The Philippines is a treasure trove of stunning natural sights, but if you’re looking for travel magazine-worthy views that will make you feel beholden to the brilliance of God’s creation, Palawan takes the cake. Before traveling to this unexploited eye candy, it’s best to come prepared. Here’s the only guide you’ll need when traveling to Palawan.
Why travel to Palawan Island?
This archipelagic province in Western Visayas is the country’s last frontier, and despite unfortunate damage from coral bleaching and dynamite fishing, most of its areas remain largely unspoiled.
In a survey conducted in 2013, 2016, and 2017, Palawan has been dubbed the “best island in the world” by international travel magazine Travel & Leisure, and it’s easy to see why. Towering limestone cliffs, crystal-clear turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, hidden lagoons, and vibrant marine life of this idyllic Philippines destination create a Jurassic-esque landscape that will make your jaw drop.
But more than just a feast for the eyes, people travel to Palawan because is a playground for the active and outdoorsy. It’s easy to fill your itinerary with a slew of water activities like island hopping, scuba diving, snorkeling, free-diving, and cliff diving. On land, there’s plenty to explore. Zipline above a forest canopy, amble around cultural sites, gorge on local cuisine, or just laze by the beach with a book and a margarita in hand.
What to see and do in Palawan Island?
Here are the top 10 things to do in Palawan, the largest province in the Philippines.
1. Explore El Nido’s marine life
Palawan’s land attractions are stunning, but wait till you go underwater. Go scuba diving in Bacuit Bay to spy on marine life, including 800 species of fish, 45 genera of corals, and 5 species of marine mammals.
2. Get a tan in El Nido
With 4-kilometers of white sand and coconut trees, Nacpan Beach is a must-visit Palawan tourist spot. If you’re looking for seclusion, visit Secret Beach, tucked away in a hidden cove.
3. Gawk over Palawan’s famous lagoons
The best way to appreciate Palawan’s limestone cliffs, its most popular topographic features, is by exploring El Nido’s Small Lagoon and Miniloc Island’s Big Lagoon. These areas are best traversed through an island-hopping tour where you can paddle through crystal clear waters and feel absolutely infinitesimal.
4. Amble around Port Barton
On the North West coast of the province lies Port Barton, a quiet fishing village that offers similar attractions to El Nido but with fewer crowds. Take in the beauty of the sea atop a rocky cliffside, brush shoulders with local fishermen, or laze by the sea with a beer in hand.
5. Go on outdoor adventures with Ugong Rock Adventures
Tour company Ugong Rock Adventures offers numerous activities around Ugong Rock, a rock formation north of Puerto Princesa, the capital city of the island. Here you can go spelunking, hiking through jungles for stunning views, and ziplining from the peak of Ugong Rock, a common Palawan tourist attraction.
6. Explore Coron’s underwater shipwrecks
Coron’s numerous sunken shipwrecks make it a top diving destination. Scuba dive and explore 13 different shipwreck sites, most of which are part of the Japanese fleet.
7. Jump in the crystal-clear waters of Kayangan Lake
Often considered the cleanest lake in the Philippines, Kayangan Lake (also called The Blue Lagoon) in Coron is one of the most popular Palawan tourism attractions. Go snorkeling, freediving, or swimming in crystal-clear waters surrounded by limestone cliffs.
8. Kayak through an underground river
If you have to prioritize things to do in Palawan, this should be high on the list. The Puerta Princesa Underground River, an UNESCO World Heritage Site and New7Wonders of Nature, is one of the top Palawan tourist spots. Explore this 8.2-kilometer underground river and gawk over its limestone cliffs, unique cave formations, and cerulean waters.
9. Island hop Honda Bay
Sign up for a Honda Bay tour if you’re looking for a quick taste of Palawan’s islands. You’ll explore stunning white sand beaches like Verde Island, Cowrie Island, Pandan Island, and Starfish Island.
Where to stay in Palawan Island?
Accommodations aren’t a problem when you travel to Palawan, where the burgeoning resort business has offered tourists plenty of options. You’ll find most of the best hotels and resorts near El Nido, while others are scattered in Coron and the Bacuit Archipelago.
For the outdoorsy and adventurous
Apulit Island – A perfect basecamp for outdoor adventures. Offers 50 cottages near a host of adventurous activities like snorkeling, abseiling, diving, and beach volleyball.
Club Paradise – A private island resort in Coron. Offers fifty snazzy rooms and suites. In a prime location near underwater activities like scuba diving and snorkeling.
Cauayan Island Resort – Situated on an island near El Nido. Offers wooden villas with breathtaking views of the spectacular tropical surroundings. An excellent resort for scuba divers with its proximity to 18 dive sites.
For the eco-conscious
Lagen Island – This eco-sanctuary island resort in El Nido offers 51 upscale cottages and suites. Rooms are made from recycled timber and provide breathtaking views.
Pangulasian Island – An eco-luxury island resort in Bacuit Bay with 42 sophisticated villages. Some rooms are equipped with plunge pools. The in-house spa focuses on sustainability.
For an intimate retreat
Qi Palawan – Offers only eight rooms nestled on a private beach and flanked on all sides by a virgin forest. Rooms feature a rustic vibe with wooden furnishing.
What to eat in Palawan
Among the diversity of Filipino dishes, Palawan’s local cuisine is centered around the sea’s bounties, so expect a cornucopia of seafood dishes with shrimp, crab, fresh fish, and lobster in most restaurants.
Those with a strong stomach should try Palawan’s exotic delicacies. Start with the ever-popular tamilok (woodworm), harvested from trees and slurped raw. Locals also cook them in vinegar to remove the fishy taste.
El Nido’s famous Bird’s Nest Soup, made from the saliva of swiftlets found in El Nido’s limestone cliffs, is a soothing, briny, and savory dish filled with healthy proteins and amino acids.
You’ll find various restaurants in Palawan, serving both local and international dishes. Badjao Seafood Restaurant in Puerto Princesa is famous for its fresh lobsters and crabs, while Kinabuchs Grill and Bar offers traditional Filipino fare and an assortment of delicious grilled dishes.
In El Nido, Trattoria Altrove is a rustic eatery that serves delicious Italian fare like pasta and pizza. The El Nido Boutique & Art Cafe offers a range of delicious craft beers, perfect when downed with their popular seafood basket. Mango Bar & Restaurant in San Vicente whips up delicious seafood dishes at affordable prices (the slipper lobsters are a must-try).
FAQ about visiting Palawan Island
When is the best time to visit Palawan?
The best months to visit Palawan Island are from January to April, when the weather is warm, dry, and the typhoon season (June to September) hasn’t started yet.
What are the must-do things to do in Palawan?
The most popular activities to do in Palawan are kayaking and other water sports in vivid blue lagoons among towering rock formations and lazing on its long white beaches.
What is the population of Palawan?
Palawan Island is the biggest province in the Philippines, with an area of about 14,650 square kilometers. The population of Palawan is 994,101 according to a 2020 census.
Header image credits: Jules Bss via Unsplash