Palawan, Best Island in the World

Underground River, Palawan

Audio translations for useful Tagalog and Ilocano vocabularies can be found below. Hovering underlined texts gives you Tagalog and Ilocano translations.

Facts About Palawan

Palawan first received the distinction in 2013 after being voted the “Best Island in the World “ by an international magazine, Travel & Leisure.  This year, 2016, Palawan topped the list with a score of 93.71 in the same magazine.  Voters described Palawan as “every beach lover’s dream destination.”  It is also voted #1 Best Island in the World by Conde Nast Traveler 27th Readers’ Choice Awards in 2015 and 2016.

The largest crocodile ever caught and placed in captivity in the world was caught in Palawan. Lolong (the name of the crocodile) was caught in a Bunawan creek in the province of Agusan del Sur in the Philippines on 13 September 2011.

It has been declared the natural sanctuary of the world. The island is home to 232 endemic species, one of the highest densities of the unique species in the world.

Palawan means “The Land of Beautiful Safe Harbor”. A land of a beautiful haven for every traveler who seeks refuge and oneness with nature.

A team of researchers led by Robert B. Fox found evidence in the Tabon Caves that humans have lived in Palawan for more than 50,000 years.  According to archaeological studies, this province is the cradle of Philippine civilization after the discovery of human bones.

You can find many endangered animals like purple crab, bearded pig, bearcat, leopard cat, hornbill, scops owl, peacock pheasant, myna bird, and pilandok in the place.  Among the many endemic species are the Palawan peacock-pheasantPhilippine mouse-deerPhilippine pangolinPalawan bearded pig, and Palawan birdwing.

Calauit Safari Park is known for its wildlife sanctuary with a substantial population of African animals, including giraffes, zebras, and antelopes, as well as local fauna that all roam freely in a game reserve.

It is the largest province in the Philippines in terms of total area of jurisdiction with a registered population of 849,469 persons in 2015.

The disputed Spratly Islands, located a few hundred kilometers to the west, are considered part of Palawan by the Philippines, and is locally called the “Kalayaan Group of Islands”.

The mountain heights average 3,500 feet (1,100 m) in altitude, with the highest peak rising to 6,843 feet (2,086 m)at Mount Mantalingahan.

In terms of archipelagic internal waters, Palawan has the biggest marine resources that cover almost half of the Sulu Sea and a big chunk of the South China Sea.

The average maximum temperature is 31 °C (88 °F) with little variation all year. It experiences torrential rains during the months of July and August.  Summer months serve as peak season for the place.

Some of the oldest rocks of the Philippines are found in northeast Palawan (Permian-Carboniferous age).

Basically, its culture bears a strong influence from China, India and the Middle East.

There are 52 languages and dialects in the province, with Tagalog being spoken by more than 50 percent of the people.  Other languages are Cuyonon (26.27percent), Hiligaynon (19 percent), and Palawano (4.0 percent).

It has its own natural gas field called Malampaya gas field. It was discovered in 1992 and was developed by Shell Philippines.

Palawan’s economy is basically agricultural. The three major crops are rice, coconut, and corn.  Palawan is also known for its delicious danggit (dried fish) and cashew nuts.

Top Places to Visit in Palawan

Others:  Shark Diving in Puerto Princesa; Plaza Cuartel in Puerto Princesa; German Island in Port Baton; Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm; Cathedral Beach in El Nido; Nagtabon Beach in Puerto Princesa; Pinagbuyutan Island in El Nido; Mitra Farm in Puerto Princesa; Star Beach in El Nido; Miniloc Island in El Nido; Cudugnon Cave in El Nido; Cayoya  Island in Port Barton; Papawyan Falls in Port Barton; Payong-Payong Beach in El Nido; Palawan Heritage Center in Puerto Princesa; Corong Corong Beach in El Nido; Ipil Beach in El Nido; Long Beach in San Vicente; El Nido Airpot Beach; Taraw Cliff in El Nido; Palawan Museum in Puerto Princesa; Bigaho Falls in Port Barton; Bulalacao Falls  in El Nido; Tapiutan Beach in El Nido; Estrella Falls in Narra; Tapiutan Island in El Nido; Cacnipa Island in Port Barton; Culion Museum and Archives in Culion; Babuyan River in Puerto Princesa; Mt. Salakot in Puerto Princesa; Immaculate Conception Church in Culion; Small Lagoon Reef in Port Barton; Blue Cove Island Resort in Port Barton; The Ille Cave in El Nido; Mount Thumbpeak in Puerto Princesa; Twin Peaks Reef; Cayangan Lake; Tabon Caves; Palawan Environmental Enforcement Museum; Mangrove River in San Vicente; Bonton Falls in Puerto Princesa; Onuk Island in Balabac; Ethnographic Museum in Puerto Princesa; Calampuan Island in Dumaran; Boayan Island in Port Barton; Ariara Island; Fort Santa Isabel in Taytay; South Sea Pearl Museum in Puerto Princesa; Daplac Cove in San Vicente; Banawa Sand Bar in Dumaran; Cleopatra’s Needle in Puerto Princesa; Spanish Fort in Dumaran; Lagen Island in El Nido; Mt. Mantalingajan; Mt. Turing; Renambacan Island; Muraneg Beach  in Dumaran; Daylight Hole Cave; Olanguan Falls; Salakot Waterfalls; Canique Falls; Aberawan River in El Nido; Caramay Falls in Port Barton; Sabsaban Falls in Brooke’s Point; Ausan Island in Port Barton; Pristine Beach in Puerto Princesa; Kalachuchi Beach; Ditaytayan Island in Culion; Catamaran Margarita Lagoon 500 in Puerto Princesa; Nagkalit -Kalit Falls in El Nido; Tumbokan Falls in Ivisan; Mabaay Island in Ivisan; Putic Island  in Magsaysay; Begaho Falls in San Vicente; Ursula Island Game and Bird Sanctuary in Narra; Rassa Island in Narra; New Rizal Falls in Roxas; Matalango Falls in Roxas; Brooke’s Point Lighthouse; Manta Ray Reef in San Vicente; Morenton Peak Game Reserve in Balabac; Bancalan Caves in Balabac; Basy Falls in Balabac; Ilian Falls in Dumaran; Melville Lighthouse in Balabac; Mt. Mantalingajan; Tumarbong Falls in Quezon; Cawili Cave and Dry Hole; Gangub Cave; Lebrosy Museum; Naganlec Falls in El Nido

A majestic and picturesque cliff that surrounds El Nido beach harbor. - Photo by John Daquioag

A majestic and picturesque cliff that surrounds El Nido beach harbor. – Photo by John Daquioag

Traveling to Palawan (2016) – Some Tips Included

Our mode of transportation to Palawan was a domestic flight from NAIA(MNL) to Puerta Princesa(PPS).  FYI, if the flight to Palawan is a connecting flight, with no delays, plan on at least 3 hours between arrival and departure time for the two flights. Traveling between the three domestic terminals can take over an hour.  Check-in counter closes 40 minutes before the scheduled departure, and fetching checked-in baggage takes 3 hours between the two flights. Prices from Manila to Puerto Princessa are not more than $200.00 with cheaper flights if you carry less than 10 kg. of luggage via Philippine Airlines.

Part of the fun of taking a vacation is trying to find the best or most economical hotel for the duration of the trip.  I used booking.com, agoda.com, and tripadvisor.com.  Using all three doesn’t generally mean you will get cheaper rates, but rather provides more information on the hotel rooms and things to do.  Personal reference is also great as I choose to stay at Hotel Centro upon a relative’s suggestion despite using all three travel sites.  Hotel Centro cost us $150.00 and it is located in the center of Puerta Princesa which was a walking distance to Robinsons Mall and a short tricycle ride to all the restaurants.  Hotel Centro was interestingly NOT on any of the travel websites or I just completely missed it.  Hotel Centro provides a shuttle from the airport.  I would suggest booking your trip to the Underground River at the travel agency upon landing so that all you have to worry about is waking up in the morning and eating breakfast before they pick you up at your hotel before 9AM on your tour day.  The tours are a straight P1200.00 all-inclusive trip to and from with lunch from the travel agency we used.  It is said that all prices are all the same for all travel agencies.

Palawan's Underground River Rock Formation

One of the many rock formations created in the Underground River for tens of thousands years. – Photo by John Daquioag

On our return trip to Hotel Centro from the Underground River tour, I booked the 6-hour van ride from Hotel Centro to ElNido with the same tour company for P600.00 per seat.  Once again, all you need to worry about is getting up and having breakfast before they pick you up at 9AM on the day of departure.  The road to El Nido starts out windy with some straights in the middle and then windy again as you arrive in El Nido.  There is a 30 minutes rest stop for lunch and CR break near Roxas.  We arrived at the only terminal in ElNido and immediately took a short 10 minutes ride on a tricycle for P120.00 to ElNido Beach Hotel.  I booked the hotel through booking.com and considering that I wanted a beachfront hotel, this one was the only one available at short notice.  I knew we weren’t the relaxing on the beach type, but more shopping and restaurant sampling so I decided to book in the town proper.  My cousin recommended a resort, further up the road, but it was completely booked so that made my decision a little easier.  The room was for two nights at $120.00 each.  We decided to stay an extra night, but they were charging additional $20.00 for the same type of room and on the ground floor.  We decided to book another beachfront hotel at $80.00 with the difference having a worse bathroom experience.  The van ride back to Puerta Princesa was also P600.00 per seat.  I bought an extra seat for more room, but it turned out that we had the whole van to ourselves for the first hour back to Puerta Princesa because they gave away our reserved seats on the first two vans.  In retrospect, one can directly travel to ElNido from underground river tour instead of going back to Puerta Princessa saving about an hour of travel time.

On the way up to ElNido, I was able to book one of the tours for the next day.  Tour A and C were highly recommended but,  we decided to take tour C.  The price was P1200.00 per person, all inclusive with lunch.  Tour C included hidden beach and hidden cave.  Other tours include Small and Big lagoon, Seven Commando Beach.  Some offer kayaking.  Most of the tourists take the tours so by 10AM, the beaches are empty.  We missed the tour the following day, so we decided to rent a taxi for P1000.00 and a motorcycle for P500.00 for a trip to Naganlec Falls and Nacpan Beach, about 45 minutes ride north.  Naganlec falls was our first stop and it took us into the mountains on a dirt road.  Once arriving at the trail entrance to Naganlec Falls, we were able to negotiate fresh coconuts from the locals at P25.00 each.  It was a refreshing drink after the ride up.  At the entrance to the trail, there is a P25.00 per person fee mostly to keep the trail clean and accessible.  The hike to the falls takes about 30 mins zigzagging across the same stream.  The trail was narrow at times where your legs would swipe against the brush or tall weeds.  There was always a fear that a cobra might slither out.  The hike is not rigorous as to need hiking boots.  Sandals were good enough.  Upon arriving at the falls, one needs to pay another P25.00 per person for cleaning and accessibility.  We were surprised to find two female tourists from Canada already swimming because we didn’t see anyone else on the hike up.  The falls were about 20 meters in height with water flowing at a good rate that sprayed out at the bottom.  The water pool was shallow with the deep end only at the base of the falls.  Water was clean.  After the waterfall, we rode about 30 minutes to Nacpan Beach on dirt and concrete roads.  It rained so the ride was slippery and muddy on the dirt roads.  Nacpan beach offers the best swimming beach if one is not taking one of the tours. The waves were moderated with the water very clean.  Entering the beach area, one needs to pay P75.00 per person.  There are eateries along the beach after a day in the water. The beach area is what Boracay was a long time ago.  If one is tired of the overcrowded Boracay experience, going to Nacpan beach would be the best bet.  Finding a room on the third night was as easy as walking to the hotel and asking if there are any available rooms.  We were looking to include a trip to Coron but we were already booked on flights back to Manila from Puerto Princesa.  There are no flights from ElNido to Coron but one can take the Banka to Coron with a price of P1500.00 per person.  After researching the trip, it weaves in and out of small islands to Coron and not exclusively in open ocean water.  There is a warning on the ticket window that says “this cruise is not for everyone as the weather will play an impact on your sea sickness.”

Eating in Palawan offers exotic foods like Tamilok (worms which are found inside the trunks of rotting or fallen mangroves) and Crocodile Sisig (crocodile meat).  To my disappointment, they were out of the Tamilok.  Finding fresh seafood cooked to your wishes was no problem on the island.

>>> Read more stories about the Filipino Culture while you learn the basics of the Filipino Language.

Reviewer, Palawan

 Contributor: John immigrated to the US at a young age and has visited the Philippines every 3-4 years since 1998 as he finds  it very satisfying to visit the many beautiful sites of the Philippines, the people, and his welcoming family.  He is at his happiest when he is picked up at the airport and driven to his family home as he is able to smell the distinct local air for the first time once again. He often says that he can do this blindfolded after the long international flight from the US.

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