Palawan is undeniably the top destination in the Philippines. This exotic paradise is home to the best islands in the country, from the crystal-clear lagoons surrounded by karsts in El Nido to the beautiful lakes in Coron.
Even though it’s made its spot into the mainstream, don’t make the mistake of excluding it in your Philippines itinerary! With its unmatched beauty, history and culture, and delicious food, you’ll find that Palawan truly deserves a visit.
- How to get to Palawan
- How to get around
- Things to know about Palawan
- Top Attractions in Palawan
- Where to stay in Palawan
- What to eat
- 10 Days Itinerary in Palawan
- Budget and expenses
- Reminders and Tips
- What to read next:
How to get to Palawan
Palawan has 3 main airports. Budget airlines ply these routes including Cebu Pacific and Air Asia.
Via Puerto Princesa Airport
Puerto Princesa Airport is located in Puerto Princesa City. It is about 1-hour flight away from Manila.
It’s the gateway to El Nido, as well as other areas in Palawan such as San Vicente (including Port Barton), Dumaran, and Balabac.
Via Busuanga Airport
Busuanga Airport is the gateway to Coron.
Via San Vicente Airport
San Vicente Airport is a fairly new airport located in San Vicente. As of this writing, flight schedules here are limited and expensive. An alternative option is by booking to Puerto Princesa Airport instead and then taking public transport to San Vicente.
How to get around
Public transport is easily available in Palawan. Puerto Princesa City is connected to the rest of the province via buses and vans.
There are also ferries connecting several areas in Palawan, including El Nido and Coron.
If you plan on exploring on your own in short distances, you can rent a motorbike or charter a private vehicle for touring.
Things to know about Palawan
Here are some essential info you need to know about Palawan.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit is during the summer months, from November to May. This is also the peak season since it coincides with the school break, so make sure to reservations in advance.
That saying, in my experience it’s pretty safe to visit Palawan all-year-round as it’s not as affected by typhoons as other places in the country. In particular, El Nido and Coron are good to visit anytime of the year. However, some areas such as Balabac experience rough waves which make sea travel difficult.
There are ATMs in major areas in Palawan such as Puerto Princesa City, El Nido, and Coron. In rural areas ATMs may be hard to come buy, so make sure to stock up on cash.
WIFI and mobile data
WIFI and mobile data are available in major towns. There may be no or minimal signal in rural areas.
What to wear
The best activities in Palawan are island hopping, diving, kayaking — basically all ocean related. So bring light & cool clothing and bikinis.
What to bring
Don’t forget to bring (eco-friendly) sunblock. A powerbank also comes in handy when you have to be on a boat tour for a whole day.
Snorkel sets and other equipment can easily be rented or bought in towns. Personally I prefer to bring my own so I can ensure proper fit. Nothing ruins an island tour more than having a too-small or too-large mask!
Lastly, make sure to bring a good camera and underwater action camera for your trip!
Top Attractions in Palawan
Puerto Princesa City, El Nido, and Coron are the top attractions in Palawan. However, there are also other remote places you can visit especially if you’re looking for untouched nature spots.
Puerto Princesa City
Puerto Princesa City is the capital of Palawan. It serves as the gateway for most destinations in the province.
The best thing to do here is visiting the Puerto Princesa Underground River, a UNESCO Heritage Site. This is an underground cave system that stretches for about 24 kilometers — one of the longest in the world. A 45-minute boat tour will take you to the first kilometer stretch of the cave, where you can sit in awe as a guide tells you about its history and points out interesting stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Another thing you should do is visit Sabang. This is the jump-off point to the underground river, so it’s pretty hard to miss. Sabang is a quiet town with a wide stretch of creamy-sand beach. Go here for a day tour or book a resort so you can spend a day relaxing, sipping a fresh coconut while admiring the ocean and a backdrop of islands in the distance.
Lastly, try out the great food in the town proper! There’s a lot of restaurants in Puerto Princesa City where you can taste local food, including delicacies you can only find in Palawan. One worth mentioning is tamilok, a woodworm found in mangrove trees that is eaten fresh. Aside from the restaurants, you can also head to the seaside boulevard at night for a dinner of cheap, fresh seafood!
There are other activities you can do in Puerto Princesa, but in my opinion they can be skipped. There are full-day tours offering island hopping in Honda Bay. However, there are better islands elsewhere in Palawan. Tricycles also offer a city tour where you can visit a few city landmarks and souvenir shops. This a popular activity among locals. However, you might find that some of the stops are “tourist traps”, so consider this before booking a tour.
El Nido is a town located in the Baquit Archipelago. It’s known for its amazing karst formations, lagoons, and white-sand beaches.
There is no off-peak season in El Nido and during summer the crowd may be overwhelming, but you won’t mind it at all once you’ve seen its beauty!
The main activity in El Nido is island hopping. The tours are standardized so you don’t have to worry about arranging boat tours prior to your trip. Some of the notable places you can visit are the white-sand beaches in Helicopter Island, the crystal-clear water in Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon, and the hidden cove surrounded in a tower of karsts called the Secret Beach.
Aside from these, there are mainland attractions you can visit including Nacpan Beach, one of the best beaches in the country.
El Nido also offers diving activities, with over 30 dive spots scattered across the area.
If you’re looking for a different experience in El Nido, head over to the coastal town of Sibaltan about 1 hour away. Sibaltan also offers island hopping, snorkeling, and diving activities. More importantly, it’s an archeological town where you can see traditional houses and museums and witness the everyday life of the people.
To get to El Nido, book a flight to Puerto Princesa Airport. From the airport, there are vans bound for El Nido. Travel time is around 6-7 hours. If you’re coming from Coron, you can simply ride a ferry to El Nido.
Coron is another destination you shouldn’t miss in Palawan. This is one of my favorite places in the Philippines. Personally, I prefer this over El Nido for a variety of reasons — including that it’s relatively less crowded and the spots more beautiful! (A little subjective, but I’m sure a lot of people would agree.)
Coron is mostly known for Kayangan Lake, which is said to be the cleanest lake in Asia. The most photographed spot in Coron can also be found here — atop a viewdeck offering a view of Coron Bay. Aside from these, you can visit other lakes and lagoons and white-sand beaches.
Coron is also famous for diving. It has shipwreck sites from the WWII era, when the Japanese took shelter in Coron but were eventually sank by the Americans. The shipwrecks now serve as home to corals and reef fishes.
To get here, book a flight to Busuanga Airport. Then take a van to Coron town proper. Travel time is around 30-40 minutes. There are also ferries servicing from Manila to Coron. There are overnight schedules available so you can arrive in Coron the next day. Travel time is 11 hours.
San Vicente is one of the lesser-visited destinations in Palawan. It’s known for the Long Beach, a 14-kilometer beach which is considered the longest in the country. It’s also home to a few resorts ideal for those who want a quiet time.
Aside from the Long Beach, another notable place you can visit is Port Barton. Port Barton is the best option for those who like exotic beaches but want to avoid the crowd in El Nido or Coron. There are also island hopping tours offered in Port Barton, where you can swim and snorkel. There is also a waterfall nearby where you can take a refreshing dip.
I recommend staying in Port Barton instead of the town proper since it offers more activities. The island hopping in Port Barton is a great activity. The islands are beautiful and the snorkeling spots are lovely. There is even an area where you can see turtles in the wild. The fact that there are less people here makes it even more enjoyable!
To get here, book a flight to San Vicente Airport located at the town proper. An alternative option is to book a flight to Puerto Princesa City instead and then take a bus or van to San Vicente town proper or Port Barton. Travel time is around 3-5 hours.
Balabac is a group of islands located at the southern tip of Palawan. Balabac is a developing attraction, so there are no high-end hotels here. Instead, you can find modest inns and resorts, as well as islands for camping.
What it lacks in infrastructure, it makes up for its untouched beauty. There are different islands you can visit in Balabac — from the pinkish-sand beach of Comiaran Island to the white-sand shores of Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island and the picture-perfect sand bars in Candaraman Island and Mansalangan Island. Of course, you can’t go to Balabac and miss visiting Onuk Island, a privately owned island surrounded in crystal-clear water ideal for beach bumming and snorkeling.
So far, I’d been to Balabac twice and each trip had been amazing. I’d been all over the country and nothing compares to the beaches in Balabac. Balabac is an ideal destination for backpackers and those who like discovering nature spots.
To get here, book a flight to Puerto Princesa Airport. Then ride a van to either Rio Tuba or Buliluyan port. It’s recommended to arrange a boat tour beforehand so you can properly plan your itinerary. There are also a handful of tour agencies arranging joiner tours here especially during the summer.
Nestled between El Nido and Coron is the untouched paradise of Linapacan.
Linapacan is a relatively small municipality. The largest island (also called Linapacan) features 2 towns and a small population of around 2000. It’s off-the-beaten path, so expect to find regular homestays or camp in deserted beaches for overnight stay.
Linapacan is mostly known for having one of the clearest waters in the world, as per an online magazine in 2013. You can visit islands for swimming and snorkeling, hike up a jungle trail, or visit the millions-years-old seniora caves.
Locals may offer to take you island hopping. There are also selected agencies that offer custom boat tours or joiner tours that take you to remote areas in Palawan including Linapacan.
To get here, ride a ferry that plies between El Nido and Coron and ask the operator to drop you off at Linapacan. It’s best to arrange your boat tour prior to your trip.
Dumaran is another off-the-beaten destination in Palawan. It has pristine islands and numerous snorkeling spots. This is a great place for snorkelers and freedivers due to the presence of magnificent coral reefs across different areas.
To get here, book a flight to Puerto Princesa Airport. Then ride a bus or van to Dumaran. Travel time is 4-6 hours. Once you arrive in Dumaran, head to the port in Barangay Sta. Teresita. This is the jump-off point to the islands.
Where to stay in Palawan
There are different accommodations in Palawan — from budget-friendly campsites and hostels to luxury resorts. There is always a place for your budget whether you’re here for a casual vacation or splurging for a honeymoon or other special occasions.
Here are the best hotels and resorts in Palawan:
- Holiday Suites. Book via Agoda
- Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort. Book via Agoda
- Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa. Book via Agoda
- Mad Monkey Hostel (Nacpan Beach). Book via Agoda
- Cuna Hotel. Book via Agoda
- Cauayan Island Resort. Book via Agoda
- Coron Westown Resort. Book via Agoda
- Two Seasons Coron Island Resort and Spa. Book via Agoda.
- Club Paradise Palawan. Book via Agoda
Look for other accommodations in Palawan.
What to eat
If you’re in Puerto Princesa, you can easily find restaurants serving local dishes and tamilok (woodworm), an exotic food served raw. Another must-try food is chao long noodles, which is served in regular eateries throughout the city.
Fresh seafood is available in most areas in Palawan. El Nido and Coron offers a seafood buffet as lunch for the island hopping tours. In more rural areas in Palawan, you can go to the market yourself to buy fresh fish, shrimp, crabs, and more.
10 Days Itinerary in Palawan
Here’s a suggested 10 days itinerary in Palawan.
|Fly into Puerto Princesa Airport
Check in a hotel
Free time / city tour / seafood dinner at boulevard
|8AM – 5PM Puerto Princesa Underground River
6PM – 7PM Ride bus or van to El Nido
Late-night check in at resort in El Nido
|Island hopping tour
|Morning climb to Taraw Cliff viewpoint
Island hopping tour
|Check out of resort
6AM – 10AM Ferry to Coron
Check in at resort in Coron
Free time / town tour
Visit to Maquinit Hot Spring
Sunset at Mount Tapyas
|Other tours: Culion historical tour, Calauit Safari, etc.
Flight visa Busuanga Airport
I have seen other itineraries that include San Vicente, but I think that it’s too far and you won’t get to enjoy El Nido or Coron much if you’re going to take this detour. Believe me, you won’t regret the days you allot for either destination.
Budget and expenses
Here’s a summary of estimated expenses (Updated as of 2020):
|Cottage: Starts at P500 ($10)
Dorms and hostels: Starts at P600-700 ($12-14) per person
Standard room: Starts at P1000-2500 ($20-45) (good up to 2 people)
|El Nido and Coron tours: P1000-1200 ($20-24) per person
Boat rental for (exclusive) island hopping: starts at P2000 ($40)
Diving: depends on the package
|Starts at P100-150 ($2-3) per meal
|Motorbike rental: P500-600 ($10-12) per day
The costs of traveling to Palawan is reasonable. There are cheaper destinations elsewhere in the country, but the great thing about Palawan is that it offers incomparable beauty of nature that you can enjoy in modern comforts.
If you’re heading to the remote areas in Palawan, it’s best to find other people to go with you. Boat rental for island hopping can be expensive, from P2000 to P4000 ($40-80) depending on the distance between islands. Major tourist hubs such as El Nido have standardized tour rate per person, so it’s easy to go as a solo traveler.
Reminders and Tips
Here are some reminders before your trip:
- Be respectful of the communities you visit. If you’re on public roads, wear a cover-up dress on top of your swimwear.
- Please follow local regulations. If you know that a guide is required to wherever you are going, then get one. It helps the local economy and it prevents accidents from happening.
- Tipping is not required, but I always recommend tipping to your guides!
Has this Guide to Palawan been helpful to you? If you have comments or questions, let me know in the comment section 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 long-time backpacker and a freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).