Palawan, the westernmost province of the Philippines, is an archipelago with a 2000km coastline and over 1700 islands that stretch out all the way to Borneo in Southeast Asia. Known as the Philippines’ “last frontier,” Palawan has dense tropical rainforests, hundreds of species of flora and fauna, and a spectacular breadth of marine riches – from crystalline waters and coral reefs to diverse aquatic wildlife. It’s become a favorite playground of beach-obsessed travelers and serious adventure sports lovers, and continues to be touted a “best island” by many international travel media. Thankfully, Palawan has sensibly managed to protect and conserve its stunning natural resources. The best times to visit are in the summer from April to June, and the cooler months of December to February.
Palawan province was named after Palawan, its main and largest island. The island’s capital Puerto Princesa’s international airport serves as a gateway to the islands. There are several domestic daily flights to the capital city from the Philippine capital of Manila, which take about an hour, as well as direct flights from Manila to the very popular El Nido, also on Palawan island.
Palawan’s Hot Spots
At Puerto Princesa, don’t miss the World Heritage designated site, the Subterranean River National Park, which at 8kms is one of the longest underground river caves in the world. There are manned boats for hire called bangkas that will take you up into the caves. The capital city has a burgeoning night life and hotel and restaurant scene, which makes it an ideal start off point for exploring Palawan’s other treasures.
The first-class municipality of El Nido on northern Palawan island is as close as it will get you to sublime – with its numerous white sand beaches, towering cliffs, and waterfalls — and serves as home base for exploring the group of 45 islands that comprise the magnificent Bacuit Archipelago. From El Nido, you can go island hopping, kayaking, scuba diving, and cliff climbing. There are plenty of accommodation options as well, from budget hotels to luxury resorts.
El Nido with its pristine waters and limestone cliffs offers the best of Palawan’s natural attractions.
El Nido is also famous for its limestone cliffs that harbor edible birds’ nests spun from the saliva of swiftlets, a gastronomic delicacy used in making “nido”, or bird’s nest soup. El Nido is a “protected area,” officially identified as a priority site for conservation due to its bountiful natural resources and unique ecosystem.
The Calamian Islands in the northernmost part of Palawan province includes Busuanga Island where, close to the commercial town of Coron, divers can explore the wreckage of several Japanese warships that were sunk in Coron Bay by American forces during World War II.
Coron Island, a short boat ride from Coron, is densely covered with mangrove forests but within it lies two photogenic crystal-clear lakes for swimming — Cayangan Lake, known as the “cleanest lake in Asia,” and the fresh and salt water Barracuda Lake.
The marine protected area, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, located southeast of Puerto Princesa, is a magical way to explore Palawan underwater. It’s considered one of the world’s best dive sites, and a model for coral reef conservation. It takes about 10 hours to get there from Puerto Princesa, but the aquatic rewards are enormous: the park has 10,000 hectares of coral reefs representing about 360 coral species, 13 species of dolphins and whales, 600 species of fish, and is a nesting ground for sea turtles.
The last frontier in the Philippines has enticed travelers, but Filipinos hope that while enjoying its charms, travelers continue to respect and protect its outstanding natural beauty.