Palawan is often called the ‘Final Frontier of the Philippines' because this vast region in the Sulu and South China Seas is composed of hundreds of islands and beaches just waiting to be explored. While Philippines' islands such as Cebu have long been developed for tourism, the islands of Palawan have only recently emerged onto the traveler scene. But what an emergence they've had, and while much of the region is still undeveloped, lacking good infrastructure and few luxury hotels, Palawan has been transformed into a popular backpacking haunt in just a matter of years. Travel in Palawan is still a raw experience, you can spend your nights sleeping in beach huts, and your days taking fishing boats on trips to golden beaches.
The first of your days in Palawan will begin in Puerto Princesa. This is the largest city in the province, and it's found on the main island of Palawan. The city's airport has regular flight connections across the country, and you can easily fly in from Manila, Cebu, or many other destinations. If you can, try to arrive the previous evening or early in the morning, so that the first day of your itinerary can be a full one. While the city itself has few sights, nearby you can find one of the most impressive natural attractions in the Philippines, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.
From Puerto Princesa, you'll be heading north as your trip to Palawan really begins. Palawan's most famous tourist destination is El Nido, but unfortunately it's not easy to reach. It's all part of the challenge and the fun of traveling in Palawan, but you'll need an early start from the city, as it's at least a 5-hour drive north, on rough roads from Puerto Princesa. Just a few years ago, El Nido was just a sleepy fishing village, but now it's an iconic backpacker destination. You'll soon realize why, and when you arrive, you can spend the afternoon enjoying the beachfront and the views across the bay.
El Nido became so popular because of its proximity to some of the best natural scenery in the Philippines. This is classic island-hopping territory, and you'll want to secure a spot on a local boat online or the night before for day 3 of your Palawan travel itinerary.
On your full day in El Nido you will want to join another island hopping tour, because this really is the best way to get around. Simply pick one of the tours that you didn’t do on day 3, and don’t forget to sign up the evening before to secure your spot. You’ll have another action packed day as you ride the fishing boats across the turquoise water to hidden coves, white sand beaches and dramatic, limestone karst scenery. You’ll be traveling to Coron, one of the best places to visit in Palawan, but once again, be prepared for an early start and a long journey. From El Nido you have the option of taking either the slow 6-hour ferry or the faster, but more expensive, 4-hour tourist boat. If it’s busy though, you might not have a choice.