I finally had the chance to visit the world-renown Palawan! It is even more gorgeous in reality than what I’ve read about. Voted as one of the best islands in Asia by CNN Traveller and boasting an honest to goodness UNESCO World Heritage site with the Puerto Princesa Underground River, Palawan is truly one of the best places to go to in the Philippines.
These group of islands angling away to form a modified slash pointing to the main country’s landmass is spectacular. Anywhere you look in Palawan is picture-perfect and no wonder it was named one of the most Instagram-able places when you think of nature.
The whole place is included in the world’s Coral Triangle that covers The Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor Leste, and the Solomon Islands. This marine sanctuary is home to 600 different corals, the majority of the marine turtles’ species, and thousands of reef fish. It also boasts of having whales, dolphins and whale sharks in its population.
I found a fun fact for tuna lovers here — this place is one of their most bountiful breeding ground. So technically, we have the Coral Triangle to thank for all those delectable fish.
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in Palawan was declared a UNESCO Heritage site in 1999 as it has “some of the most important forests in Asia” and is a “significant habitat for biodiversity conservation”.
The Underground River is more than eight kilometers of winding ways with a spectacular backdrop of limestone walls and awesome formations of stalactites and stalagmites. Navigating slowly, you will see a spectacular view of an eco-system that’s literally not found elsewhere. The water flows directly under the St Paul Mountain Range and this river system was created millions of years ago. Water flowed its way through the rock creating a vast series of chambers underneath.
Monkeys and monitor lizards are freely roaming around the cave entrance. Inside are bats hanging around the caves so you have to be prepared for the smell of bat “guano”. Naturally, all of those poop causes the area’s pungent smell.
We were ferried by accredited tour guides inside the tunnels of the Underground River. The government strictly monitors all the accredited tour companies to comply with environmental rules. For that reason, an ordinary traveler cannot just go and travel on his own. The tour guides might be an added expense to some but believe me, it will be worth it.
At all times, we were reminded that the safety of the ecological sanctuaries is of utmost importance. Simple things like not throwing trash around and taking care not to hurt any of the marine life is already a big help to conserve this paradise.
The whole island of Palawan is an ecological wonderland. Without a doubt, I agree that it truly is one of the best places in the Philippines. Since I love the sea so much, the best part of Palawan is, of course, touring El Nido and Coron.
I was fortunate enough to stay at the gorgeous Miniloc Island Resort for a week and went to different tours every day. The views and the tours that they helped arrange really showcased the best tourist spots in El Nido. Truly worth every peso spent!
There are several tour packages around that you can choose; depending on what time you want to start. I highly recommend going out for the whole experience which starts super early at 5:30 in the morning. Believe me, the sunrise cruise is just unforgettable!
There’s the Small and Big Lagoon tour and Shimizu Island tour where you can swim on the small beaches to your heart’s content. Craving for more adventure? The Dibuluan Beach Club, Lagen Island Tour, or Entalula Beach Club Tours will give you that. They include kayaking, trekking, rock climbing, snorkeling, mangrove kayaking, windsurfing, and Hobie cat sailing. They’re guaranteed to give you an adrenalin rush like no other!
Sunbathing and dive sites
El Nido has clear blue waters all around. Limestone rock formations rise around some of the calmest waters in the world. The most gorgeous small white sand beaches will take your breath away. You can even opt to stay at one of the beaches, sunbathe and enjoy the solitude. Obviously, you shouldn’t swim on your own even if you’re a strong swimmer. Remember, safety in numbers at all times!
For the dive enthusiasts around, there’s nary a spot here where you won’t get your heart’s desire. Newbies or experienced divers can definitely find a site to explore here because of the diversity of the dive sites. The whole place boasts a palette of colorful corals, fish, rays, turtles and an occasional reef shark or two.
One thing is for certain, El Nido will make you appreciate Mother Nature more.
Included in the Calamian group of islands in Northern Palawan which separates the Philippine Sea (formerly known as the South China Sea) from the Sulu Sea, is another beautiful tourist spot in Palawan known as Coron island.
The island is considered one of the most famous shipwreck dive sites in the Philippines. Coron is famous for its Japanese era shipwrecks which can be found in the area. Some of the wrecks are just at 10 to 30 feet below the sea level and some are over 120 feet. Divers enjoy going under to see these once-mighty ships now coated in rock formations and seaweed.
The Cleanest River in the Philippines
A trip to Coron will not be complete if you don’t visit Kayangan Lake. Locals dubbed it the cleanest river in the Philippines and I couldn’t agree more. The water is so clear that you can practically see almost all the way to the bottom! The crystal clear water is 70% freshwater and 30% seawater. You can spend the day swimming, snorkeling, or just plain floating in the gentle water.
Vacations wouldn’t be complete without pictures and Kayangan Lake has a convenient view deck to satisfy all your photo memories. Undoubtedly, the view everywhere is spectacular.
There are other islands worthy of a visit when you’re in Coron so take the Island hopping tours. Most of the 80 islands are unpopulated. The gorgeous white beaches are definitely a must for serious sun worshippers and beach campers.
Tourists can also visit the Maquinit Hot Springs. This hot spring is known as the only saltwater hot spring in the Philippines and in Asia as well. Going around the islands can be tiring so a dip into the 40 degrees hot water is a soothing balm to your tired body. The scenery around the springs is also gorgeous with its sapphire blue water and thick mangroves surrounding the area.
It was in the 1970s when the Calauit Island Wildlife Animal Sanctuary was established. By 1997, the whole island became a sanctuary to protect the animals imported from far Africa from poachers and hunters. Nowadays, giraffes, antelopes, and other wild animals enjoy the safety of the sanctuary. Reports say that they are all thriving and living safely on their own.
Tourists can visit a part of the island and see these animals in their habitat. The sanctuary is popular with families most especially if they have young kids with them.