5 Reasons to Visit Palawan, Philippines

January 1, 1970

by Shannon Thomas

Need a reason to visit Palawan?  Here’s 5.

The Philippine island of Palawan is the country’s largest province comprised of over 1,700 islands, all of which hold a unique beauty that is specific to Palawan only.  The fact that Palawan is its own giant island comprised of even more islands should be reason enough for a visit.  This is an area that is home to a myriad of plant and animal species along with rich natural areas that make Palawan a sanctuary for all living things.  There is plenty to do on this elongated island, whether you’re looking for an inexpensive holiday seeing the local sites or planning a romantic getaway in a 5-Star resort – Palawan has it all!  Here I provide you with 5 reasons YOU should travel to this remarkable place.

natural scenery

#1 – Island Hopping

For those unfamiliar with the term, island hopping involves taking a small boat to different islands in the area, stopping to snorkel in open waters, view beautiful sea life and corals, and spend time on isolated beaches (on several occasions I’ve been able to swim with wild sea turtles).  Palawan has many places to go island hopping, the most common tours happen in Honda Bay, Port Barton, and El Nido. Tours are typically booked through the establishment which you are staying.  There is no need to book far in advance for tours.  Inform your place of accommodation of the activities you want to do and they will arrange them for you.

island hopping

#2 – Beaches

There are simply too many beaches to even count in Palawan!  Popular beaches are Nagtabon Beach, Long Beach, and Nacpan Beach and each beach has its own unique features.  Some beaches have beautiful white sand, others have rows of Palm trees with coconuts that you can drink out of.  Plan a day to hang out at the beach and enjoy the sunshine.  My favorite beach time activity involves watching the sunset.  Each sunset is completely different in Palawan and absolutely beautiful.  You won’t be disappointed with the beaches here.  (Tip: avoid visiting the beaches on weekends, especially Sundays due to crowding).

#3 – Nature & Scenery

Palawan is simply beautiful anywhere you go.  There is only one highway that runs north and south of the island.  Plan a road trip by renting a motorbike and driving either up or down the highway, stopping at scenic areas you spot from the road.  From the road, you’ll come across natural hot springs, waterfalls, views of the mountains, and many other breathtaking sights.  Even beautiful sunsets can be spotted while cruising down the highway at dusk.  There is always something to run into while roaming the island – sometimes you’ll even spot a monkey near the waterfalls or a monitor lizard roaming through the jungle!


#4 – Underground River

This attraction is probably the most well-known feature of Palawan and the reason that many travelers visit.  The Underground River is located in Sabang, about 3 hours from the airport in Puerto Princesa. Essentially, the Underground River is just a large, long cave that allows visitors to enter by boat with flash lights.  While that may sound unappealing to those who don’t enjoy dark, damp places filled with bats, this attraction offers an interesting look at the living, breathing interior of a cave that has miles and miles of river flowing through it.  Aside from being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World.  This is highly recommended activity while in Palawan.

boat ride

#5 – Local Culture

A big part of what makes Palawan so beautiful are the people who call this region home.  Palawan has tribal groups of people who live all around the island and remnants of their culture are apparent when venturing to different parts of the island.  The 3 main tribes of Palawan are the Batak, Tagbanua, and Pala’wan, each having their own distinctive language and customs.  As a tourist, you might not come face to face with these groups but you may end up purchasing handicrafts or other for-sale items made by the regions native peoples in the countless Pasalubong shops that are sprinkled around the island.

The Filipino people that you meet in cities, like Puerto Princesa, are very friendly and always smiling. Be sure you smile back – this is a part of Filipino culture!  Kindness!  To get a real Filipino experience visit a karaoke bar.  These are mostly found in Puerto Princesa and are a great way to hang out with locals and take part in their passion for karaoke.  Once you get past the humiliation its actually quite fun and the locals, whether they can sing or not, belt their little hearts out.  Step out of your comfort zone and try something new – I assure you that everyone in the bar will be cheering for you by the time you finish your karaoke rendition of “Sweet Child of Mine”.

Additionally, you can get a taste for local culture by trying Filipino dishes.  My recommendations for must-try Filipino dishes are pansit, adobo, sisig, and the tasty dessert halo-halo.  If you’re feeling extra adventurous I urge you to try balut, a Filipino delicacy!  There is so much to discover on Palawan island in terms of local culture that is unlike anywhere else in the Philippines.  Thus, the reason this island is considered to be a hidden gem.

native dance

So, are you convinced yet?

I hope these tips encourage you to venture to Palawan and experience all the beautiful places and faces located here.  The best times to visit are typically from September until April, as this is low season.  If you can’t visit during these months you might risk higher prices due to an influx of tourists, both foreigners and vacationing Filipinos along with rainy weather, as June begins the country’s rainy season.  Even so, travel during rainy season doesn’t mean you’re stuck indoors all day while it rains. Rains typically last for a few hours and then clear up, allowing you to plan your vacation without worry of having it ruined by rain.  Palawan is truly an island paradise and a perfect place to relax and unwind or go on a invigorating exploration.  The choice is yours.  Happy adventuring, my friends!

Shannon Thomas

By Shannon Thomas

Shannon Thomas is an MA in Cultural Anthropology from Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois with an emphasis in Southeast Asian Studies, particularly the Philippines. Shannon holds an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from Northern Illinois University’s Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy, and has been a Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship Recipient from 2014 to 2016, completing coursework in Tagalog language study. She is a Fulbright Scholar positioned on the island of Palawan where she had made her home. The basis of Shannon’s Fulbright experience is aimed at providing a foundation conservation efforts aimed at preserving Palawan's rich, natural areas and informing locals and tourists about the island's beauty and ways that environmental degradation can be mitigated.

Read more at sthomasislandlife.com

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