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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Palawan Travel and Guides

How to visit Palawan and El Nido


Travel tips and impressions of one of Asia's best places to go island hopping (and much more!)

Palawan is increasingly coming on the radar as one of the must-visit places in The Philippines. With its beautiful white sand beaches, jungles, caves, dive sites, and unspoiled nature, it is definitely one of my personal highlights from travelling all over Southeast Asia. In this Palawan mini-guide, I’ll share with you my route through Palawan and my impressions of the major stops along the way, including El Nido, Coron, and the town of Sabang.
How to visit Palawan and El Nido

Palawan-El-Nido

Overlooking one of the bays on an El Nido island hopping tour

How to get there

When looking at a map, the obvious way to get to the island of Palawan might seem to take a boat, but this is either difficult or impossible to do in practice.

I have heard of some people who took a boat to Palawan, but this is a long and arduous trip (e.g. 20+ hours) and there are no regularly scheduled boat services from the other islands of The Philippines. Keep in mind also that there are no sea connections between Palawan and Indonesia or Malaysia—even though it might look like these places connect well on a larger trip, the only way to travel between these places is to fly.

palawan-map
I flew from the capital Manila to the main city on Palawan, Puerto Princesa. From there, I took buses north to El Nido, stopping in a town called Sabang for a few days along the way. And from there, I took a boat to the island of Coron, and from Coron I took a flight back to Manila. This is a common route, though some people do it the other way around.

With many budget carriers in The Philippines, finding an affordable flight to Puerto Princesa should not be too difficult. Check with Cebu Pacific, Zest, AirAsia or Tiger Air, to name a few. There are also a handful local flights going from Manila to El Nido directly, but these tend to be very expensive and difficult to find (El Nido has the tiniest airport). It’s cheaper to fly into Puerto Princesa and then overland it to El Nido, and this will also let you stop at a few great places along the way.

Top 5 things to do in Palawan

One of the most popular destinations in the Philippines is Palawan, and for good reason. It has been declared as one of the world’s nature reserves and heritage site. The whole island boasts of rainforests, majestic mountains, karst cliffs, primitive caves and virgin beaches.

The waters of Palawan are best for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Palawan is a diver’s paradise. Coral reefs, surrounding the island, stretch for miles and miles. The whole island is surrounded by beautiful coral gardens and reefs that abound with colorful marine life.

(1) Diving at Coron Bay - Coron Bay is situated in North Palawan, the most westerly part of the Philippines. It lies in beween Busuanga and Culion Islands. There is fabulous diving all around the area, but the bay is particularly well known as having some of the best wreck diving in the world. The wrecks and pleasant rock formations provide for excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities, with underwater visibility extending up to 20 meters. Forbes magazine named Coron as one of the ten best dive sites in the world.
coron-bay

(2) Exploring the Underground River; Puerto Princesa's Subterranean River - The St. Paul's Subterranean River National Park can be found 50 kms away of Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The park boasts the world's longest Underground River and has recently been nominated as one of the new seven wonder's of the world.

Paddle boats take tourists for a one hour exploration inside the subterranean river to enjoy one of the most beautiful natural treasures of the world. Visitors can enjoy the different limestone formations and the bats flying above the cave.
Underground river in Puerto Princesa


(3) Island hopping at Honda Bay - The islets and reefs found in Honday Bay teem with fishes and sea creatures of various colors and shapes. Here the shallow waterscover an endless stretch of beautiful white sand. These islets are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The water at Palawan Honda Bay is so clear that visibility stretches far and wide into the ocean floor.
Honday Bay


(4) Discovering El Nido - El Nido Marine Reserve is 238 kilometres north of Puerto Princesa. A hidden gem in the center of Bacuit Bay and the country's largest wildlife preservation area. This popular nature spot boasts of diverse ecosystems such as rainforest, mangroves, white sand beaches, coral reefs, and limestone cliffs.The beaches of Bacuit Bay is blessed with extraordinary natural scenery, El Nido is, the sanctuary of various forms of wildlife. Countless varieties of fish are found here. Manta rays are a common sight;and when in season, divers may see one of the world's rarest marine mammal, the sea cow, known locally as "dugong". The water in and around the bay are a perfect spot for the hawksbill turtles and serves as their nesting site.
El Nido


(5) Diving the Tubbataha Reefs - The Tubbataha Reef National Park is considered the mecca of diving. The reefs are home to some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. Rising from the volcanic depths of the Sulu Sea in the western Philippines, these magnificent atolls encompass an astonishing diversity of marine life. The park is an underwater sanctuary where nature thrives. Tubbataha is the Philippines' first national marine park and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tubbataha Reefs

Picture yourself slowly entering its crystal-clear waters, and as you breathe slowly through your air source, slowly sinking into the depths of the ocean, colors begin to whirl around you, taking the shape of an angelfish, a green sea turtle, a white tip reef shark, a mass of pristine coral. You find yourself in a world, one that is surreal, a magnificent underwater garden. This is Tubbataha.

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