The Philippines is one of the best tropical holiday destinations in the world. For a first-time visitor, it’s hard to choose which of the country’s 7,641 islands to visit first. The archipelago of Palawan is the Philippines’ westernmost province and is undoubtedly one of the best places to go. Check out our travel tips below!
The sparsely populated province of Palawan is characterised by small fishing villages, jungle-clad mountains, pristine waters and coral gardens teeming with fish and other marine creatures.
PALAWAN IN BRIEF
- Where: The western-most island province of the Philippines
- When: The Dry Season November-May
- Population: 1,104,585 (2015 census)
- Currency: Philippines Peso
- Language: While Tagalog is the official language throughout the Philippines, several local dialects are spoken including Palawanun, Batak, Cuyunon and Tausug.
GETTING TO PALAWAN
After a few hours layover in Manila we flew to Puerto Princesa, Palawan, just over an hour’s flying time. We recommend booking early rather than waiting until arrival to book your flight. You may pay hundreds of dollars more by waiting until the last minute (as we learned the hard way!) We flew with Philippine Airlines into Palawan’s main airport, Puerto Princesa. Other airlines that fly into Palawan are Air Asia, Cebu Pacific and Air Swift.
El Nido is on the far northern tip of Palawan, about 230 km’s north of Puerto Princesa. This is a bustling tourist town by the sea with lots of accommodation options and facilities. We recommend getting in and out pretty quickly, as it’s busy and expensive.
Getting here: Direct flights from Manila with Island Transvoyager Inc. Puerto Princesa is approximately 250km south of El Nido – a 5 to 6 hour van ride or 7 hour public bus ride. Vans and buses depart from the bus station in San Jose. Contact ArtCafe Travel Centre for all travel questions.
Getting around: Jump in a motorised tricycle, they’re everywhere and they’re cheap. Alternatively you can rent a motorbike.
Stay: There are many accommodation options in El Nido. We stayed at Rosanna’s Pension which was clean and had a breathtaking view however I’ve heard that Marygold Beachfont Inn is nice, well located and good value.
Eat: Anywhere along the beach, though expect to pay premium for the great location and views.
See + do: El Nido is surrounded by beautiful beaches for swimming and snorkelling. Jump on a boat and explore the islands. If you can afford your own boat and driver, it beats jumping onto a boat with 20 other tourists. Leave early to avoid the tourists at each stopover during the day.
Limestone. Blue water. Clean, picture perfect lakes. Welcome to Coron! The township of Coron is busy and touristy. The magic of Coron is found once you get out on the water – day trips are necessary.
Getting here: Daily flights to Coron (Busuanga Airport) from Manila with Cebu Pacific and PAL Express. Also check SkyJetAir. From the airport it’s a 40 minute drive to Coron town. Shuttle vans operate outside the terminal and cost P150.00 PHP per person.
Getting around: Motorised tricycle (as previously mentioned).
Stay: We stayed at a locally owned accommodation out of town which was clean, peaceful and comfortable called Coron Castaway (now Villa Khadin Gran Vista Resort). I’ve heard that El Rio y Mar Resort is also fantastic.
See + do: We rented our own ‘banca’ traditional outrigger boat and went exploring. My favourite spots were Banol Beach (where we found the little beach hut pictured below); Kayangan lagoon and lake; and the Japanese WWII shipwrecks.
SAILING THE LINAPACAN ISLANDS
The Linapacan group of islands is a nature-lover’s paradise boasting 52 mostly-deserted islands with white sand beaches and aqua marine water, coconut forests, thick wild jungle, quaint fishing villages and pristine coral reefs. We joined a sailing expedition from El Nido to Coron, eating fresh seafood and sleeping in little huts by the sea.
3-5 DAY EXPEDITIONS
We travelled for 5 days aboard one of Tao’s traditional Banca boats, stopping at local communities along the way and sleeping in little beachfront thatched huts with a mattress on the floor and cocooned within mozzie nets. I’ve travelled a lot of the world and this was one of my most memorable trips to date.
WHAT TO PACK – TAKING ONLY HAND LUGGAGE (NO CHECK-ON)
There’s a fine art to packing light. Especially for an overseas holiday, when you’re not sure about what you’re going to need. I’ve been fine-tuning my packing skills my entire life and, these days, I prefer to only travel with hand luggage. Mainly for convenience – straight off the plane, skipping the luggage conveyer and being first in line for a taxi. I must mention, this list only works for tropical destinations because it’s possible to take lightweight clothing. So here we go …
- Snorkel: Buy a decent one that doesn’t fog up constantly or fall apart. Invest in a snorkel that you love and that you’ll own for many years. You’ll want to snorkel more!
- Reusable water bottle: Save money, not to mention the environment, by investing in a reusable water bottle.
- Phrasebook: Learn a few words in the local language. Start with just 5-10 phrases, including a funny one that’ll make the locals smile.
- Sunglasses (2 pairs, in case you lose one) and a hat.
- Shampoo etc: Medications, travel sized shampoo and conditioners, brush etc.
- Suncream: My favourite is Greenfoot Mama, produced in Byron Bay Australia. Planet friendly and 5 all natural ingredients.
- Swimwear: I take 2 pairs (1x bikini, 1x one piece which is good for surfing).
- Underwear: A pair a day plus a few extras does the trick. 2 plain coloured bras.
- Jeans + shorts: 1 pair of jeans. 1-2 pairs of plain shorts (I prefer 1x denim and 1x black boardshorts).
- Hammock: I purchased a lightweight ‘parachute’ hammock. It was so small and strong, I hung it everywhere!
- Poncho: These things are amazing! A good poncho can serve multiple purposes such as keeping you warm; doubling up as a picnic rug; with a couple of sticks you can string it above your head as a beach shelter … the possibilities with this little piece of fabric are endless!
- Shirts: A couple of plain, neutrally coloured t-shirts, one of them long sleeved for cool evenings (to wear under the poncho).
- A dress that can be used during the day or for going out.
- Shoes: 2 pairs of thongs, a pair of dressy / strappy thongs for going out, and some hiking boots if you’re planning on doing some walking.
When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.Susan Heller