A paradise in the Philippines, Palawan’s charm lies in its surrounding waters. The archipelago is made up of the main Palawan island and smaller surrounding islands which are all encompassed by a breathtaking underwater landscape. Rich in coral forests and marine life as well as pristine soft sandy beaches and lush, tropical jungle interiors, Palawan is asking to be explored.
Diverse in cultures, history, and rich with delicious foods, Palawan is what could be called perfection. The island’s jaw-dropping scenery is quickly becoming popular with intrepid tourists, keen to holiday in the heavenly surroundings, dive in translucent turquoise water and trek in the depths of rainforests. The island is yet to see overt tourism and development, with a handful of luxury resorts setting up in secluded spots, the main places to stay in Palawan are locally run lodging with unbeatable beach views at affordable prices.
Map of the Best Places to Stay in Palawan
Palawan is one of Southeast Asia’s untrodden gems, which is quickly becoming the fashionable arcadia. Uncover hidden lagoons, dine on fresh fish at beachside restaurants and soak up sublime sunsets as the days slowly slip by. There’s a spot on one those blissed out beaches waiting for you: it’s time to discover the sublime.
Situated in the beautiful Bacuit Bay on the north of the island is the stunning El Nido. It’s perfect for travelers who want to take some time out; think young couples on honeymoon or backpackers looking for some serenity. The surrounding seascape is picture postcard perfect with sparkling waters, soaring cliffs and pure sand. The town of El Nido’s remoteness makes for a restful island getaway, with its lovely little restaurants that line the beach where you can enjoy tasty food and people-watch. El Nido is all about its location: use it as a jumping-off point for island life, organize a day trip to the surrounding landscape, spend the day enjoying yourself at a boat party, or luxuriate in one of the secret lagoons. You can even try out some of the best diving spots in the world.
Accommodation is varied and there are basic budget options available in the form of guest houses and lodges, but accommodation here is dominated by luxury hotel complexes which offer 5-star stays, private jetties and isolated beaches.
Recommended Hotel: The Nest Beach Resort
The breathtaking and totally captivating Coron sits in the northern point of Palawan province and is a peaceful paradise surrounded by overflowing reefs, deep blue lagoons and steep limestone formations. Think James Bond island retreat and you might be somewhere near the idyllic setting of Coron. Its karst landscape juts jagged out of the turquoise seas in a majestic natural sculpture, which is part of what makes this place a favorite for anybody who visits.The tropical nature is easily accessible and life is laid-back and chilled-out.
Coron, which boasts fresh produce at its vibrant market, is a quick drive from Busuanga airport and then a speedy boat ride to the island, where you’ll get totally washed away with its beauty. Coron is home to trendy budget hostels and midrange modern hotels, but there’s also a selection of international hotels offering luxury accommodation at a luxury price.
Recommended Hotel: Vela Terraces Hotel
Most people who visit Palawan will fly into Puerto Princesa City and use it as a starting point to explore the rest of Palawan. There is more to the city than first meets the eye, and it is an interesting place to stop off for a few days and get yourself acquainted with Palawan life.
The city is the only urbanized place on Palawan and is where the bulk of its people live, although the town itself isn’t packed with sights you still can use your time to take day-trips to Honda Bay and the beguiling Underground River – the longest subterranean river in the world.
Hotels and hostels in the city are budget but are clean and have a fun atmosphere. Take a walk around the streets or hire a cyclo driver to take a tour around the city; you can discover the local eateries and bars to really get under the skin of the capital.
Recommended Hotel: Canvas Boutique Hotel
The small fishing village of Sabang is situated between slices of karst formations on one side and striking seascape on the other. The quaint and pretty town has seen increased visitors with the rise in popularity of the famous underground river which is accessed from Sabang. Sabang’s eye-catching natural ecology also attracts travelers – take a trip to the spectacular Sabang waterfall and hike among the hills, or simply sit on the beach in the soft sand.
Get to Sabang by the regular local buses from El Nido or Puerto Princesa and stay in one of the many newly developed upper and mid-range hotels and resorts in the area; or for a backpacker budget, there are beach huts and homestays available.
Recommended Hotel: Sheridan Beach Resort
Port Barton is a small but attractive fishing village between El Nido and Palawan. Home to white sandy beaches that the area is so well known for, here you can spend a few days getting lost in the surf, indulging in the fresh local cuisine and snorkeling just off of the coast. Take a boat trip from the port to the magical area around the mangrove reserve where, with the help of a local guide, you might be able to spot some rare wildlife.
The accommodation in the village is generally cheaper than that of El Nido, but you still get the same island getaway atmosphere and with the added bonus of a sandbar which appears at low tide and makes for a perfect spot for soaking up the sun.
Recommended Hotel: Ferranco Tourist Inn
The island of Busuanga just off the north of Palawan has it all: idyllic beaches, stunning scenery and amazing diving in the nearby shipwrecks. The pristine wildlife remains relatively untouched and the land and seas seem to be bursting with exotic wildlife and plants. Its rivers and mangrove forest offer up opportunities to kayak or hike in the depths of tropical jungle terrain. It’s easy to reach Busuanga from Manila as it’s so close, in fact hotels in Manila can supply tourists with fast boats to the island; or you can take a fishing boat from Coron.
As the sun fades the sky comes alive with thousands of stars; Busuanga is a fantastic spot for a bit of stargazing. There are some budget beach huts to rest your head in, but a bit more cash will get you a spot in a diving resort hotel with a pool and higher standards. If you’re really looking to splash the cash, then you could opt for an exclusive resort on one of the tiny islands around Busuanga coast where you will get treated like royalty and supplied with everything you could want during your stay in paradise.
Recommended Hotel: La Estancia Busuanga
The small town of Roxas is often only a short stop-off for travelers, but stay a little longer and you may discover more about this small beach town. Roxas’ attraction comes in the form of its perfect paradise beach that will cure any regular traveler’s beach blindness, its lush jungle fauna and its pretty little port. Offbeat and uncaring, Roxas allows for a glimpse into island life in the Philippines – browse the local shops and markets with the locals and watch as the boats tick in and out of the harbor.
You can reach Roxas by bus from El Nido or the ferry from Manila and once you’re there rent a bicycle from a local shop and whizz around on two wheels; pedal further afield to the nearby waterfalls and jump in the cool water when you reach them. There isn’t a great deal of mid-range accommodation in the town, which mainly consists of guest houses or bed-and-breakfasts.
The small town of Narra is rich with scenic views and incredible biodiversity which draws visitors to explore the natural surroundings. The mountain ranges around Narra provide a habitat for incredible wildlife, whilst its mangroves, winding rivers and iconic waterfalls make for fantastic kayaking and hiking. Take a trip to the nearby Turtle Sanctuary which is a nesting site for green turtles.
To get to Narra you can jump on a shuttle bus from Puerto Princesa and once you are there a stay in Narra not only means access to its depth of nature, but also a spot on the almost deserted beaches in the area – either on private island resorts or locally run basic guesthouses.
Recommended Hotel: Arena Island Resort
Taytay is an old town that was founded by the Spanish in 1623 and is home to an old fort that still stands today. What could be described as an unexplored paradise, Taytay is surrounded by arcadian islands that are waiting for you to discover them.
Taytay itself is a few hours bus ride away from Puerto Princesa or El Nido, once there rest your head in one of a large selection of well priced accommodation on the island. Hire a boat to seek out the best snorkelling spots or try swimming in the secret lagoon or kayak at Lake Manguao. This is the Palawan paradise you have been searching for.
Recommended Hotel: Pems Pension