Paradise is the perfect word to describe this archipelagic province in the Philippines. Composed of over 1,700 islands and islets, with a coastline of 2,000 kilometers (1242.7 mi), it is the largest province in the country in terms of area of jurisdiction. It boasts very diverse marine and terrestrial resources, most of which can only be found in Palawan. It is no wonder that most of the activities in the province showcase its rich resources, mixed with a little bit of history.
Miniloc island is located in El Nido town, in the northern part of Palawan. The island is mainly known as the Eco-Discovery Island of the El Nido resorts chain, where guests can stay in rooms and cottages right on the water, much like a coastal village. Even if you are not staying in the El Nido resorts, you can still visit and explore the Big and Small Lagoons found on the island. Both lagoons are surrounded by tall, ragged limestone cliffs, which looks amazing against the crystal clear, blue sea water. Since these lagoons are surrounded by mountains, the water is calm and ideal for kayaking, snorkeling, and swimming. Tours can be arranged with any of the resorts in El Nido or even in Puerto Princesa. Motorized boats will take you to the Big Lagoon where you can opt to swim, snorkel, or kayak. These boats can also take you to the entrance of Small Lagoon, from where you have to kayak or swim as boats cannot enter the lagoon.
El Nido Resorts - Miniloc Island
Address: Miniloc Island, El Nido, Palawan
Price: from 510 USD per night
Access: El Nido is a 4 to 5 hour drive from Puerto Princesa City. There are also local flights from Manila to El Nido.
Contact: +632 902 5934
2. Exploring Honda Bay in Puerto Princesa
Honda Bay is the nearest starting point for island tours if you are in Puerto Princesa City. The city is the capital of the province, so there are plenty of hotels here. If you do not want to travel to El Nido, a Honda Bay island hopping tour is perfect for you. The bay is only 30 minutes away from the city and from here, you can hire a motorized boat to take you to the six islands in the bay. Dos Palmas Island and Pandan Island have privately-owned beach resorts that can accommodate you for the day, while the smaller islands of Snake, Luli, Starfish, and Cowrie are free to explore. Among the islands, the most interesting would likely be Luli Island, which boasts a sandbar that disappears in high tide and reappears in low tide.
Honda Bay Island Hopping
Address: Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
Price: from 30 USD for motorized boat rentals; tour packages start at 26 USD per person
Duration: around 6 to 8 hours required.
Access: Tricycles from the city can take you to Honda Bay.
3. Snorkeling and diving at Coron Island
In Coron Island, part of a municipality of the same name, one will find one of the cleanest lakes in Asia, Kayangan Lake. The island is the third largest island in the Calamian group of islands found in the northernmost part of the province. The island is made of large limestone and granite rock formations much like the ones found in El Nido. Coron is a haven for scuba divers as there are several Japanese shipwrecks in this area as well pristine dive sites that feature reefs and rich marine life. If diving is not your thing, an island hopping tour that covers Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, Twin Lagoon, Twin Peaks, one of the wrecks, and several beaches should be just as satisfying. Tours such as this can be arranged with local tour operators or your hotel.
4. Culion Island: beautiful island with a past
Culion Island, found in the northern part of Palawan, is also part of the Calamian group of islands. The much smaller island, however, has a richer history than Coron. During the Spanish colonial period, it became the seat of the provincial government and the office of a high-ranking court official. There was also regular trading between Manila and Culion. The centuries-old churches and other structures on the island attest to this history.
During the American period, however, Culion’s role changed when it became the host of a leper colony under the government’s bureau of health. In 2005, leprosy was completely eradicated in Culion, and by that time, many visitors were enjoying the natural wonders the island had to offer. While in Culion, you can choose to stay inland and visit the Culion Museum and Archives where one can learn about the island’s history. You may also try what is called “voluntourism” which allows you to help in conservation activities of the community.
Culion Museum and Archives
Address: Culion Sanitarium and General Hospital, Culion
Price: admission fee, 5 USD
Opening Hours: 9 am-12 pm; 1-4 pm. Mondays to Fridays..
Duration: around 2 hours required.
5. See the underwater world of Tubbataha Reef
If you want to appreciate the diversity of marine life in Palawan, the best way to do so is to dive at Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. The park is located in the municipality of Cagayancillo, and is part of what is known as the Coral Triangle in the Sulu Sea, which is considered “the global center of marine biodiversity.” Being a marine protected area, divers must arrange their dives with accredited dive operators. But if you are a seasoned diver, you will appreciate why many regulations have been established. Once you are in the water, everywhere you turn, you will see why this diverse underwater area needs protection.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
Address: Cagayancillo, Palawan - the reef itself is 150 kilometers (93 mi) southeast of Puerto Princesa City
Price: see website for a list of fees
Duration: dives can last anywhere between 2 to 4 days.
Contact: +63 48 434 5759
Website: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
6. Go on a unique island safari on Calauit
Calauit Island is also part of the Calamian group of islands. There is a unique kind of attraction that can be found here — a safari. The Calauit Safari Park was established in 1976 by the former President Ferdinand Marcos in response to Kenya’s call to help preserve African wildlife. Aside from giraffes, zebras, impalas, and gazelles which thrived on the island, the preserve is also home to endemic animal species that are endangered, like Palawan bearcats, Calamian deer, and mousedeer. It is currently being administered by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.
Calauit Safari Park
Address: Calauit Island, Busuanga, Palawan
Price: from 4 USD for Filipinos; 8 USD for foreigners
Duration: around 3 hours required
Access: From Busuanga, which has an airport, tours are organized to Calauit. When you are in Coron, you can also arrange for a tour.
7. Learn at Palawan Butterfly Ecogarden and Tribal Village
Within Puerto Princesa City, visitors can find the Palawan Butterfly Ecogarden and Tribal Village one tricycle ride away. Located in Santa Monica, guests are usually taken here as part of a city tour. The eco garden showcases different types of insects, educating people about their importance in the ecosystem. Aside from butterflies, there are also other insects like beetles and millipedes, as well as other animals such as lizards and the Palawan bearcat. One part of the attraction is the Tribal Village where visitors can learn about the Pal'awan, one of the indigenous peoples’ groups that live in the province.
Palawan Butterfly Ecogarden and Tribal Village
Address: Santa Monica, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
Price: admission fee 1 USD
Opening Hours: 8 am - 5 pm. Mondays to Sundays.
Duration: around 3 hours required.
Contact: +63-917 5544
8. Go wild about wildlife at the Palawan Wildlife Conservation Center
This government-run eight-acre (3.2 hectare) facility houses a crocodile farm, a mini-zoo of endemic species, and a veterinary care facility for crocodiles. Located in Irawan, Puerto Princesa City, it can easily be reached by tricycle. It is also usually included in most tour agencies’ city tour packages. Visitors can learn more about crocodiles and other animals that are being protected in this center. Guests can even feed the crocodiles or watch them during feeding time.
Palawan Wildlife Resource and Conservation Center
Address: Irawan, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
Price: admission fee 1 USD
Opening Hours: 8:30-11:30 am; 1:30-4:30 pm. Mondays to Saturdays.
Duration: around 2 hours required.
Access: Take a tricycle from anywhere in Puerto Princesa City.
9. A different kind of river cruise: St. Paul Underground River
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is managed by the city government of Puerto Princesa and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it features a limestone karst mountains, and the underground river itself is said to be one of the longest underground rivers in the world. It is more than 24 kilometers long (15 mi), 8.2 kilometers (~5 mi) of which is part of the Cabayugan River. The navigable portion of the river is about 4.3 kilometers (~2.7 mi) and its entrance can be accessed by a short hike or a boat ride from Sabang municipality.
Puerto Princesa Underground River
Address: Sabang, Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Price: tour package cost from Puerto Princesa - adults 44 USD; children (under 7 years old) 30 USD; environmental fee 3 USD
Duration: around 6 hours required.
Contact: +63917-677 7381
Website: Puerto Princesa Underground River
10. Puerto Princesa's dark past: Plaza Cuartel
When you go to Plaza Cuartel, you take in a bit of history. The ruins of Plaza Cuartel is a National Historical Site, and visitors can enjoy a stroll in the park or sit on one of the many benches. Don’t be fooled by its current facade though as it hides a dark part of the city’s history. In 1944, the occupying Japanese forces in the city burned 150 American soldiers alive in a tunnel that was found inside the garrison. Of the 150, only four survived to tell of the horrifying atrocity. Several markers were put up to commemorate this event in history. The park is open to the public and does not have an admission fee.
Palawan: a true natural gem
Palawan is indeed a one of a kind destination; its marine and natural resources are incomparable to anywhere else in the world. While its beaches and islands truly make it a natural gem, its people and their quest to conserve and preserve the resources they have are the real treasure.
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