Palawan is increasingly coming on the radar as one of the must-visit places in The Philippines. With its beautiful white sand beaches, jungles, caves, dive sites, and unspoiled nature, it is definitely one of my personal highlights from travelling all over Southeast Asia. In this Palawan mini-guide, I’ll share with you my route through Palawan and my impressions of the major stops along the way, including El Nido, Coron, and the town of Sabang.
The capital of Palawan, Puerto Princesa, is the main entry point and is close to the mangrove islands of Honda Bay and the immense flooded cave systems that make up the mind-boggling Underground River. Further north you’ll find the pretty beach resort town of Port Barton, the old fortress town of Taytay and the incredibly beautiful islands and lagoons of El Nido and the Bacuit archipelago. Many areas are still relatively unaffected by tourism, such as the friendly little fishing village of San Vicente and nearby Long Beach, one of the finest stretches of sand anywhere. Undeveloped Southern Palawan contains some of the least visited areas in the whole country, from the remains of a Neolithic community in the Tabon Caves and the turtle and cockatoo sanctuaries at Narra, to Brooke’s Point, the access point for Mount Matalingajan.
The Calamian group of islands, scattered off the northern tip of the main island of Palawan, has a deserved reputation for some of the best scuba diving in Asia, mostly on sunken World War II wrecks. Even if you’re not a diver, there’s plenty to do here. The little town of Coron on Busuanga is the jumping-off point for trips to mesmerizing Coron Island, with its hidden lagoons and volcanic lake and, to the south, the former leper colony of Culion.
Nothing defines Palawan more than the water around it. With seascapes the equal of any in Southeast Asia, and wildlife terrestrial and aquatic, the Philippines’ most sparsely populated region is also the most beguiling. Because of its silhouette – a long sliver stretching 650km all the way to Borneo – there’s a certain liberating logic to travel here.
Centrally located Puerto Princesa (Puerto) is the culinary capital and primary gateway to nearby rural and oceanfront tranquillity. The majority of travellers go north to El Nido or Coron town, base camps for island-hopping, snorkelling and diving adventures in the Bacuit archipelago and Calamianes group.
The coastline serves as an alternative highway ferrying travellers in bangkas between fishing villages, tourist-friendly towns and a maze of uninhabited islands. In the south where the topography is more rugged, it’s possible to explore jungle-clad mountains though facilities are decidedly rustic.