5 years ago I wrote about Palawan as the best island according to Travel+Leisure’s “2013 World’s Best” list. It’s a must-go destination among travelers, should I say, and dreamt to be there one day.
Disclaimer: All thoughts expressed in this blog are based on my own. Every traveler may differ in perspectives on things they experience at traveling.
The next thing I know, I was actually there with lots of story to tell thereafter.
We actually had our 5D4N Palawan tour last February, the very month of Tribu AdOBo’s annual summer getaway. Yes, it’s been months ago but only got the chance to write and post this today. Anyways, the whole trip was a dream-come-true as we prepared for it almost a year. Let me explore you to the world-class province of Palawan, Philippines.
Do you know?
Interesting Facts About Palawan
- The whole province is regulated by the government including business pursuant to former Speaker of the House Ramon V. Mitra’s Strategic Environmental Plan law for its conservation. You’ll notice that commercial buildings don’t go beyond 2 levels.
- Palawan is recognized as the last Frontier of the Philippines, meaning the least exploited spot of the country.
- The province is actually an archipelago full of adventure and fun.
- Puerto Princesa’s Underground River at the St. Paul National Park is the longest accessible underground river in the world (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
- Prisoners at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm are free to roam around the detention center. I’ve confirmed this when I asked the souvenir shop owner at Crocodile Farm on the origin of their souvenir items and was told that they were handcrafted by the prisoners.
- Bearcat in Palawan is neither a cat nor a bear as it belongs to the civet family.
- The Indo-Pacific crocodile, named Rio, was captured here.
- It is diverse with its 52 spoken dialects and languages.
- Puerto Princesa City is ¾ forest hence its nickname “the city of a forest.”
Now let’s tour around Palawan
Let Me Wander
Once out from the plane from wherever you came, you’ll have a lot of options to make the most of your Palawan trip. In our case, we came from Cebu directly to Puerto Princesa.
Touring Puerto Princesa
From the airport, we were fetched by the transportation service van driven by Kuya Roger from our booked accommodation at Villa Saturnina. The resort offered us a city tour (500 for guests and 600 for non-guests) along with the other group of tourists from Tarlac. We then visited the following city spots.
Crocodile Farm at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center
This is a 15-minute guided tour where we learned about the city’s huge crocodile Rio and more so about fresh and saltwater crocodiles.
The conservation center is big enough for you to explore and see other wildlife species. Some of them are:
Butterfly Garden and the Tribal Village
Here’s a test of expectation vs. reality because the garden does not have a lot of butterflies we mentally figured out. Thankfully, we saw a rare species of the Palawan Pheasant Peacocks, which can only be found here. It’s endangered that making it worthy to be engraved on the province’s official seal.
At the rear area is a village of the Palaw’an tribe showing off to tourist their primitive ways of living. It’s just amazing to know that they’re still able to preserve their culture in this modern world.
The ranch is a residence of former Senator Ramon Mitra. It offers a panoramic view of the Honda Bay apart from a museum inside the house and a picnic area for visitors.
Next stop was at Baker’s Hill, which is likened to a village full of hugot lines (quotes) all over. There are many photo-perfect spots around with shops for souvenirs and delicacies and freshly cooked food. Since the hill is famed for its hopia, I never passed the chance to try it and bought some for my colleagues. In due fairness, it really tastes like hopia with a twist of texture and filling.
Honda Bay Island Hopping (DIY)
We had our Honda Bay Island Hopping in the city on our second day. It’s at Sta. Lourdes Wharf, which is just a 10-minute walk from our accommodation. We’re able to spend half-day hopping four islands since we have a scheduled El Nido trip in the afternoon.
We started the tour at around 7 am and ended at 12 noon.
The tiny sandbar of the island sets a floating cottage. Contrary to its name, we haven’t seen a single seahorse there. They were not hiding from the seagrasses or our sight was not keen enough to notice them. I really don’t know.
April (Asa Ni Quen?) and I kid around about the island’s origin, singing “Lulubog, lilitaw sa ilalim ng hukay” a Filipino movie theme song which means something that disappears and appears again. There are separate spots for swimming and for fish feeding on this island.
Truth as told, the island has several starfishes around. The area is great for snorkeling and swimming. However, the sun is already too high radiating its scorching heat that we’ve decided to leave.
Indeed, this island is very scenic with captivating fine sand. The island also offers a buffet food service, which is included in other tour packages.
Chinese Temple (Honda Bay)
While waiting for our transport van to El Nido, we were able to visit a nearby Chinese Temple. Only a friendly dog and a security guard welcomed us. Few snaps of the temple and of us were then taken.
El Nido Trip
Traveling to El Nido is a 5-hour long and winding road that made me vomit minutes after getting into the van. It’s unexpected as I’m already used to travel such kind of road back to my hometown. The sudden change of my body temperature coupled with the intoxicating, speedy drive could be the culprit of it all. Chips, mints, and nap were my comforters for hours of travel. The long-drive had quick stops for comfort room visit, light snack, and sunset view and photo-ops.
Dinner Time at Isla Zavor
After dropping by at our accommodation (Overloader dormitory), we hopped a tricycle and headed to Isla Zavor hoping for a feast at dinner. Quiet dismayed, though the menu is great, we were not satisfied. We planned to eat pizza or other delicacies served in El Nido but found our way back to the dormitory noting the high prices of commodities around. KOKO Crunch na mga beshies (almost empty-pocketed)? We just delegated our eyes to satisfy our protesting tummies from sumptuous-looking food. We also had minutes of walk around the busy alleys and streets of the island.
El Nido Island Hopping Tour A
Our Puerto Princesa-El Nido Package Tour with Palawan Tour Deals includes El Nido Tour A. The tour turns out to be a bit far from satisfaction since we seemed to be always in rush. This is the disadvantage when you are joined with other groups for the whole tour.
Seven Commando Beach
The beach is full-packed of tourists and one of the best-visited destinations in El Nido. Snorkeling is a fun to do here as well as a high swing on a half-cut tire like a kid.
We ate our seafood- and fruit-abundant buffet lunch at this island and spent most of our time capturing enjoyable moments that we’re not able to swim.
This small lagoon is just behind the sharp, edgy and towering cliffs surrounding it. It can hardly be seen from the outside maybe that’s the reason why it’s called such. No kidding, the stones towards its entrance are sharp and its opening is tiny so watch your step. The water here is not as clear as outside though.
My planned photo pose at Big Lagoon was far from reality as we just pass through it. It made me feel sad for such lack of time exploring the area.
The lagoon is the final destination of the tour. It can only be accessed when you kayak through it. Kayak rental is available – 400 for 2 people and 600 for 3-4 people. Time was too short for our kayaking spree that saddened me when the boatman came asking us to go back to our boat. What a…
Though discontented, El Nido is still a fantastic destination I’m proud to say “I’ve been there” once.
Back to Puerto Princesa
We traveled back to Puerto Princesa after the island hopping and stayed few hours at Casa Mila Inn. We barely had enough sleep as we need to be early for the underground river tour. Luckily we started out our day with a delightful breakfast.
Underground River Cruise
Our fourth day in Palawan seemed to be the greatest. Our guided tour is a fun- and knowledge-filled one. Our guide was so lively and a real experienced agent in giving us the true value of our pay. He is so warm, jolly, and full of trivia about the province. I even learned some of the earlier mentioned facts from him.
We had a shortstop after an hour and a half on our way to the river for some stuff and CR break.
At Sabang Wharf in Barangay Cabayugan, we waited for our 30-45 arranged motorized boat trip to the river.
Be mindful of your belongings when you get to the area due to wild monkeys around. After a short trek to the river and with our vests and helmets on, we again waited for our turn to get in a paddled boat. We were also given our own earphones to listen to a recorded lecture while demonstrated by our boatman through flashlights. Such an approach is worth an applause so as not to disturb the creatures inside the cave. It’s also forbidden to swim or even touch the water to avoid potential contamination.
Buffet Lunch at Gusto Grill at Sabang Wharf
After our underground river tour, a buffet was served for all tourists. Our eyes and tummies were filled with joy seeing and devouring all the food we can. It’s a definite great meal for everyone who’s been deprived of decent meals. Hahaha… Petty us.
Mangrove Paddleboat Tour
From the side trip choices (Mangrove Paddleboat, Zipline, Fishing, etc.) after the river tour, we opted for the mangrove tour. This guided tour by our boatman himself allowed us to learn things about mangroves and their great role in our ecosystem. There are monkeys, snakes, and other wild animals around so be very careful not to hurt them or be hurt by them.
So every tour needs a place to stay to rest.
Find Me Shelter in Palawan
We had different accommodations in the province. Some are picked by our packaged tour provider.
Villa Saturnina (Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa)
It is located in Honda Bay and we’ve chosen it since it’s just steps away from the wharf where we had our Honda Bay Island Hopping. We actually booked a spacious room for 6 with 2 single beds and 2 bunk beds. Staying here is quite good as the area is clean with free hot/cold water at their kitchen. The resort also offers van transfer and city tour to guests at separate charges. There are even stores outside if you don’t want to spend a lot on food and other necessities.
Overloader Lodge (El Nido)
This simple pension house is cheaper and the room is spacious with a good water supply. However, some amenities were not functioning as we expected. The food they served is not enough for our hungry stomachs.
Casa Mila Inn (Puerto Princesa)
We were warmly welcomed at this cozy accommodation. Our room has three double beds – it’s a family room. Just outside the room are a mini pool and a place for standby. The food here is also great.
Marianne Hotel (Puerto Princesa)
Our stay in this hotel is best among the rest. Ours is a family room with an extra bed with full of amenities. What’s amazing? It offers buffet breakfast (first time I’ve tried and known there’s such) and free airport transfer.
Feed me with delicacies unique on the island.
What to Eat In Palawan?
In every new place I went, I always ask for the food or delicacy endemic in a particular destination and as much as possible try it. Palawan is already notable for its tamilok – a slimy woodworm (actually a mollusk) abundant in dead trees especially mangrove trees. Another delicacy the province serves is the crocodile sisig. Out of curiosity, we won’t want to leave the province without trying them. We went to Kinabuch Grill & Bar to order tamilok in kinilaw style and crocodile Bicol express since sisig was already sold out. Well, tamilok tastes like wood with a strike of the sour bit while crocodile Bicol express is like a chicken menu.
Note: Crocodile meat cooked in Palawan comes from Davao, not from Palawan crocodile farm.
Palawan Itinerary (Puerto Princesa and El Nido)
Day 1: Airport Transfer and City Tour
- Touchdown Puerto Princesa International Airport
- Check-in at Villa Saturnina
- Crocodile Farm at Palawan Wildlife and Conservation Center
- Butterfly Farm and Tribal Village
- Mitra’s Ranch
- Baker’s Hill
- Puerto Princesa Baywalk
- Immaculate Conception Cathedral
- Pasalubong Center
Day 2: Honda Bay Island Hopping (DIY) then En Route to El Nido
- Seahorse Island
- Luli Island
- Starfish Island
- Cowrie Island
- Honda Bay Chinese Temple
- Travel to El Nido
- Check-in at Overloader (El Nido)
Day 3: El Nido and Back to Puerto Princesa
- El Nido Island Hopping Tour A (Seven Commando Beach, Shimizu Island, Secret Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon)
- Back to Puerto Princesa
- Check-in at Casa Mila Inn
Day 4: Puerto Princesa
- Underground River Tour
- Buffet Lunch at Gusto Grill (Sabang Wharf)
- Mangrove Paddleboat Tour
- Check-in at Marianne Hotel
- Kinabuch Grill & Bar
Day 5: Puerto Princesa
- Pasalubong Center
- Puerto Princesa International Airport
- Touchdown Mactan-Cebu International Airport
Plane promo tickets (Cebu to Puerto Princesa and vice versa) – 2100
3D/2N Package (Puerto Princesa and El Nido) – 5858
Puerto Princesa City Tour – 500
Honda Bay Island Hopping – 330 (1500 for boat + 150 environmental fee/pax)
Kayak – 200 (400 good for 2 people and 600 good for 3-4 people)
Accommodation @ Villa Saturnina – 505 (2525/5 pax)
Accommodation @ Marianne Hotel – 750 (3750/5 pax)
Mangrove Paddleboat Tour – 350
Total: 10,593 (excluding food outside our tour and accommodation packages and entrances not included in our packages)
Also read: Palawan 5D4N Adventure: Exploring The Beauty Of Puerto Princesa & El Nido by Asa Ni Quen?
*Some photos and videos credit to the group.