Paradise colored in shades of blue and green, a place where you will completely forget about your busy and robotic life, spent in your industrialized and technologized city, this is what Palawan, The Last Frontier of the Philippines, has to offer. Not for nothing was two years in a row called the most beautiful island in the world by Conde Nast Traveler.
The province that lies between the Sulu Sea and West Philippine Sea, is composed of about 1780 islands, an abundance of plains with rice, vast meadows with palm trees, hills, mountains and cliffs formed by rocks of karst and limestone, and hidden beaches, with white sand , watered by the turquoise waves of the sea.
I know, it sounds great and almost incredible, but Palawan really exists, and I advise you to visit it now, before becoming a hugely popular destination. I explored the island for 3 weeks, in my two months trip in Southeast Asia, and I haven’t stopped in one place because I wanted to see and know more. In the following 4 destinations, you will learn about one of the 7 wonders of nature, the cleanest lake in Asia, and many other great places worth exploring. This is my itinerary for the perfect trip in Palawan:
3 days in PUERTO PRINCESA:
The most popular and easy method to get to Palawan is by plane, from Manila to the provincial capital of Palawan, Puerto Princesa or Puerto, as the locals call it. We flew with Air Asia, and after an hour and a half, we stepped foot in the modest but colorful airport. In Puerto Princesa, we spent 3 days, during which we had many activities that kept us busy in a very pleasant way.
We stayed at a hotel located near the airport, but far from the bustle of downtown, with a large number of noisy tricycles and tourists, and we started exploring the surrounding villages. We discovered bands of children waving, excited and intrigued by the appearance of two unknown figures on their narrow streets and we learned about their modest but happy living.
Puerto Princesa is not only the cleanest city in the Philippines, a name earned thanks to its tropical and lush forests, stretched on hundreds of kilometers, but it is also home to one of the 7 Natural Wonders of our world, The Underground River, a river “dug” into the mountain. To visit the river of 8 km in length, of which only 2 km are navigable, you need a whole day because of the 75 km / 2 hours distance from the city.
The road to the river works like this: you will travel by van, then by a motorboat and eventually you will be taken into a kayak with a suitable size to enter into the mountain. During the tour, you will have audio equipment, and you’ll listen in the headphones the story of the stalagmites and the stalactites, formed inside the monument of nature and some information about the fauna which lies in darkness.
Another tour that I recommend and I took the next day is Honda Bay Islands, during which, you will visit 3 very different, uninhabited islands, Star Fish, Luli, and Cowrie. While on the Star Fish Island you will take selfies with the starfish, on the Cowrie Island you will snorkel and admire the beautiful scenery that seems pretty surreal.
2 days in SAN VICENTE:
San Vicente wasn’t on my list when I carefully prepared the itinerary for Palawan. I discovered it thanks to a very nice hotel located there, about which I will write soon a separate article. I’m glad though that San Vicente was added to my journey on Philippine lands and that’s because it is not a touristy area. I could even number the tourists on the fingers of one hand. If the wilderness of the place doesn’t seem a good enough reason to spend two days in San Vicente, then maybe the longest white sand beach in the Philippines, under the name of Long Beach, will convince you. It’s incredibly beautiful, full of palm trees, and so long that you can not see the end. Not to mention the possibility of having it only for you, given the low number of tourists in the area.
5 days in EL NIDO:
The majority of Palawan lovers goes straight to El Nido, being preferred for its spectacular lagoons, pristine beaches and crystal clear waters, perfect for snorkeling and other water activities. Indeed, El Nido is a dream, a place so beautiful that you’ll feel like you’re on another planet. To fully enjoy the paradise of El Nido, you will need to choose a tour of the 4 available (A, B, C, D) and explore the islands and everything they have to offer.
I have chosen tour A, that gave me the possibility to discover Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island and 7 Commando Beach. Without any doubts, the Big Lagoon is the most beautiful sightseeing of the whole tour; it is basically a large stretch of water in a gorgeous color, bordered by majestic cliffs.
The tour is an excellent activity that you shouldn’t miss under any circumstances. How incredible it sounds exploring islands and beaches, plus a hearty lunch of fish, rice, salads and the most exotic fruits for less than $ 30? Yes, the tours offered in Palawan, be it Puerto Princesa, El Nido or Coron, are available to every budget and the quality-price ratio is excellent. Just go for it!
Perhaps you wonder if you can have fun in El Nido and without being forced to climb into a boat. The answer is yes. The city center is full of restaurants, shops and pubs, many with ocean views. For a perfect tan, fun, good food and sensational views, you can spend time in El Nido Bay and Bacuit Bay. For extra excitement and a beach in addition to the list, rent a scooter for $ 5, drive to the north of the island, among immense rice paddies and stop for a few hours on Nacpan Beach, a beach very similar to Long Beach in San Vicente, but on a smaller scale.
5 days in CORON:
This time a ferry will become your means of transportation between El Nido and Coron. You can choose between a slower ferry and a faster one. The first will bring you to Coron in 3 h, the second in 5, 6, depending on climatic factors. We chose the slower boat, and that’s because we had to check in the hotel at 2 pm anyway. Included in the price, you will get a snack that will be so much desired after a few hours spent on the pretty tumultuous waters. You shouldn’t sleep the whole route, as long as you can get out on the deck and admire the islands lost in the distance, and the playful fish, hopping through the waves.
The star of Coron is definitely Kayangan Lake, the cleanest lake in Asia. To reach it, or more precisely to reach Coron Island or the surrounding areas, it is necessary to sign up for an organized tour. I have chosen two such tours, that I recommend to you and which, after extensive research, seem to be the most attractive. The first tour included 3 gorgeous islands (Bulog Dog, Banana si Malcapuya), whilst the second one, called the Ultimate Tour, included Siete Pecados, Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoon, Smith Bech, Skeleton Wreck, Las Islas de Coral si CYC Beach.
Besides boat tours, it is a must to climb Mount Tapyas for a perfect panorama of the island, and also for the most beautiful sunset. I suggest you start with at least one hour before sunset because you will have no less than 700 stairs to climb. Yes, your wrists will tremble, and you will feel muscle soreness the next day, but is definitely worth it. See for yourself ⇩
- Have you ever been to the Philippines? What is your favorite island in the country?
- Would you like to follow my itinerary on your future trip to Palawan?