Travel Guide to Palawan, Philippines

Palawan 4Palawan is an island province located in the south-west corner of the Philippines. The province, which is named after its largest island, the long and narrow Palawan Island also encompasses several smaller islands, like Busuanga, Culion, Cuyo, the Cagayan and Coron islands.

These islands are renowned for their stunning natural beauty and feature numerous shimmering sand beaches, cerulean waters, live coral reefs, abundant dive spots and world-famous natural attractions like the Saint Paul Subterranean River National Park and the El Nido Marine Reserve Park. The island of Palawan lies approximately 586 kilometers to the south of Manila between the South China and the Sulu Seas. Palawan is bordered by Mindoro Island to its north and Borneo to its south.

Palawan Island, itself is 425 kilometers long and 40 kilometers wide. The island has an irregular coastline that extends over 2000 km and features hidden islets, secluded rocky coves, and powder sand beaches. A chain of mountains traverses the length of the island and several peaks within this range, rise up to a height of 3,500 feet with the highest peak, Mount Matalingahan topping 6,800 feet.  The slopes of these peaks are covered with dense forests which are a valuable source of timber for the Philippines.

Puerto Princesa is the capital city and main gateway to Palawan.  The city is also the main center of trade and commerce for Palawan and is easily accessed by air from Manila. Palawan can also be accessed by several smaller airports, which lie on some of the northern islands of the province.

The name Palawan is believed to have been derived from the Chinese world Pa-lao-yu which translates as ‘the land of beautiful safe harbor’ and indeed Palawan is all that and more.   Largely considered to be a destination that is ‘off the beaten track,’ Palawan, which is described as one of the world’s most beautiful islands by National Geographic Magazine,  has much to offer for visitors of all ages.

Best time to visit Palawan

The weather in Palawan is quite warm and humid all year round. The island province experiences temperatures that range between 24̊ C (75̊F) – 32̊C (89.6̊F)all throughout the year. Palawan also receives a lot of rainfall and has two distinct wet seasons in the form of the northeast monsoon season, that typically lasts from November to February and the southeast monsoon season, that extends from June to October.

The best time to visit the island province is thought to be the period between March and May. The weather during this time is drier and thus quite conducive to sea travel, an essential mode of transportation in Palawan.


Passport holders from more than 150 countries don’t need a visa to travel to the Philippines for tourism. They can enter the Philippines for up to 21 days provided that they have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond their date of entry into the Philippines and they are in possession of a valid onward/return ticket and sufficient funds to cover the expenses of their stay in the Philippines. More details about visas for the Philippines can be found at:-

Palawan 3Getting to and around Palawan

The Puerto Princesa International Airport serves as the main gateway to Palawan. The airport receives several flights from Manila and Cebu daily. The airport welcomes various domestic carriers like Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, SEAIR and Air Philippines. Aside from the airport at Puerto Pincesa, Palawan is also equipped with smaller airports at El Nido, Sandoval, Busuanga and Cuya, which are largely served by charter flights.;jsessionid=21B83C5F006016B9A7CCD680806BE2B3.web3:8009?airportCode=PPS;jsessionid=EBE8F4A9B8D6E9A1AC97E474D8A0BBA7.web2:8009?airportCode=ENI

Palawan can also be accessed by ferry from Manila and Mindoro. These commuter ferries have scheduled stops at points like Puerto Princesa, Caron and Cuyo on Palawan. Aside from these commuter ferries, ‘bancas’ (indigenous Filipino boats) also serve as a vital means of transportation between the many islands of Palawan.

Family-Friendly Hotels in Palawan

Verdant Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan, is often thought to be the cleanest and greenest city in the Philippines. The city is generally used by tourists as a start-off point for Palawan expeditions. The city is accordingly equipped with a wide range of accommodation options. Other popular destinations in Palawan like El Nido, Coron and Busuanga are also equipped with a good selection of hotels that cater to various travel budgets and accommodation preferences.


Palm Bay Resort- Puerto Princessa
The Palm Bay Resort is located on a white sand beach in Puerto Princesa. The hotel offers eleven  well appointed rooms and is equipped with facilities like a restaurant, a bar, and a currency desk.


Dos Palmas Island Resort and Spa
Dos Palmas Island Resort and Spa is an all-inclusive family-friendly resort located near Puerto Princesa, in picturesque Honda Bay. The resort is accessed via an hour’s boat ride from Puerto Princesa and offers a wide array of facilities like an outdoor infinity pool and Jacuzzi, a restaurant, a tour desk, a children’s playground, a library and more.

The hotel is further equipped with a kid’s club, which plans fun activities for youngsters of all ages. The hotel also offers baby-sitting services and a wide array of recreational activities, like beach volleyball and beach badminton, banana boat rides and scuba diving.


Lagen Island Resort – El Nido
This gorgeous hotel resort is located on a private beach in El Nido. The Lagen Island resort offers 50 air-conditioned rooms outfitted with various modern–day conveniences, like iPod docking stations and hair dryers. The rooms at the resort are also equipped with complimentary wireless Internet access.

The facilities at the hotel include an outdoor pool, a spa and a restaurant. The resort also offers a wide range of water sporting activities like scuba diving, kayaking and snorkeling and also organizes eco tours for its guests. The Lagen Island Resort is equipped with a kids club that offers various fun activities for children of all ages.

Palawan 2Family Friendly Attractions in Palawan

Palawan offers a wealth of spectacular natural attractions, which are situated on its many stunning islands.

Saint Paul Subterranean River National Park 

Palawan’s densely forested Saint Paul Subterranean River National Park features a limestone karst mountain landscape and the longest navigable underground river in the world, that extends over a distance of 8.2 km before emptying into the South China Sea. The river traverses through a cave that has many large chambers and is filled with stalactites and stalagmites. The cave is also home to a clear underground lagoon commonly called the ‘Cathedral’ This stunningly beautiful underground river was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999.

Palawan 6The Tabon Caves

The Tabon cave complex is located near the town of Quezon in Southern Palawan. This cave complex which extends over 168 hectares is commonly referred to as the ‘cradle of the Philippine civilisation’. The caves were discovered by the American archeologist, Robert B.Fox and his team in 1962.

The  archeological dig at the Tabon caves yeilded  a  hugely impprtant find in the form of the bones of the Tabon Man, which date back nearly 22,000 years. The Tabon cave complex is made up of 200 caves, though only about 29 have been explored so far and only three are open for public viewing.

The Rasa Island Bird Sanctuary

The Rasa Island Bird Sanctuary is located on the eastern coast of Narra island in southern Palawan. Narra island is located at a distance of 91 km from Puerto Princesa city. This spectacular bird sanctuary is home to 87 species of birds, including the endangered Philippine cockatoo and the Palawan hornbill. Tours of the bird sanctuary also include treks to waterfalls and mangrove forests, both of which are located within the sanctuary.

Palawan 5The El Nido Marine Reserve Park

The El Nido Marine Reserve Park is one of Palawan’s star attractions. This large park, which is situated in Bacuit Bay, extends over 96000 hectares and features several diverse ecosystems like rainforests, mangroves, coral reefs, limestone cliffs and dazzling white sand beaches. Often described as the ‘most beautiful spot on earth’ the El Nido Marine Reserve is home to a vast repository of native fauna and flora like manta rays, sharks, sea turtles and dolphins.

The park offers eight spectacular dive sites and offers sightings of one of the world’s most rare marine mammals; the sea cow, more commonly called the ‘dugong.’

The El Nido Marine Reserve Park is accessible via an hour’s boat ride from El Nido located in the north-west region of Palawan.

Family Friendly Activities in Palawan

Go Island Hopping in Honda Bay

Honda Bay is located within close proximity to Puerto Princessa city and can be reached by a short boat ride. Honda Bay encompasses several small islands like Pandan island,  Arreceffi island, Snake island and Bat Island that are equipped with stunning coral reefs and gorgeous white sand beaches, that offer numerous opportunities for water-based activities like diving, snorkelling and  swimming.

Palawan 7Take a Dolphin Watching Expedition

Several tour operators in Puerto Princesa offer dolphin watching expeditions to see the long-snouted spinner dolphins who inhabit the azure waters around Palawan. These warm blooded mamals called ‘lumba-lumba’ by the Filipinos enthrall and delight visitors of all ages with their acrobatic antics.

Visit the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center

The Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center is located within close proximity to Puerto Princesa city and is easily accessible by land via a taxi or jeepney ride. This park seeks to conserve several endangered native animals and birds of the Philippines,  like the Philippine crocodile, the Palawan bearded pig, the Philippine Cockatoo and the Palawan Hornbill. The park also breeds crocodiles in captivity at its crocodile farm and offers displays of various birds and animals like the porcupines, the Palawan bearcat, ostriches and Philippine forest turtles.

Visit the Palawan Butterfly Garden

The Palawan Butterfly Garden is a prominent attraction of Puerto Princesa. This butterfly sanctuary is located in an area known as Santa Monica, which is twenty minutes away from Puerto Princesa. The screened garden sanctuary is home to thousands of colorful butterflies, which are native to the South East Asian region.

Palawan 1Useful contacts to have on hand when visiting Palawan

City Tourism Office of Puerto Princesa

Ground Floor, City Hall Building,
Sta. Monica Heights, Puerto
Princesa City, Philippines.
Telephone: +63 (0) 48 4344211
Telefax: +63 (0) 48 4332983

Emergency contacts for Palawan

National Emergency Phone Number: 117

Foreign embassies the Philippines

United States Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 301 2000
British Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 858 2200
Canadian Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 857 9000
Australian Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 757 8100
South African Embassy, Manila: + 63 (0)2 889 9383
Honorary Consul of Ireland, Manila: +63 (0)2 896 4668
New Zealand Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 891 5358