In this article, you can find my travel guide to visiting Palawan, one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
If you’re looking for a paradisiac place for an unforgettable holiday, then Palawan is for you. It has been declared by Condè Nast the most beautiful island in the world.
People who visit Asia often choose countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, or Indonesia but the Philippines are becoming more and more popular. Out of all the 7107 that are part of the Philippines, there is one particular island that I love: Palawan.
Palawan is an amazing place, probably the place you’ve always dreamed of!
How to get to Palawan
There are daily flights for Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan, from Manila and other cities in the Philippines. If you book your flight a few months in advance you can find good deals with Cebu Pacific, the low-cost airline in the Philippines. Alternatively, you can take the ferry from Manila, but it takes a long time: about 24 hours. Once you land in Palawan, you can get around using Jeepneys or Tricycles, the most popular means of transportation in the country. There are no taxis.
If you are looking for a quiet place to sleep in Puerto Princesa check out Booking.com. You’ll find out plenty of options.
If you want to fly directly to El Nido without passing by Puerto Princesa you can book a flight with Air Swift. They connect several cities in the Philippines with El Nido.
Things to see in Palawan: the Underground River
Palawan is a rather large island, 450 km long and 50 km wide, so it is difficult to summarize in a single post what to do and what to see on this island. But one of the things you can’t miss is Puerto Princesa’s Underground River: one of the seven new wonders of nature. The river is 8.2 km long and flows slowly through a cave full of stalactites and stalagmites with the most bizarre shapes. To protect the place there is a limit of about 1000 people per day so booking a tour in advance is a good idea.
The Underground River is not exactly located in Puerto Princesa but is about an hour away. If possible, ask your driver to leave early in the morning around 6:30 am to avoid the crowd. The Van will not take you directly to the cave entrance but to a pier about 15 minutes from the river. You will then have to wait for your group to be assigned a boat to travel the short distance to the beach near the river.
You will probably get a bit wet. Don’t forget to bring your flip-flops.
On the beach near the Underground River, you can see some of the local wildlife: Long-Tailed Macaques, the Palawan Water Monitor (a sort of lizard) and if you’re lucky, the Palawan Peacock-Pheasant.
Lunch is included on the tour and if you are brave enough you can try the Tamilok, a woodworm that grows in the mangroves… Delicious!!
Things to do in Palawan: El Nido
The most famous place in Palawan is however El Nido, in the northern part of the island. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll understand why this is the name: it’s a circular inlet protected by high cliffs (El Nido means the nest). Getting to El Nido it’s not easy. There is a small airport but the prices are very high. The only alternative is a 5/6-hour trip from Puerto Princesa. You can either take a bus or a mini-van. Keep in mind that the vans can be a bit uncomfortable. Even if by the end of the trip you’ll probably be tired, you’ll be rewarded by the sight of this paradise.
Alex Garland, the author of the book from which the film The Beach was based, with Leonardo di Caprio, actually lived in El Nido and was inspired by this paradise to write his story.
In El Nido, you should try some of the island hopping tours. There are 4 available and are called: Tours A, Tour B, Tour C, Tour D, and the price ranges from 1200 pesos to 1400 pesos. Tour A is not to be missed. You’ll see Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon: two lagoons in the middle of the sea simply fantastic.
The price includes also the lunch prepared on one of the islands where you will stop. Also, in this case, it might be a good idea to book a private boat to avoid the crowd and stop longer on the beaches you want to. Tour C is also worth it.
Remember to bring some cash with you because there are no ATMs in El Nido!
If you are looking for a place to stay with a beautiful view I suggest you stay in Corong Corong, a couple of miles before El Nido. I stayed here, in a bungalow on the beach. The view from my bed was that of the photo below…
Where is the best place to see the sunset in El Nido?
Unfortunately, in El Nido, the sun in the afternoon goes behind the cliff to the west, but Corong Corong is located just behind the mountain and the sunsets are perfect.
Actually, it might be a good idea to sleep in Corong Corong rather than El Nido. It is quieter and there are several resorts on the beach that do not cost too much. I chose Corong Corong and if I had to come back I would make the same choice. I took the first photo of the post in Corong Corong and one of the resorts can be seen on the left.
Remember to bring a tripod, a wide-angle lens like the 10-22mm, and a set of ND filters to take some good pictures of the sunsets.
Though not exactly in El Nido, another place to admire the sunset is Nacpan
Things to see in Palawan: Nacpan
Nacpan it’s famous for its twin beach
Do not forget to reserve a day to visit Nacpan, about 45 minutes from El Nido. Even better: if you have time I recommend you spend maybe a couple of days in Nacpan. Unlike El Nido, Nacpan is much less touristic and most people spend only one day at this beach. So around five o’clock in the afternoon, you will be almost alone in a truly heavenly place. In Nacpan you will have the opportunity to see how local people live: there is a village of fishermen right on the beach and another village not far away. Poverty is evident, but people are very kind.
A young fisherman in Nacpan.
In this village there is not electricity nor internet: a great place to relax for a few days.
One of the kids in Nacpan
The Kalabaw (water buffalo) is very important in the culture of these people
In recent years I have had the chance to visit several countries but I can honestly say that Palawan is the most beautiful place I have ever been to. Is it really the most beautiful island in the world? I haven’t seen the whole world and therefore I can’t say, but why can’t check it for yourself.