Palawan Travel Tips

Palawan travel tips

You’ve made up your mind – you’re going to explore the beauty of the Philippine’s “Last Frontier!”

It’s a wise decision – Palawan’s reputation as unchartered territory, as a yet undiscovered travel gem, is not going to last long. Now is the best time to go!

Here’s what you should know before you take off!

Palawan Travel Tip #1. Know thyself

Okay, that’s a little too broad – what we mean is know how much you can take. The majority of flights into Palawan fly into Puerto Princesa, but if you’re planning on trekking over to El Nido, it’s going to be a long and bumpy ride – plan for around 8 hours on a bus. Yes, that’s 8 hours on average and most of the buses have wooden seats.

palawan travel tips
your carriage awaits 😉

If you’re not up for this kind of adventure, you might want to opt for a flight straight to El Nido.  Same thing for Coron – it’s a long way from Puerto Princesa, but it’s only an hour’s flight from Manila.

Palawan Travel Tip #2. Choose the best time

Unless your idea of tropical paradise contains a lot of rain, it’s best to choose your vacation dates wisely. The rainy season typically begins in June and this is around the time when you won’t want to be vacationing in this area. For the first three to four months of the rainy season, there are heavy monsoons and even the possibility of tropical storms.

Palawan travel tips

The rains die down during the autumn months and by December, it’s a beautiful time to visit Palawan again! In fact, March-ish is perfect – sunny skies and not yet too hot.

At the same time, remember that December to April is high season and the gorgeous weather and beaches bring a lot of people to Palawan. It’s best to book yourself a room ahead of time!

Palawan Travel Tip #3. Cash is best – bring plenty of it

Puerto Princesa has ATMs like any other city, but the rest of Palawan is pretty much without ATMs. Spots like El Nido and Port Barton are beautiful getaways retreats, but there are no banks from which you can withdraw or even exchange money.

In El Nido, you’ll be able to exchange some money at the El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe – BUT it’s still best to come prepared. A good idea is to book your hotels previously and then bring enough cash to tide you over for your trip + an extra wad for emergencies.

Palawan Travel Tip #4. Beware the mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are annoying under any circumstance – but they’re especially pesky when they carry the risk of malaria and dengue fever. Now, there’s no need to get your panties in a bunch – the malaria and dengue fever situation in Palawan is not that bad…that said, it’s always better safe than sorry.

Remember that mosquitoes adapt to local repellants and bring your own! We highly, highly recommend a bug-repellent-included sunscreen – Badger Balm‘s got an all-natural concoction that’s great at keeping both insects and sunburn away.

Palawan Travel Tip #5. Be prepared for the dark

Palawan has electricity…issues. There’s a limited electricity supply here that comes on at around 6 PM and goes off around midnight. If you plan on staying up afterwards, bring an LED headlamp or a flashlight.

pack-for-palawan

Arrange your WiFi time around this schedule as well.

Palawan Travel Tip #6. Bring what you need

It’s a bother to carry all the supplies you might need when you’re traveling – most of us prefer to simply pick these things up when we get to our destination. Don’t do this when you’re traveling to Palawan. Puerto Princesa has shops and stalls and even a few department stores, but outside of this city, there’s precious little in the way of shopping.

If you have a particular sunscreen brand you use, bring it! If you have certain shampoos, bring it! If you need certain diving clothes or sunglasses, bring them!

Palawan Travel Tip #7. Stay covered, relax and have fun!

Palawan is hands down one of the most memorable places we’ve ever visited and judging by what we’ve heard from other travelers, it’s usually top on their list of favorite places as well.

You are going to love it in Palawan – just remember to pack everything you’ll need and make sure you’re covered for any travel-related mishaps that may occur with travel insurance.

 

Port Barton, Palawan Travel Tips

port barton hammocks

Port Barton is a lovely little fishing town in Palawan. For all its pristine natural beauty, it’s managed to stay clear of travel hype – and the large crowds that follow – lending the quiet beach town a quaint, rustic feel.

It’s one of the loveliest off-the-beaten-path destinations we’ve checked out in a long time and quite possibly the most underrated tropical destination there is.

If you plan on checking out this lovely beach town, here are some travel tips to make sure it all goes well.

Travel Tip #1. Be prepared for a bumpy ride

It used to be a nightmare getting to Port Barton, but it’s a lot better now. The road has been significantly improved and in more cases, you should be able to reach Port Barton from Puerto Princesa in around 3 hours.

port barton, palawan

Still, the buses that go are usually endowed with wooden seats and it’s a rather bumpy ride. Be prepared.

Travel Tip #2. Choose the best time

Port Barton’s tourist season starts in November, peaks between late December to March, and ends around early May. It can be hard to find accommodation during the holiday season – Christmas, New Year, Easter – since Port Barton has become a popular travel destination for Filipino travelers.

port barton, palawan

On the flip side, during low season – June to October – some of the resort and guest houses close down and the ones that are open will usually give you a discount. Although this sounds great in theory – no people! discounts! yay! – it also means there’s a real lack of things to do. Most places will be closed around evening time and it’ll prove a challenge to get enough people together for a boat trip to nearby islands.

Travel Tip #3. Bring all the money you’ll need

When we said Port Barton is off-the-beaten-path, we meant it. There are no banks, no ATM machines and no places to even change money. Make sure you have enough cash on you (and a little extra) to be able to pay for everything while you’re here.

That includes housing, food, island hopping tours, and anything else you might need. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself having to shuttle back to Puerto Princesa for some cash.

Travel Tip #4. Bring what you need.

Port Barton is a one-horse town. There are very few, very basic stores that offer a very narrow range of goods so if there’s a particular brand of, say, sunscreen that you need. Bring it with you!

We highly, highly recommend a bug-repellent-included sunscreen.

Badger Balm’s got an all-natural concoction that’s great at keeping both insects and sunburn away.

 

Travel Tip #5. Be prepared to unplug

Palawan, in general, has electricity issues. Port Barton is no exception. There’s a limited electricity supply here that comes on at around 6 PM and goes off around midnight. If you plan on staying up afterward, bring an LED headlamp or a flashlight.

The Cobiz Brightest 4 Modes LED Headlight is waterproof and provides plenty of light.

Arrange your WiFi time around this schedule as well.

Travel Tip #6. …and most importantly…

Make sure you’re covered for any travel-related incidentals so you can relax and concentrate on having fun! We highly recommend World Nomads.

They cover travelers from over 150 countries around the world, offer great rates, and cover a range of travel-related costs from the more commonplace – lost baggage and cancellation costs – to the more severe – emergency medical and evacuation assistance as well as coverage for a wide range of adventure sports and activities.

 

Best Places to Snorkel in Port Barton

snorkeling port barton

What is a beach vacation without a little (or a lot of ) snorkelling? Port Barton is a protected area and offers great marine diversity for your underwater exploration. Most of the snorkel spots are really close to Port Barton and easy to get to as well.

If you rent a boat for an island hopping and snorkelling expedition, it’ll cost you around 1200PHP, or $30, and the boat can accommodate up to 4 people. There’s a lot of competition amongst the local boatmen for tourism dollars so ask around for someone who comes with good references.

Ready to snap on a snorkel and a pair of fins? Keep in mind the best snorkel spots in Port Barton:

Port Barton Snorkel Spot #1. Aquarium Four

True to its name, Aquarium Four is teeming with marine life. It’s also perfect for families with children since, at its deepest point, it’s only about 2 meters deep.

The aquarium is best visited in the morning when the sea is calmest.

Port Barton Snorkel Spot #2. Exotic Island

There are two islands here and the water between them is shallow and perfect for snorkelling. There’s also a sandbar here that lets you walk out quite far into the water.

exotic island palawan

Swim a little farther, about 50 feet offshore, out to where more coral is in order to see the most abundant marine life.

Port Barton Snorkel Spot #3. Double Island

Double Island has a small resort on its premises and is surrounded by great snorkeling spots. You can reach the Small Lagoon Reef and the Fantastic Reef from here – both have beautiful corals and lots of fish.

Port Barton Snorkel Spot #4. Fantastic Reef

Like it’s name suggests, this is a fantastic reef close located close to Double Island. There are beautiful green corals here that are home to a large variety of fish and other aquatic life.

port barton

Read more on Port Barton travel tips.

Snorkel Spot #5. Manta Ray Reef

This reef is located about 200 meters from the short of Capsalay Island. This coral reef has an area of 150 hectares and is the largest are of corals in San Vincente. It was unfortunately damaged by high water temperature bleaching in the late 90s, as well as Typhoon Norming, but it is slowly recovering.

Snorkel Spot #6. Twin Rocks

The Twin Rocks is a snorkelling spot worth checking out since it’s really close to the Port Barton beach. Aim to snorkel here early in the day, since the currents get rough around mid-day.

Ready to start snorkelling? Check out our Port Barton snorkelling tips!

 

Palawan History and Culture

palawan history

No one knows how Palawan got its name. It’s speculated that it may have come from the Chinese work “Pa Lao Yu” meaning Land of Beautiful Harbors. That would certainly be accurate. There’s also speculation that it comes from the Spanish word “Paragua” since Palawan looks like a closed umbrella.

Palawan map

The various theories behind where Palawan derived its name is reflective of the island’s rich cultural history.

Palawan is often referred to as the “Cradle of Philippine Civilization” because the bones of the first Filipinos were found there 22,000 years ago. The first known settlers were the Tagbanua, Palaw’an, Tau’t bato and the Bataks. They were here before Palawan ever became known to the rest of the world.

The beauty that we now know as Palawan first landed on the map when Chinese traders and other migrants found their way over using the land bridges that once existed between Borneo and Palawan. Palawan soon became a center of trade between the Malays and the Chinese and it was during the 12th century when the Malays from Borneo started settling in Palawan.

The settlers lived off the land. They planted their own food: palay, ginger, coconut, camote, sugar, and bananas. They kept livestock for food. They also fished and hunted. They developed their own alphabet, a non-formal form of government and a system for trading with sea-borne merchants.

Due to its proximity to Borneo as well as the influence of the Malay settlers, southern Palawan soon fell under the rule of Borneo. This lasted for over two centuries until the Spanish arrived in the Philippines.

Spanish Rule

When the Spanish first arrived in Palawan, the northernmost part of Palawan was the first area to be colonized.  In the early 17th century, the Spanish friars attempted to reach out to Cuyo, Agutaya, Taytay, and Cagayancillo but the strong Moro forces made their attempts unsuccessful.

palawan history

In the 18th century, the Spanish friars stared building churches with garrisons in the towns of Cuyo, Taytay, Linapacan and Balabac to protect them against the Moro raids. These forts still stand today and make a delightful day trip. In 1749, the Sultanate of Borneo gave the Spaniards the power to rule the southern parts of Paragua (the Spanish name for Palawan), making Spanish rule of Palawan complete.

American Rule

After the 1898 Revolution, Spanish colonization ended. The American government took over what the Spanish government had left off. They consolidated the islands and called it Palawan. A new civil government was enacted on the 23rd of June in the year 1902. New provincial boundaries were made and old ones were revised during 1903. The name of the province was changed from Paragua to Palawan. Its capital became Puerto Princesa.

They created reforms and different programs that promoted the development of the province. They promoted education, medical assistance, agriculture and tribal minorities’ rights. Schools were constructed all over Palawan.

Today, Palawan still has a considerable amount of well-preserved beauty thanks to the locals’ and various groups’ perseverance. They even have their own hospital for sick and disabled crocodiles. Two UNESCO World Heritage sites are found there which are the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, South Sulu Sea and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

 

Everything You Need to Know About Island Hopping in El Nido, Palawan

el-nido-island-hopping

Island hopping in El Nido, Palawan is one of the easiest things to do. Good thing, too, since with over 40 islands to explore, a lack of organization could be abysmal.

Simply by taking a stroll through the town of El Nido, you’ll run across a bevy of small tour companies offering set “island hopping packages.”

These packages basically break down all the islands in the Bacuit Archipelago into smaller groups that you can visit.

island hopping el nido

The El Nido Island Hopping tours are broken down like this:

 

el-nido-island-hoppingTour A

Places you visit:

  • 2 lagoons on Miniloc Island
  • Simisu Island
  • 7 Commando beach

You get to snorkel and have lunch (not at the same time). The total price is around 700-800PHP, or about $20 per person.

 

Tour B

Places you visit:

Lunch is included. The total price is around 800-900PHP, or $22.50 per person.

Tour C

  • Snorkel around Matinloc Island
  • Snorkel around Tapiutan Island and visit the Secret Beach where you’ll have the chance to see sea turles.

Lunch is included. The total cost is around 900-1000PHP, or about $25 per person.

Combination Tours

You can also pick-and-choose the islands you want to go to (within reasonable distance) by combining two or more of the tours. These tours will cost you around 1000PHP, or $25 per person.

All the above tours include lunch, mask and snorkel in the price.


Tours A to C take a whole day and that typically starts at 9 AM and lasts ’til about 4 PM. There will be other people on the tour with you, so be sure not to be late.

The boatmen also double as chefs during lunch time and they’ll prepare a serve a lovely meal of fish, rice, salad, fruit and coffee on a beach:

Miniloc Island Lagoons

 

If you want more activity (say, kayaking), sign up for a kayaking tour.

The Cadlao Kayak and Snorkel Tour will take you from Bocal Island along the wall of Cadlao to Paradise Beach, into the Ubugon Lagoon and then to Helicopter Island. The total cost of the tour is 1,400PHP, or around $35.00.

The Miniloc Kayak Tour is really awesome since you get to kayak the Big and Small Lagoons. These lagoons are beautiful and serene – you can see clear through the calm, aquamarine waters, hear the sounds of the wild around you, and even catch the flight of an exotic bird or two. The cost of the tour is 1,400PHP, or around $35.00


You can also choose to do any of the above tours privately – which I recommend since it’ll give you a much more flexible schedule that allows you to linger in the places you like the most. You can also pick-and-choose the islands you want to visit (within reasonable distance to each other) and the activities you want to partake in (i.e. snorkeling, kayaking, or both).

The private tours cost around 3,000PHP, or $75 – the price is good for 2 people and also includes lunch.


Overall island hopping in El Nido is super easy, thanks to the organized packages and the ubiquitous tour stalls. Just walk around, pick out what you like, and talk to the tour companies. You’ll be on your way in no time!