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Palawan Travel Guide: Top 8 Beautiful Holiday Destinations!

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Palawan Travel Guide - Top 8 Beautiful Holiday Destinations!

Palawan is a quintessential tropical haven in the Philippines’ heart. Spanning approximately 260 miles, this island boasts verdant rainforests, awe-inspiring limestone cliffs, and many pristine beaches. On multiple occasions, it has been hailed as “the most beautiful island in the world.” Palawan beckons with its natural splendor and unmatched charm. Here’s a curated, comprehensive Palawan travel guide to assist you in crafting your perfect itinerary.

 

Palawan Travel Guide: Top 8 Beautiful Holiday Destinations!

Palawan, the fifth-largest Philippine island, surprises many with its expansive size. Its distinctive elongated shape lends itself to a simple route, facilitating easy itinerary planning for visits to numerous destinations. Here are the top places to discover in Palawan:

El Nido – Beaches, Islands & Enchanting Lagoons

Nestled within El Nido’s captivating embrace, Shimizu Island

El Nido beckons with its breathtaking islands and majestic limestone formations. While the town centre may lack visual allure, the natural wonders define this destination. 

Discover some of Palawan’s finest beaches along its coastline, while El Nido’s bay harbours islands adorned with towering limestone cliffs, creating a spectacle to behold. Despite the potential for crowding, the allure of El Nido’s beaches and islands remains unparalleled. When crafting your Palawan itinerary, ensure this gem is on your list of must-visit destinations.

Top Activities in El Nido, Palawan:

Embark on an island-hopping adventure in Bacuit Bay, exploring its stunning islands, lagoons, and sandbanks. Savour the pristine waters of Nacpan Beach and Duli Beach, indulging in relaxation and aquatic delights. Rent a kayak and navigate to Cadlao Island, the largest island in Bacuit Bay, for a scenic exploration.

Where to Stay in El Nido?

Frendz Hostel: Perfect for party-loving backpackers, Frendz Hostel boasts an incredible rooftop bar with a pool, offering breathtaking views of Cadlao Island.

Outpost Beach Hostel: This Hostel is ideal for a vibrant social scene on the beach. It is situated just outside El Nido’s downtown and provides one of the most spectacular sunset vistas imaginable.

El Nido Viewdeck Cottages: Indulge in luxury at El Nido Viewdeck Cottages, which offers private pool huts and panoramic views of the town’s limestone cliffs. This is perfect for those seeking a lavish retreat.

How long should you stay in El Nido?

I suggest a minimum of three days in El Nido to fully enjoy your experience. This duration allows for one island-hopping tour, visits to Nacpan and Duli Beaches, and opportunities for kayaking or exploring waterfalls. For a more extensive exploration, including multiple island-hopping tours and thorough exploration of the region, consider extending your stay to 5 – 7 days.

Coron and Linapacan – Exquisite Islands North of Palawan

Located north of Palawan’s mainland, Coron offers a charm reminiscent of El Nido, renowned for its picturesque tropical islands and breathtaking lagoons. Opting for a three-day island-hopping adventure from either El Nido or Coron allows exploration of both destinations, including the lesser-known islands of Linapacan. Reputable tour operators like Tao and Big Dream Man Boattour offer highly recommended options for such excursions, with Big Dream Man Boattour providing an exceptional three-day tour around Coron.

Top Activities in Coron and Linapacan:

Embark on an island-hopping expedition around Coron, uncovering enchanting lagoons, mystical caves, and breathtaking beaches. Embark on a 3-day island-hopping adventure from Coron to El Nido (or vice versa) to discover the picturesque island chain of Linapacan.

Explore the wonders of Coron Island, whether it’s scaling Mt. Tapayas for panoramic vistas or unwinding in the soothing Maquinit Hot Springs.

Where to Stay in Coron?

Here are several discoveries of highly-rated accommodations:

Outpost Hostel: Renowned for its vibrant social scene and captivating infinity pool, it promises an unforgettable stay in Coron. It offers dormitories and private rooms.

The Ridge Coron: Located on the outskirts of Coron Town, The Ridge Hotel offers comfortable rooms with breathtaking mountain and ocean views. It also provides a complimentary shuttle service to the town centre.

Kalis Viewpoint Lodge Coron: For budget-conscious travellers seeking convenience, Kalis Viewpoint Lodge offers affordable rooms in the heart of town, with restaurants, bars, and a picturesque ocean view from the rooftop.

How many days for Coron and Linapacan?

Please plan to spend at least three full days in Coron to fully explore its central island and venture out to neighbouring islands by boat at least once or twice. However, extending your stay by a few more days is highly recommended. To include Linapacan in your itinerary, allocate an additional three days for the island-hopping tour from Coron to El Nido.

Port Barton’s Coconut Beach -Tranquil Fishing Village with Bohemian Flair

Port Barton in Palawan provides a tranquil refuge for those craving a break from the busy crowds of El Nido and Coron. Though the activities may be fewer, they offer an idyllic setting to unwind and adopt a laid-back lifestyle. Explore charming beaches, discover snorkelling havens, and unwind at quaint beach bars while admiring the breathtaking sunsets. So, kick back, relax, and immerse yourself in the serenity of Port Barton!

Top Activities in Port Barton, Palawan:

In Port Barton, indulge in island-hopping escapades or opt for a kayak rental to uncover the bay’s secluded coves and rich marine biodiversity. Experience the distinct allure of nearby beaches like White Beach, Coconut Beach, and Pamuyan Beach. Venture on a hike to Pamuyan Waterfall, where you can rejuvenate with a dip in its pristine waters, completing your exploration of Port Barton’s natural wonders.

Where to Stay in Port Barton?

Coco Rico: This hostel in town caters to party-loving backpackers. It offers affordable dorm beds and a lively social atmosphere. The hostel bar provides live music and complimentary shots on Fridays and Saturdays.

My Green Hostel: Ideal for backpackers seeking a social vibe without the hustle, My Green Hostel provides a laid-back ambience with a bar onsite. Plus, it offers a Starlink internet connection, which is perfect for digital nomads.

Besaga Beachfront B&B: Indulge in beachfront luxury at Besaga Bed & Breakfast, which features cozy beach huts and an onsite restaurant serving delectable meals.

Pro-Tip: For spontaneous bookings, explore accommodations along Rizal Street parallel to the beach, some of which may not be available online. Consider Itaytay Inn, a budget-friendly guest house run by a welcoming Filipino family, offering spacious balconies with jungle views.

How many days for Port Barton?

With two full days, you can experience the essence of Port Barton, indulging in island hopping or kayaking while visiting nearby beaches. However, for a genuinely laid-back experience, consider extending your stay to 3 – 5 days, allowing ample time for relaxation and exploration.

Balabac Islands – Remote Sanctuary in the Sulu Sea

Balabac Island in Southern Palawan is a hidden gem that lures alluring adventurers with its secluded charm. Nestled in the mysterious waters of the Sulu Sea, the Balabac Islands boast pristine beaches and clear waters, ideal for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience. Despite security concerns, guided tours led by locals offer access to the islands’ beauty, with travellers recounting unforgettable journeys into the unknown.

Where to Stay in Balabac?

Accommodations are typically arranged as part of tour packages to the Balabac Islands, eliminating the need for separate hotel bookings.

How many days for Balabac?

Most visitors opt for a three-day tour of the Balabac Islands, though extended stays are possible. Travel to this remote destination typically requires a full day from Puerto Princesa, with many tour operators providing transportation to and from the capital.

Palawan Travel Guide - Top 8 Beautiful Holiday Destinations!

 

Sabang – Gateway to the Enigmatic Underground River

Did you know one of the New 7 World Wonders of Nature is in Palawan? Indeed, the Puerto Princesa Underground River is a testament to nature’s wonders, winding through an eight-kilometre cave system accessible by a 45-minute boat tour. Despite the higher tour cost, the experience of floating through darkness, illuminated only by a flashlight, is mesmerizing and unforgettable.

Note: To avoid confusion, it’s important to clarify that the Underground River, despite its name, is not located in Puerto Princesa but near the small beach town of Sabang. While visiting the Underground River on a day trip from Palawan’s capital is possible, I recommend staying in Sabang for at least one or two nights to explore the region entirely.

Top Activities in Sabang:

Discover the remarkable caves of Sabang, including the famed Underground River and the fascinating 100 Caves. Take a refreshing dip at Pyamaluguan Waterfall, immersing yourself in the revitalizing waters. Observe monkeys along the Monkey Trail, offering a unique wildlife encounter.

Where to stay in Sabang?

Cafe Sabang: Serving as the sole hostel in town, Cafe Sabang offers private rooms and dormitories at budget-friendly rates. While amenities are basic with outdoor facilities, the social atmosphere fosters connections among travellers.

Casa Leonara: Nestled conveniently on the beach in central Sabang Town, Casa Leonara provides compact yet affordable rooms, complemented by a beachside restaurant serving meals throughout the day.

Bambua Nature Cottages: Located approximately 1 kilometre from Sabang Beach, Bambua Nature Cottages offers budget-friendly accommodations in a serene jungle setting. It offers rooms and bungalows for a tranquil stay.

How many days for Sabang?

I recommend staying in Sabang for one or two nights. This timeframe provides sufficient opportunity for exploration in the Underground River, 100 Caves, Monkey Trail, and Pyamaluguan Waterfall and unwinding on the beach. Consider ziplining across rice fields at Sabang’s Adventure Park for additional adventures.

Puerto Princesa – Palawan’s Capital

Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s capital, might offer a different level of excitement than El Nido or Coron, and if time is limited, skipping the city might be a consideration. While it boasts some noteworthy restaurants and nearby beautiful beaches, its allure pales compared to the breathtaking landscapes in other parts of Palawan. However, Puerto Princesa is Palawan’s most economical entry point, with affordable flights often available, making it a convenient starting or ending point for island explorations.

Top Activities in Puerto Princesa:

Explore Nagtabon Beach, a local hangout spot perfect for scooter rides and beach relaxation. Catch the stunning sunset views at the Baywalk Promenade, offering a picturesque waterfront setting. Experience the vibrant atmosphere of the city’s Old Market, bustling with fresh produce, seafood, and assorted goods.

Where to Stay in Puerto Princesa?

Guni Guni Hostel: Offering affordable dorms with air conditioning and high-speed Starlink internet, Guni Guni Hostel provides a convenient downtown location and access to the popular Guni Guni restaurant.

Filigans Hotel: In the heart of the city centre, Filigans Hotel offers basic yet budget-friendly accommodations ideal for couples seeking value for money.

Sunlight Guest Hotel: For a more luxurious stay, Sunlight Guest Hotel provides spacious rooms and comfortable beds, some with ocean views, in a central Puerto Princesa location.

How many days for Puerto Princesa?

For backpackers on an extended trip, spending one or two nights in Puerto Princesa allows for city exploration, including visits to Nagtabon Beach and the Old Market. Those with extra time can also consider excursions to attractions like the Crocodile Farm or island-hopping in Honda Bay. However, for short vacations in Palawan, prioritizing destinations like Port Barton, El Nido, and Coron over Puerto Princesa is recommended for a more fulfilling experience.

San Vicente- Palawan’s Longest Beach

Between Port Barton and El Nido, San Vicente is famous for its renowned ‘Long Beach,’ stretching 14 kilometres. This makes it the longest sand beach in the Philippines and one of the lengthiest in Asia. Despite its fame, only some tourists venture to San Vicente due to its limited attractions besides the beach. However, San Vicente offers the perfect secluded getaway for those seeking a tranquil retreat to unwind for a few days.

The Best Things to Do in San Vicente:

Take a stroll along Long Beach. Enjoy the view from Ningning Viewpoint. 

Rent a surfboard and catch some waves.

Where to Stay in San Vicente?

Victoria Beach House: Although not located in Long Beach, I loved my stay in Victoria’s Beach House. The rooms are basic but affordable, and the hotel is located right on the neighbouring beach in Long Beach. It’s only a short ride to town, but several restaurants are nearby.

Marina 4Rooms: Marina 4Rooms is one of the most budget-friendly accommodations in San Vicente. The hotel provides budget-friendly rooms and is centrally located.

Club Agutaya: For added comfort at a higher price point, consider Club Agutaya in Long Beach. The hotel features spacious rooms with cozy beds and a pool.

How long should you stay in San Vicente? 

You can explore everything in just one day by walking along Long Beach, surfing, and visiting the viewpoint. However, for a more relaxed experience to fully immerse yourself in the vibe, consider staying two to three days.

Palawan Travel Guide - Top 8 Beautiful Holiday Destinations!

Southern Palawan – Explore Lesser-Known Destinations

If you’re curious about activities beyond the Balabac Islands in Southern Palawan, rest assured that there are worthwhile destinations to explore. While the natural wonders may not match the grandeur of the North, the towns offer an authentic and tranquil experience, perfect for those seeking an offbeat adventure.

Best Places in Southern Palawan (Mainland):

Narra: Explore the impressive Estrella Falls in this small town.

Quezon: Discover the Tabon Caves and visit the beautiful Tumarbong Falls.

Napsan Beach: Experience the tranquil ambience of this quiet beachside village with its authentic charm.

Note: When travelling to Southern Palawan, remember that the region is predominantly Muslim and more conservative than the North. Additionally, tourism infrastructure may need to be improved, making amenities like ATMs and laundry services harder to find.

Where to stay in Southern Palawan?

For accommodation in Southern Palawan, it’s recommended to book onsite, as many guest houses may need an online presence. Expect more spartan accommodations and inquire directly at hotels for available rooms.

How many days do you need for Southern Palawan?

The duration of your stay depends on your itinerary and destinations. For a comprehensive exploration of the south, consider spending one to two weeks visiting multiple places relaxedly.

 

Conclusion:

Palawan is an exceptional island destination in the Philippines, perfect for vacations and backpacking adventures. While Northern Palawan is generally safe for tourists, Southern Palawan, especially the Balabac Islands in the Sulu Sea, raises safety concerns. Travellers should exercise caution when visiting these areas and consider hiring a local guide to explore the Balabac Islands to ensure a safer experience.

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