The Great Escape

living a simple life in Palawan Philippines

Palawan Travel Guide

WHAT’S NEW IN PALAWAN

May 14, 2016 – We’re excited! Now that we’re living in Palawan we just launched our Facebook page. It’ll be easier for us to share tips, adventures and up-to-date information. Visit us here https://www.facebook.com/thefeists/

Intro to Palawan Philippines

Palawan Philippines is known as the ‘Last Frontier’. It’s a paradise of white sand beaches, turquoise water and limestone cliffs. Palawan is a mecca for nature lovers and those looking to get away from it all. If you’re looking for more of a party like atmosphere, lazing on the beach with drinks, lots of shops, restaurants and bars then Boracay Island might be more suited to you than Palawan.

It can be a little tricky to plan as information and communication can be challenging. When we first started to research the area in 2011 there was very little information to go by and when you’re trying to plan a trip from half way around the world that can be a little scary. It’s gotten a whole lot better. I’ve been asked a lot of questions from people wanting to visit this beautiful area so I’d like to share what I’ve found to help others plan their trip.

Palawan Map

Map of Palawan Philippines (Click on the image to Enlarge)

Most people seem to only visit Puerto Princesa to see one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature, The Underground River but Palawan has so much more to offer.  We flew to Coron from Manila, took an expedition through Linapacan Island to El Nido and for our final leg a shuttle van to Puerto Princesa City. We stayed 16 days in total.

Out of all the websites, I found TripAdvisor.com the most helpful when it came down to the nuts and bolts of planning the trip. The information is the most up-to-date and most of the reviews are pretty spot-on even though I’m not too keen on its ranking system and other flaws. Make sure you also compare it to other site reviews to get a more balanced view. I then like to use HotelsCombined.com to book a place to stay. It’s a multi-search website that finds the best prices on accommodations. I find it can save you a lot of time and is usually cheaper and more convenient than trying to book a hotel directly.

Palawan is becoming pretty popular so new places are springing up quickly. The downside to this is prices have also gone up because of this popularity and it’s become more touristed. As time goes on I’ll be updating this page with more information.

If you have any questions I’ll be happy to answer them as best I can. ‘The Chef’ and I are moving to Coron in March 2016 and I hope to be blogging while there.

Busuanga Island – Coron

There is so much information about Coron it now has its own page. >> A Practical Travel Guide to Coron, Palawan

Palawan Island – El Nido

The Feist’s Quick Guide to El Nido Palawan

Feist's Quick Guide El Nido Palawan

GENERAL INFORMATION

El Nido Palawan

El Nido Town

El Nido is located in Bacuit Bay on the northern part of Palawan Island and is the ultimate destination for island exploration. It’s a stunningly beautiful area and while not the easiest place to get to your effort will be richly rewarded. Bacuit Bay is dotted with picture perfect islands some of which have towering limestone cliffs, hidden lagoons, turquoise water and the finest white sand you may ever set your feet on.

The town itself where most of the accommodations and restaurants are located is not much to look at but it’s only the base from where you’ll explore. It has a so-called beach with restaurants lining its shores but it’s only good to look at and not really swim. Besides, it’s essentially a parking lot for bangkas (local outrigger boats). The town is small enough to walk around in but if you feel lazy you can flag down a tricycle.

Here’s a fantastic video of stunning El Nido from above. It sends my heart fluttering every time I view it. If you want to see more here are a couple of my favourite videos.

There are no direct flights to El Nido by the major airlines. Most people fly to Puerto Princesa from Manila then take a bus or shuttle van. You can find more information about bus and van services from Puerto Princesa to El Nido on our page ‘El Nido FAQs.’

There is one private airline, AirSWIFT (former ITI – Island Transvoyager, Inc.), which services the big high-end resorts but will take regular passengers if they have seats available. It is expensive (@6,500 pesos each way) but might be worth it if you have limited time. They have flights from Manila or Cebu.

They have a brand new website (www.air-swift.com) but people have reported having trouble booking through it (they probably need to work out the kinks). A traveller posted a review on travel site which is quite helpful. You can read it here. Here’s a video of what to expect.

A lot of people want to know how to get to El Nido from Coron. There’s no easy or fast way. You have to fly back to Manila or take the local ferry. I’ve posted information and schedule of the ferries on the page ‘Coron FAQs‘.

WEATHER

We were in El Nido in January. The weather was beautiful, sunny and hot. Make sure you bring lots of sunblock, sunglasses and a hat. Bacuit Bay, where all the island hopping is done, was quite choppy and windy.

Two Seasons

  • Dry Season – Coolest months (December to February)
  • Dry Season – Hottest months (March to May) – This is their summer season.
  • Rainy Season (June to November) – This is considered low season. July to October is also typhoon season.

WHERE TO STAY IN EL NIDO

Accomodations in El Nido Palawan range from cheap backpacker style hostels (like the new and clean  Spin Designer Hostel) in town to pricey high end island resorts and everything else in between. Most people stay in town but there are other areas worth considering. HotelsCombined has an extensive list of all type of accommodations.

El Nido Resorts – Eco-friendly island accommodations

When I was planning our first trip to Palawan I considered staying at one of the eco-friendly El Nido Resorts like Lagen Island or Miniloc Island. It seemed like the perfect romantic hide-away to celebrate a belated honeymoon but since there’s only so much your budget can stretch we opted to go on a private Tao Expedition instead. Since then, they’ve opened up their latest resort on Pangulasian Island and it’s been described as ‘heaven on earth.’ (It was just hailed as Southeast Asia’s Best Sustainable Boutique Hotel 2015 at the World Boutique Hotel Awards.) Our anniversary is coming up. Who knows, maybe we’ll splurge and celebrate at one of their luxurious beach villas. I hear they have a fabulous house reef and you can snorkel right from your room. You can find out more about them on their website El Nido Resorts Pangulasian Island or you can book it on HotelsCombined.com.

Caalan Beach – 10 minute walk from El Nido town

We stayed at the Golden Monkey Cottages in 2011 which is about 10 minute walk outside of town at Caalan Beach. You can read my review ‘Quiet retreat from town‘ on TripAdvisor. If you’re thinking of staying there make sure you compare it to other accommodation in the area and check updated reviews.  You can book it online and read the latest reviews at HotelsCombined.com. Right next door Cadlao Resort had just opened. We walked passed it everyday and tried to peek in. It looked good and has a pool. From the reviews I’ve read it also seems like an excellent place to stay in this peaceful and tranquil part of El Nido.

Corong-Corong – 10 minute tricycle ride from El Nido town

Another alternative if you don’t like the busy town atmosphere is Corong-Corong which is about a 10 minute tricycle ride from El Nido and is close to Marimegmeg Beach. Some good choices of Corong Corong hotels would be budget friendly Greensview Resort, excellently located Stunning Vistas Beach Resort or Coral Bay Resort El Nido with great views and spacious rooms.

Qi Palawan – Remote and affordable

Okay, so you don’t have the budget for a fancy 5-star resort. Qi Palawan has the remoteness and seclusion to make you feel like it’s your own little secret. It’s in a beautiful setting on the northeast side of Palawan Island, gets consistent positive reviews for its attentive staff and good food and it even has its own beach. It’s definitely a place for peace and relaxation, yoga or kiteboarding! You can book it through HotelsCombined.com

Other El Nido Palawan Hotels & Resorts:

WHERE TO EAT IN EL NIDO

In 2011 we really didn’t find anything special about the food. Often restaurants ran out of items like calamari and service was quite slow. We had a good experience at Marber’s which is right on the beach. You can read my review ‘Something different‘ on TripAdvisor. We had good salad and bread at the Artcafe, good shake and slow service at Sea Slugs, and okay lunch at Corner Beach restaurant.

Here’s what other people had to say about restaurants in El Nido:

WHAT TO DO IN EL NIDO

Island hopping is the thing to do here. Our last day of our Tao Expedition from Coron was dedicated to island hopping and snorkelling in the  lagoons around Bacuit Bay. We also rented a motorbike for an excursion to Nacpan beach.

Here are some great resources on things to do in El Nido:

TRAVEL FORUMS

Do you have questions to ask other travellers? Check out these helpful forums.

Palawan Island – Puerto Princesa

Philippines - Palawan - Puerto Princessa

Puerto Princesa City

GENERAL INFORMATION

Puerto Princesa is the urban gateway to Palawan. Known as the ‘city in a forest’ it’s the most developed city in the province with a population of only 223,000 (2013). It boasts a Robinson’s Mall, a movie cinema and the usual fast food joints like Jollibee, Chow King, and McDonald’s. Most people come to here to visit the Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour and use it as a springboard to El Nido. It does have its charms and here you can explore more ‘urbane’ activities.

What’s it like in Puerto Princesa? Check out this video.

Airlines

  • Cebu Pacific – Several daily flights from Manila and Cebu. Also flying daily from Iloilo.
  • Air Asia Zest – Several daily flights from Manila.
  • Philippine Airlines – Several daily flights from Manila.
  • Air Juan Airline – Small 9 seat charter airline that flies Coron – Puerto Princesa (Thursday & Sunday).
  • Tigerair – Flights between Singapore and Puerto Princesa (stopover in Manila).

Schedules subject to change. There is a 200 peso terminal fee when you depart from Puerto Princesa.

Boats and Ferries

There’s a large ferry operating from Manila or Puerto Princesa. The 2GO Ferry departs from Manila every Friday and Tuesday at 1:30pm and arrives next day at 9pm. That’s a long trip. Montenegro Lines travel between Iloilo City and Puerto Princesa.

WEATHER

WHERE TO STAY IN PUERTO PRINCESA

We only stayed in Puerto Princesa for 2 nights but we had an excellent stay at the Hibiscus Garden Hotel. It’s a place with charming character and is a quiet oasis in the city just 5 minutes away from the airport. You can read my review ‘Great Value & Excellent Service‘ on TripAdvisor here. It’s a small place and fills up quickly so if you decide to stay here book early. They wanted a 50% deposit when I tried to book it directly but I didn’t want to pay an expensive bank transfer fee so I booked it online at HotelsCombined.com.

Not far from Hibiscus is the quiet, homey, little B&B, By the Bay Jacana Bed & Breakfast. Before finding a more permanent place to call home we stayed here for almost a month. Here’s the review we wrote on Tripadvisor.

By the Bay, Jacana B&B is located a few minutes from the airport in a quiet part of the city. Its 7 rooms are nestled beside the mangroves and face a serene garden which includes an open kitchen, dining area and lounge that’s so comfortable to hang out in you will end up socializing with other travellers.

A young couple, Sandra & BG, run the place and are so hospitable you start to think of them as your friends. Their staff are equally friendly and will gladly attend to all your needs. One time I asked one of the staff about a native fruit I had read about and a few days later it showed up at the breakfast table. Another time I was having a converstion with Sandra about the filipino food my mom used to cook for us kids and the next day I was surprised by a bowl of champerado (rice with chocolate) just like my mom used to cook. It’s this type of personal service that makes Jacana B&B stand out from other accomodations.

Originally, we had planned on staying for a week but ended up staying for almost a month.

You can also book it online at HotelsCombined.com

Family Friendly Island Resort – Dos Palmas Palawan

If you’re looking for a family friendly resort Dos Palmas Resort is a good choice for Pueurto Princesa. Rooms are large and comfortable (although a bit dated) and there are tons of activities to keep your kids occupied. With two swimming pools, two pool tables, table tennis, darts, tennis and basketball courts, kayaking, and snorkelling what more could you want? The kids can even bike around the island while you go to the spa and pamper yourself. You can book them on HotelsCombined.com

Puerto Princesa Hotels Near Airport

If you’re travelling from El Nido and plan to stay only a night before catching a plane back to Manila you might want to consider staying near the airport. Here’s a list of hotels.

Here are some good resources on places to stay:

WHERE TO EAT IN PUERTO PRINCESA

We had an excellent but expensive meal at La Terrasse. The restaurant at Hibiscus Garden Inn was also pretty good.

Do you love a good craft beer? Well, Palawan now has it’s first and only craft micro-brewery and it’s owned and operated by women! Palaweño Brewery has a selection of beers like ‘The Tribal Beer’ (Honey Kolsh) and ‘Ahayay IPA’ (India Pale Ale). So head over to Manalo Street and grab a cold one. Tagay! Visit them on their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/palawanbrewery/

Here’s what other people had to say about restaurants in Puerto Princesa:

WHAT TO DO IN PUERTO PRINCESA

We were only in Puerto Princesa for two days so we went to the Underground River. The trip arranged by Hibiscus Garden Inn took up one full day. I did get to try the famous mangrove worms which I wrote about in my post ‘NEVER SAY NEVER – How I came to eat a worm.’ We met up with my parents who happened to be visiting Puerto Princesa at the same time. They stayed an additional day so they were able to tour the city, visit Baker’s Hill, and combined a tour of the Underground River with a Sabang Mangrove Paddleboat tour.

TRAVEL FORUMS

Do you have questions to ask other travellers? Check out these helpful forums.

Stories about Palawan on this Blog – The Feist’s Great Escape

Other Helpful Travel Information for Visiting Palawan

We were last in El Nido and Puerto Princesa in 2011. Since then development has grown significantly. In order to stay up to date I’m constantly researching Palawan. Here are some current posts that may help you in planning a trip.

2016

2015

2014

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52 thoughts on “Palawan Travel Guide

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  1. I love your blog! My boyfriend and I are looking to visit Palawan in December for 15nights. We will be travelling from the U.K. Is Palawan an expensive place? How much roughly would we be looking at for trips and meals out? We would be looking at doing things on a budget.

    Thank you!

    • Palawan is expensive compared to other parts of Asia. The costs will depend on your comfort level of travelling and what activities you plan on doing. Will you be staying at hostels? Do you need air conditioning? Will you eat local food or western style? Dinners will run you about 300-600 pesos per person. A beer cost an average of 60 pesos. A budget room (fan only) will cost around 500 pesos a night. Air conditioned rooms around 1,500 pesos. Island hopping trips (joiner tour) can cost from around 600 pesos to 3,000 pesos depending on the destinations.

  2. Palawan is a paradise like no other. I visited Coron. Its marvellous, breath-taking, and everything everywhere you see its like serenity. I will definitely be back. Here’s my previous memories.. #Lifeandlines http://www.lifeandlines.com/wego/coron-palawan/

  3. Assumpta Milloren on said:

    Hello! Can you recommend me a good travel agent for our el nido tour. Thanks! 😄

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