Travel to the islands of Palawan and find out why it's a top destination not just in the Philippines but the whole world. What are the top tourist attractions and things to do in here? Read on to find out to plan your ultimate getaway.
Named as the Philippines' last ecological frontier, Palawan is one of the country's wealthiest provinces in terms of biodiversity. Its lined with sugary beaches, cays, and towering limestone formations that are unlike any other.
Swiftlets - colloquially known as balinsasayaw - whose nests are prized delicacies, have made these formations their home.
Video by the Philippine Department of Tourism
Dense forests comprise a sizable majority of this island province too, serving as habitat for many endemic species, including pitcher plants, mouse deers, pangolins, and born swine.
Suffice to say that Palawan tours are unmatched in Asia, and wherever you go, you won't run out of things to do. Especially if you plan to visit its significant provinces, namely El Nido, Puerto Princesa, Coron, and San Vicente. Here are some for starters:
The world's second-longest subterranean river is the Puerto Princesa Underground River. It's the one that attracts thousands of tourists here. The drive going to the jump-off point in Sabang Wharf will treat you to a refreshing view of the rural landscape.
After this, you will board an outrigger boat that will take you to where the underground river is. After disembarking, there is a brief trek through a forested nature trail and wooden pathways until you reach the cave opening where paddle boats going inside the cave are docked.
Nature lovers will enjoy the experience of paddling through the cave system. Prepare to see the stalactites and stalagmites of various shapes and sizes when you join an underground river tour.
The ride will take you through a portion of the 8.2-kilometer subterranean river that runs under the protected cave, giving you plenty of time to marvel at the rock formations that you'll pass by. You'll see stalactites resembling vegetables, dinosaurs, and religious icons within the cave.
Coron is a laid back destination that has plenty to offer visitors. The island has lakes, lagoons, and beautiful white-sand beaches. This tropical destination lets you relax, unwind, and get away from the daily grind. One of the best attractions in Coron island-hopping tours is no other than Kayangan Lake.
Before you can reach this amazing tourist place in Coron, you will do a brief walk when your ship docks at the entrance. Note the impressive formations of limestones and azure waters as you approach the bay.
You'll have to walk a flight of stairs to a vantage point when you reach the cove so you can see the most iconic image of this attraction. It's the area's best-known place and where you can take photos before you go to the lake. It is the highlight of Coron's ultimate tour.
From there, you can walk down to the lake, the salty water of which is quite refreshing. The mixture of saltwater and freshwater makes the lake's surface look like a mirror. It seems shallow, and from the walking platform, you can almost see the bottom!
In its turquoise waters, you can swim, dive, and attempt to get as close as you can to the bottom. The water's clarity encourages you to see as far as you can when you plunge underneath. Make sure to try a tour in Kayangan Lake for a memorable experience in Coron.
Another popular lake attraction in Coron is Barracuda Lake. The Tagbanuas, Cuyonon, and Calmiananen were the original inhabitants of the Calmianes Islands which included Coron.
The rock formations and the turquoise waters of the lake will make you stop and stare for a moment before dousing the afternoon heat by diving into it.
It got its name from the fact that divers discovered the skeleton of a barracuda in its depths. Barracuda Lake is also one of the cleanest lakes in the country and a famous attraction included in an island-hopping tour in Coron.
The boat ride to the lake is picturesque; until you reach the docking zone, you will see sedimentary formations towering over the ocean. It's one of the ethereal adventures that you can have on your Coron excursion.
Many island-hopping tours in Coron include Barracuda Lake. There is an entrance fee and a guide fee; both are often included in the package already. During your trip, make sure to take plenty of photographs and videos before plunging into the turquoise waters!
This powdery paradise was one of the secret getaways for some tourists until its beauty was discovered by many and became one of the most sought after beach included in El Nido island-hopping tours.
Nacpan Beach is a four-kilometer strip of cream-colored sand and coconut trees with crystal clear turquoise water. It is17th kilometers north of El Nido town proper in Palawan.
Tourists can lie on the beach or settle in hammocks if they want to do some sunbathing. They can also opt to rest in Nacpan's shady spots.
Aside from swimming, visitors can also do surfing, kayaking, and stand up paddleboard when trying Nacpan Beach tours. Mask, fins, and snorkel are available for those who want to explore the crystal clear water.
Nacpan is one-half of the famous twin beaches in the area—the other one is called Calitang Beach. Travelers can ride a tricycle, where two to three people can fit, to reach Nacpan Beach. Tricycle ride can last for an hour to 90 minutes.
A hassle-free way to get to the attraction is to join a guided tour in Nacpan beach! There are restaurants along the coast that range from affordable to expensive. There are also snacks for sale along the beach's entrance although the selection is limited.
The Big Lagoon is uniquely famous for its vibrantly colored waters and picturesque limestone rocks on the horizon. It's off the eastern coast of Miniloc Island in El Nido, Palawan. It's best accessible via a guided boat package, which is the El Nido island-hopping Tour A.
The boat will approach Big Lagoon around a rock that fronts a smaller lagoon. And from here, the unforgettable dazzling blue of the water greets visitors. The pool at the entrance is an awe-striking Gatorade-blue that tourists usually stay on the boats a bit to marvel.
While boats can drive you further into the lagoon, most guides dock only at the entrance to give room for swimmers, snorkelers, and kayakers. The water lightens to a bright periwinkle until it meets a small beach.
Like many of Palawan's pretty lagoons, the Big Lagoon is surrounded by limestone rocks. But here, the rocks only reach hill-high. In between are beautiful clear canals and a few coves. In this tourist attraction, a tiny cave connects to a room-size small lagoon.
The Big Lagoon boasts a generous space to host any relaxing water activity often included in island-hopping tour A.
At its shallowest, you can swim leisurely with sea turtles and then snorkel a bit farther with corals right beneath you. You can also free-dive up to 50 m deep, but jellyfish and urchins frequent there, too so be careful.
If you're looking for more lagoons to visit, then you have to visit Small Lagoon. It's significantly smaller than the Big Lagoon.
However, when it comes to the uniqueness and allure it exudes, it can't be overlooked. El Nido island-hopping tour D is a tourist favorite because towering limestone cliffs surround its turquoise waters.
The Small Lagoon has a narrower entrance, unlike the Big Lagoon where the opening is easily reachable. To get inside, you can plunge or ride a kayak and go through a gap on a limestone wall.
You can visit this attraction of El Nido by booking the El Nido island-hopping Tour D. Take note that there are constraints to the number of tourists and time spent in Small Lagoon to maintain its captivating ambiance.
Port Barton is lovely, calm, and quiet. It's only 2-3 hours away from Puerto Princesa City, and there are fewer people here compared to its province's most famous neighbors. Joining a Port Barton day tour is worth it as the town offers numerous tourist spots perfect for any traveler!
Situated 1-2 hours by land from Poblacion, this peaceful coastal town is an accessible location for international travelers. You can go here or choose to remain for a few evenings.
More restaurants and bars are available here compared to Long Beach and Poblacion. It is similar to El Nido's chill beach atmosphere.
One of the best Port Barton tours is island-hopping. You can explore nearby islands such as Starfish Island, Exotic Island, German Island, Inaladelan Island, and German Island that are part of island-hopping tours in Palawan.
Other attractions you should visit in Port Barton include Bigaho Falls, Pamuayan Falls, Itaytay Beach, Long Beach, Aquarium Reef, Twin Reef, Marine Sanctuary, and more. It's no wonder most tourists keep coming back to this beautiful destination.
Honda Bay is one of the first tourist spots in Palawan to have made a mark on the tourist map, with its beautiful beaches and strategic location.
With a pier that's accessible from anywhere in the capital within 30 minutes, Honda Bay tours allow travelers the ease of uncovering three gorgeous sandbars: Luli Island, Cowrie Island, and Starfish Island.
Cowrie Island is named after the cowrie shells within the area. Aside from swimming and lounging, it's the perfect place to enjoy a sumptuous picnic-style dinner.
Luli Island, on the other hand, got its name derived from its unique sandbar. It disappears during high tide, while it reappears during low tide.
Cottages can be rented throughout the bay, and snorkel equipment rentals are also available. Lastly, Starfish Island is named as such because of the abundant number of starfishes found within its powdery white sands. Go swim and snorkel when you try a Honda Bay island-hopping tour.
Pandan Island is also worth mentioning as it's included in some Honda Bay island hopping tours. It got its name from the numerous Pandan trees surrounding the area. You can rent a cottage, try water activities such as jet ski or kayak, make a sandcastle and more.
The Twin Lagoon in Coron Island, Palawan province is picturesque lagoons divided by towering limestone walls. Visiting the lagoons offers a bit of adventure.
From the town proper, they are accessible only by boat, which will take you through a maze of giant karst walls. If you're eager for a hassle-free adventure, you can check Twin Lagoon tours.
Boats dock on the first lagoon, and then visitors must swim from here to reach a rickety wooden staircase that leads to the second. At low tide, you can instead wade through a cavern that connects both lagoons.
Other times you need to swim utterly underwater for a few meters and resurface on the separate pool. It’s one of the best attractions included in a Coron ultimate tour.
Thankfully, non-profit groups are now helping to empower the Tagbanua to operate some of Palawan island-hopping tours, which include immersive camp programs in their traditional beach homes.
Going to Seven Commandos Beach is like going to paradise. It has a long stretch of fine white sands and the line of swaying coconut trees below its dramatic limestone cliffs.
The beach is part of El Nido's Tour A island-hopping option, which also includes favorites Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon.
Seven Commandos is usually the tour's first stop, where visitors can swim, snorkel, and feast on refreshing coconut juice. Boats will dock here for around 45 minutes.
After this, you can enjoy your free time and unwind within the area before you visit the other tourist spots included, especially those included in island-hopping tour A. It’s a perfect way to spend a day in El Nido.
It was said that save for the high-end resorts found in El Nido, this is the only island with bars. The original one was mostly just a small hut that serves drinks ranging from fruit shakes to cocktails.
Food is also served here. The beach also has a beach volleyball court which is perfect for big groups.
While Coron is sometimes likened to El Nido - owing to their similar limestones – something that sets Coron apart is its impressive shipwreck sites often packaged in a reefs and wrecks tour.
A total of 13 can be found between the waters of Culion and Busuanga, the majority of which are Japanese fleet used during World War II. Collectively, these warships have been declared by Forbes as among the world's ten best dive sites.
Although most of the wrecks are submerged over 100 feet below water (perfect for wreck divers), some are between 10 and 30 feet - shallow enough to be explored by merely snorkeling.
Among this is the Skeleton Wreck, a popular attraction in a Coron island-hopping tour, which is a steel-hulled boat believed to have belonged to a local fisherman.
The keel of a large cargo ship, Tangat Wreck, also protrudes upright near the surface in Tangat Island. Corals, nudibranchs, fishes, and even sea turtles inhabit the wrecks, providing excellent opportunities for underwater photography.
Shallower wrecks are often in Coron island hopping tours, along with other attractions, such as Coral Garden and Black Beach.
San Vicente's Long Beach provides a laid-back atmosphere, perfect for tourists interested in sightseeing, beach lounging for hours, sunset-watching, and island-hopping. It's the Philippines' longest white beach and the second-longest in the whole of Southeast Asia.
The coastline of 14 kilometers is undeveloped and is three times the size of the White Beach of Boracay. It’s 40 kilometers from Port Barton, another primary destination in San Vicente. Try Port Barton tours if you'd like to enjoy the town in its fullest.
Long Beach houses some front beach and non-beach accommodations. For those who want direct access to various parts of the 14.7 km white-sand beach, booking a location here is perfect.
Long Beach includes different barangays that serve as jumping points for public transport such as New Agutaya, San Isidro, and Alimuangan. There are also a lot of restaurants available here, serving both local and international cuisines.
If you want to explore the longest white beach in the Philippines, pack your stuff and visit this tourist destination in San Vicente! The best way to explore Long Beach is by renting a motorcycle or by joining a guided tour.
A journey to Mt. Tapyas' viewing deck is worth it. Despite the 724-step ascent, it'll be worth all the sweat because you'll see Coron's unusual perspective that gets better as you go higher.
You'll see a big white cross when you reach the top, which you can also know when you're in town but not as panoramic as in the viewing deck.
From the city center, Mt. Tapyas is easy to reach. You can travel to the base by walking, join a sightseeing tour in Coron, or rent a tricycle.
The mountain is easy to climb because most of it involves walking on concrete steps, and there are several platforms and benches where visitors can stop and rest before going on.
Feel the fresh air and see the city from a panoramic point of view as you slowly reach the top. Rest a while before going down; wait until sunset to watch the blue sky turn red and then dark.
Mt. Tapyas is an ideal half-day trip for those who are looking for a different activity aside from the usual Coron island-hopping tours.
Also known as Hidden Lagoon, it's a must-visit destination during your trip to El Nido and is part of the popular island-hopping tour A. Your boat will first head for a small white sand beach in the southern part of Miniloc Island.
You're going to pass via an opening like some hollow rocky cave, so be extra careful and dock your head. If it is low tide, you can easily wade into the entrance.
Once inside, a small natural pool surrounded by extremely high limestone cliffs will welcome you, which is the Secret Lagoon. In its lovely white sand, you can plunge in the natural cold pool or just lounge and relax. Appreciate and enjoy the surrounding scenery while in the lagoon.
The water is colder here due to the cliffs that cover it from the sun rays, compared to the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon. The Secret Lagoon's mystery is what makes it a worthy destination. It's a significant component of island-hopping Tour A in El Nido and is loved by the locals.
Also known as Vigan Island, this island got its unique name from its S-shaped sandbar that is approximately 3 meters long.
Like any other island in El Nido, Snake Island tours are popular because it has crystal clear turquoise waters. It's one of the islands that will give you the experience and feeling of walking in the middle of the sea.
Watch the marine life underneath like small fishes, sea turtles, corals, and starfishes via snorkeling along the shoreline. Snake Island is also a paradise filled with thick foliage and lots of mangroves where monkeys are often seen.
Snake Island is part of El Nido island-hopping tour B and is either the lunch stop or the start-off point of the said tour. The major crowd-pullers of Tour B are the scenic sandspit of Vigan Island and the caves that are in the set (Cathedral Cave and Cudugnon Cave).
Housing thousands of endangered and endemic species, Calauit Safari Park remains to be the Philippines' only game reserve and wildlife sanctuary.
Its resident species include African animals that were transported from Kenya in 1976, including the reticulated giraffe and the world's most endangered zebra species, the Grevy's zebra.
These animals can be found freely roaming in the sanctuary's 3,700-hectare expanse, along with mouse deer, bearcats, and the Calamian deer, which is in here.
Visitors who are participating in a Calauit Safari Park tour are allowed to do guided feeding to giraffes while on foot, providing a thrilling experience that's at par with Kenyan safaris.
The safari park has the porcupine and the Binturong (bearcat) of the Philippines. There's also the bearded pig of Palawan, one of the country's endemic four wild pig species.
The Philippine freshwater crocodile is also being taken care of here. Under the Philippine Red List of Threatened Wildlife, all are endangered species.
One of the most popular islands in El Nido is Shimizu Island. It's part of the El Nido Tour A island-hopping tour and an alternative stopover spot for lunch, and it can get a bit crowded here during midday. It's a popular spot for snorkeling because it's teeming with colorful marine life.
The Japanese-sounding name makes one wonder about the island's origin. According to guides and boatmen, a group of scuba divers explored the waters of El Nido decades ago. Unfortunately, one of them didn't make it back from a deep underwater tunnel.
Days were spent searching for the diver's body until it's on an island with imposing rock formations and beautiful white sand. The deceased diver's last name was Shimizu, and the island was named after him.
Visitors can explore the island during island-hopping tour A while the boatmen prepare lunch. Boats will dock here for less than one hour, so make good use of the time swimming and snorkeling while waiting for the meal to be served.
Under the shade of the hot noonday sun, the boatmen will serve grilled fare of meat and seafood, vegetables, and fresh fruits for dessert. There are also local folks who sell sodas and ice cream around the area.
Siete Pecados is one of the highly-recommended tourist spots in a Coron day tour. What's lovely about this marine park is that all of its seven islands are teeming with marine life, together with various marine species.
The area is known for its vibrant marine life, immersive as you dive into its turquoise waters. Siete Pecados is Coron city's closest dive site to the town proper. In just a few minutes, the boat takes you right in the middle of the islets.
You only need to climb down the ladder to get to the water, or you can hop off and snorkel directly. This practicality makes Siete Pecados a top Coron destination to visit.
Baby sharks and octopi, with more species coming in and out of their home reefs, are often seen here! There is a powerful current along Siete Pecados, so a rope along the water guides snorkelers.
Iwahig Firefly Watching Area is a famous evening riverboat cruise in Puerto Princesa. They let tourists view flickering insects, also known as "fireflies" or "lightning bugs." This educational firefly watching activity is one of the community-based sustainable tourism initiatives and eco tours of the city.
It started in 2007 and now being managed by the locals of Barangay Iwahig. It's temporarily closed due to rehabilitation purposes, but it'll be opened soon to the public.
This tourist attraction is among the bucket lists of tourists as it also gives them a chance to have a close encounter with fireflies. The watching site, which is around 45 minutes away from the city proper, opens at 6 p.m. as the fireflies usually come out in the evening.
Fireflies live in the mangroves and trees situated along the banks and Sicsican and Iwahig Rivers. They typically thrive in pollution and noise-free areas. Using flash photography during the tour is, however, discouraged as this may disturb the fireflies which are inhabiting the area.
The world's largest leper colony in the 1900s, Culion is a town that's well-suited for people wanting to try heritage tours.
Cut off from the rest of the world, its former inhabitants – including Spanish priests and caregivers - lived among themselves and were isolated until it was declared leprosy-free in 2006.
Remnants of the Spanish-era settlement remain intact until today, including a nursery for children, a sanitorium, a male dormitory, and several plazas.
The best way to cap off your day is by taking the 333 steps up to Aguila's viewpoint, which overlooks the municipality and the other islands in Calamianes. It's a unique tourist spot included in Palawan island-hopping tours that deserves at least a place in your route.
From Coron town, you can take the 1:30 p.m. passenger boat to Culion. The ship leaves Culion for Coron the next day at 7 a.m. If you don't plan on staying the night, you can join a day tour to Coron. It's hassle-free, and you'll get free pick-up and drop off to your hotel in Coron.
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