The Philippines, a country made up of over 7,000 islands of which only a mere 2000 are actually inhabited. Visiting all of them properly might take you a lifetime, so we decided to visit one of the bigger islands: Palawan. Since we prefer to stay as far away from big hotel complexes as possible and also like to visit places where we can find nature that is still mostly preserved, we decided that Palawan would be the best choice.
Manila to Puerto Princessa
We flew from Manila to Puerto Princessa (you can also fly directly to El Nido, but that’s more expensive) and stayed there for just one night. Puerto Princessa did not make it to our must see list, but since it is not as touristy as the other places, we can still recommend some things to do, like: visiting the local markets, where you’ll get fresh fruits at very affordable prices. We bought a bunch of yellow mangoes for not even 3,- $ and the stall keeper even cut them into small pieces so we could eat them right away.
Puerto Princessa is a harbour city so don’t expect any white sandy beaches, but the restaurants here do offer great (affordable) typical Filipino dishes and they even have vegetarian/vegan options.
We arranged the earliest possible transport (a shared mini-van) for the next morning and off we went to Port Barton. I recommend taking the earliest transport (06:30h) because at this early hour, the vans and the streets are basically empty (because it can get super crowded). The ride took us just under 3 hours and offers an incredible view over the landscape. Port Barton used to be the place to go for a few days of detoxing from internet and electricity, but tourism has slowly caught up with it already (as for now all that is missing is an ATM). We had the best drinks, delicious smoothies, smoothie bowls and vegetable curries all right at the beach. Port Barton is an easy 45min walk (through a little jungle) away from the white sand beach. You can also go there by motorbike or boat, but the walk is worth it and above all; more environmentally friendly. The beach is filled of hammocks and cute little puppies. We decided to spend a night on the so called “German island”, where there is still no electricity, slept in a tent and woke up to the sound of the lazy morning waves on the sandy shore. Since the Philippines are known for their island hopping tours, I highly recommend doing a tour while you are in Port Barton. The tours are with just small groups and you will get to see sand bars, incredible islands and the Filipino underwater world. After a couple of nights in Port Barton we booked another mini-van and drove further up North to El Nido (the vans get packed, so be early for comfortable seats).
El Nido and island hopping tour to Coron
El Nido is known for it’s incredible nature and beautiful beaches. Most famous are; the big lagoon, the 7 Commandos beach and the Las Cabanas beach. The boat tours here are, just like the city centre, very very crowded. For food in El Nido I highly recommend Taste El Nido and the Happiness Beach Bar. To avoid the hectic city life, we escaped to the countryside and stayed close to the less crowded beaches like Nacpan and Dulli beach. We did squeeze in an island hopping ‘adventure’ tour from El Nido all the way to Coron. On this tour you’ll stay on small islands, sleep in traditional huts, eat some traditional food, barely get any electricity and, if you are lucky, some karaoke with the locals.
When in Coron I highly recommend driving through the beautiful countryside and visiting the local market. The hills of Coron remind a bit of the chocolate hills in Bohol, but less touristy. On our way back we flew through Manila again, stayed for a night, checked out night markets for food and enjoyed the sunset over the vibrant city.
For more Palawan vibes check out my video: