Travel guide to Palawan, Philippines
From the dramatic mountains to the moody skies to the stunning blue waters and speckled lagoons, nothing defines Palawan better than the views that surround it. The magnificent and crooked coastline, which stretches over almost 400 miles, is home to some of the most beautiful views, people, and wildlife in the world.
Of all the nearly 7200 islands of the Philippines, Palawan is one of the most seductive with magical silhouettes, an underground cave, over 1780 inlets and coves, and enchanting locals who never seem to stop smiling. To truly experience Mindoro and Borneo and all of the cities and landscapes between, check out this in-depth travel guide on where to stay, play and eat.
Where to stay
A stay at El Nido's Miniloc Island Resort is an absolute must if you're on Palawan. The four-star resort has a range of room options, from overwater bungalows to beachside cottages and cliff side villas. Each room offers stunning views of the dramatic limestone cliffs and beach lagoon. Local chefs prepare the food and each night offers a different menu. In addition to beauty, El Nido resorts are also very big players in sustainability with their own sewage treatment plants, monthly cleanup projects on neighboring islands, and use of a rainwater treatment system to help offset the country's limited fresh water supply. Rooms start at $350 per night.
If you're looking for a chic, contemporary hotel near the hustle and bustle of a big city, book a stay at the stunning Hibiscus Garden Hotel, located in Puerto Princesa. This three-star property sits among stunning very well maintained gardens. Each room is shaped like a U around the corridor, offering views of the bright flora and wildlife from each one. If you can, upgrade to a room with a private patio and hammock. Rooms start at just $40 a night, so it's a great bargain!
Where to play
You can't go to Palawan without visiting the top attraction on the island, the 20-million-year-old underground river. Recently labeled one of the 7 Wonders of Nature, this 8.2-km-long river goes directly into the sea and is a mix of fresh and salt water. In addition to the stunning cave, which was forged from multicolored limestone, the underground river is home to 4 endangered bird species, monkeys, lizards and hundreds of varieties of flora.
Another point in Sabang is the mangrove forest, which has been depleted by over 50% due to property waste & growth. For less than $20, you can go on a guided paddleboat tour of the forest. The towering trees and spiral black roots create a stunning contrast to the aqua blue water. Right next to the mangroves is the Sabang beach zip line. The trek is tough, through the jungle and rainforest, but the view of the lagoon, forest and mountains while you're going down is breathtaking.
About 3 hours north of Sabang is El Nido. The municipality of El Nido is a managed resource protected area due to all of the endangered species, including the forest sea turtle. While in El Nido, spend time scuba diving or snorkeling so you can see the turtles and jack fish. The main city, also called El Nido, is home to many shops, markets and stunning limestone cliffs, so spend a few hours roaming around. If you're staying with the El Nido resorts, be sure to book a tour of the big and small lagoons. The contrast of the bright cobalt blue and aqua waters against the limestone cliffs is majestic.
Further north on the top of Palawan is the principality of Coron. Only accessible by boat or flight, this slightly secluded island offers some of the best scuba diving in the entire world. There are dozens of sunken Japanese warships from the second World War 10 - 40 meters offshore along with hundreds of varieties of coral and fish. On shore, Coron is home to beautiful limestone cliffs and an indigenous tribe who still manage the island.