Experience the ultimate island life in Palawan, the Philippines’ Last Frontier. Learn about the best destinations for it. How to get around, and in this post, the best stuff to see and do there.
One of the best places to visit in the Philippines, Palawan is regularly ranked, and for good reason, as one of the best islands in the world.
It boasts beaches and islands of white sand, crystal blue seas, a stunning collection of marine life and shipwreck sites, and majestic towering cliffs of limestone. This largest island province in the Philippines should be on your travel bucket list if you enjoy swimming, island-hopping, and diving.
There are over 1,700 pristine islands and islets in Palawan spread around its four major destinations: El Nido, Puerto Princesa, Coron, and San Vicente.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site and New 7 Wonders of Nature, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, or the Underground River, are one of Palawan’s top attractions.
Thanks to its beautiful beaches and islands, El Nido is regarded as the ultimate tropical paradise for swinging and enjoying the beach in Palawan. Coron, famous for its shipwrecks and crystal clear lagoons, is at the northern end of Palawan Island.
Last but not least, San Vicente, an emerging destination in Palawan, is where you can find Long Beach, the longest beach in the Philippines, and Port Barton, a popular beach town. Read this ultimate travel guide to Palawan if you want to visit this top island destination in the Philippines.
The Best Time for Palawan
Most of your Palawan activities are heavily reliant on the weather because they are located outside. That’s why it’s best to schedule your trip in the Philippines around the dry months and first check weather updates to avoid canceled tours or rough currents, especially when doing island-hopping tours in Palawan.
Dry Season and Summer November to May
During the dry summer season, from November to May, the best time to go to Palawan and its destinations is The warmest months are from March through April, the Philippines’ summer season. During these months, Palawan tours, especially the underground river tour and island-hopping tours, are best maximized.
This is also the peak season, however, as most locals during this period tend to go to islands and beaches. During the summer season, it is highly recommended to book your tours in advance. If you are in a big party, you can also benefit from private tours if you want exclusivity.
Weather and Climate
In Palawan, except in the rainy season, you can expect a warm tropical climate almost all year round, usually about July to September. The month with the highest rainfall is September.
With temperatures exceeding 33 ° C, the warmest months are from March to April. With an average temperature of 23 ° C, but still dry, the month with the lowest degrees is from November to February. Here’s a monthly temperature analysis of Palawan:
What to Wear
When you’re exploring Palawan, the best clothes to wear are those made with light and breathable fabric that can also let you move freely. You can choose to wear aqua shoes for additional protection for your feet while swimming if you are involved in island-hopping or beach tours.
Be sure to wear comfortable clothing and shades, caps, and carry an umbrella to protect you from the sun if you are interested in land or city tours.
How To Get To Palawan
Palawan province and its top destinations can be reached by land, sea and air travel. The gateway to the province of Palawan is also Puerto Princesa, as more flights fly here than to other airports. Your entry point range will influence your budget and itinerary, so it’s best to look at which location suits your needs best.
The simplest and most popular way to get to Palawan is by riding a plane, with Puerto Princesa as the primary jump-off. Flights to El Nido, Coron, and San Vicente are open, too.
More flights are to Puerto Princesa, however, and it covers international flights apart from domestic flights. Read more below to learn how you can use various routes to get to Palawan.
Via Princesa Puerto
Nearly every day, domestic and international flights to Puerto Princesa are open. The travel time is just over an hour if you’re coming from Manila. There are also flights to Puerto Princesa from Clark (Pampanga), Iloilo, Cebu, and Davao.
This is the normal path for visitors who want to visit Palawan ‘s main island, which also includes El Nido and San Vicente / Port Barton, which can be reached by bus or van. You can learn more about this route in our travel guide to Puerto Princesa.
Via Via El Nido
If you just want to explore or go to El Nido first, flying directly to Lio Airport is the quickest choice from Manila. Currently, AirSwift is the only airline with up to four flights a day serving this route. There is a travel time of around 1 hour and 20 minutes.
El Nido ‘s Town Proper is easily reached by a 30-minute land journey from Lio Airport. It is a faster choice than flying from Puerto Princesa and then driving for 5-6 hours to El Nido by land. In our El Nido travel guide, you will learn more about this.
With Via Coron
Coron is situated above the main island of Palawan on a different group of islands. You can fly from Manila to Francisco B. Reyes Airport or Busuanga Airport for approximately 1 hour. Regular flights from major destinations such as Manila, Clark (Pampanga), and Cebu come from most major domestic airlines.
You can enter Coron ‘s Town Proper from the airport by land journey of approximately half an hour. You can reach El Nido from Coron by a 4-hour ferry service. You can explore Puerto Princesa and San Vicente / Port Barton from El Nido by traveling by land. Learn more in our Coron Travel Guide about this.
Via San Vicente / Barton Port
The emerging touristic destination named San Vicente / Port Barton, located between Puerto Princesa and El Nido, is a newer entry point to Palawan. You can directly fly to San Vicente airport from Manila (1 hour) or Clark (Pampanga) (1.5 hours).
You can also discover Puerto Princesa and El Nido from San Vicente by traveling by land. Learn more in our San Vicente Travel Guide about this route.
Via Puerto Princesa by Ferry
Since it’s an island, Palawan is also accessible from Manila by ferry. However, in travel time, it is more prolonged. Puerto Princesa is your entry point. Every Tuesday and Friday, 2Go Travel offers trips on this route, with a travel time of almost a day.
There are various forms of accommodation available on board, so make sure to book in advance to have the most convenient long voyage by sea if possible.
Going Around the Place
Via various types of land and sea transfers, travel around the top attractions in Palawan destinations is possible. You can choose to fly, rent private transfers, or rent self-drive cars. Take notice that not all of these are relevant to long journeys or all destinations in Palawan, so find out first, which is the best transport for the distance and location to which you are traveling.
Land transfers will discover Palawan ‘s leading island destinations, such as Puerto Princesa, El Nido, and San Vicente / Port Barton, although the separate islands of Coron can only be accessed from the main island by ship transfer. When exploring the island of Palawan, here are some of your options.
If you come from the main island destinations in Palawan and want to fly to / from destinations such as Puerto Princesa, El Nido, and San Vicente / Port Barton, then one of your choices is to ride a public bus. You can ride a normal ( non-AC) or air-conditioned bus.
For those that fly with large or multiple baggage, it is convenient as there are compartments where you can store them. There is also more legroom, particularly on long trips, making for a more comfortable ride. The only downside is that when buses make stops along the way to pick-up or drop-off passengers, the travel time may be longer than vans.
When traveling to / from Puerto Princesa and El Nido, and San Vicente / Port Barton, riding vans is another land transfer choice for long trips on the main island of Palawan. Vans are marginally quicker than buses because they usually make point-to – point transfers (e.g. from Puerto Princesa to El Nido) and only make lunch or bathroom break stops.
Once it is full of passengers, Vans alone leave the terminals, so you might need to wait, particularly during the lean season or hours. There are no wide luggage compartments like buses, so with little legroom, it might get crammed inside. If you’re travelling with a big group or want exclusivity and more legroom, you also have the choice of hiring a private van.
The Philippines’ famous jeepneys are also available in Palawan, primarily in the capital city of Puerto Princesa. These are perfect as they follow a particular route only while traveling within a town or area.
Since a jeepney can accommodate up to 16 people or more, depending on its size, you can share the trip with locals or other visitors. It’s best to know first which route will pass by the attraction you’re going to, if you want to ride a jeepney.
Your best source of knowledge is drivers and locals, so don’t be afraid to ask. You can also inform the driver where you are going, so that if it is already your stop, he can alert you.
By E-Trikes or Tricycle
Tricyles at Coron, PalawanThe tricycle, an auto-rickshaw similar to Thailand’s tuk-tuk, is another special Philippine transport available in Palawan. These are also best for land transfers within cities or towns.
Tricycles can fly beyond their routes, unlike the jeepney, and drop you off directly to your destination. In the town centers of Puerto Princesa, El Nido and Coron, standard tricycles are available, while in San Vicente / Port Barton, rechargeable electronic tricycles (e-trikes) are available.
However, depending on the size and configuration of the tricycle, they can only accommodate 2-4 individuals. You can also employ these for a full day of the tour as private transfers. Rates will rely on the contract you have with the driver.
With the exception of Coron, which is situated north of a different group of islands, Palawan ‘s major island destinations can be explored by land travel. You can get from the main island of Palawan to Coron by taking a ferry.
El Nido to Coron is the most common route and vice versa. The travel time on this route is about 4 hours. Be sure to search the ferry transfer dates so that you can arrange your itinerary accordingly.
You can ride a motorcycle (locally called habal-habal) with a local driver or rent a self-drive motorcycle for a more robust form of trip. If you’re traveling alone or with a friend, this is a great choice. For both short and long-distance travel, motorcycles are ideal and can even take you along narrow roads to do your exploration.
In Palawan, What to See and Do
Guide to the Philippines’ map of things to do in PalawanDue to the transfers required, exploring Palawan and the attractions of its multiple destinations takes at least a week. If you have limited time, you can also pick which Palawan destinations you wish to explore. Here is a list of the top attractions you can add to your itinerary in Palawan:
For Palawan attractions such as El Nido and San Vicente / Port Barton, Puerto Princesa is not just a jump-off point; it is also home to the UNESCO Heritage Site and the Underground River New7Wonders of Nature or the National Park of the Subterranean River Puerto Princesa.
Here, when floating along the turquoise waters of the river, you’ll board a boat and you’ll see the natural rock formations of the safe cave.
Lake Kayangan in Coron, Palawan
Experience swimming in the Philippines’ cleanest pool, Kayangan Pool. It is Coron’s most popular destination and can be visited by booking island-hopping tours. The lake is situated in the center of towering limestone cliffs, also known as The Blue Lagoon, and is best for swimming, snorkeling, and freediving.
The pause during the lake hike is the classic view of the azure waters of the sea, which is typically mistaken for Kayangan Lake.
Playa Nacpan in El Nido, Palawan
At El Nido ‘s top resort, Nacpan Beach, enjoy a laid back beach day. Apart from island-hopping tours in El Nido, this 4-kilometre strip of cream-colored sand lined with coconut trees is a favorite destination for local and international visitors.
Here, when listening to the soothing crashing of the waves, you can focus on your tan, read a book or relax under the shadow of the trees. Nacpan Beach and the nearby Calitang Beach are part of the Twin Beaches. To see the breathtaking view of the two beaches, make sure to hike up to the highest point.
Explore Port Barton of San Vicente
Port Barton in San Vicente, PalawanGo to Port Barton in San Vicente, just 2-3 hours of land travel from Puerto Princesa, if you want to chill in a beach town. Due to its laid back atmosphere, this idyllic Palawan destination is popular for tourists. Puerto Princesa travelers normally spend a night or two here, enjoying the peaceful beach nightlife offered by Port Barton.
Discover the Big Lagoon and the Tiny Lagoon of Miniloc Island in El Nido
Without exploring its spectacular lagoons on Miniloc Island , particularly the Big Lagoon in the island-hopping Tour A, and the Small Lagoon in the island-hopping Tour D, you can not leave El Nido. Due to its turquoise waters surrounded by towering limestone cliffs, the Big Lagoon is a postcard-worthy sight.
It’s the location most used in movies and travel pictures and drone shots in El Nido. You can paddle a kayak in the Tiny Lagoon, where you reach through a gap in the calcareous walls, and this will take you to a natural pool of serene crystal clear waters.
Coron shipwreck diving, Palawan
Apart from Kayangan Lake, because of its World War II shipwreck sites, Palawan’s Coron is also a top diving destination. In its open waters, you can discover a total of 13 shipwrecks; the majority were Japanese fleets during the war.
These diving sites in Coron have also been declared by Forbes as one of the best in the world. You can also see some of these shipwrecks for non-professional divers that are located in more shallow areas that are suitable for snorkeling, including the Skeleton Wreck.