That very long, slender, sword-shaped island at the western side of Sulu Sea, along with the cluster of islands near Mindoro, is PALAWAN, the largest province in the Philippines in terms of area.
The country’s last frontier, PALAWAN’s geographic location and remoteness may have largely helped in preserving its beauty. For decades, the province did not experience over commercialization and most parts of the island remain unexplored and undeveloped.
But recently, PALAWAN has awakened and began to open its door wider for the whole world to see. Condé Nast declared PALAWAN as the world’s best island in 2014. And with the inclusion of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, this province has become a popular tourist destination.
At the mouth of the underground river
Palawan is a paradise. Much of the place brings forth pure happiness. Everything is exactly as you would like it to be, which is of something less developed, yet more basic but natural. It is exuding natural beauty and having wonderful landscape and seascape worthy of being one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
I have visited Palawan half a decade ago when tourism has been in place and when the island was already showcased as a tourist destination. The entry point to the island is Puerto Princesa. The city is highly urbanized and is independent from the province. In spite of being modern, Puerto Princesa is one of the few cities that are environment-friendly.
Being the eco-tourism center of the Philippines, Puerto Princesa serves as a jump-off point for two important UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.
People visit Puerto Princesa primarily to experience the underground river ride at the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, 80km north of the city center. From the town of Sabang, a short boat ride would take you the entrance of the cave.
Aside from a visit to the underground river, there are other things to try out in Palawan.
1. Island hopping at Honda Bay. One of the best option to visit paradise islands like Pandan, Cowrie, Luli and Starfish.
2. Visit Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center
3. Go on a food trip and try Tamilok, a local delicacy
4. Visit Baker’s Hill for their Hopia
5. Adventure trek at Ugong Rock
6. Mitra Ranch for the cowboy feel and the view of Puerto Princesa
7. Get on a Puerto Princesa City Tour
8. Hop on a van and go to El Nido
9. Visit Coron, Busuanga in the Calamianes Group of Islands
How to get there? Palawan’s main airport is in Puerto Princesa City. There are flights from Manila to Puerto Princesa thru Cebu Pacific, Air Asia and Philippine Airlines. Cebu Pacific has flight from Cebu and Iloilo as well. For Busuanga (Coron), there are also available flights from Manila and Cebu.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception
There are also ferry boats which can take you to Palawan. 2GO Shipping line is a 29 hrs travel from Manila to Puerto Princesa with a stop at Coron. Milagrosa and Montenegro Shipping lines also have trips from Puerto Princesa, Cuyo Island and Iloilo.
Where to eat? You can have a culinary experience in Palawan. Puerto Princesa hosts some of the recommended places to dine. Check out Kinabuch’s Grill & Bar along Rizal Street for their affordable dishes, Kalui Restaurant also at Rizal Street for the best value for money dining experience. The city now has its Robinson’s Place, which gave the people in town more food choices.
Where to stay? Since Puerto Princesa has become a major tourist destination, travelers now have plenty of options in terms of accommodation from budget to mid-range to top end. In my previous visit to Puerto Princesa, I was lucky enough to have an office mate who was from PP and gave me the vacant room in one of their apartment units.
Puerto Princesa Baywalk Park
So start planning about that ultimate trip to Palawan. The best island in the world is really just near and accessible. Tick off Palawan in your bucket list soon. Bonne chance!