Palawan is one of the best places to visit in the Philippines. With its phenomenal beaches, lagoons, scuba diving sites and other nature attractions, it’s no wonder it’s repeatedly voted as the No. 1 Island in the World. Here we’ve compiled a definitive list of the best things to do in Palawan, Philippines!
- 1. Eat local food in Kalui restaurant
- 2. Enjoy cheap seafood in Puerto Princesa Baywalk
- 3. Boat tour in the Puerto Princesa Underground River
- 4. Island hopping in El Nido
- 5. Kayak activity to beaches in El Nido
- 6. Relax in Nacpan Beach
- 7. Climb Taraw Cliff in El Nido
- 8. Visit Kayangan Lake
- 9. Soothe your muscles in Maquinit Hot Spring
- 10. Witness the sunset in Mount Tapyas, Coron
- 11. Scuba dive in Coron
- 12. Relax in the laid-back beaches of San Vicente
- 13. Explore the remote islands of Balabac
- 14. Day trip in Onuk Island
- 15. Visit the pearl farm in Flower Island
- 16. Island hopping in Port Barton
- 17. Snorkel in Dumaran
- 18. Swim in the clear waters of Linapacan
- 19. Go on a historical tour of Culion
- 20. Go on a liveaboard in Tubbataha Reef
- 21. Climb Mount Mantalingajan
- 22. Visit Calauit Safari Park
- What to read next:
1. Eat local food in Kalui restaurant
– From Things to Do and Eat
Kalui is a must visit restaurant when you’re in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. One of the top recommendations when talking to both tourists and locals alike, their focus is family style seafood and Filipino dishes.
When you walk in, you have to take off your shoes so it feels like you’re entering someone’s home for a special meal. The decor is beautiful, with lots of art pieces, and there are even paintings for sale!
You get free ginger seafood stock soup and a unique type of seaweed called lato to start, and fresh fruits in a coconut for dessert– at least when we went. Then basically everything we actually ordered was amazing! My personal favorite dish was their seafood pinakbet. The vegetables were so fresh and the squid was perfectly cooked and tender!
2. Enjoy cheap seafood in Puerto Princesa Baywalk
If you’re staying in Puerto Princesa City and looking for a place to eat, don’t miss out on visiting the baywalk park. It’s lined with several restaurants offering affordable Filipino food and even fresh seafood!
For the seafood, you can choose from the displays in front of the restaurants to be cooked or order one of the group meals. We ordered a bilao good for 6-8 people and only paid about P1200!
Aside from the restaurants, you can also stroll by the souvenir shops in the area.
3. Boat tour in the Puerto Princesa Underground River
At 8.2 km in length, the Puerto Princesa Underground River in Puerto Princesa City is one of the longest underground rivers in the world. It is part of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River Park, which is a a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New7Wonders of the World.
You can explore the initial 1.5 kilometers via a paddle boat tour. The tour takes about 45 minutes. You’ll be given a lifevest and cap for protection, as well as an audio guide to listen to during the tour. Once inside, your guide/boatman will also point out interesting rock formations and wildlife inside using a torchlight. The underground river has retained its natural ambiance so you can appreciate the stalacties, stalagmites and small waterfalls inside the cave.
To get here, you’ll need to go to Sabang and ride a motorized boat for 15-20 minutes or take a jungle trail for 1 hour. If you’re joining a packaged tour, the boat arrangement is already taken cared of.
4. Island hopping in El Nido
Your visit in Palawan won’t be complete without island hopping in El Nido. This is considered the premiere tourist attraction in Palawan and even though it’s visited by thousands of tourists every year, it still remains a beauty to behold.
There are different island hopping tours available in El Nido. The most recommended ones are tours A and C. These will take you to the Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon, which features crystal-clear emerald water surrounded by towering karst rings; Matinloc Shrine, which is a great snorkeling spot; and Secret Beach, which is accessible only thru a small opening.
5. Kayak activity to beaches in El Nido
– From Walk my World
Whilst a lot of tourists in Palawan focus on the island hopping tours, there are several stunning beaches which the boat trips overlook that are really close to El Nido and almost entirely empty. Many hotels will hire out kayaks for the day and with a bit of work, you can find a white sand beach with beautiful turquoise water all to yourself! We highly recommend paddling to Lapus Lapus and Ipil Beach to take in these wild beaches without the crowds.
The other benefit of a kayak is that you can also visit some of the really popular beaches like Papaya and Seven Commandos after the tour groups leave for the day. If you arrive after 4pm, it’s very likely that these famous beaches will have very few, if any people on them, allowing you to take in the sunset at one of the most beautiful places in Palawan all to yourself.
6. Relax in Nacpan Beach
If you’re exhausted from days of island hopping and want to take the afternoon off, you can visit and relax at Nacpan Beach. Nacpan Beach is located about 45 minutes from El Nido town proper. The beach in itself is calm and beautiful.
Here you can relax or beach bum, hike to see an overlooking view of the Twin Beaches and eat seafood at nearby restaurants.
There are also resorts in Nacpan Beach where you can choose to stay overnight.
7. Climb Taraw Cliff in El Nido
– From Pinoy Adventurista
Aside from exploring El Nido’s stunning and world-class beaches, islands and towering limestone rock formations, another must-do activity when in El Nido is climbing Taraw Cliff. It’s one of the best spots to see El Nido from above.
This limestone cliff is located right in the heart of downtown El Nido and offers sweeping and panoramic views of Bacuit Bay the of El Nido town.
The best and safest way to get to the viewing deck of Taraw Cliff is through the El Nido Canopy Walk. Although climbing it wasn’t easy, our tour guide made us feel safe and secured by guiding us all the way to the top. The amazing view made me forget the long walk up the stairs just to see this famed view of El Nido. And I don’t regret it. Given the chance, I will climb this again on my next visit to El Nido.
Don’t miss it when traveling to El Nido, Palawan! You will surely enjoy it!
8. Visit Kayangan Lake
Kayangan Lake is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in Coron, Palawan. With its turqouise water, it’s also dubbed as the cleanest water in Asia.
To get here, you will need to rent a boat or join an island hopping tour. You’ll climb a set of stairs which will then take you to the famous viewpoint of the Coron Bay. Climb down to the other side and you’ll see the lake. You can swim or snorkel/freedive to see fishes or stalagmites underneath.
9. Soothe your muscles in Maquinit Hot Spring
Maquinit hot spring is a saltwater hot spring that can be found in Busuanga. It’s about 30 minutes away from Coron town proper.
The water in the hot spring comes from a volcano located underground, which is then collected into 3 circular pools. Here tourists can soak themselves for a therapeutic and relaxing dip. The temperature in the hot spring hovers around 40 degree Celcius, which makes it a perfect day-ender after a day of island hopping or trekking Mount Tapyas.
Maquinit hot spring is open daily from 8AM to 10PM.
10. Witness the sunset in Mount Tapyas, Coron
– From Whisper Wanderlust
One of my favorite activities in Palawan is to admire the sunset on Mount Tapyas in Coron.
To reach the observation site, you must climb 700 steps. Even if it is quite exhausting, it definitely deserves the effort. In the end, you will be rewarded with an absolutely delightful view. From there, not only will you be able to admire the glorious sunset but also the surrounding landscapes, along with a few islands, including Coron Island. It is a popular place and you will see that many tourists sit on the grass while waiting for the sun to hide behind the hills.
I recommend you to get there at least half an hour before and bring water and some snacks.
11. Scuba dive in Coron
– From Dreamers Who Wander
Off the coast of El Nido, Coron is an amazing island full of beauty and secluded white sand beaches. But what makes Coron special and definitely worth a visit?
The answer is simple: this tiny gem in Palawan has been described as one of the best places in the world for wreck diving! In 1944, more than 20 Japanese ships were sunk by a devastating American air raid. Even if only 12 vessels had been discovered up to now, they are all well preserved and at a perfect depth for recreational diving.
Penetrating a sunken ship is an incredibly powerful experience that every passionate and advanced diver would surely appreciate. The fish and sea creatures that now inhabit this extraordinary piece of our history make the experience of wreck diving in Coron truly unforgettable.
12. Relax in the laid-back beaches of San Vicente
– From Wandering Wagars
San Vicente is a destination that is often overshadowed by many of the more popular destinations in Palawan. In fact, San Vicente is one of the true hidden gems in the Philippines. This idyllic destination has unspoiled beaches, picture-perfect islands, rich marine life, and the chilled out, relaxed vibe that that only seems to occur at the best beach destinations.
San Vicente is often touted as being the next Boracay, although I hope that never happens. Boracay, as beautiful as it is, has become overrun by tourists and businesses. San Vicente is what Boracay was 20 years ago. In San Vicente you can visit Long Beach is the longest stretch of beach in the Philippines. There are also beautiful waterfalls and quiet coastal fishing villages.
For an even more intimate experience head to the suburb of Port Barton. Here you can take boat tours to sandy islands, turtle sanctuaries, rich coral reefs and so much more.
13. Explore the remote islands of Balabac
Balabac is an up-and-coming destination in Palawan. It’s composed of 31 islands and several of these can be visited during island hopping.
Here in Balabac you’ll be able to see pristine islands. Most notable are Onuk Island — a private island surrounded by jaw-dropping blue water; Bugsuk Island, which features the finest sand in the area; Candaraman Island, which has a sandbar filled with starfishes; Mansalangan sandbar, a picture-perfect sandbar; Patawan Island and more.
These islands can be visited in 2-3 days.
14. Day trip in Onuk Island
The Philippines has a lot of amazing beaches all throughout its regions, but nothing compares to Onuk Island. This private island can be found in the municipality of Balabac, in the southern part of Palawan.
Onuk Island is an elongated-shaped island enclosed by a reef called Roughton Reef. The island itself has crystal-clear beach and a snorkeling area where you can see fishes, giant clams and even sea turtles. Currently, there are limited rooms in the islands and cottages where you can put up a hammock to relax.
During low tide, you can enjoy swimming in the beach below. During high tide, the water rises just below the stilt pathway so you can jump directly to the water if you wish to do so.
Onuk Island can be visited by boat. It’s often included in island hopping tours in Balabac.
15. Visit the pearl farm in Flower Island
– From Nomadic Boys
One of the most fascinating things we did in Palawan was visiting a pearl farm during our visit to Flower Island.
Flower Island is a small privately-owned island around 1-hour boat ride from Taytay. It is owned by the large pearl farm that owns most of the marine space in this part of Palawan.
As part of our stay at Flower Island, we visited the Pearl Farm.
The process of harvesting pearls is very complex, involving a lot of different stages, which are explained at the farm.
However, the thing that struck us the most from our visit is how stringent and intense the security is! You cannot just turn up at the farm – visits are strictly by appointment, arranged in advance. On arrival, guards meet to inspect you and follow you throughout your tour. The reason is because of the large number of pirate attacks that have happened in the past due to the high value of the pearls!
16. Island hopping in Port Barton
There are already island hopping tours available in El Nido or Coron, so what makes Port Barton different? It’s relatively less crowded so it’s perfect for those who want a quieter time or looking for a new destination to explore in Palawan.
There are different island hopping tours available in Port Barton, but if you’re in a group and renting a boat for exclusive tour, you can customize your itinerary so you can see the best stops in a day. You can snorkel in the Twin Reef or Wide Reef, chase sea turtles in German Island or otherwise relax in swim in beautiful beaches.
17. Snorkel in Dumaran
Dumaran is one of the low-key destinations in Palawan. It can be visited as a day tour from Puerto Princesa City, although it’s better to spend at least 3 days here to explore the islands.
Dumaran offers several kilometers of coral reef area where you can see various types of corals and fishes. The most popular boat stops include Renambakan Island and Encantasia Island. There are also other islands you can see in Dumaran if you simply want to explore beaches.
18. Swim in the clear waters of Linapacan
Linapacan nabbed its place in the tourist map after an online magazine named it one of the clearest waters in the world.
It can be visited via ferry from either Coron or El Nido. Tourism in Linapacan is not yet established; as such, there are no standard island hopping tours here yet. You will need to rent a private boat to visit Linapacan and its neighboring islands, where you can enjoy frolicking in pristine beaches, snorkel and dive.
19. Go on a historical tour of Culion
Culion Island is one of the major islands in the Calamian Group. It can be visited as a day tour from Coron.
Culion has an interesting history. Several decades ago, it was once a leper colony although it later be declared as a disease-free community. A historical tour in Culion will take you to several landmarks including historical sites as a leper colony, Culion Museum, Culion Church and Bogor Marine Park.
20. Go on a liveaboard in Tubbataha Reef
The Tubbataha Reef is one of the best places to dive in the Philippines. In fact, it was listed by CNN as the top 8th best dive site in the world. The only way to visit here is via liveaboard which allows you to a couple day’s exploration.
Tubbataha Reef features high marine life diversity. Expect to see various species of corals, fishes and other animals such as sharks, turtles and manta rays.
Dive season in Tubbataha Reef is from mid-March to mid-June.
21. Climb Mount Mantalingajan
If you enjoy challenges, you shouldn’t miss trekking Mount Mantalingajan. It’s considered the highest point in Palawan.
During the trek, you will encounter different landscapes including grassland, mossy forest and jagged rock platforms. It’s also a cultural activity. Interestingly, Mount Mantalingajan was once home to the extinct tribe of Tau’t Daram (also called the “People of the Night”), which is believed to be a mystical tribe who lives in houses above the forest canopy. Today, another tribe continues to live in the mountain — the Tau’t Bato (also called “People of the Stone”). You will encounter the Tau’t Bato villages during your trek.
To get here, you need to travel by van from Puerto Princesa to Rizal. Scaling the summit of Mount Mantalingajan takes 3 days.
22. Visit Calauit Safari Park
Calauit Safari Park is a game reserve and wildlife sanctuary located in Calauit Island. You can visit it on your own or as part of Coron Black Island tour.
It was originally created as a Little Africa. It’s home to various animals — both imported from abroad and endemic to Palawan. These include giraffes, zebras and Calamian deers. Most of the animals are allowed to roam free, while the rest are held in protected areas for safety. A favorite activity here is feeding the giraffes.
And there’s our top things to do in Palawan! Can you add more to this list? Let us know in the comments below!
What to read next:
Visiting Palawan? Check out the rest of our guides in Palawan:
- Guide to Puerto Princesa Underground River
- Island Hopping in Honda Bay
- Best Resorts and Hotels in Puerto Princesa
- Travel Guide to Port Barton + 3 Days Itinerary
- Top Things to Do in Port Barton
- Island Hopping in Port Barton
Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).