Islands

Palawan Island Visitors Guide

Written by Patrick

ABOUT SEE & DO EAT & DRINK STAY BUDGET ADVICE

Travel Insurance

ABOUT

Anyone who has been to the Philippines, or plans to visit the country has probably heard of Palawan. The main Palawan Island is part of the province of Palawan along with the islands of Coron, Culion, and Balabac.

Considering its beautiful beaches and lakes teeming with rich marine life, Palawan is definitely on the bucket list of many travellers from all over the world.  The province houses a couple of UNESCO World Heritage sites, wildlife sanctuaries and marine reserve park.  Even the smaller and less popular towns have their own charm many tourists cannot resist.  Truly this archipelagic province is a gem that shouldn’t be missed.

This quick guide to Palawan Island also covers the entire Palawan province. This will let you know how to get there, what to do, eat, and drink, where to stay, and must-see spots.

Location

Palawan Map

Best Time to Visit

It’s best to visit the Philippines during the dry season.  Dry season in the Philippines spans from November through April.  These are the summer months in this country.

Be aware that temperatures and humidity levels are particularly high in April and May.

The best time to be a beach bum and explore the islands is from March to May.

TIP:  Booking for summer trips should be done as early as possible, at least a month before your travel dates, since resorts get fully booked early.

The period from June to October is the rainy (wet) season and is best avoided due to the high possibility of typhoons. The typhoons can not only be destructive, but most tours and activities are cancelled under such circumstances.  Transportation via plane and boat is also seriously impacted as well.  This happens frequently so beware!

This guide recommends traveling to Palawan Island in April-May or in November-December, just before and just after the rainy season. This will likely bring fewer crowds, yet pleasant weather, and is also a great time to score a travel deal.

Fast Facts

Destination Name:
Palawan
Local Time:
PST (UTC+8)
Best Time of Year to Visit:
December – May
Population:
Approximately 849, 470
Language(s):
Tagalog, Cuyonon, Kinaray-a, Palawano, Hiligaynon, English
Currency:
Philippine Peso (PHP)
Exchange Rate:
Approximately 1 USD = 50 PHP click for exact exchange rate
Location:
Luzon (MIMAROPA)
Geographic Coordinates:
10°00′N 118°50′E
Area:
14,649.73 km² (5656.3 sq mi)
Neighboring Cities:
None
Neighboring Islands:
Mindoro | Panay
Climate:
Tropical
Clothing:
Lightweight casuals
Religion:
Roman Catholic, Protestant, Islam
Best Known For:
Major Industries:
Agriculture, mining, logging, fishing, oil production, and tourism.
Electricity:
Standard voltage is 220V
Plug commonly used is Type A but Types B and C are used as well. Bring A to B adapter(s).
International Phone Code:
+63-048-XXX-XXXX
Seaport(s):
Bus Terminal(s):
San Jose Bus Terminal
El Nido Transport Terminal

Getting Here

There are many ways to get to this destination depending on your starting point.  This guide recommends using the following online tools to identify all the available options and cost for each while in Palawan Island: Rome2Rio and PHBUS.  The major ports of entry for this destination are provided below.

BUS TERMINAL

Bus Terminal

San Jose Bus Terminal

PH Bus

Getting Around

The following are the modes of transportation available in Palawan Island …

Bicycles

Bicycles

Bus

Bus

Car for Hire

Car for Hire

Car Rental

Car Rental

Jeepneys

Jeepneys

Motorcycles

Motorcycles

Motorized Outrigger

Motorized Outrigger

Ride-Sharing

Ride-Sharing

Shuttle

Shuttle

Taxi

Taxi

Tricycles

Tricycles

Rome to Rio

SEE & DO

The following is your guide to places to see and activities to enjoy while in Palawan Island.

1 | Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa is the capital of the Province of Palawan.  It is where the world-famous and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Underground River is located.  Beach-lovers also love Puerto Princesa for its Honda Bay as well as its newest attraction, the Kamia Bay Inflatable Island.  Other attractions frequented by tourists in Puerto Princesa includes Baker’s Hills, Mitra’s Ranch, Palawan Wildlife and Conservation Center, Puerto Princesa Cathedral, and also the historical Plaza Cuartel.

Being the capital, Puerto Princesa houses the busiest airport in Palawan as well as a few malls and cinemas, several groceries, hotels, restaurants, banks, and other business establishments.

2 | Coron

Coron is always associated with beautiful beaches, islands, and even lakes. Kayangan Lake, the most photographed attraction in Coron and is the cleanest lake in the Philippines, is located in Coron.  Other popular attractions in Coron are Twin Lagoon, Malcapuya Island, Barracuda Lake, and Banana Island.  Coron is also a haven for divers because of all the Japanese shipwrecks such as Skeleton Wreck, Lusong Coral Garden and Shipwreck, and East Tangat Wreck.

You may also want to experience a bit of Africa in Calauit Safari Park.  The park has zebras, giraffes, Calamian deer, porcupines, pythons, and many others.

3 | El Nido

Just like Coron, El Nido is associated with beaches, islands, and lagoons.  The Secret Lagoon is a crowd favorite not only because of its clear water and white sand but also because it is interestingly hidden behind giant rocks.  It can only be accessed by wading or swimming through a small hole in the rocks that is only visible to the surface during low tide.  El Nido also has Secret Beach, Snake Island, Simizu Island, and Helicopter Island.

Apart from these breathtaking bodies of water, El Nido also boasts of Taraw Cliff, the highest point in town.  It gives the magnificent view of El Nido and Bacuit Bay from 230 MASL.

4 | San Vicente

San Vicente is where Port Barton is located, a smaller and quieter version of El Nido but has started to become known among travellers especially backpackers and truly adventurous travellers as it doesn’t offer luxury vacation.  Aside from being less crowded, it is less commercialized and less expensive compared to El Nido or Coron.

5 | Culion

The town of Culion used to be a leper colony from 1906 up to 1980 but was only declared leprosy-free in 2006.  It was the biggest and most equipped leper colony at that time.  Nowadays, tourism is growing in Culion since people are interested to take a glimpse of its sad history considering that most of its structures are still intact up to this day.

Culion is a good side trip when touring Coron.

NOTE: The Balayong Festival occurs annually in Puerto Princesa the 4th of March

Klook

EAT & DRINK

The following is your guide to the flavorful food to enjoy and restaurants to try while in Palawan Island.

1 | Tamilok

Complete your Puerto Princesa adventure by trying out tamilok which is known as a woodworm but is actually a mollusk feasting on mangroves and woods immersed in sea water.  Tamilok is typically eaten raw but marinated in vinegar, chopped chili peppers, and onions, just like a creviche.  Its texture is quite slimy and tastes almost the same as oysters.  You can eat tamilok in various places such as Baker’s Hill and in the vicinity of some of the attractions in the city such as Baker’s Hill.  In some restaurants, they even serve deep-fried and breaded tamilok.

2 | Chao long

Chao Long is a noodle soup introduced by Vietnam nationals when they sought refuge in the province in 1975.  Chao long is a rice porridge with innards, has sweet broth and is often garnished with bean sprouts and mint leaves.  Chao long is typically paired with french bread stuffed with pork, beef, or chicken.  One bowl of this sweetish soup ranges from P40 to P100 depending on where you are eating.  Popular places to eat chao long includes Viet Ville, Lou’s, and Rene Saigon.

3 | Cashew

Freshly roasted cashews are a must-try when visiting Coron.  L. Escarda’s Coron Harvest is a popular place to get your cashew fix as it always gets sold out.  Better come early in the day to ensure that you get some.  Roasted cashews at L. Escarda’s come in five variants or flavors: garlic, sun-dried, brittle, bandi (sweetened and caramelized), and toasted.

4 | Pan de Coco

Almost everyone who has been to El Nido raves about this coconut-filled bun by Midtown Bakery.  It is oozing with real coconut and is served warm from the oven.

5 | Falafel

Falafel may not be a traditional Filipino food but this one in a little take away which is open 24/7 serves the most delicious and unforgettable falafel.  Falafel is a Middle Eastern food that is made of ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both.  People line up for this so you have all the more reason to try it.

6 | Crocodile Sisig

Kinabuchs Bar & Grill in Puerto Princesa City serves the most delicious crocodile sisig in town.  This sizzling dish made of chopped crocodile meat is often served with egg and is best eaten with rice.

KNOWN FOR: Tamilok

WHERE TO STAY

There are many different types of accommodations available in this destination ranging from hostels to luxurious resorts.  The following is your guide to our top choices for each range in Palawan Island.

1 | Hibiscus Garden Inn (Budget)

2 | Coron Gateway Hotel and Suites (Mid-Range)

3 | Lagen Island Resort (Luxury | Resort)

When doing research online of where to stay for specific destination, we use the following sites to conduct our research:

Book your room with these trusted online booking sites.  Booking online in the Philippines almost always guarantees the best price and a room when you arrive.  We use these sites frequently to get the best prices and enjoy convenient bookings. Click each of the buttons below to find the best place for you at the lowest rates:

TIP: Lagen Island Resort is the best property to experience this destination.

BUDGET

Suggested Budget

This chart is your guide to get an idea of how much to budget daily in Palawan Island.   Actual amounts will depend on YOUR travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages … some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less. Prices are in USD.

ACCOMMODATION
FOOD
TRANSPORTATION
ATTRACTIONS
AVERAGE DAILY COST
Budget
Accommodation: $7
Food: $5
Transportation: $5
Attractions: $20
Average Daily Cost: $37
Mid-Range
Accommodation: $30
Food: $15
Transportation: $10
Attractions: $25
Average Daily Cost: $80
Luxury
Accommodation: $70
Food: $30
Transportation: $15
Attractions: $30
Average Daily Cost: $145

Travel Costs

Accommodation

A bed in a hostel dorm costs from 350 PHP ($7 USD), but smaller dorms can cost from 500 PHP ($10 USD).  For a private double, prices start around 700 PHP ($14 USD).

Most budget hotels begin at 700 PHP ($14 USD) per night for a double room and usually include free wifi and breakfast.  For a three-star hotel, prices begin around 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night. AirBnB is also widespread throughout the country, with private rooms starting from as little as 500 PHP ($10 USD) per night.  For entire apartments, expect to pay at least 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night.

Resorts and luxury accommodations vary greatly from 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) to 5,000+ PHP ($100+ USD).  However, there are some really nice resorts and luxury accommodations which are surprisingly affordable.

We use and recommend booking online to save money using HostelWorldAgodaBooking.com, and AirBnB

Food

Local food is extremely cheap, with street food costing under 50 PHP ($1USD).  For an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant, prices start around 100 PHP ($2 USD).  For a meal at a mid-range restaurant with drinks and table service, expect to pay from 200 PHP ($4 USD).  Knowing that their target customers are primarily tourists, Western food venues can be pricey compared to Filipino food.  Also, some of the ingredients need to be imported, which contributes to the higher cost. Western food (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) is much more expensive but is still relatively affordable at around 200 PHP ($4 USD) for a meal and drink.

Fast food like McDonalds will cost around 200 PHP ($4 USD).  A beer at the bar will cost around 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD).

A week’s worth of groceries will cost between 300-600 PHP ($6-12 USD) per person.  However, food in this country is so inexpensive, and kitchens & refrigerators are hard to come by, I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss!

Transportation

There are many modes of transportation available in the Philippines and each varies greatly. 

Public Transportation is cheap.  Bus services on the islands are inexpensive.  Local buses (called jeepneys) are the most common type of transportation in towns and cities. The fare is usually between 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD).

On islands without a bus system, a taxi or tricycle is the only form of transport with fares starting at 50-500 PHP ($1-$10) USD for short trips. 

Taxis are everywhere, and they’re very cheap.  Most fares shouldn’t cost you more than 500 PHP ($10 USD) around town.  

To get between islands, you’ll need to take a boat or to fly.  There are ferries that connect the island together since they aren’t too far apart but, generally speaking, flights are the most realistic option. 

Flights between islands usually cost about 2,000-3500 PHP ($40-70 USD).  However, this isn’t the cheapest way to travel.  It’s only recommended if you have limited time. 

We recommend booking online to save money using: SkyscannermomondoKayakkiwi.com.

Attractions & Activities

Most attractions and activities in the Philippines are pretty cheap. Most attractions throughout the area are FREE to enter, though some of the more well known and popular ones cost 5-100 PHP ($.10-$2 USD) to enter. 

Depending on the activity, most day tours only cost around 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD), oftentimes less.  You have more bargaining power if you go with a group. If you are expecting to do some climbing, remember to pack some warm layers. It gets cold at the top!  

Other activities such as Island Hopping, scuba diving, helmet diving, swimming with whale sharks, jungle trekking, canyoning, ATVs, jet skis, wakeboarding, cruises, parasailing, horseback riding, cultural experiences, and tours can cost as much as 1,250-5,000+ PHP ($25-100+ USD).

The Philippines is one of the least expensive places to learn how to scuba dive. Learning to scuba dive usually costs about 15,000-20,000 PHP ($300-400 USD), but often includes FREE accommodation for the duration of the course, which lasts three or four days.

Always book your tours and activities when you arrive.  Stick to travel agents who are selling on the ground. If a travel agent won’t negotiate with you, move on to the next until you find one that will.  Booking tours online is almost always more expensive. 

Typical Costs in Palawan Island in 2020:

  • Hostel Dorm Bed: 250-350 PHP ($5–7 USD) night
  • Budget Hotel:  700 PHP ($14 USD) night
  • Mid-Range Hotel:  1500 PHP ($31 USD) night
  • Street Food: 50-150 PHP ($1–3 USD) meal
  • Restaurant Meals: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) meal
  • Local Beer: 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD) bottle
  • 1.5L Bottle of Water: 38 PHP ($.75 USD) bottle
  • Jeepney Ride: 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD) ride
  • Tricycle Ride:  20-100 PHP ($.5-2 USD) ride
  • Taxi: 75-500 PHP ($1.50-10 USD) ride – use GrabTaxi app
  • Long-Distance Bus Ride: 400-500 PHP ($8–10 USD) ride
  • Public Ferry Ride: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) ride
  • Domestic Flight: 2,000-3,500 PHP ($40–70 USD) flight
  • Island-Hopping: 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD) trip
 

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ADVICE

The following is some of our best advice on traveling to this destination. This is your guide on what you need to know BEFORE you go to Palawan Island!

Tips & Hacks

These Top 10 Tips can help guide you when visiting Palawan Island in the Philippines:

  • Be aware that a tourist VISA is only 30 days. You can extend it upon arrival, or within the first 30 days, for an additional 30 days for a fee of approximately 3,000 pesos.
  • Don’t buy into the fear factor. The Philippines has an unjustified reputation of being a dangerous place. It’s true there are security guards everywhere, but that is to deter theft.
  • Manila is NOT the Philippines. Get outside of the cities to see the real Philippines.
  • Don’t over plan. Boats, buses, and even airplane schedules are notoriously unreliable. Be flexible.
  • Check the weather. The weather varies greatly throughout the Philippines daily.
  • Typhoons can have a huge impact on your plans. Account for this when planning your trip.
  • It’s not cool to raise your voice or show outward frustration in public.
  • Be polite at all times. Realize that your country’s sense of humor may be different from Filipino humor and take this into account when interacting with Filipinos and while in public places.
  • Things move at a slower pace. Accept it … don’t get frustrated … but do account for it.
  • Don’t drink the tap water… but stay hydrated! Save money by buying large bottles (6-10 liters) of water and using it to fill your water bottle or hydration bladder in your backpack.

For a complete list of our travel tips & hacks, check out the following guide and be sure to download a FREE copy for yourself.

VIEW & DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Travel Tips & Hacks Guide for the Philippines

Money Matters

The Philippines has its own currency called the Philippine Peso.  Banks, ATMs, and money-changers can be found in  Palawan Island.  If you are exploring the neighboring islands or provinces, make sure to bring enough cash that will last until the next time you get to an ATM or bank since most tours, transportation, and budget accommodations only accept cash.

READ MORE: Money in the Philippines: Everything You Need to Know

Health & Safety

Crime

While overall the Philippines is a safe country to visit, as is Palawan Island, you need to use common sense just as you would in any country, especially when traveling, and in a city, town, or area you are unfamiliar with.

Consult your hotel, resort front desk, or tour guide as they are more likely to give you reliable information about Palawan Island than a random stranger on the street. Be careful when approaching strangers and selective about who you approach. Always pay attention to your gut feeling and follow it.

READ MORE: How to Avoid Scams & Thieves in the Philippines

Safety

There are many things to consider when traveling in order to stay safe … things that we may not be accustomed to during our normal everyday lives. The following are articles about tips on how to stay safe while traveling in the Philippines:

TIP: The best way to avoid problems and stay safe is to travel with a local resident.

Health

Staying fit & healthy can be challenging when traveling in the Philippines. 

The tropical Philippines climate requires you to prepare for illnesses that you may not normally be accustomed to. 

The following are our Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy while Traveling in the Philippines:

  • Maintain a Balanced Diet
  • Stay Hydrated but Only Drink Bottled Water
  • Get Plenty of Rest
  • Allow Your Body Time to Adjust 
  • Keep Active
  • Sanitize Often 
  • Be Aware of Food Safety Concerns
  • Take Your Vitamins
  • Practice Safe Sex
  • Be Prepared Should You Get Sick

READ MORE: Stay Healthy in the Philippines: How to Avoid Getting Sick

Staying Connected

You need to have a local-based SIM card in order to stay connected when in the Philippines. Network giants such as Globe and Smart have SIM cards you can use to make calls, send text messages, and also to connect to the Internet. A SIM card costs around 50 PHP ($1 USD) and usually comes with a FREE load worth 50 PHP ($1 USD). You can buy a card containing a code you can enter on your phone to replenish your load or buy an electronic load that is available almost anywhere in the city.

While you may not have problems with signal strength when in the city, it is not always the case when on islands or in remote areas of a province.  So when arranging for transportation pick up, say when renting a boat to take you to and pick you up from the island, it would be best that you make it clear what time you need to be picked up before the boatman leaves.

Recommended Travel Apps

Apps for smartphones and tablets can be useful both before you leave and while you’re traveling.  Most are available for iPhones and Android phones.

The following is a guide to Top 10 most useful travel apps on our smartphones when traveling in Palawan Island and the Philippines in general:

  1. Grab (taxis/ride shares)
  2. Angkas (motorbike ride-hailing)
  3. WhatsApp (phone calls)
  4. Skyscanner (flights)
  5. Rome2Rio (transportation)
  6. Agoda (accomodations)
  7. Booking.com (accomodations)
  8. AirBnB (accomodations)
  9. Traveloka (flights, accomodations, activities)
  10. Klook (attractions & activities )

Be certain to download and set up apps BEFORE leaving on your trip to make certain each is installed and working properly.

For our complete list of travel apps that we use and recommend while traveling in the Philippines, checkout our checklist below.

READ MORE: The Ultimate List of Travel Apps for the Philippines

Itinerary

Trying to decide what to do when traveling to a destination for the first time can be a bit overwhelming given your lack of familiarity with the place along with all of the available options. 

We’ve created the following itinerary to help simplify the process and ensure that you get the most out of your trip.  Although we provide a 7 day itinerary for this destination, it can always be adjusted to fit the length of your trip.

VIEW: Palawan Island 7-Day Travel Itinerary

Packing Checklist

The secret to a successful and stress-free trip is to start by using a packing list.  This will reduce anxiety from the start and ensure that nothing important is forgotten when packing.   To make this process easy for you, we’ve created a detailed packing list.  Click the link below to download it for FREE now. 

Carrying your checklist with you during your travels can be useful when repacking, by helping to ensure that you do not leave anything behind.

VIEW & DOWNLOAD: Our Ultimate Packing Guide & Checklist

Things to Remember

There are some things you need to keep in mind to guide you from doing prohibited or illegal activities in Palawan Island or anywhere in the Philippines.

Smoking

There is a nationwide ban which prohibits smoking in public places including indoors, the streets, on sidewalks, in restaurants , and on public transportation, requiring smokers to use designated smoking areas.  Selling tobacco to and purchasing from or for minors is also prohibited. Violators are subject to fines (up to 5,000 PHP | $100 USD) and even 4 months in prison.

Alcohol

The minimum legal drinking age is 18.  Alcohol such as beer and hard drinks can easily be bought in grocery and convenience stores.  The most common alcoholic beverage is beer, generally served cold.  Local alcoholic drinks include tuba (coconut wine which is usually very strong) and potent moonshine-like clear liquors made from sugar or fruit.  Imported beer, wine, and name brand hard alcohol are available but expensive.

Drugs

Drugs are illegal in the Philippines.  Don’t use, buy, or sell any non-prescription drugs while in the Philippines … not even marijuana.  It is considered an especially heinous crime to buy from, for, or sell drugs to children.  The penalties are severe … up to and including death.

Nudity

Public nudity is illegal in the Philippines and is not tolerated.  Most locals consider it offensive.  There are laws which prohibit provocative and erotic clothing and swimwear, therefore carefully consider your clothings and swimwear choices to make certain they are not too revealing.

Foreigners & Expats

If you are not a Filipino citizen, remember that you are a guest when visiting this country … be certain to act accordingly.  Respect the people, their customs, and the environment and wlidlife. You can be deported and banned … so behave … but have fun and enjoy all that this wonderful destination has to offer.

READ MORE: Practical Information about the Philippines

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About the Author

Patrick

Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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