The Ultimate Guide To Palawan, Philippines
We may have just found paradise...
Palawan’s dramatic, rugged and wildly beautiful landscape is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations for travellers, backpackers and adventurous holiday-makers alike. Despite the growing numbers of visitors, the area has only recently been discovered by larger groups of tourists, carrying a ‘last frontier’ feel. Deserted islands, lagoons, and insane coral gardens make this destination consistently ranked by popular travel media as one of the world’s best islands.
To help you plan your visit, here is our ultimate guide to make sure you have an awesome time on the island of Palawan.
HOW TO GET THERE
If your starting point is Manila’s international airport, then there are several flight options into Palawan. We suggest taking one of the cheaper flights into Puerto Princesa, which costs around £30-40. However, there are also direct flights in and out of El Nido and Busuanga (Coron) airports, but these tend to be on the more expensive and best to stay away if you are on a budget.
If you are travelling to other parts of The Philippines, there are several flight options to/from Cebu, Boracay, and the up and coming Siargao. (watch out for this destination!)
WHAT TO TAKE
With the 30 degrees heat and sunshine aplenty, taking your swim shorts, sun protection and sunglasses are guaranteed. However, preparation is key as common amenities are not in guaranteed supply. A good amount of cash is vital (PESO is the local currency) as most places are cash only and ATMs are often not in operation. Add to this a well-stocked medical bag that includes mosquito spray, oral rehydration salts, Imodium as well as plenty of plasters for your exposed feet and you should be good to go.
WHERE TO GO
Let your journey begin by stepping off the plane into Palawan’s bustling capital, Puerto Princesa. Two or three days will be more than enough to explore this little city with local tricycle’s (converted motorbikes) being a great and cheap way to get around.
The Puerto Princesa Underground River is hailed as one of the new seven wonders of nature, so make sure you put this day tour at the top of your list. The 8.2-kilometre subterranean river runs through a spectacular cave formation, with plenty of stalagmites and stalactites to marvel at. There will be plenty of ways to book this locally so don’t feel any panic or anxiety if you don’t have anything booked before you arrive.
Leaving the city, make your way to the next destination by private taxi, local bus or if you’re feeling more adventurous, hire a moped and hit the road!
Port Baton is a peaceful welcome and relatively untouched compared with other destinations in Palawan. This quaint fishing village offers deserted beach paradise, with empty roads and swooshing palm trees for company.
Island hopping tours are exactly what Palawan is about and your first of many starts here. Sun-soaked days on a boat, picture-perfect beaches to keep your Instagram dazzling for weeks, snorkelling underwater coral gardens, fresh coconuts and a few cheeky rum cocktails to finish, why not eh!
Tour options are split into A, B, C & D, each include different options so choose what fits your needs while you are there.
El Nido is a gateway to the sublime and is the primary base for exploring Palawan’s star attraction, the Bacuit Archipelago. Save at least 2 days for the island hopping tours as this is something you do not want to miss! With the standardized routes available which will take you to all the main spots such as Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Snake Island and Pinagbuyutan Island.
Our suggestion is to stay at Outpost Beach Hostel and book the island hopping tour through their reception. This sociable hostel is nestled on the end of a secluded beach and their island tours have a unique itinerary meaning you have pristine beaches and lagoons all to you and your small group. What’s more, you get to meet fellow travellers from the rest of the hostel and settle into a few local drinks on your way back to shore. El Nido offers the most bar and restaurant options in Palawan so if you’re looking for a night out on your journey, make it here!
Nacpan beach can be explored via a day trip from El Nido, but we suggest booking the Mad Monkeys Hostel for a 2-night stay in one of Palawan's most beautiful beaches. The 17-kilometre road from El Nido is long and very bumpy but this detracts the area from mass tourism, and keeps four kilometres of soft cream-coloured sand, swaying coconut palms, clear aqua water and small surfable waves, quaint, blissful and mostly deserted.
Join An Expedition
From Nacpan Beach & El Nido, the next destination northbound is Coron. The common route is to take the ferry which takes 4 hours and costs around £35 gbp.
However, the more exciting way to travel is to board an expedition from El Nido to Coron. Our pick of the expedition bunch are Tao Philippines and Big Dream Boat Man, which both offer a selection of multi-day experiences that cover an undiscovered side of Palawan island life. With several boats going from El Nido to Coron, join a group of like-minded travellers as you explore remote islands deserted beaches and hidden coves of Northern Palawan.
The last stop on your journey is the town of Coron and the adjacent Coron island. The paradise island has several day trips where you can discover super instagrammable spots such as Twin Lagoon, Barracuda Lake and Kayangan Lake, which waters are one of the clearest lakes in the country.
There are also numerous reefs and WWII shipwrecks in the area which make for outstanding snorkelling and diving trips. To top it off, there are numerous white sandy beaches to pack into the days itinerary.
MTV Travelled With… Turkish Airlines. Turkish Airlines offer flights from Istanbul International Airport direct to Manila starting at £452.50 for economy class. With scheduled services operating in 318 destinations, it is the largest mainline carrier by number of destinations in the world so there are plenty of options for connecting flights to reach your final destination. Their economy class offers affordable options for both short-haul and long-haul passengers. Furthermore, passengers looking to upgrade can do so with their business class seats. With great service, delicious Turkish foods and the electronic lie-flat mode offers a comfortable sleeping position with room to spread out especially if you sleep on your side. You have a large storage compartment for personal items in the ottoman and all seats come with a power outlet, USB port, LED reading light, extra bedding and wash bag. The excellent food service is selected from an extensive menu of both dinner and breakfast options so service is timely and precise.
For further information, fares and reservations visit the Turkish Airlines website at www.turkishairlines.com