Discover Palawan, an Island Paradise in the Philippines

I thought I had seen some beautiful beaches in my lifetime, but the beaches of Palawan, one of the islands out of over 7,000 in the Philippines, astounded me.

Palawan Philippines

I’m mostly just going to show you my favorite pictures but I will try to throw in some useful tips as well….because I love you.

El Nido

Getting There

I spent six days on El Nido. You can get here via direct flight from Manila on a local airline, but it is very expensive. I flew direct to Puerto Princessa then took a van for 500 Pesos ($10 USD).  The van system is very strange. After exiting the airport, you immediately will see two booths on the left with van transport to El Nido advertised. I went to the first one, paid and booked. Nobody explained anything to me. I was driven to a random hostel and told to wait. An hour later another van came and took me and some others to the van company office. We waited there another hour. Three hours after my flight landed, we finally left. Ugh. The van ride was 5 1/2 hours with a stop for food at one point. I didn’t enjoy this ride at all. It was a windy nausea-inducing, and bumpy ride. The van was hot, I was feasted on by mosquitos, and we were crammed like sardines. Good times.

Palawan Philippines

Where to Stay

I stayed at Spin Designer Hostel. As someone who uses luxury hotels quite a bit, I must say…I adored this hostel! It is nicer than many hotels. Great staff, great breakfast, great hangout areas, nice large comfy beds, nice bathrooms and extremely clean!

I heard through other tourists that OMP (Our Melting Pot) hostel was also nice. One night the hostel didn’t have vacancy and I stayed at the MaryGold Beachfront Inn. Great location and cute little bungalows with beach views available.

Activities

Boat Tours

There are three types of standard boat tours that you can book just about anywhere. Tour A, Tour B and Tour C. Tour A the most popular. These are usually very crowded and all the sights are packed with boats doing the same thing. If you can manage an alternative such as a private boat, do it.

I met some people at the hostel, and we ended up joining some other people who had chartered a boat. It was 500 pesos each for 14 people, including snorkel equipment. We brought our own food and drinks. You can negotiate lunch into the cost.

Palawan, Philippines

We were able to go this private island (pictured above) that no tours go to, so it was just us. Amazing! We also went to the small and big lagoon, which are part of the tours, but did it at times when there were less tour boats. This is the benefit of a private charter.  You only need a few people to make this worthwhile financially.Palawan, Philippines Here’s a short video about our fun crazy day!

Diving

The Philippines has many world-class dive sites and Palawan is one of the most popular. Both El Nido and Coron have excellent diving.  In El Nido I did a trip with Aquanot Divers. They were fantastic! A hot lunch was prepared on the boat including Filipino BBQ! I was impressed. The adorable dive shop dog accompanied us as well, which of course I was ecstatic about. Furthermore, a professional dive photographer came along! As someone who always dreams of having her own photographer on vacations, this was incredible. Photo courtesy of Fish Eye Photography

Palawan, Philippines

Places to Eat/Drink

Oh yes, the important stuff. I had been in SE Asia for almost two months at this point and I admit, I ate more western food than usual, but El Nido has a great selection.

Falafel  I don’t remember the names but there are two places to eat falafel and they are both awesome. One was a little stand close to the dive center, Aquanot Divers, on Hamma street. The other is called Happiness Beach Bar or something like that. Forgive me for the foggy deets!

Trattoria Altrove on Hamma street. This place. OMG….the pizza is straight up perfection. True Neopolitan style. Such a nice surprise to find this. The queue starts early in the evening, so get there before the crowds if you don’t want to wait. They also have a take out place with a few places to sit as a back up. The take out is down the street from main restaurant.  Most bars will let you bring in a pizza to eat. So nice.

Safety Stop Bar  This is above the Aquanot Dive Shop and has great beach views and cool diver vibe.

Rooftop Bar  Very cool vibes here and good mojitos!

Pukka bar  This is the party spot of El Nido. It has quite a scene every night and is on the beach.

Nacpan Beach

One of the nicest beaches near El Nido , about 45 minutes north, is called Nacpan. I paid 1000 pesos ($20 USD) for a round trip tricycle ride (the driver waited for me).  You can save money by renting a scooter but I wasn’t in the mood for that kind of excitement that day! You can rent lounge chairs and there are coconut vendors and restaurants. This beach is just screaming for you to sip a coconut on it.

Palawan, Philippines

Coron

Coron is the island in the far north of Palawan. You can fly directly to Busuanga Airport from Manila or take a ferry from El Nido. The fast ferry takes three hours. It is approximately $30 USD.  I didn’t even consider the slow ferry, but it is cheaper.  You can book tickets the day you travel but it could be sold out. The day I got my ticket, which was the day before the departure, I got the last seat. The ticket office is called Montenegro, FYI.  Be prepared to show up at 5 am for the 6am ferry and stand in line to exchange your ticket voucher for a real ticket and get your seat.  Oh, the Philippines.

Palawan, Philippines

Where to Stay

Divine Castle Traveler’s Inn    Very basic hotel. Not fancy, but well priced and good location that is walking distance from everything. There is also a rooftop deck with great sunset views.

Two Seasons   Many other travellers I met raved about this place

Huma Island     This is the ultimate splurge. An over -water villa on a private island. I spent one glorious night here and I loved every second. They provide transport and you arrive by boat to the island. They even let me check in as early as 10 am to enjoy the day there. I’ll be writing more on this in a future post. Here’s a little video.

Places to Eat/Drink

Trattoria Altrove.   Oh the joy. There is one of these in Coron Town as well. Yes I ate there twice. I had to try the pasta AND pizza. Duh!

Winnie’s.  This place is owned by a Swiss man married to a Filipina who is also the cook. The food is great. Try the crab fried rice. This place is always full by 8:oo pm so get there early

Hangover Bar 

No Name Bar

Activities

Like El Nido, there are boat tours. Coron has no beaches and all the activities are done by boat. They are slightly less crowded than El Nido tours and not quite as standardized. Different companies may go to slightly different places, so read carefully. The most popular tour is called the Coron Island Tour and goes to six different places. I did the Island Escapade Tour with Calamian Island Tours. It was a bit more expensive (1700 pesos) than others, and the boat ride a bit longer, but I loved it. Was an amazing day at three different stunning islands. There were very few boats at the places on this tour so it didn’t feel crowded.

Palawan, Phlippines
Malcapuya Island

Palawan, Philippines

Such a perfect beach!

Palawan, Philippines

Banana Island

Palawan, Philippines

There was amazing snorkeling here.

Palawan Philippines
Look who I found!

Diving

Coron is famous for wrecks. Tons of WW2 era Japanese ships are sunk in these waters. I dove with Neptune Divers. Excellent experience. The divemaster helped me through a major dive panic attack before we did a wreck that was deeper than I had done before and that we would penetrate. Funny story!

I made a video of the experience (post panic attack)

Mt. Tapyas

Climb the over 700 steps up to this mountain to have spectacular sunset views over all of Coron

Palawan Philippines

There are many more things to do on Palawan. I chose to focus on these two spots and have some relaxation. Port Barton is a place I heard wonderful things about. Also the underground river in Puerto Princessa is a major tourist attraction that I heard mixed reviews of. Either way, Palawan should definitely be on any Philippines itinerary!

*I use affiliate links in this post and may make a commission if anything booked.

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Palawan Philippines

About The Author

csaradar

40 COMMENTS

  1. A Travel Diary | 23rd May 17

    I’m hoping to travel to the Philippines next year but these images are making me impatient. The beaches looks spectacular, and that snorkeling image is just wow. I will be adding Palawan to my list of itinerary among many others. I just hope I can fit everything in.

    • csaradar | 24th May 17

      The Philippines had the friendliest people ever and stunning scenery! There’s no way to fit everything in so focus on a few areas. Palawan has SO much to do! I will definitely go back sometime:)

  2. akaleidoscopeheartblog | 17th May 17

    Wow! An awesome guide and I love the pictures both in the water and on the beach! It looks so beautiful!! This isn’t somewhere I’d heard of so was great to learn more.

    • csaradar | 18th May 17

      Thank you so much !!

  3. Catherine - Red Door Ponderings | 12th May 17

    Stunning. Those beaches look like places I would never want to leave.

    • csaradar | 13th May 17

      Thank you! I didn’t want to leave!

  4. Michaela | 12th May 17

    Wow, amazing post full of great pictures! I love especially the banana beach! I have heard a lot about Palawan and plan to visit Phillipines maybe next year. This post will be useful then! Thanks for sharing!

    • csaradar | 13th May 17

      I hope you go! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Mia | 11th May 17

    The Philippines is on my bucket list! This is the first time that I’ve read a travel blogger (with a real budget!) cover Palawan in such depth. Thank you for sharing, I’ll be bookmarking this post for sure!

    • csaradar | 13th May 17

      That’s such a nice compliment! Thanks and glad it helps!

  6. thechitownchica | 11th May 17

    I’m bookmarking all of this! I want to take a longish trip with the fiance and I like the thought of beach bungalows 🙂

    • csaradar | 13th May 17

      Those bungalows were a real treat!

  7. neha | 11th May 17

    Palawan is so pristine. And on top of that, it doesn’t look crowded. Thanks for all the information including where to stay and how best to spend our time. We will keep it in mind when plan our holiday here (sometimes soon)

    • csaradar | 13th May 17

      Thanks so much and let me know if you need any more tips:)

  8. Melai | 11th May 17

    I am from the Philippines and I’m glad that you loved it here! Every time I am asked where to go in the Philippines, I always recommend Palawan. The waters are so clear and the locals are friendly. Not being bias but it’s truly one of the best beaches in the world. 🙂

    • csaradar | 13th May 17

      The people were some of the nicest in the world for sure:)

  9. Sapna | 11th May 17

    Awesome photographs. Beaches are clean and not crowded, I loved this fact.

    • csaradar | 13th May 17

      Most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen!

  10. MeganCheckers | 11th May 17

    You’re so lucky to have the private charter boat! Those beaches look like paradise, and the view from the top of that mountain is something else! I’ve never been to the Philippines but this is definitely on my list now.

    • csaradar | 13th May 17

      The private charter was so fun and at a hostel it’s easy to meet people!

  11. ashleemoyo | 11th May 17

    Lovely post! I have been wanting to explore the Philippines for a while and it looks like you have a great time. Really lovely photos (:

    Ashlee | ashleemoyo.com

    • csaradar | 13th May 17

      Thank you so much!

  12. erynmacgillivray | 10th May 17

    I’ve never been to the Philippines, but honestly your photos may have just convinced me! Such a gorgeous beach 🙂 And that photo of you diving with that fish? Unreal!!!

    Eryn, Diaries FromThe Window Seat
    https://www.diariesfromthewindowseat.com/

    • csaradar | 13th May 17

      If you love beaches and snorkeling this is the place to go!

  13. Laura M Tenekjian | 3rd May 17

    Cherene that video on the private island had me laughing!! Looked like such a fun time 🙂

    • csaradar | 5th May 17

      LOL it was so fun!

  14. Ola | 3rd May 17

    Great post! Very informative! Would love to visit all the places you mentioned one day!😍

    • csaradar | 5th May 17

      Thanks so much Ola!

  15. FemaleTravelBloggers (@FmaleTrvlBlogrs) | 2nd May 17

    It’s easy to see why you fell in love with the place!

    • csaradar | 5th May 17

      Those beaches just say it all, don’t they?

  16. Ellie Cleary | 1st May 17

    Reading this & watching your video brought back memories! I visited El Nido last November. I also stayed at the SPIN hostel (love that place), but I did not like the overcrowded-ness of El Nido and I fear this is the next Ko Phi Phi style disaster in the making as there’s so much construction, no sewage treatment, and the pristine beaches are getting overcrowded with tourists, corals damaged etc :-(. It sounds like going on a private boat trip was a much better option than the standard “A Tour” which I did – where everyone was headed around the same places at the same time. Not so nice. It really is a stunning place, I just hope that Palawan will start regulating construction and development so that the beautiful environment can be protected for many more travellers to enjoy in the years to come.

    • csaradar | 5th May 17

      How funny you stayed at Spin! It was so great. I share your concerns. It does seem like the pace of tourism happened really quickly for a place like El Nido and wondering how they can possibly keep up. Let’s hope that the right kind of regulatory agencies act quickly!

  17. chikonahoka | 30th Apr 17

    Puerto Princesa is on my regional shortlist, mainly for the underground river! It’s just that the logistics, they’re not quite making sense to me right now. Palawan looks gorgeous!

    • csaradar | 5th May 17

      I am sure it is stunning to see that. I had travel fatigue at this point and just wanted a few less destinations so I skipped it. I heard it was touristy but still worth seeing!

  18. Lindz | 30th Apr 17

    I was so sad I didn’t make it to El Nido while I was in The Philippines last, but I love these alternative options! I’ve heard that El Nido can be really expensive, so thanks for sharing these low cost but great alternatives for accommodation! 🙂

    • csaradar | 5th May 17

      You’re welcome. I had a hard time finding lodging because places are really overpriced. Even the hostel was expensive for a hostel but it was extremely nice. I was only able to get the room booking a month in advance and even then, it was mostly sold out…I had to book only one night at a time and changed rooms three times!!!

  19. C-Ludik | 30th Apr 17

    The beaches are truly spectacular (lovely photos). Set on the sugary sand facing the crystalline sea, soothes away all concerns ! I love the video as well 🙂

    • csaradar | 30th Apr 17

      Thanks so much. I had never seen such perfect beaches before! And the underwater life was incredible.

  20. Wanderlustingk (@wanderlustingk) | 30th Apr 17

    Palawan is SO high on my list. I was going to visit last year, but getting from Puerto Princesa was a bit tough without taking a private flight. Maybe next year!

    • csaradar | 30th Apr 17

      It’s definitely not the easiest place to get around and the flights aren’t cheap. Hope you make it next year!

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