Discover the Country’s Last Frontier: Palawan Travel Guide

Jay Pagkatotohan

Jay Pagkatotohan

Last updated April 29, 2024

Palawan is part of the Philippines’ more than 7,600 islands. Like the rest of the archipelago, this province is blessed with beautiful natural resources, such as long stretches of pristine beaches, dense forests, and rich marine life. 

All these make the province a must-visit destination for both local and international tourists. Even global travel magazines hail Palawan as one of the world’s best islands, increasing its already existing renown. 

Planning to live the island life for a while? Make your trip memorable and comfortable with this Palawan travel guide.  

Palawan Travel Guide: An Overview 

palawan travel guide - overview

Located in the southwestern part of the country, Palawan is a province composed of over 1,700 islands. It is the Philippines’ largest province in terms of size.  

Two seas bound the province: the South China Sea in the west and the Sulu Sea in the east. It’s close to Mindoro in the northern part and Malaysian Borneo in the south. 

What’s the best time to visit Palawan? Travelers swear by the October to May period since it’s the dry season. You have a lot of clear and sunny days ahead, perfect for island-hopping and beach activities. However, expect expensive rates for hotels and activities given the influx of tourists. 

If you want to take advantage of the low season, visit the island between June and September. The weather isn’t too humid, there are fewer tourists, and hotel rates aren’t too high. However, the weather can be unpredictable, with rain showers when you least expect them. 


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Are There Travel Restrictions in Palawan? 

Local travelers can fly to Palawan without worrying about certain restrictions. 

If you’re a foreigner planning to visit the island, you’ll be thrilled to learn that the Philippines already lifted all COVID-19 measures for international tourists. However, you need to present the following documents: 

  • A passport
  • A visa (if applicable)
  • Return or onward ticket 

How to Go to Palawan

Local air carriers offer flights to Palawan. 

Cebu Pacific and AirAsia operate flights from Manila to Puerto Princesa and Coron. Philippine Airlines has Manila flights bound for Puerto Princesa. Sunlight Air, meanwhile, operates flights from Clark to Coron and San Vicente. 


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How to Get Around Palawan 

There are many ways to explore the Palawan province. Your option will depend on your destination: 

  • Tricycles – Whether you’re in Palawan’s capital or rural neighborhood, these three-wheeled haulers are among the most affordable ways to explore. 
  • Jeepneys and multicabs – Another cheap transportation option, jeeps and multicabs can cover long-distance trips.
  • Vans – Going to El Nido or Balabac? If you book a travel package, transfers via van are usually already included. 
  • Buses – Long-distance travels are safe and comfortable when you ride a bus. 
  • Car and motorbike rentals – If you’re in Puerto Princesa, book a car or a motorcycle from a rental company.
  • Boats and ferries – Since Palawan is composed of more than 1,700 islands, boats and ferries connect various destinations within the province. 

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How Much to Budget for Your Palawan Vacation

Your Palawan budget depends on the number of days you’re staying, your planned activities, and the pasalubong you’re bringing home.

Many travelers recommend staying in the province for at least a week. This gives you enough time to explore destinations, given that a lot of them are far from each other. Should you take this route, prepare at least ₱15,000 to ₱18,000. This already includes your accommodation, transportation, food, and activities. 

Of course, you can lower your Palawan trip cost if you’re traveling with a group or planning to stay just in Puerto Princesa.  

El Nido vs Puerto Princesa vs Coron: Which Palawan Destination is for You? 

palawan travel guide - el nido vs puerto princesa vs coron

First-timers may find it hard to decide where to stay in Palawan. Should it be El Nido, Puerto Princesa or Coron? Generally, this will depend on your travel objectives. 

Puerto Princesa is for tourists on a quick vacation who want a taste of Palawan. It’s for those who don’t have time to travel from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, Coron, or Balabac. The capital, while highly urbanized, still offers access to beaches and other natural attractions that make for exciting day trips. 

El Nido is for nature lovers who enjoy the nightlife. During the day, explore the islands. Come nighttime, visit one of the bars on the mainland. 

Coron, meanwhile, is for travelers who want to commune with nature and visit places off the beaten path. It offers a lot of natural attractions, from pristine beaches to crystal-clear lakes.


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Where to Stay in Palawan

palawan travel guide - amanpulo

Photo: Amanpulo website

Across Palawan, countless accommodations cater to tourists with varying budgets. Here are some of them:

🌴 Palawan Accommodations for Budget Travelers

Here are affordable yet high-quality accommodations in Palawan: 

  • Go Hotels Puerto Princesa 
  • Rooms R Us - Voyagers Palace, Puerto Princesa
  • Orange Mangrove Pension House, Puerto Princesa
  • J Boutique Hotel El Nido
  • MilVir Tourist INN, El Nido
  • Zhaya's Beach & Cottages, El Nido
  • Bangles Homestay, Coron
  • Nomad Yurts, Coron 
  • Micasa Lodge, Coron
  • Macky's Hidden Inn, Coron

🌴 Palawan Accommodations for Luxury Travelers 

If you have extra cash to splurge, the following accommodations offer upgraded comforts and amenities: 

  • Vellago Resort, El Nido
  • Seda Lio, El Nido
  • LIHIM Resorts, El Nido
  • Two Seasons Coron Island Resort & Spa
  • Club Paradise Palawan
  • The Beach House Ocam Ocam, Busuanga
  • One Manalo Place
  • Astoria Palawan
  • Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa
  • Amanpulo[1]

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Top 10 Places to Visit in Palawan 

Palawan is a big island, which means there are a lot of places to discover and activities to do. Include the following in your itinerary: 

📍 El Nido 

palawan travel guide - el nido

The quaint town of El Nido boasts a number of natural attractions, such as white sand beaches, limestone cliffs, and crystal-clear lagoons.

These are some of the most popular El Nido tourist spots: 

  • Nacpan Beach
  • Big and Small Lagoon
  • Hidden Beach
  • Secret Beach
  • Shimizu Island
  • Seven Commandos Beach
  • Taraw Cliffs

To make the most of your time, book one of the El Nido tour packages, namely Tours A, B, C, and D. Each tour package covers specific locations, so choose according to your plans and preferences. 

📍 Coron

palawan travel guide - coron

As a rival to the equally famous El Nido, Coron has its own charm. Other than its limestone cliffs and clean beaches, this destination is popular for its lakes and World War II wreckage sites. Given that, divers flock to this town. 

This Coron, Palawan travel guide lists the top attractions in the area: 

  • Kayangan Lake
  • Barracuda Lake
  • Malcapuya Island
  • Twin Lagoon
  • Mount Tapyas
  • Banana Island
  • Coron Bay (for wreck diving) 

Related: 9 Romantic Places in the Philippines for a Couples Getaway

📍 Calauit Safari Park

Located in Calauit Island, the Calauit Safari Park is a wildlife sanctuary for African animals. Originally a project during the term of President Ferdinand Marcos in the ‘70s, the 3,700-hectare island is now home to two reticulated giraffes and Grevy’s zebras. 

Other animals living on Calauit Island include the Palawan bearded pig, Philippine crocodile, and Philippine mouse-deer. 

📍 Puerto Princesa

The capital of Palawan is a gateway to other popular destinations in the province, such as El Nido and Balabac. But it's also a tourist destination itself. While highly urbanized, this city is close to various beaches and other natural attractions. 

Here are some of the top tourist spots in Puerto Princesa: 

  • Honda Bay, including Cowrie Island, Luli Island, and Starfish Island
  • Nagtabon Beach
  • Immaculate Conception Cathedral
  • Baker’s Hill[2]
  • Cacaoyan Forest Park 
  • Palawan Wildlife Rescue & Conservation Center (popularly known as Crocodile Farm)

📍 Puerto Princesa Underground River 

palawan travel guide - puerto princesa underground river

Whether you love caving or simply partaking in new and exciting experiences, this destination is worthy of a spot in your Puerto Princesa itinerary. 

Located in the north of Palawan’s capital, the Puerto Princesa Underground River is an 8.2-kilometer underground river featuring a complex cave system. The cave boasts major stalagmite and stalactite formations and contains one of the largest cave chambers in the world. 

📍 Port Barton 

palawan travel guide - port barton

Located in the town of San Vicente and about three hours from Puerto Princesa, Port Barton is a quiet beach destination perfect for introspection. The area is yet to be ravaged by mass tourism, which makes it an alternative to bigger attractions like El Nido and Coron. 

Book an island-hopping package that will take you to stunning snorkeling spots where you can swim with giant sea turtles. Reach various waterfalls around the area by trekking. 

📍 Long Beach 

Still located in the town of San Vicente, Long Beach is considered one of the longest white-sand beaches in the Philippines. It’s 14.7 kilometers long, with lots of spots to sunbathe and swim. 

This destination also boasts lush, verdant forests, roaring waterfalls, and lovely islands. It’s the ideal retreat for those craving peace and quiet. 

Read more: 8 Best White Sand Beaches in the Philippines for Your Getaway

📍 Balabac

palawan travel guide - balabac

At this point in this Palawan travel guide, you might have noticed that the province is all about beaches and turquoise waters. If you can’t get enough of them, add Balabac to your itinerary. 

Found in the westernmost point of the Philippines, Balabac is actually closer to Sabah, Malaysia than to Puerto Princesa. Given its far-flung location, it offers untouched beach destinations. 

These include Onok Island, known for its sandbar; Camiaran Island or Pink Island, whose name is inspired by the island’s pinkish sand; and Punta Sebaring Beach, popular for its long stretch of white-sand beach. 

📍 Tubbataha Reef

palawan travel guide - tubbataha reef

If you’re into diving, Tubbataha Reef should be part of your Palawan travel plans. Teeming with marine life and beautiful underwater sceneries, it’s often considered one of the best diving spots in the world. Keep in mind that Tubbataha Reef is accessible only from March to June due to the period’s favorable conditions, such as clear skies and seas.   

📍 Tabon Cave Complex

This Palawan travel guide also caters to anthropology nerds and natural history lovers. Tabon Cave Complex, located in Quezon, Palawan, houses possibly the oldest Homo sapiens sapiens fossil evidence in Southeast Asia.[3] 

The fragments of the said Homo sapiens sapiens fossil include a tibia and a right mandible. Generally, explorations in the area have revealed over 50,000 years of the country’s prehistory. 

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What to Do in Palawan 

As a tropical paradise, activities in Palawan are mainly water-based. Nevertheless, you can enjoy other pursuits on the island: 

  • Swimming and snorkeling – With Palawan’s long stretches of beaches, you will never run out of places to swim and snorkel. 
  • Scuba diving – Those who want to explore the underwater world will find Palawan a treat, with its coral paradise and even shipwreck diving sites. 
  • Island-hopping – From Coron to Balabac, Palawan’s countless islands are just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
  • Road trip – If you’re staying in Puerto Princesa, go on a road trip to visit nearby towns and beaches. 
  • Food trip – Palawan has a wealth of restaurants ready to play host for your food-ventures: 
    • KaLui Seafood Restaurant – Located in Puerto Princesa, this restaurant serves seafood dishes matched with a beautiful ambiance. 
    • Badjao Seafront Restaurant – If a restaurant with a coastal view tickles your fancy, this one’s for you. This spot specializes in seafood. 
    • Cadlao Restaurant – This beachfront restaurant in El Nido serves both local and international cuisines. Popular choices include stuffed squid, calamari, and tenderloins. 
    • Osaka Castle – Japanese food in the tropics? Head to this restaurant by the beach. Its best-sellers are sushi and ramen. 
    • Biryani Kitchen – Enjoy buttered chicken, tikka masala, and biryani in El Nido at this restaurant. 
    • Poco Deli Coron – Craving European cuisine? This Coron-based restaurant serves bacon slabs, pastas, and pizzas.  
    • Epic Island Cafe Coron – If all-day breakfast is your thing, find this joint along Coron’s Real Street and enjoy danggit, bacon, and coffee. 
    • Santino's Grill – Seafood and pork ribs are this restaurant’s specialties. Enjoy these goodies while taking in the place’s relaxing atmosphere.  

Read more: Sama All This Summer: Best Outdoor Activities in the Philippines for ₱3,000 or Less


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Palawan Travel Guide: Tips for a Memorable Vacay 

palawan travel guide - tips

Avoid hassles and make the most of your Palawan vacation with these tips: 

  • Power outages are common in Palawan. Keep your devices charged, especially your power bank. Sleep comfortably by booking accommodations with a generator. 
  • Bring enough cash. While some restaurants and establishments accept debit and credit cards, it’s wise to err on the side of caution. 
  • Use an insect repellant to keep mosquitoes and sandflies from biting you. 
  • Book your tours in advance. Some tour packages already include transfers for a convenient trip. 
  • Bring a dry bag. Keep your electronics and clothes dry when going to the beach or visiting different islands. 
  • Bring a comfortable travel pillow. Trips to popular destinations, such as El Nido and Palawan, take hours. 

Final Thoughts 

Palawan is hailed as one of the best islands in the world for its white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and natural history. With its countless relaxing destinations, you’ll definitely find the perfect spot for your tropical retreat. 

Plan your trip with this Palawan travel guide. Supplement the information here with personal research and experiences from friends who’ve been to this lovely province. 

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Jay is a marketing communications professional who specializes in short-form and long-form content. He has written ads for TV, radio, print, and digital. He has also produced corporate blogs, magazine features, white papers, product listings, reviews, and press releases for clients here and abroad. When he’s not writing, Jay plays the piano or takes pictures for his visual diary. Follow Jay on LinkedIn.

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