Palawan is one of the main attractions in The Philippines, and it’s easy to see why once you arrive with its unlimited snorkelling locations, hidden lagoons, 8,000 islands to explore and best beaches in the world, just to name a few reasons to explore the region.
Journeying to The Philippines is an impressive experience, with more natural beauty than I ever imagined prior to touching down on the tropical paradise.
When visiting The Philippines in South East Asia, it’s hard not to visit Palawan Island with so much the island has to offer, you’d be crazy not to journey to the island when you’re in the area.
When you hear Palawan, the first destination that comes to mind is El Nido, due to the ever growing popularity and increase in tourists wishing to swim in the coral reefs and lagoons of the laid back destination.
Due to the growing tourism market at El Nido, the town is very touristy, so be prepared, with crowded boats doing day trips out to the islands on a regular basis, and loads of accommodation from backpacker hostels through to 5 star hotels. It is worth the visit though, simply for the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains of El Nido and the gorgeous clear water to swim and snorkel in. You’ll just need to block out the loads of people there doing the very same thing you are there for.
Do as everyone else does and book an island hoping boat trip, there are unlimited providers offering the same thing, so it’s a matter of shopping around for the best price for the islands you wish to explore, and on a day that suits you.
Once out on the nearby islands you’ll experience true Palawan, breathtaking crystal clear waters surrounded by tall limestone cliffs, where you can canoe or snorkel to get up close to the sea life. Once out amongst the islands, the scenery is picture postcard as you would expect and even better. I was only fortunate to do one boat ride, if you have time, venture out to different islands over a few days to make the most of the area and cluster of islands which all offer a different perspective of the natural beauty.
Located 20km north of El Nido, this long stretch of beach with tan colour sand is the perfect location for a quiet relaxing beach time. No words can describe Nacpan Beach except possibly pristine serenity.
If you don’t have your own mode of transport such as a vehicle or scooter, there are daily boat trips offered from El Nido to Nacpan Beach. However, if you do decide to make the drive, the road is sealed the majority of the way, with gravel/unsealed the last section of the side road and in Nacpan township itself, which made for muddy driving conditions after the rainfall we had the day prior to driving up Nacpan.
As this is a laid back beach destination, take an extra-long stroll along the shoreline as far as you can, admiring the gorgeous warm waters and lush green coconut lines trees that meet the beachfront. Also bring a good book, sun hat, towel and grab yourself a beach lounge, then simply enjoy. Sit back and listen to the waves and watch the world go by.
I like to describe Port Barton as El Nino’s little sister.
As you arrive into Port Barton on gravel roads, you instantly notice more locals walking around the roads than tourists, and local dogs wandering around freely. You soon realise this location offers a quieter more relaxed atmosphere, with less populated township, and more of a local community feeling. Think El Nido, yet at least a quarter of the size with more of a backpacker relaxed vibe, yet still having the natural beauty which you come to expect from Palawan Island.
Accommodation is low key although a good selection to chose from, and there’s many beach side restaurants and bars that are perfect for lazy afternoons after a day in or on the water, either in the beach, at Pamuayan Falls or on a day trip out to the islands.
A short trip south is White Beach, which is accessible by either car or boat. We did see a couple of people on scooters although they struggled in sections of the road where larger boulders were more common than thinner gravel, it’s still achievable though. A popular beach with a little café and hammocks to spend the day, even grassed areas under palm trees to play volleyball if you’re keen. We tried to drive around further to Jungle Bar, however due to recent rains upon almost getting bogged we turned around instead opting for a cocktail back at the reggae bar in Port Barton beach.
At night back at Port Barton township, for something off the beach strip, try walking up the hill to Mojito Bar, a restaurant/bar in a lush jungle setting with mouthwatering selection food and a vast range of drinks. You could always do what we did and walk back into town after having a meal and drinks, via the main square then stand besides locals to watch two local teams play a game of basketball.
It’s always nice to experience local events rather than be surrounded by tourist attractions, it’s one of the best ways to learn cultures and about local people.
Sabang township is approx. 75km north of Puerto Princesa international airport, this beachside destination offers a different perspective to Palawan by not having a high number of tourists drift through. The experience is more peaceful, with quiet beachfront hotels offering a place to relax the region, yet still a mix of activities so I didn’t get too bored!
While here, be sure to visit the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, one of the world’s most impressive cave systems with a 8km long underground river surrounded by limestone walls. Most people explore the underground river by small motor boat on a day tour, to witness the magnitude of the cathedral caves above the underground river is both magical and tranquil as you drift through the river.
I recommend taking the walking option back to the beach in lieu of the regular transit boat, which you’ll walk 3km along rough paths and steps through the Jungle Trail. You may be fortunate to see some monkeys along the way too.
I don’t normally recommend places to eat in my posts, however I cannot leave out Smokey’s Pizza the most delicious pizza in all of The Philippines I’ve ever eaten, we actually had it on two occasions that’s how good it was.
For a bit of adventure, you might like to go on the ATV/four wheeled bike tour, which can break up your days lazing by the beach or pool. It’s a short guided tour that takes you on a pre-constructed mud track, so not too rough terrain, yet good to get your adrenaline going and getting a bit muddy.
You shouldn’t be disappointed with any region or beach you visit on Palawan Island, whether it be the popular destinations or off the beaten track places, they all are beautiful and have similar offerings yet in their own unique way.