Want to experience tropical wonderland? Visit Palawan! Known for its white beaches, wildlife biodiversity, lakes, springs, and rivers, Palawan is one of the best places to visit in the Philippines and one of the top tourist destinations and best islands in the world. In fact, Palawan was named the World’s Most Desirable Island in the 21st Wanderlust Travel Awards in London. Tourists from all over the world come here to witness how paradise looks like.
This tourist friendly island is accessible via air, land, and sea travel. In our case, we travelled via flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa City. This is the easiest, fastest, and most common way. There are also flights going to El Nido, Coron, and San Vicente but more flights are bound to Puerto Princesa as it also covers international flights aside from domestic ones.
There are lots of hotels, inns, and guest houses in Palawan where you can stay depending on your budget. In our case, we stayed at Aziza Paradise Hotel while we were in Puerto Princesa City. The hotel has a swimming pool, restaurant, and clean spacious rooms. More importantly, they provided us with an excellent service.
Here are the things and activities that we did during our one week stay in Palawan:
DAY 1 PUERTO PRINCESA CITY TOUR
We went directly on a city tour after arriving from Manila. We were lucky enough to know kuya Lister who drove us from the airport to the hotel and offered a city tour for a very affordable price.
📍Crocodile Farm/Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center
Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, also known as the Crocodile Farm, started in 1987. It is located on a vast 10-hectare land and has rescued over 300 animals found injured or seized by local authorities. This is where you can experience a close up encounter with crocodiles, know more about them, and even take a photo while holding one. We were really in shock on how huge crocodiles can grow and how long they can live. The Palawan Wildlife Rescue Center is a home for crocodiles and other endangered species too. Guests are also encouraged to take a walk with nature in Nature Park where you can see other species of animals and plants. This is a guided and very informative tour.
📍Butterfly Eco-Garden and Tribal Village
The Butterfly Eco-Garden and Tribal Village is a butterfly sanctuary and cultural experience facility in Puerto Princesa City. I was amazed by the culture of the indigenous tribe. They showcased to us how they play their musical instruments, make fire, and hunt for animals. You can also witness different species in the farm like the Palawan pheasant peacock (tandikan), bearcat (binturong), fish, scorpion, snake, etc. This is a guided tour also.
This is private property but is open to all. This is where you can buy baked goodies or eat in their restaurant. You can also have fun strolling in their themed park.
Mitra’s Ranch is a ranch situated uphill owned by Senator Ramon Mitra. It has a viewing deck, perfect for sightseeing and relaxation. Aside from that, there are lots of activities in the area like trampoline, horse back riding, and zip lining.
📍Plaza Cuartel and Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral
Plaza Cuartel used to be a penal colony during World War II. The Spaniards initially built it as a garrison to protect the country from invasion. Now, it is used as an outdoor park and a popular tourist spot in the city.
Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral is a Spanish-era church that is located just across the historic Plaza Cuartel. The first mass in Puerto Princesa was celebrated in this church.
DAY 2 UNDERGROUND RIVER TOUR
Our Day 2 was full of adventures and wonders. We did the Underground River tour. Travel time was 1.5hours from our hotel via van and it was all worth it. Before seeing the world-renowned Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, we had to ride the boat and survive the strong waves that time.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park encompasses one of the world’s most impressive cave systems. It showcases spectacular limestone cliffs, cave formations, and pristine natural beauty. The 8.2-kilometer-long underground river is jaw-dropping. Only a portion of the river, around 4.3km, is allowed for tourist explorations. There are varieties of species in the caves including fish, crabs, giant spiders, bats, swallows, and snakes.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is really breathtaking. It truly deserves to hold a place in the New 7 Wonders of Nature, and be included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
Aside from the mentioned places above, Puerto Princesa has a lot more to offer. You can also do the Honda Bay tour, Firefly Watching, enjoy the zipline, chase waterfalls, and visit the caves like Hundred Caves.
DAY 3 PUERTO PRINCESA TO EL NIDO VAN TRANSFER
For our Day 3 in the province, we decided to go to El Nido via van. We availed of tour and transfer package from a travel agency based in Puerto Princesa. They were really accommodating and they gave us an excellent service. It took us 5 hours from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. The trip was so smooth. We had a stop over for lunch, with a very magnificent view of the sea.
DAY 4 EL NIDO TOUR A
Our Day 4 was full of excitement because we did island hopping. Here are some reminders before doing the activities:
- Keep the beaches clean. As what one of our boatmen said, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”
- Wear sunblock.
- Buy a waterproof bag for your phones or cameras if you plan to take them with you. There are lots of vendors who are selling this kind of bag in the area. You can also buy the waterproof case pouch for your phone.
- To avoid getting your feet hurt, you can rent beach shoes. You can find them at the departure area for island hopping tours.
📍 Seven Commandos Beach
Our first stop was the Seven Commandos Beach. They say that the name came from World War II, when seven commandos were stranded in the beach. We excitedly indulged in its crystal clear water and fine white sands. There were lots of tourists but the long stretch beach can accommodate everyone. There are dramatic limestone cliffs, picnic huts, and coconut palms in the area. Very tropical vibe! We were given 30 minutes to enjoy the beautiful Seven Commandos Beach. After that, our next stop was Shimizu Island where we ate our sumptuous seafood lunch.
📍 Shimizu Island
According to our guides and boatmen, a group of scuba divers explored the waters of El Nido decades ago, and one of them didn’t make it back from a deep underwater tunnel. The last name of the diver who died was Shimizu, and the island was later named after him.
Visitors can explore the island while the boatmen prepare lunch. Take as many photos as you want while waiting for the meal to be served. In our case, we had grilled fish, shrimp, pork, mussels,vegetables, and fruits.
📍 Big Lagoon
Our third stop and most definitely the highlight of our Tour A was the Big Lagoon. I was really astonished by its wonder. Big Lagoon is truly an incredible and breathtaking sight, a spectacular landscape. The majestic deep blue and bright turquoise waters are surrounded by massive limestone cliffs. It’s a slice of paradise. We rented a kayak to get inside since the boats are not allowed to enter.
📍 Secret Lagoon
There is a reason why this is called “Secret Lagoon”. Each one should pass through a tiny hole opening in one of the cliffs to witness another wonder right before your eyes.
Unfortunately, passing through that tiny hole that time was too risky so we were advised not to try it anymore. Instead, for our last activity, we did snorkeling.
DAY 5 LAS CABAÑAS BEACH
We were supposed to join Tour C on our 5th day in El Nido but unfortunately, tours were cancelled as per Philippine Coast Guard advisory. Instead, we went to Las Cabañas Beach and it entirely made our day!
DAY 6 EL NIDO TO PUERTO PRINCESA VAN TRANSFER
It’s time for us to go back to Puerto Princesa. I just wish we could stay a little longer in El Nido. I will surely miss the beaches, friendly people that we met, and definitely, the what we call seafood street where we always eat our dinner. They serve fresh grilled seafoods, as well as pork, chicken, and some veggies. And to our surprise, the prices of the seafoods there are cheap! And they have big mussels!
DAY 7 FREE DAY IN PUERTO PRINCESA & FLIGHT BACK TO MANILA IN THE EVENING
We could do another tour in Puerto Princesa City during our 7th day there but we decided to take enough rest and just explore some restaurants nearby our hotel and the airport. We tried the Bersian Restaurant and The Cafe Avenue. They both served us with delicious meals!
Here are some thoughts that I pondered during and after the trip:
Philippines is a tropical wonderland. This is why I want to pursue my travel goal #PilipinasMuna before planning trips to other countries. This is one of my ways to help our economy and support our fellow Filipinos in their livelihood. If I have some extra money, I make sure to give some tips to our hardworking kababayans just like the boatmen who also served as our tour guides and cooks during our island hopping, and our tricycle driver during our city tour who even offered us a free ride going to the airport. My heart melts for kind people.
Nature is home. Let’s appreciate it and do our part to take care of it. I highly applaud Palawan for always instilling in the tourists to take care of the environment and don’t do anything illegal or harmful to the places we visited or species we encountered during the trip.
To travel is to live. It might be costly but the experience you’ll gain is priceless. Travelling is living a life full of wonderful memories that nobody can take away from you. You’ll see wonders, meet new friends, know about different cultures, and get inspirations. Save and use part of your money to see places you’ve never been.
I hope more places in the Philippines can be developed to accelerate tourism. I am sure there are lots of underdeveloped areas that can offer something unique to visitors. Additionally, I also hope that internet connectivity in our country can be improved. It is very challenging nowadays if you can’t connect to the Internet.
Overall, it was a very fulfilling and unforgettable trip. I’d definitely come back to Palawan to explore more!