Last updated on September 9th, 2018 at 08:48 pm
Palawan travel is probably in a lot of traveler’s bucket lists. We sure were happy when we got to cross this destination of ours. If you’ve been searching for the best islands to travel in the whole world, Palawan should be in your top 10, if not the #1 place to go. Why? It’s a gorgeous location that’s very peaceful and clean, and also incredibly cheap! This paradise is the largest province in the Philippines and is home to El Nido and Coron, two of the most visited destinations in the country.
There’s just no words for how beautiful it is in Palawan. What we can share with you are some gorgeous photos we took on the island and some tips on how to visit Palawan, arguably Luzon’s most famous and most beautiful province.
How to get to Palawan
There are various ways you can go to Palawan, so this will always depend on where you’re traveling from. Some already book everything from the comforts of their homes – flights, vans, hotels and tours. This is not always the cheapest way, but of course, the convenient choice for a lot of people.
The fastest way to reach Palawan is to go by plane. There are flights from all over the country and the world that land at Puerto Princesa International Airport from airlines like Cebu Pacific, AirAsia and Philippine Airlines. If you’re coming from Manila and Cebu, you can reach Palawan in an hour and 15 minutes on the plane. There are also flights within Palawan from Puerto Princesa (the capital) to El Nido that only last 30 minutes. If you’re coming from Boracay, you can book flights to Puerto Princesa on Tuesdays.
Check SkyScanner.com for the best airfare deals before you travel!
There are scheduled boat trips from Manila to Palawan if you want to travel on the sea. This is a much cheaper option than flying but obviously takes longer than a plane. Every Thursday, Negros Navigation has trips to Puerto Princesa while the Super Ferry goes to the island every Friday. The trip takes around 18-22 hours.
Best time to visit Palawan
This island destination in the Philippines is best enjoyed during the dry season. During this time, visitors can go on different tours, swim in the beautiful waters and enjoy the sun in Palawan. The best time to visit Palawan is around October to June since the rain usually falls in the middle of the year. However, Palawan’s wet season does not have typhoons that directly hit the island so going on those months might still be fun.
Just make sure to always bring your sunblock, especially when you’re planning to spend all day under the sun. Keep cool with some coconut juice, too!
Transportation around Palawan
The island of Palawan receives many tourists every year as one of the hottest destinations in the Philippines. So, you can expect going around the island to be relatively easy and surprisingly cheap. You can ride the jeepney or the tricycle, both costing 10 PHP for the first 4 km. Cars, scooters and vans are also available for rent. Those who want to go island hopping can get on the many boats that travel daily in and out of Palawan for 1,250 PHP.
You can always get more information from your hotel or resort regarding the best ways to reach a certain location in Palawan. Book your accommodation in Palawan before your trip with Booking and Agoda!
ATMs and Currency in Palawan
The Philippines, like many Asian destinations, are much cheaper especially for tourists coming in from Western countries. The country uses the Philippine Peso for monetary transactions, where $1 USD = 54 PHP, more or less. Click here to check the exchange rate between your country and the Philippines. Since Palawan is already an urbanized and frequently visited destination in the Philippines, you can expect to find plenty of ATMs all over the province. Puerto Princesa has several ATMs by MetroBank, Union Bank, Philippine National Bank (PNB), Bank of the Philippines Islands (BPI) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
Daily budget for Palawan
You can visit Palawan even with a limited budget, especially if you’re used to dealing in dollars, euros or pounds. There are plenty of food, accommodations and activities that you can try in Palawan during your trip. A decent meal in the island in a local eatery can go for as low as 70 PHP while eating at a restaurant can cost around 230 PHP a meal with drinks. If you’re eating at a resort restaurant, you can pay up to 500 PHP for a very hearty meal. A bottle of local beer like San Miguel Pale Pilsen or Red Horse goes for 40-80 PHP.
If you’re planning to go on tours, there are all sorts of packages for various companies that you can enjoy. A boat tour with a group can start at 1,000 PHP while private island hopping tours range from 3,000-6,000 PHP. We were lucky enough to try tours in El Nido, Palawan that only cost 1,200 PHP.
You won’t run out of accommodation options when you visit Palawan. No matter the budget, you’re sure to find a local spot you’ll love. There are guest houses, hostels and inns that cost around 200-500 PHP. There are nicer establishments that rent rooms at 700-1,500 PHP while bigger resorts cost around 1,700-5,000 PHP. Seafront establishments with excellent views and ambience start at 7,000 PHP. Aside from all those amazing options, you can also book an entire house or apartment with AirBnB! We love the choices they have in Palawan that start from as low as 700 PHP per night. Cool, right? What’s even cooler is you can Click here to get a great deal off your first booking with AirBnB!
How did we do our Palawan travel?
We traveled from Northern Manila, so we naturally booked a flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa. From there, we stayed with a hotel to experience the city for a couple of days. Then we moved to El Nido, then San Vicente, then back to Puerto Princesa before heading home.
Where to go in Palawan
Puerto Princesa is a usual stop when you go for a Palawan travel. It’s the capital, and unless you travel for a bit in the area, beaches aren´t very popular in the downtown area. Puerto Princesa is popular for the Underground River, one of the 7 wonders of the old world, which is still highly visited by people until today. Since we stayed in the city part of Puerto Princesa, we used the time to work and to watch and join the people in their local life.
What to see
Local Shopping Buys
If you are the type who loves seeing what unique and local products a particular area is producing, you’re in luck because there are many local products you can buy in Puerto Princesa. You are pretty much covered, whether you are trying to buy some gifts for yourself, or taking home some souvenir gifts for friends or family.
Some products you’ll see are dried fish and sea food products. Drying seafood is one way of preserving seafood so that you can store them for a longer time. You can also buy desserts and delicacies, souvenir shirts and shorts, bags and jewelry made from local materials. It was surprising that Rachel didn’t shop! haha
There are other few things here that you won’t see in other places in the Philippines like the Crocodile Sisig. That was a new find for us!
Visit Local Markets
Some of our favorite things in every new city is visiting local markets. You will find the best prices in a local atmosphere. There are fruits, juices and local carenderias. The New Market in Puerto Princesa is very close to the Bus Terminal. If you are dropping by, there is no excuse for not visiting.
One of the most popular thing to do when you travel Palawan is visiting Puerto Princesa underground River. It was a part of the 7 wonders of the old world for its natural beauty. How go there? You need to head to Sabang which is 2 hours driving from Puerto Princesa. You can book tours starting from 1,300- 1,500 pesos and you can DIY for less than a 1,000 pesos. ($1=50 pesos).
Work Online in Puerto Princesa
If you are a digital nomads like us or you need to do some work online, do it in Puerto Princesa where the connection is more reliable than the other places in Palawan. We spent many hours working to make sure we can enjoy El Nido and the other places around Palawan.
How to go
From Puerto Princesa, you can get a bus in San Jose Bus Terminal, and then go to El Nido. This bus trip is not the most comfortable, think long trip and bad roads, kind of like a roller coaster. But we sure did it. I actually had to go to El Nido a few days, before Rachel followed for a very special trip, but we traveled the same way. This trip can last about 6 hours. You can take the night bus ride to save on accommodation. Bus departure is around 6pm without air condition (Php280) –8pm air condition bus for the Roro (Php 380) bus lines, which costs less than the Cherry Bus line, charging for Php450, and leaving at 9pm. If you look like a tourist, van drivers and taxi drivers will be there to invite you to ride with them for a few hundred pesos more. Vans are starting from Php500-600 and they are faster than the bus.
We chose the night bus, that a few backpackers do. Once you get El Nido Bus Terminal you can sleep in the bus, until you wake up in the morning. A great tip to save your accommodation. From the Bus Terminal in El Nido you can have breakfast and you can walk to the town (30 minutes) or you can ride a trycicle.
What to do in El Nido
The tours are of course the main attractions of El Nido. There are 4 main tours, A, B, C and D, and one inland tour. We had a special partnership with the Nativ’ Exploration Palawan, which is an independent El Nido tour. Basically you go for an unplugged tour of El Nido for 3 days and 2 nights. Read more here to see how was the full experienced of the said independent tour. Read on to find out more about El Nido’s official Palawan Travel tours. Read our Top 10 things to do in El Nido!
Tour A includes the following destinations:
– Small Lagoon
– Big Lagoon
– Secret Lagoon
– Shimizu Island
– 7 Commando Beach
In our first day in El Nido, we stayed and took Tour A with Ipil Suites. This hotel actually allowed us to stay in a very nice point of view of the neighboring places, since they have a nice top view room with a terrace. Great view to give you the El Nido vibe.
Internet can be quite a challenge in El Nido. There are areas that even cellphone reception just don’t work. We highly suggest that you work in advance, and make sure all details of anything you need to access online has been taken care of, before you venture in your El Nido trip. And once you are there, relax and soak in the paradise vibe. You don’t get to enjoy that every single day!
Tour A is the most popular tour (Php 1200) and it’s the closest to Mainland El Nido. It definitely sticks out to you, and makes you yearn for so much more of El Nido waters and island hops. If you ever have to choose only one, we would say go for Tour A. But still, you can check all the tours, and depending on what you feel, get the tour that makes most sense to you. We enjoyed the Big Lagoon, they got into the lagoon with the boat and the place was great to enjoy and taking pictures. In the small lagoon you can rent a kayak (Php 300/30 minutes) if you are three of us is $2 each. Or you can even go swimming as we did.
Tour B includes the following destinations:
– Snake island
– Pinagbuyatan Island
– Entalula Beach
– Cudugnon Cave
– Cathedral Cave
– Snorkeling Site
For Tours B and C, we did it with Binibini Travels. We can attest to how amazing we were treated during this tour, and we love our tour guide Franco! Franco guided us around El Nido and we had so much fun with him. We seriously don’t get anything for recommending him. But you can contact them email@example.com and ask for Ailenn with this CODE: 2G0T1B7T. Tell them that you are friends with gamintraveler and they will give you a small discount as it happened with a few travelers. If you are arriving in a group, that would be the preferable setup! Just let us know. The price of the tours is pretty much standard in the whole El Nido, so you don’t have too worry too much about getting overcharged. But still, save where you can 🙂 For me (Ruben) was my favorite tour, I really liked Snake Island. I know, it´s hard to choose a tour in El Nido. All of them are amazing! Prices are Php1300.
Here are the amazing views we got!
Tour C includes the following destinations:
– Helicopter Island
– Matinloc Shrine
– Secret Beach
– Hidden Beach
– Star Beach
We love Tour C. We shared the boat with an amazing group of Mexicans taking a short vacation from the US, and we had a really lively trip, with even beers, rum and music on board. haha! Nice way to actually end a trip in El Nido! Price for Tour C is Php1400. We really liked Star Beach, Secret Beach and the snorkeling that we did.
Tour D includes the following destinations:
This is the only tour that we didn´t do in El Nido. The price is Php1200. We didn´t have time for this Tour but we guess is also amazing as every tour in El Nido.
To all these prices in El Nido tours you need to add Php200 for Enviromental Fee per person. The permit lasts for a week. It means you only pay once and you can do a few tours. All the tours include a huge lunch, water, sometimes coke, beer, masks for the snorkeling and towels. Filipino guides are great and explain the itinerary and help to go up and down to the boat everytime with a big smile.
How to go to San Vicente
While in Palawan, we thought about visiting an off-the-beaten path, hence San Vicente. San Vicente is a small town in middle of Palawan, where you can enjoy long beaches. It has probably one of the longest beach in the world, 14km long. There were also lots of places with numerous palm trees, where you’d feel you’ve been transported to a different part of the world. It was just so beautiful. How to go San Vicente? There are vans from Puerto Princesa leaving every hour and the price is Php300. We went by local bus Php180. The departure is supposed at 6 am but it´s leaving when is full. The trip lasts around 5-6 hours with a long stop in Roxas. The bus journey is long but great. All the trip surronding of nice beaches and palm trees everywhere.
What to do in San Vicente
There is a local market where you can to eat local food with views to the port. Prices are starting from Php40 and there is a lot of variety for food and drinks. We got addicted once and again to Buko juice (coconut).
There are also restaurants at night and places where you can have a drink. San Vicente is very quiet but this place become busy after the sunset.
Rent a motorbike
You can rent a motorbike and explore around the 14 kilometers of beach. It was great going around the beach and we didn´t see anyone. that´s not happening in El Nido. Every place has magic in Palawan!
Where to sleep
Our choice was sleeping in Peace and Love where you can enjoy the amazing views during the day and their infinity pool. At night, there is a band on live. The atmosphere is very relax, small place with a friendly Filipino staff.
Check out the views we had. Definitely exotic and so beautiful.
Food to try in Palawan
We already mentioned crocodile sisig as one of our unique finds in Palawan, but the island has more to offer when it comes to food. Here are our top picks of food to try in Palawan:
Enjoy the seafood in Palawan
A trip to any coastal destination will not be complete without trying out the seafood. In Palawan, there are many different kinds of top quality fish like tuna, blue marlin and seabass. Other fresh catches include crab, lobster, shrimp and squid. Just thinking about all that makes my stomach grumble!
Now, this is one special treat that you should try in Palawan. Tamilok is an exotic dish made from woodworms collected from mangroves. This soft, slimy delicacy actually tastes like oysters and are eaten fresh. Some are even fortunate enough to eat tamilok straight from the tree!
Have a plate of lato
Lato is a popular side dish in most beaches in the Philippines. Known in English as “sea grapes” or “green caviar,” lato is a seaweed that’s often served with salt or vinegar and perfectly matches grilled and fried food. It’s soft and strangely crunchy, a definite must-try in Palawan!
Eat danggit lamayo for breakfast
While the danggit (or dried fish) in Malapascua Island in Cebu is already a famous dish, danggit lamayo in Palawan is a delicious delicacy in its own right. This is a popular food to try in Coron and is a staple breakfast for those staying in resorts in Palawan. Danggit lamayo is often paired with some fried rice, vinegar with chili, and pickled papaya.
A real classic during the summer in the Philippines is halo-halo (literally “mix-mix”), a refreshing snack typically served in a tall glass that’s made with crushed ice, sugar, sago (similar to tapioaca pearls), gulaman (jelly-like dried agar), bananas, sweet beans and pinipig (pounded and toasted glutinous rice). Ice cream or milk flan is usually added on top and milk is poured before serving. Eating halo-halo in a hot summer day is one of the best things to do in Palawan!
Festivals in Palawan
Baragatan sa Palawan
If you’re staying in Palawan on the third week of June, you’re just in time for the Baragatan sa Palawan festival! This week-long fiesta is a celebration of the province’s rich culture and history and honors Palawan’s daily life. It is basically a thanksgiving festival on one of the world’s best islands where numerous activities are held. There are beautiful floats, photo contests, sports competitions, quiz bees, beauty pageants and concerts throughout the week of Baragatan.
Pagdiwata Tribal Ritual
Want a meaningful, deeply rooted experience in Palawan? Then head on out to Aborlan in December and witness locals give thanks with a spiritual event during the full moon. Pagdiwata is a combination of a thanksgiving festival and a healing ceremony. Aroblan also has many beaches and mountainous areas for you to explore if ever you come visit.
Another festival that truly honors Palawan’s heritage and local culture is Tarak, an event that celebrates the indigenous people of the island. The name combines two of the most important indigenous tribes in the province of Palawan, the Tagbanua and the Batak tribes. The ritual dances and activities are also held in Aborlan and is also celebrated in the full moon, but this time in January. Traditional tribal dances, woven clothing and handmade accessories are highlighted during Tarak and are meant to cast away evil spirits and invokes god’s blessings.
Places we want to see next
So many more places to see! We definitely need to go back for Coron, Port Barton, and we heard that South Palawan is such a nice and quiet area, undiscovered, and rarely beautiful. Can’t wait to update this post all for you!!!
How did you love all the Palawan travel destinations? Let us know WHY you want to add Palawan to your travel list, and we want to hear your stories!!! More destination in The Philippines, read our backpacking guide and click here to read our hike to Taal Volcano in Tagaytay.
As always, have an amazing time wherever you are in the world today! Til next time.