How to Spend a Week in Palawan

by Delilah Kealy Roberts

Once you reach the Philippines and start your island hopping journey it is easy to see why some tourists spend months in the country (or never actually leave). Whether you’ve got an infinite amount of time or you’re on a strict itinerary, it is more than possible to see some world-renowned wonders within this tropical archipelago.

Take Palawan for instance: an island to the South West of the country which has repeatedly regarded as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. You will no doubt have seen the turquoise waters and white beaches of this paradise pop up unwaveringly on your Instagram feed. You’ll have most likely gazed longingly at the image and then scrolled past, trying to mask your jealousy. This island is probably already on your travel bucket list so when you finally do get there, you’ll want to do it right.

You could easily spend a long time island hopping and bathing in the Palawan heat but if time is not in your favour, do not fear! Here is your ultimate guide to spending a week in Palawan.

First Stop: Puerto Princesa

How to Get There

The easiest way to reach Palawan is by flying into its capital city. I flew directly from Manila to Puerto Princesa (on a very reasonably priced flight) and used this city as a jumping off point for my Palawan itinerary.

Where to Stay

As I stayed in this city both at the start and at the end of my trip to Palawan I sampled a couple of different hostels. If you’re on a budget, then you’ve got nothing to worry about; the city is full of backpacker hostels. Both of the places I stayed were cheap and in a great location (Tropic Dahlia Hostel and Le Mon Hostel). As long as you’re near Rizal Avenue then you will be within walking distance of most café’s, shops and malls. This street is only about a 45-minute walk or 10-minute trike ride from the airport which is also ideal.

How Long to Stay

Even though Puerto Princesa is small and hasn’t quite caught up with the island’s demand for tourism, don’t rush away too quickly! The city has a few gems of its own to offer so at least a two night stop over would be ideal.

What to Do

The unquestionable highlight of visiting Puerto Princesa is the Subterranean River. It is easy to find a tour every day from the city to this UNESCO world heritage site and 100% worth your time while here.

If you’re keen on starting island hopping early you could also visit Honda Bay. Although there will be plenty more opportunities to see incredible islands further up the coast.

What to Eat/Drink

My favourite café in the city was a quaint place called Café Ole. The café/bakery created an understated Parisian vibe which (although it sounds it) did not feel out of place in the city.

For a larger meal try Ima’s Vegetarian Restaurant. I can only personally vouch for vegetarian food (please excuse the lack of Filipino pork adobo tips!) but the food here was tasty and fresh. The restaurant is just off Rizal Avenue and is the relaxed kind of place where you could spend an afternoon sipping on refreshing mango shakes.

When the evening draws in however and you fancy something a bit stronger, visit Palaweño Brewery. This small pub proudly holds the titles of ‘the first craft beer brewery in Palawan’, and ‘the first female-run craft beer brewery in the Philippines’. If you fancy a delicious pint and some interesting conversation, it’s not one to miss!

Second Stop: Port Barton

How to Get There

It is easy enough to jump on a minibus from Puerto Princesa to Port Barton. Most hostels will be able to call and organise it for you, or you can book yourself online (at a slightly higher price). The bus will pick you up directly from your accommodation which is a bonus.

Where to Stay

During my time at Port Barton, the accommodation was one of the highlights. I stayed at Jungle Bar, a lodge a few miles outside of the town in (you guessed it) the jungle. More of a ‘glamping’ experience, you will stay in a small wooden hut near a larger structure where you can get delicious food, cheap beer, and extraordinary views!

How Long to Stay

3 nights should be enough for Port Barton. Although you really could stay and chill on a hammock in the jungle indefinitely.

What to Do

The island hopping tour is not to be missed. Cheaper than rival tours in its more touristic neighbour, El Nido, the Port Barton tour is perfect if you’re on a tight budget (it should cost between 700 and 800 Pesos). Ask your accommodation to call up a tour guide and you’ll be picked up on a boat from either White Beach or Port Barton beach. You will stop at a few fantastic snorkelling spots (snorkel equipment is provided) and some less-trodden areas of wonder such as the aptly named Paradise Beach.

If you love waterfalls and jungle walks as much as I do, then check out Papawyan Falls on your next day at Port Barton. The trek takes about an hour from the town and isn’t too demanding. When you plunge into the pool at the foot of the falls then you’ll know it was worth your while.

For a more relaxing day, simply chill out at White Beach. You’ll have to pay 20 pesos to enter, but the long stretch of almost abandoned beach paired with the view of the lagoon is priceless.

What to Eat/ Drink

The food at Jungle bar was delicious and catered for vegetarian, pescatarian and meat-eaters alike. There are also plenty of small eateries in the town such as Reef Café.

The dinner which is included in the island hopping tour was perhaps the culinary highlight. Fresh veg, fruit, rice, and fish are all included in the tour package.

Third Stop: El Nido

How to Get There

You can catch a minibus from Port Barton (I booked in advance online as there are only two trips per day, but you can also book through your accommodation). The journey takes about 3 to 4 hours. It is also possible to get a larger bus straight from Puerto Princesa or fly directly to El Nido Airport.

Where to Stay

Accommodation prices seemed to jump up a bit when you reach this more touristic spot. Nevertheless, there are still many backpacker hostels which are basic but will do the job for a brief stay. The town is so small that you really can’t go wrong with the location.

How Long to Stay

Although El Nido is a highlight of Palawan you really don’t need long to experience it. It depends on how many tours you want to do, but if you’re only doing one then one or two nights should be enough.

What to Do

You guessed it: Island hopping! The prices are higher, and the tours are much busier here than in Port Barton, but it is still a must-do experience. You can choose from tour packages A, B, C and D depending on what exactly you want to see. The essential tour though, in my opinion, is tour A, which will take you to see the small lagoon, the big lagoon, the secret lagoon, and the Seven Commandos beach.

Remember those Instagram posts? Right now, you’re living them.

What to Eat/ Drink

A trip to El Nido isn’t complete without a pizza at Trattoria Altrove. Pizza? You ask, in the Philippines? Strange huh? But when you see the queues that wind down the street from the restaurant you’ll know this place must be doing something right. Try to get there early evening or pretty late to avoid the 6-8pm mad rush.

Much like Port Barton, you’ll be able to sample freshly caught fish and an array of fruit and veg included in your tour. The barbeque will be ongoing onboard the boat as you hop from place to place.

After this whistle-stop tour, you’ll undoubtedly agree with claims that Palawan is one of the world’s most beautiful islands and it will be a highlight of your trip to the Philippines. Your pictures will be the envy of everyone! And after all that, the only question is: which island next?

 

Delilah Kealy Roberts

By Delilah Kealy Roberts

Delilah is a passionate travel writer and thrifty globetrotter. She graduated from the University of Leeds (BA English Literature) And has since been writing, creating, wandering and learning. Book obsessed, she will always be reading while on the move. Reading books by authors of each country she visits has become a recent aim- literature is so important to feeling more intimate with a new country. Her other love in life is food, and is constantly on the hunt for quirky coffee houses and vegetarian/ vegan gems.

Read more at delilaheve.com

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