Two Weeks in Palawan – The Ultimate Guide to Palawan in the Philippines

Sugar white sand beaches, crystal clear water, dense forests, prehistoric towering peaks and over 1,780 islands to explore. To properly explore the province could take years, but two weeks in Palawan should allow you to scratch the surface and get a feel for this tropical paradise.

Two Weeks in Palawan - Live Life and Roam

Two Weeks in Palawan

How to get to Palawan

There are no ferries or sea connections to the region however there are various airports that you can fly into. Although the capital of Palawan, Puerto Princesa, has an international airport – only very few international flights fly in. This means you will need to fly into one of the major Philippines international gateways first, likely either Manila or Cebu.

Domestic flights are usually quite cheap, especially when booked in advance. Even over the Christmas period, we managed to snag some cheap flights by booking early. There are airports in Puerto Princesa, Coron and El Nido, however, El Nido airport is super small and only serviced by small (more expensive) propeller flights with Air Swift.

Best time to go

October through to June is ‘Dry Season’ and is known for its hot dry weather, funny that. The rest of the time it’s ‘Rainy Season’. In our opinion, your best bet is December to May to avoid any lingering rain from the rainy season. We were there in December and didn’t see rain once, however, they have been known to have the odd typhoon even this late into the dry season! From March onwards it gets much hotter also.

Getting around Palawan

We suggest either flying into Puerto Princessa or Coron and working your way north or south to the other. Β Thanks to increased tourism, transport between locations are readily available and you’ll easily be able to purchase tickets aboard shared minivans, taxis or ferries. Although we do recommend purchasing tickets at least a few days prior -especially in high season.

Note that the shared minivans are generally VERY crowded and often luggage will be taking up every bit of spare space. They are quite uncomfortable so if you’d rather a bit more room, private transfers between locations are available at a premium. We did the whole minivan thing and Ollie slept the entire way both times, much to the relief of everybody on board!!

The roads between all locations are not as bad as some people make out and there is lots of highway development ongoing widening and improving the roads. There were just a couple of kilometres of rough potholed dirt road on the drive to Port Barton. The rest elsewhere was paved and smooth, albeit quite windy. Also, the drivers are absolutely crazy and often overtake on blind corners and race along the road, sometimes I rathered not looking. Obviously they have their own ‘system’ in place to minimise crashes with overuse of horns, however in hindsight, we would have preferred a private transit where we could tell the driver to go slower.

Usually, the cheapest rates available will be when booking directly through your accommodation provider or on the street. However, have a look at if you want to pre-purchase or get a feel for the prices (they are usually slightly marked up and have a service charge added).

The Best Route (Reversible)

This is the path we took when we were in Palawan and we think it not only the most economical but the best way of touring the region. We hit up four separate areas of Palawan all with their own unique vibes and characteristics. Of course, there are other parts of the province to explore however travelling with a little baby we didn’t want to venture too far off the beaten path. Everywhere we went baby supplies were readily available and we never had a baby based issue.

Stop 1: Puerto Princesa

Why visit Puerto Princesa

  • Great starting point for your trip
  • Stock up on any supplies needed for your Palawan adventure
  • Island hopping and snorkelling at Honda Bay
  • New Seven Wonder of Nature – Underground River

This was our fly-in point and our skipping stone to the beautiful beaches. We only stayed the night to break up the journey as we didn’t want to jump straight into a 4-hour drive with Oliver. We like to do one leg of transit per day if at all possible when doing long journeys.

You’ll find loads of hotels within 10 minutes drive of the airport and will immediately notice it is less chaotic than wherever you just came from. Even though its the capital city (Population: 200,000) it seems to have a bit of a small-town vibe to it, even with the hordes of tuk-tuks cruising the streets.

In terms of things to do in the city, nothing really jumped out as must do’s so we wandered around visited a local mall and got Ollie a haircut. They had this amazing kids hairdresser where they sat up in toy cars with TV’s in front of them, easiest children haircut ever! We also stocked up on supplies for Port Barton and the road trip, not knowing how much would be available for a toddler.

From Puerto Princesa there are various full-day tours that are quite popular, however we chose to save our money and time for the real showstoppers coming up over the next two weeks. Perhaps the most famous trip is to the Underground River in Sabang, one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. You’ll take a 45-minute boat ride through an eerie cave within the dense rainforest. There’s also island hopping and snorkelling trips in nearby Honda Bay. With our itinerary heading to much better Palawan beaches, we opted to skip this.

Every meal we had in Puerto Princesa was pretty average and overpriced, however, some people rave about the food especially trying the local delicacies woodworm and sizzling crocodile.. Β mm no thank you!

Stop 2: Port Barton

Why visit Port Barton

  • To experience a beach paradise before mass tourism
  • To soak up the sun on the beach and relax in hammocks
  • Amazing island hopping tours
  • Stunning beaches and waterfalls
  • Cheap and great food

Honey, I think we found paradise. Port Barton is one of our favourite places on the entire earth, yep we could happily settle down here forever. That place you’ve been searching for before the onslaught of tourism destroys it. This idyllic town is located within the rainforest along an AMAZING beach. You’ll find dirt roads, beach shacks and more locals than foreigners – although this is changing by the day as more and more travellers discover it. We are seriously torn to even tell the world about Port Barton as we want it to stay just as it is! Β Just 3-4 hours drive from Puerto Princesa, this is more than the ideal spot to break up the drive to El Nido.

We spent 5 glorious days here soaking up the vibes and relaxing and could easily have spent more. Although the main beach is stunning, there are a few nearby beaches (Long Beach & White Beach) that you can either hike to or take a short boat ride to, trust us they are worth it! Within the jungle, you can trek to Pamuayan Falls if you can muster the energy for a 1.5-hour walk (no roads there as yet!). There’s also some super cool island hopping tours here that will take you to perfect islands, epic sandbars and some amazing beaches, one even full of starfish! We highly recommend signing up for at least one day trip aboard a boat because the stops are incredible.

Also, we were surprised by not only the quality of the food on offer but also the price! From cute restaurants with sand floors and hammocks to Insta worthy cafes, this little town is actually pretty well stocked! Every single place we ate at over the five days was worthy of going back to.

Port Barton is still quite remote and as such the power supply is often a bit temperamental. It used to be limited from 5:30 pm to midnight however is now 24 hours. However..we recommend choosing accommodation with a generator in case a ‘brownout’ occurs. You may also hear that there are no ATMs, this too is now different and there is not just one, but two ATM’s in town. However be warned that they can and do run out of cash, so best to have enough with you to last your stay.

Stop 3: El Nido

Why visit El Nido

  • The world-famous boat tours throughout amazing limestone scenery
  • A handful of gorgeous nearby beaches

To get to the next stop, El Nido, calls for a 4-5 hour van drive from Port Barton. If you’ve seen pictures of the Philippines, chances are a lot of those photos were taken in the waters around El Nido. This region is the quintessential Philippines stop to see the steep limestone cliffs and turquoise waters. Although El Nido has a few nice beaches, to reach the truly spectacular scenery you will need to sign up to a boat tour.. or go for a long kayak! There are 4 boat tours on offer and no variations are offered, unless of course, you do a private tour. However, you can still only visit 1 of 4 of the major attractions each day so as to keep places from overcrowding.

If travelling with little ones, we highly recommend Tour D. This tour hits up one of the main attractions ‘small lagoon’, but also another amazing lagoon and various spectacular beaches. This tour travels the least distance out to sea so is ideal if you or anyone in your party get seasick. It also requires the least swimming and scrambling. Of which would be near impossible with a baby. We loved this tour and getting out on the kayak with Ollie. If travelling without kids you should go for tour A or C.

If you want to keep your legs on dry land. There is a range of nice beaches on the mainland that can be reached by tuk-tuk or motorbike. However, steer clear of any beaches near the main town and Corong-Corong as the water pollution levels are terrible. Seriously, this motivated us to travel to the further beaches and we were seriously rewarded with some pristine swim spots.

To put it bluntly, El Nido itself is a pretty terrible place. Overcrowded and filthy with overpriced transport, food and accommodation. Whilst there are a few mediocre food options. There’s really nothing here to write home about and service is generally lacking. Don’t let this all put you off though, people don’t come here to check out the town. Keep that in mind here. Would we return? Yes however maybe wait until Ollie is a bit older so we can try out the other tours too!

Stop 4: Coron

Why visit Coron

  • For even more dramatic scenes aboard a boat
  • Kayangan Lake – an inland lake that is a brilliant emerald green
  • Mt Tapyas viewpoint
  • Pristine sandbars and islands on the island hopping tours

Getting to Coron from El Nido is a simple procedure as a few ferry lines operate between it. These ‘high speed’ ferries take roughly four hours and aren’t the most comfortable things, but they get you there. Coron is similar to El Nido in that many of the main attractions are found in the ocean nearby. Dramatic limestone mountains jut out of the water, covered in tropical greenery. Some even hide effervescent inland lakes and castaway style beaches. Again the main drawcard is boat tours and you would be mad not to do at least one! Apparently the diving here is also much better than El Nido, food for thought.

We opted for a private boat tour as we wanted to hit a few spots before the rest of town. Turns out, all of the boats need to be signed off by the coast guard when they start work. At 8 am. So we ended up sitting on the boat until about 8:15 even though we got there at 7. However, we were still amongst the first few people to Kayangan Lake, the main drawcard in the region.

We had it ‘basically’ to ourselves for about twenty minutes before there was a steady stream of people. We wish we had more time for the island hopping tour which travels about two hours out to sea. There you visit some amazing looking islands and sandbars that are insanely postcard-worthy. We were glad to see most boats had baby lifejackets, but we brought our own from home that we know is good quality.

On the mainland, we found Coron to be slightly nicer of a town than El Nido. Whilst most things were still overpriced we did stumble upon a couple of nice spots to eat. In terms of things to do, there are no nearby beaches unless you do a boat tour. So don’t expect to be sitting by a beach every day you’re here unless out on a boat. There is a 700 step (who’s counting) viewpoint hike up Mount Tapyas right in town. There is a massive CORON sign like the Hollywood one with dramatic views of the town and out to sea.

Hopefully, with this guide, you will have an amazing two weeks in Palawan (or more!). Whilst you’re planning a Philippines trip, why not check out our blog post on where to eat in Port Barton.


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