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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Here’s a short video about our fun crazy day!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
No Name Bar
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.
Such a perfect beach!
There was amazing snorkeling here.
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)
Climb the over 700 steps up to this mountain to have spectacular sunset views over all of Coron
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!
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