecks: Dive beneath the waves to witness the remains of Japanese warships sunk by American bombers in 1944. These shipwrecks have now become enchanting underwater museums, cloaked in corals and teeming with fish.
  • Calauit Safari Park: Immerse yourself in this wildlife sanctuary that shelters African animals like giraffes, zebras, antelopes, and impalas. Established in 1976 as part of a Philippines-Kenya conservation project, it’s a unique experience.
  • Barracuda Lake: Take a dip in this extraordinary freshwater lake nestled within a volcanic crater. Here, you’ll encounter a thermocline, causing the water temperature to shift dramatically with depth. Don’t worry, the barracudas here are harmless to humans.
  • Honda Bay: Unwind at this popular beach destination with its powdery white sands, crystal-clear waters, and tropical vistas. Explore nearby islands like Starfish Island, Luli Island, and Cowrie Island for added fun and adventure.
  • Tubbataha Reef National Park: Marvel at this UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the world’s premier diving locations. It comprises two coral atolls teeming with marine life, including sharks, turtles, rays, and majestic whales.
  • El Nido’s Small and Big Lagoons: Discover the allure of these iconic attractions surrounded by imposing limestone cliffs. Their turquoise waters beckon for swimming and kayaking, offering an enchanting Palawan experience.

See also Top 10 Things to See and Do in El Nido

Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan
Puerto Princesa Underground River

What to Eat in Palawan

Palawan boasts a delectable array of local dishes that are simply a must-try:

  • Chicken Inasal:Savor the flavors of this grilled chicken, marinated in a special blend of spices and herbs, then expertly cooked over charcoal. It’s often served alongside rice and a tangy vinegar-based dipping sauce.
  • Crocodile Sisig:Dare to try this sizzling dish crafted from chopped crocodile meat, skillfully seasoned with onions, chili peppers, calamansi juice, and soy sauce. This spicy and savory delicacy pairs perfectly with a cold beer or a side of rice.
  • Lato Seaweed:Discover the unique appeal of Lato seaweed, resembling green caviar or sea grapes. With its tender and juicy texture, it offers a salty and refreshing taste. Enjoy it raw with a dash of salt or vinegar, or relish it as a delightful salad with tomatoes and onions.
  • Hopia Bread:Indulge in this Filipino pastry filled with delectable beans, typically mung beans or purple yam. Encased in a flaky or soft crust, it offers a sweet or savory filling. A beloved snack or dessert, Hopia Bread is also a popular gift among friends and family, readily available at local bakeries or from street vendors.
  • Tamilok: Delve into the world of Tamilok, a woodworm residing inside mangrove trees, considered a Palawan delicacy. Enjoy it raw, dipped in vinegar or calamansi juice. With its unique slimy texture and a mild flavor reminiscent of oysters, it’s a culinary adventure you can embark on at various restaurants and seafood markets.
Chicken Inasal
Chicken Inasal

Where to Stay in Palawan

When it comes to choosing your ideal place to stay in Palawan, the options are as diverse as your preferences and budget.

El Nido: 

If you seek a lively and well-loved destination, El Nido stands out as the primary tourist hub of Palawan. Offering a range of accommodation choices, from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious resorts, you’ll find your perfect spot. While here, revel in the wonders of the Bacuit Archipelago through island hopping, diving, kayaking, and hiking.

Consider staying at Happiness Hostel, a sociable hostel with an onsite bar, or Qi Palawan, a rustic and intimate resort featuring thatched cabanas and water sports facilities.

Coron:

For those with a passion for diving, Coron beckons. This quieter town on Busuanga Island is celebrated for its renowned shipwreck diving sites, enchanting coral gardens, and pristine freshwater lakes. Venture to the nearby Calamian Islands for even more natural wonders.

Choose from accommodations like Club Paradise Resort Palawan, a secluded and luxurious island resort boasting scenic vistas and a relaxing spa, or SEA COCOON HOTEL, a cozy and comfortable hotel complete with a pool and a delightful coffee shop.

Port Barton:

If you’re traveling with family and value a more laid-back ambiance, Port Barton is an excellent choice. Nestled on the west coast of Palawan, this charming village offers a relaxed setting that’s less crowded and more budget-friendly than El Nido and Coron. With ample activities for all ages, including sandy beaches, turtle snorkeling, and island exploration, Port Barton is an ideal family-friendly destination.

Consider accommodations like Balili Eco Glamping, a sustainable and spacious glamping resort featuring tents and room service, or Big Bamboo, a unique and private island with opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, and SUP adventures.

Resort in El Nido, Palawan
Resort in El Nido, Palawan

How Many Days to Stay in Palawan

To give you some ideas, here are some sample itineraries for different durations of stay in Palawan:

  • 2 days, 1 night:

For a short Palawan sojourn, make Puerto Princesa your base. Discover the renowned Underground River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a mesmerizing cave system housing a river. Dive into a city tour encompassing historic and cultural landmarks like the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Plaza Cuartel, and Palawan Museum.

  • 3 days, 2 nights:

Extend your stay to explore Honda Bay Island Hopping, an exciting excursion around Puerto Princesa. Visit islands and beaches, including Starfish Island, Luli Island, and Cowrie Island, offering opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, and relaxation. Alternatively, immerse yourself in a night of firefly watching along the illuminated mangroves of Iwahig River.

  • 4 days, 3 nights:

Venture to El Nido, nestled in the island’s northern part, to witness more of Palawan’s natural splendor. Marvel at stunning limestone cliffs, turquoise lagoons, and white sandy beaches. Embark on an island hopping tour in Bacuit Bay, partake in activities like kayaking, ziplining, hiking, or scuba diving.

  • 5 days, 4 nights:

In El Nido, seize an extra day to either revisit your favorite island hopping tour or explore additional local attractions. Sunbathe and surf on the golden expanse of Nacpan Beach, hike to Taraw Cliff for panoramic views of El Nido, or opt for a day trip to Coron, renowned for its shipwreck diving sites and scenic lakes.

  • 1 week or more:

With ample time and budget, extend your Palawan stay to explore less-crowded yet equally beautiful destinations. Visit the laid-back fishing village of Port Barton with its pristine beaches. Head to San Vicente, home to the Philippines’ longest white sand beach, a 14-kilometer stretch. Alternatively, explore the untouched and unspoiled archipelago of Balabac, boasting 31 islands unaffected by heavy tourism.

El Nido in Palawan, Philippines
El Nido in Palawan

Palawan Weather & Best Time to Visit Palawan

Palawan experiences two distinct seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season spans from October to May, while the rainy season occurs from June to November. Palawan maintains a consistently warm climate, with an average temperature of 26°C throughout the year.

For an ideal blend of pleasant temperatures, hovering around 27°C, and minimal rainfall, plan your Palawan visit between February and March. The initial months of the dry season may still witness some showers, while the latter months tend to become notably hot and humid.

Palawan Transportation: How to Get to and Travel around

How to Get to

To reach Palawan from international destinations, your journey typically involves flying into one of the major cities in the Philippines, like Manila, Cebu, or Angeles. Subsequently, you can catch a domestic flight connecting to either Puerto Princesa or El Nido. Multiple airlines, including Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, and AirSwift, provide flight options to Palawan.

For travelers within the Philippines, you also have the option of flying to Puerto Princesa or El Nido from various cities or taking advantage of ferry services from select ports. For instance, you can board a ferry from Coron to El Nido or from Caticlan (Boracay) to Puerto Princesa.

How to Travel around

When it comes to exploring Palawan, you have various transportation options at your disposal:

  • Tricycles: These motorized vehicles, complete with a sidecar, can comfortably transport up to four passengers. Ideal for short journeys within towns and villages, tricycles are incredibly budget-friendly, with fares averaging around 10 pesos per person for a 4-kilometer ride.
  • Jeepneys: Recognizable for their vibrant appearance, these iconic vehicles originated from military jeeps. They accommodate numerous passengers and operate on predefined routes within municipalities, offering an affordable means of travel comparable to tricycles.
  • Buses and Minivans: For longer journeys between different Palawan destinations, buses and minivans prove efficient and comfortable. While they offer reasonable pricing, travel times may vary based on traffic conditions and road quality.
  • Car and Motorbike Rentals: For those seeking greater independence and flexibility, car and motorbike rentals are available in Palawan. These options empower you to explore the island at your own pace. However, bear in mind that rentals require a valid driver’s license and a deposit, and they tend to be pricier and riskier than alternative modes of transportation.
  • Ferries and Boats: Opt for ferries and boats to savor Palawan’s breathtaking coastal vistas and access the myriad islands and beaches. These vessels come in various sizes, speeds, and price ranges, contingent upon your chosen destination and service provider. Notable routes include Puerto Princesa to El Nido, Coron to El Nido, and El Nido to Linapacan.
  • Planes: When time efficiency is paramount, especially for travelers arriving from other parts of the Philippines or abroad, planes serve as the quickest and most convenient means to reach or depart from Palawan. The province boasts several airports, such as Puerto Princesa Airport, El Nido Airport, Busuanga Airport, and San Vicente Airport.

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