The Philippines is located on islands; it has a total of 1780 islands. Palawan is an island province, which is located on one of the largest archipelagos in the world. Its capital city is Puerto Princesa. The province of Palawan is larger than any other in the Philippines. It comprises an island between the South China Sea and Sulu Sea. The best beaches in the Philippines are located in Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park. It’s also home to the Puerto Princesa Underground River, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Palawan’s cleanliness is one of the first things that come to mind when someone asks me about the area. I highly recommend traveling to Palawan for a vacation; it’s one of the best attractions in the Philippines. Although Palawan is the main island of the Philippines, its tourist attractions are more impressive than most other places in the country. Compared to Manila’s toxic waste and cleanliness, the country’s main island has a lot to offer.
I’m impressed by the reverence the locals have for the environment and land. The Philippines is said to have the last remaining ecological frontier, and residents take pride in preserving their homeland’s natural wonders. People on the street take their responsibility to watch over the community very seriously. I saw this one driving home on the zero waste road in Puerto Princesa. My uncle accidentally dropped a cigarette butt on the sidewalk. A nearby passerby couple expressed their concern and politely asked him to pick up the butt and put it in a nearby trash can. Police officers told me that they received fines for violating the cleaning standards of the town. This motivated me to show my appreciation by giving the police a hug.
A member of our island hopping tour showed my husband a giant conch shell on the shore. He was told he could touch, photograph and even take home the shell, but not take it home. Her island is naturally beautiful, and she told him that no amount of money was worth making it look less beautiful. A question about pricing actually showed his understanding of the value of her island!
Tourists frequently visit the El Nido resort, which is located near the northernmost point of Palawan. This gives them the opportunity to visit many beautiful places. Getting to El Nido from where one lives can be challenging and expensive. It’s a paradise for divers who want to get away from it all.
It’s the cheapest to get to Palawan using Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific or other commercial airlines. However, this costs a significant amount of money. Next is chartering a flight; this is significantly cheaper than flying with Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. Alternatively, flying direct from Manila or Cebu is also possible. You can also fly to Coron in one of the Palawan communities and take a boat to El Nido, which takes about 8 hours. Alternatively, taking a bus or car to El Nido would take 4 hours.
Instead of continuing to El Nido, we decided to fly to Puerto Princesa and stay there. This is the most convenient route as my mom refuses to take the smaller plane to El Nido and my elderly dad can’t stand the 4 hour drive.
In the late afternoon, we arrived at Puerto Princesa International Airport, which is such a good name for a small airport. The flight from Manila takes about an hour.
We chose Niko’s Cabanas, a small hotel with only 9 rooms. We booked 3 junior suites for about $65 per night for a double room including a cooked-to-order breakfast.
The suite is air-conditioned and has a private bathroom with hot and cold shower. The room was clean and comfortable. All rooms offer cable TV and the restaurant offers free Wi-Fi.
The hotel is located in a residential area of the city but is easily accessible by tricycle or car. The hotel shuttle can even take you in and out of town for free, just ask!
The hotel features a swimming pool, restaurant and gazebo. The property is beautifully landscaped with tropical trees and plants. I know it’s not by the sea, it’s a long way from it, but it worked well for us because my mom insisted she needed to be close to town. Not to mention that there are so many of us that booking multiple rooms at a seaside hotel is not exactly budget-friendly as we have to pay for air shows, hotels, etc. for most of the people in our group.
We had a great time at Nikos Cabanas. My mom and dad love this restaurant! I think it’s mainly because the staff were so friendly and prepared almost exactly as my mom ordered, even though it wasn’t on the menu!
The gazebo in the middle of the hotel is the perfect place to hang out after a long day. The staff made sure we had cold San Miguel, sodas and snacks.
We were the only hotel guests when we were there. We are lucky because we have received excellent service!
But we didn’t go to Palawan to hang out at the hotel. We want to explore and experience the sights and activities of the island. We made it the next morning!
Our first destination was the famous underground river. During our stay, I rented a van with driver and guide. They picked us up at Niko’s place early in the morning and drove 2 hours to Sabang. Chabang is a small town and the gateway to the underground river in Puerto Princesa.
On the way to Sabang, we passed a viewpoint and according to our guide we could see the South China Sea on one side and the Sulu Sea on the other.
Then we headed to Sabang Boat Port to board a banca (motorized canoe) that took us to the underground river.
Since we hired a tour guide, she arranged for boat tickets and underground river tickets, included, as well as a BBQ lunch at Sabang Resort when we got back. The cost for 7 people is about $250.
Because there were 7 people in our party we had the banca to ourselves. Once loaded on we were off to the entrance beach to the Underground River!
Boat trips along the coast of the island are not very long. We drove along the coast past some interesting rock formations.
When the banca card reaches the entrance beach, it tries to get as close to the land as possible. You get off at the beach, so your feet will get soaked no matter what!
Just a short walk from the beach to the park entrance. You can’t miss it! It’s right behind the big sign!
The trail takes you through the rainforest, where you’ll see long-tailed macaques and giant monitor lizards.
Macaques are the only primates in the area and are easy to spot. They are everywhere! If there is food in it, they will bite and grab the bag, but be careful.
Lizards are harder to spot. They are well camouflaged. At the end of the path, you will find a queue for boat rides into the cave.
Before jumping to another boat, you must put on a life jacket and hard hat. Since we are a big group we have our own boat again. As we all sat down, the bosun paddled us through the salt water to the cave entrance.
Puerto Princesa Underground River National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. It’s basically the 8.2-kilometer-long Kaba Yugan River that flows through São Paulo’s underground river caves, over 24 kilometers in length long.
It was dark inside the cave. During the 45-minute trip, the boatman uses spotlights to illuminate certain rock formations.
Inside the cave, you will pass stalactites and stalagmites. As expected, you will see a lot of bat guano as well as the bats themselves. Nine species of bats make caves their home.
After a short boat ride inside the cave, we head back to the banca waiting on the beach before heading back to Sabang for lunch.
The boat port is a short walk from the resorts along the coast. My dad had trouble walking, so we rented a Carabao to send him, my mom and my sister to the resort. The rest of us got there on foot along the beautiful white sandy beach.
Lunch was enjoyed under a thatched umbrella on the beach. There is definitely a lot of food and drink on offer. After a leisurely lunch, it was time to drive 2 hours back to our hotel.
Around noon, we returned to the hotel. Plenty of time to shower and drink in our little gazebo before heading into town for dinner.
Mom, Dad and sister decided to dine in the hotel restaurant. The rest of us squeezed into a few tricycles and drove to a restaurant in Puerto Princesa.
The next day we went to Honda Bay for an island tour. Our trusted guide came to pick us up in the morning and took us to the local jetty where we boarded the private boat. My husband wanted to go fishing (which is legal as long as you are some distance from the island), so he bought a rod and bait from a vendor on the pier.
Our first stop was Pandan Island, so named for the abundance of pandan trees growing there. Since this is a private island, the entrance fee is charged at the jetty before your departure. In our case, all fees and lunch are included in the tour.
It’s a beautiful island surrounded by white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters full of colorful fish. You can rent umbrellas, huts, volleyballs, paddle boards and other beach toys for an extra fee.
My favorite part of this island is the fresh seafood on sale. When I jumped off the banca, several local girls greeted me with lobster traps. They claim to have caught crayfish and crabs that morning. I paid about $15 for all of their stuff. This got me about a dozen crabs and six lobsters. They cooked it for me and threw 6 beers. What a deal!
My seafood platter was delivered to our beach hut just in time for lunch. It was delicious! In addition to my delicious lunch, we also explored the island. Huge clams live on the coast on one side of the island. This is awesome!
When my husband and uncle go fishing, we spend the rest of our time playing in the water. You had a great time! The boatman hooked the hook and brought up the fish he caught. They just put the pole in the water and drink the beer. Fishing will never be the same! They were all happy; they caught a dozen fish and sent them home with the boatman.
Our next stop is Curry Island. It’s not as developed as the bigger Pandan Island, but it’s great for snorkeling. There are some vendors on the island selling cold drinks and souvenirs. It is much less popular than the more popular Pandan.
Our last stop was Starfish Island, so named because it is surrounded by starfish. great! There are no huts or vendors on this island. When we left, we were the only people there! If you’re looking for some serious alone time, this island is perfect! After 3 islands, it’s time to go back. Around noon we were back at the pier and a few minutes later back at our hotel.
That night was our last night in Palawan, so we took a few tricycles for a short trip around town, where we had dinner at the Balinsasayaw restaurant. According to my father, it was a famous local restaurant and he would love to go there. I found it unremarkable and the service was poor. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to hang out in our little cabin. This is a great way to spend your last night in this island paradise.
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