Palawan, contrary to popular belief, is actually a province made up of a group of islands, not a single island, in the western region of the Philippines. It has often been voted as one of the most beautiful islands, if not the most beautiful, in the world by readers of travel sites such as Travel and Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler.
The city of Puerto Princesa is Palawan’s capital and is often the gateway to Palawan for visitors. As soon as we left the arrival gates of the international airport, numerous tour buses were lined up outside, inviting potential customers to check-out the different tours they offer. Fortunately, we were already connected with a tour guide through our friend.
The downtown area of Puerto Princesa is a great place to stock up on essentials before exploring the more remote areas of Palawan since it is where most of the malls and other retail establishments are located. It is also where the Booking Office for obtaining the permit to tour the Underground River is located.
About an hour and a half outside of the city center is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, or Underground River, a river inside a cave that flows straight into the sea. It was recently voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. To get there, our tour guide had to drive us to the Sabang Boat Terminal. Like many tourist-filled places, the boat terminal was filled with food and souvenir vendors. Many also sold hats, which are essential in any tropical getaway. We then rode a bangka (motorized outrigger canoe) to
reach the beach that was the beginning of the entrance to the Underground River where we were told not to feed the monkeys. The wait to ride a canoe into the river was not too long (we went in January) and we quickly found ourselves outfitted with lifejackets and helmets. The front of the canoe had a huge flashlight that lit our way inside the majestic, bat-filled, beautiful cave and the guide was funny and knowledgeable, so we definitely had a great time.
About 30 minutes outside the city center is the Sta. Lourdes Wharf where we rode a boat to the Dos Palmas Resort for an overnight stay. It was the relaxing part of our trip as we hungout on the beach for most of our stay. Also, the Dive Shop in Dos Palmas Resort is PADI Certified, so it is also a wonderful destination for divers of all skill levels.
We also ventured north of Puerto Princesa to El Nido, a haven for backpackers who want to explore the pristine beauty of the northern islands of Palawan. The main hub area is filled with lodges, resorts, restaurants, souvenir shops, and small tour companies that cater to snorkelers, divers, and island hoppers. Each tour company offers a variety of tour packages that often include a free lunch. From El Nido, many travelers also opt to check-out the island of Coron, but we did not have the time to do so. As for dining in El Nido, breakfast by the beach is a must and most restaurants by the beach have outdoor seating. Also for dinner, restaurants take out their grills and serve reasonably priced delicious and fresh grilled seafood by the beach.
Back in Puerto Princesa, we also had the chance to visit the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm which also has a gift shop filled with items handcrafted by the inmates.
It was truly the tropical getaway we’ve always dreamt of and Palawan is definitely one of our favorite destinations.
6-day Tour Guide/Driver with Van: Php 19,000
- Pick-up and drop-off at Puerto Princesa International Airport
- Pick-up and drop-off at the dock for the boat to Underground River
- Pick-up and drop-off in El Nido
- Pick-up and drop-off at the dock for the boat to Dos Palmas Resort
- Pick-up and drop-off at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm
Underground River Entrance Fee: About Php 250 (for foreigners; ID is required)
Dos Palmas Resort: Php 6,000 per night per cottage
- Pool, cabanas, restaurant, bar, spa, bicycles
- Includes non-motorized water activities, such as a snorkeling tour and kayaking
- Includes boat tour to a nearby island
- Introductory SCUBA lesson was around Php 2,000 per person
El Nido Family Room (in the hub area): Php 3,000 per night
El Nido Island Hopping Tour: About Php 1,400 per person (depends on tour package chosen)