The Philippines’ last frontier, Palawan is revered by inspiration-seeking travelers and city-weary locals. Most folks visit to explore its incredible natural beauty, some go to find their happy place, while others even choose to retire in one of its beaches. Its pristine isles, fertile coral reefs, verdant forests, endemic wildlife species, and diverse cultures have earned it a special place in the hearts of many and a spot on Condé Nast’s World’s Best Islands list.
This year’s Aloha Palawan, an annual event organized by Calla Lily Hotels and Resorts in partnership with AirAsia and co-presented by The Scoop Asia, took the DG Traveler team on a 4-day summer escapade to experience the island’s hidden gems, focusing on the often-overlooked city of Puerto Princesa and the promising town of San Vicente. From catching the sunrise by the beachfront of Microtel Inn & Suites Puerto Princesa, engaging in adrenaline-pumping exploits, and indulging in classic island flavors, to immersing in a colorful nightlife at the pool bar of Hue Hotels and Resorts Puerto Princesa, it was a short yet hugely fulfilling trip that only proved there are endless getaway possibilities on this side of the world. Below, a glimpse of what happened during the weekend getaway!
So if you’re ready to map out your own adventure, here’s just the thing to get you started. Whether it’s your first or nth time, discover a number of exciting things to see, eat, and do in Palawan with this ultimate bucket list!
1. Brave the 40-ft Giant Slide in the Largest Waterpark in Asia
If you have a passion for outdoor adventure, a day at the Kamia Bay Resort is right up your alley. Dubbed as the largest inflatable waterpark in Asia, the resort’s Aqua Play Park is a 4000-sqm stretch of floating obstacle course that will appeal to every adrenaline junkie’s appetite for fun. Suit up for the water and challenge yourself as you run, jump, slip, and slide! DG Tip: Turn the thrill level up a notch by catapulting yourself into the waters with their human launcher, or braving the 40-ft slide!
COMING SOON: Kamia Bay Resort’s Aqua Adventure Unlimited Pass—at the best price around! Check back daily for the availability of the deal.
2. Wander Through Nature via an Eco Trail
From jungle mountain peaks to stunning black-limestone cliffs, Palawan is endowed with natural wonders raring to be explored. At Kamia Bay Resort, you can walk across jagged rocks and paths, and gawk at the raw beauty that surrounds. Keep your eyes peeled for unique rock formations, mangrove trees, and Palawan-endemic creatures you’d want to immortalize with photographs. Alternatively, you may take a gentle bike ride through Palawan’s first mountain bike trail to explore the area.
3. Sample Exotic Food Like Tamilok and Crocodile Sisig
Often confused as a woodworm, tamilok is a bivalve mollusk and Palawan’s favorite appetizer. This slimy, subtly salty dish is often sold in wet markets or served as a specialty in restaurants like Kinabuchs Grill and Bar just minutes away from Microtel Inn & Suites Puerto Princesa and Hue Hotels and Resorts Puerto Princesa. If this exotic food is too bizarre for you, opt for a sizzling plate of the greasy and equally tasty crocodile sisig at the same restaurant, where it’s served with lemon and a dollop of mayo on top.
4. Get Your Fix of Local Craft Beer at Palaweño Brewery
For a dose of liquid sanity, head on over to Palaweño Brewery, the city’s pioneer in the craft beer movement. Ranging from artisanal brews to seasonal beers, their Ayahay Craft Beers come in different flavors to satisfy discerning craft beer palates. This taproom is where you can score it at its cheapest price, but you may also order a bottle in most restaurants and bars. One sip will make you say Ayahay (a Bisaya way to express relaxation)!
5. Enjoy a Feast for the Senses at KaLui Restaurant
While people flock here for the juicy, flavorful slab of grilled tuna, seafood restaurant KaLui also offers a visual feast with its art pieces that deck the place. Inside its mini gallery, you’ll find paintings, woven bags, and fresh fruit arrangements that bring life and color to the native wooden house the restaurant sits on. DG Tip: If you plan to dine here (and you should!), it’s best to place a reservation in advance before it gets fully booked.
6. Stock Up on Cashew Nuts at a Local Market
Unknown to many, Palawan is the country’s cashew capital. Make a pit stop at a wet market near the Airport, where you’ll find rows of shops selling cashews cooked and flavored in various ways. Raw, brittle, fried, toasted, salted, caramelized, chocolate-coated—you name it, they’ve got it! Or, buy packs of cashew cookies, butterscotch, pastillas, polvoron, and more Pinoy pasalubong to satisfy your sweet-toothed loved ones at home.
7. Watch Thousands of Fireflies Light Up the Night Sky at Ihawig River
As evening blankets the city, Puerto Princesa takes on a special kind of magic. Drive off to Ihawig where you can witness a scene of synchronous fireflies light up the dark mangrove forest. As you slowly navigate the meandering river on a banca, listen to interesting facts about the lightning bugs and the place courtesy of your guide. Trivia: Ihawig is not only home to fireflies but also to inmates. The river makes up only a chunk of the open-air and fully operating Ihawig Prison and Penal Farm!
8. See Dolphins Play in the Waters of Puerto Princesa Bay
For magic in the morning, venture out to Puerto Princesa Bay. Here, you can catch sight of whale sharks and long-snouted spinner dolphins that put on quite a show in the bay’s smooth, sparkling waters. While these gentle creatures roam here the entire year, tours are offered only during the months of April to October, when the open sea is not too rough to sail.
9. Go on a Food Trip at Baker’s Hill
Once a simple bakery, Baker’s Hill has now blossomed into a botanical garden and leisure farm attracting foodies, travel buddies, and families. Take your sweet time touring each establishment—a famous bakery that churns fast-selling batches of hopia, different types of breads, cookies, and other sweet treats; Baker’s Kitchen, a restaurant known for their brick oven pizza; a snack bar where you can grab a thirst-quenching gulaman drink and merienda; a life-size tree house named The House of Shrek; a mini playground for kids; and a souvenir shop. If the food isn’t enough to satisfy you, the glorious views of Honda Bay from the view deck will. Best of all, there’s no entrance fee!
10. Immerse Yourself in the Underwater World at Tubbataha Reefs
Located in the heart of Sulu Sea, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park was formed from the eruption of undersea volcanoes nearly 15 million years ago, and now bursts with blooms of tiny plants, living corals, and large marine animals. If you don’t mind paying top dollar to rent a liveaboard boat (your only option to get here), you’ll be rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime experience, including swimming with sharks and manta rays.
11. Bring Home a (Master) Piece from Palawan
If art holds a place in your heart, make Asiano Arts & Crafts your destination. Here, you can admire and shop driftwood lanterns, rubbercut paintings, wind chimes, fridge magnets, tribal accessories and jewelry, and other intricate handicrafts made by local artisans and students. For gifts to fashionable loved ones, take your pick from the handbags at Binuatan Weaving Center, a specialty shop that manufactures handloom woven products using Palawan’s indigenous fibers.
12. Visit the Underground River
Of course, no trip to Puerto Princesa is complete without visiting the Underground River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and what was once part of the prestigious 7 Wonders of the World. During your 45-minute ride through a pitch-black cave, your boatman will point out fascinating stalactite and stalagmite formations with a torchlight as you listen to your audio guide provided. While you patiently wait for your turn in the queue, marvel at nature around and you might just spot monkeys, monitor lizards, and native squirrels.
Find the perfect jumping-off point for the action-packed activities you can do in Palawan’s capital city. Browse through our available deals from our partner resorts in Puerto Princesa here.
13. Take a Stroll Along the Longest White Sand Beach in the Philippines
If you’ve ever wondered what Boracay’s famous White Beach looked like in the ‘90s, take a 3- to 4-hour van ride from Puerto Princesa to San Vicente. Over 14 kilometers of powder-fine white sand hemmed by coconut trees, unmanned thatched cottages, and turquoise waves await you at Long Beach, an unspoiled paradise that’s three times the length of the aforementioned beach. What’s there to do here, you ask? Wallow in the noiseless, crowd-free sight and get that sun-kissed glow.
14. Release Sea Turtles at the Turtle Reef
A name that means motherland, Inaladelan Island is where layers of sapphire blue and emerald waters are home to pelagic fishes, corals, and sea turtles or pawikan. Bring your own or rent snorkeling gear to see the turtles that frequent the shores of its turtle reef, especially during the hatching season in January. If you’re lucky, you can join Inaladelan Island Resort’s turtle encounter and witness the release of baby turtles back to the ocean where they belong.
15. Camp by the Sea at Inaladelan Island
A dream getaway for backpackers and campers, Inaladelan Island Resort is where you can live the island life at its finest. Rustling palms, native-style beach huts, and swings hanging from trees present plenty of opportunities to relax, recharge, and remember to live life in the slow lane. Lunch here is served hot off the grill, with a bonus of a breathtaking view. At night, pitch a tent under the stars, end the day with a bonfire party, and the let the sound of ocean waves lull you to sleep.
COMING SOON: Inaladelan Island Resort’s Day Tour—at the best price around! Check back daily for the availability of the deal.
16. Enjoy an Outdoor Shower at Bigaho Falls
Best traveled by motorbike or boat ride, the Bigaho Falls, located 13km north of Port Barton, is worth the chase. Watch the water seep through tiny crevices of the cliff, beckoning you to have a refreshing shower outdoors. Alternatively, you can book Tour D of any travel agency (such as Amika Travel and Tours), which will take you across Exotic Island, Marine Sanctuary, Sandbar, and of course, Bigaho Waterfalls.
17. Go on a Mangrove River Cruise at Inandeng
Out of the world’s 70 mangrove species, around 46 exist in the Philippines, a majority of which can be found scattered all over Palawan. Apart from preventing erosions that cause floods, mangrove swamps act as safe havens where underwater life begins. Lease a paddleboat or kayak at the village of New Agutaya and explore the rainforest of the sea at the banks of the Inandeng River near Long Beach.
18. Experience the Thrill of Skydiving in Palawan
Beyond the thrill of gliding through the sky, skydiving also affords you an out-of-this-world view of the immense blues, limestone cliffs, and palm forests of Palawan. Lasting roughly two hours from check-in at San Vicente Airport to waiting for your photos, the tandem skydiving activity can be arranged via Skydive Greater Palawan, the only USPA (short for United States Parachute Association) Member dropzone in the country. We promise—the sky-high price will be worth it!
19. Discover a Secret Beach at Boayan Island
A little isle in the South China Sea and the largest island in San Vicente, Boayan Island is an ideal spot for the vacationer who wants secluded shores, calm seas, and not much else. An hour-long boat ride—to be arranged at the Municipal Tourism Office of Poblacion—through a scenic route will take you to this gorgeous stripped-down island where you can snorkel, sunbathe, or even sneakily skinny-dip.
Make your vacation sweeter with the best accommodations in and near San Vicente! Check out all our available deals in Palawan here.
20. Dance the Night Away at Kalye Artisano
An artists’ village first and party place second, Kalye Artisano in Lio Beach Club is where creative souls gather to enjoy local performances, art, fashion, and sustainable products. As you bob your head to tribal beats, nosh on chicken inasal then finish on a sweet note with a summery fruit bowl. DG Tip: Check out Kalye Artisano's Instagram for the schedule of block parties and workshops like pottery and basic painting for kids.
21. Catch the Golden Hour at Lio Beach
With a wide shoreline sprinkled with tall palm trees and locally run establishments, Lio Beach is the best spot for catching the sun paint the sky in spectacular hues of orange and yellow, then blue and pink. You can enjoy the view from the pier or sit back in one of the many café-cum-bars here with a refreshing cocktail in hand.
22. Create Your Own Pizza at the Famous Trattoria Altrove
Worth the wait in a really long line, this Slovenian-owned pizzeria is making waves in the island for many reasons—maybe it’s the unpretentious, homey vibe of the restaurant where you’ll dine barefoot; or simply the experience of watching pizzas bake in a wood-fired oven, akin to traditional ways of Neapolitan cooking. If you don’t feel like being your own chef, you can order the must-tries including the Prosciutto Crudo con Tartufo and Quattro Stagioni, and pair it with pasta from the delectable menu!
23. Catch Some Waves at Duli Beach
Surfing isn’t synonymous with Palawan, but it’s because only the lucky few know where x marks the spot. Touted as El Nido’s best-hidden surfing spot, Duli Beach boasts a consistent swell from November all the way to April. Going here is a bit tricky—you’ll need to rent a scooter and drive in the direction of Nacpan Beach, then turn right on the green sign leading to Bucana town. Once you find yourself on an uncrowded stretch of golden sand beach, you’ve reached Duli Beach, locally referred to as “Mike’s Point”. Mike, a local who stays and surfs here, can rent you boards or even give you surfing lessons.
After a full day of island hopping, retreat to the best hotels at El Nido. Take your pick from our best-priced, limited-time deals here.
24. Float on the Crystal-Clear Waters of Kayangan Lake
One of the most popular spots in Coron Island, Kayangan Lake is like a mystical moonscape with its crystal-clear freshwater pool and deep fringing reefs. Taking a plunge here is every bit as refreshing as basking in the beautiful scenery of limestone cliffs. In fact, it remains one of the cleanest and clearest bodies of water in the Philippines, despite the size of the crowd it attracts.
25. Feed the Giraffes at Calauit Safari Park
Spanning as wide as 3,800 hectares, the Calauit Safari Park is the savannah of Coron. It is home to African giraffes, gazelles, zebras, Calamian deers, monkeys, elans, bear cats, and a variety of birds that fly around the park. To make your trip as educational and immersive as possible, tour packages include personal tour guides, a tour vehicle, short lecture, and even a chance to feed the giraffes.
26. Dive Deep to See Japanese Shipwrecks
Coron is one of the best dive destinations in the Philippines, not just because of its marine biodiversity but also the WWII Japanese wrecks—from supply ships, gunboats, and tanks to aircraft planes—that lie within diveable depths. Suitable for hardcore and advanced divers only, the coral-covered Irako vessel draws in divers with its submerged cargo and mechanics; the lionfish, eels, groupers, and barracuda that swim by; and its gargantuan structure that can be appreciated upon decent.
27. Trek Mount Tapyas at Sunrise
A steep hill that sits in Coron Town, the emblematic mountain of Tapyas is one of the best spots to catch the morning light in the island. The 700-step staircase aside, the postcard-worthy views here are worth waking up for even if you’re not a morning person. Climb up before 6 AM to witness the sun and the townspeople rise in the morning.
28. Engage in Tub Therapy at Maquinit Hot Spring
A 30-minute tricycle ride away from Coron town proper will lead you to Maquinit, one of the rare saltwater hot springs in the world and arguably the best way to “cool down” after the trek to the summit of Mt. Tapyas. With its soothing waters hovering around 40° in temperature, it'll make you feel all the pain and fatigue in your body slowly melt away.
Whatever your travel style and taste, Coron offers accommodations to match. Find the resort for you and your group with our available deals here.
29. Own an Island for a Night at Arena Island
With only a few cottages and an hour-long distance from the mainland, the resort Arena Island affords you the luxury of lush seclusion. Aside from its pristine shoreline and sprawling tropical landscape, this 4-hectare private island sits on a thriving coral reef, making it the perfect place to snorkel, dive, and swim with turtles.
30. Unplug at Onok Island
If you wish to be a world away from everything, a trip to Onok or Onuk is the escape you are looking for. With the lack of usual resort facilities compared to Arena Island and poor phone signal, there isn’t much to do here except to spend the days out in the sun, lounging on an empty beach floored by soft, white sand and surrounded by sparkling waters of different hues. Book a stay at one of the private island’s wooden cottages on stilts, or take a day tour to see the giant clams, sea urchins, and corals near its shores.
BONUS: Stay in the Most Expensive Resort in The World
If you have $100,000 (or roughly P5.2 Million!) to burn in one night, book a stay in the most expensive resort in the world, Banwa Private Island. This newly opened paradise-like destination offers visitors a chance to live like royalty—nutritionists craft perfectly balanced meal plans for each guest, unlimited spa treatments in a massage suite is on offer, a cooking masterclass by celebrity chef Nadedja Bouacha can be scheduled, and a yacht cruise or helicopter ride are options one can take to explore the island. Designed by Manosa & Co, its beachfront villas come complete with private jacuzzi and an infinity pool, and floor-to-ceiling windows for a private viewing of the transparent sea, lush greenery, and the white-sand coastline. Staying here seems more like a far-fetched dream, but then again, what’s a bucket list without one?
So, what are you waiting for? Make that trip happen!
Travel in style and leisure with our partner resorts and hotels in Palawan! Check out our best-priced deals right here.
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This article was last edited on June 27, 2019_ by the DG Traveler team.
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