Our list of the best things to do in Palawan comprises just a few of the must-visit places at hand in the largest province of the Philippines. Covering an area of 14,650 km² and over 1,700 islands, Palawan Province marks the western border of the country. These huge territories feature so many stunning areas that it's a tough task to pick only 10 from the huge amount of stunning attractions on offer in Palawan.
Curiously, Palawan has only recently been a popular spot for international tourists, thanks mainly to the scuba divers who were the first visitors from abroad to explore this area. Nowadays, names such as El Nido, Coron, and Puerto Princesa have started to be well-known among travellers, and many of the 10 most popular attractions in Palawan belong to these three prime destinations in the province. Check out the full list below…
Popular for its limestone cliffs, 50 beaches, three major marine habitats, five types of forest, and an abundant fauna and flora including over 20 endemic species, this is the ultimate must-see attraction in Palawan. El Nido is a municipality located toward the north-eastern tip of Palawan Island, some 240 km from Puerto Princesa, the capital city of the province. Named after the fact sea turtles regularly come to nest on the beaches of this area, El Nido (the nest, in Spanish) became a 360 km² turtle sanctuary in 1984, which was then enlarged to 900 km² and established as a protected area named El Nido Marine Reserve Park in 1991.
- Location: At the northeastern tip of Palawan Island
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is a protected area located 80 km north of Palawan capital city. It is one of the world’s most complex cave systems, covering 220 km² and featuring 8 kilometres of underground rivers. Inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1999, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park has a limestone karst landscape and features some of the largest cave rooms in the world. The site has a full mountain-to-sea ecosystem which houses bountiful fauna and flora. Tours to this unique site are readily available from Puerto Princesa.
- Location: 80 km north of Puerto Princesa
The shipwrecks of Coron Bay are among the most visited dive sites in the Philippines. On September 24th, 1944, a Japanese convoy including supply and war ships was sunk in Coron Bay by the US Army. Seven of these ships now lie on the seabed of the bay at depths ranging between 10 and 40 metres. They are encrusted with coral, and house an abundant marine life. Wreck diving is a thrilling activity that requires special certifications. The many dive centres at hand in Coron Town, and in the islands situated in the bay, offer a great range of day trips and courses for you to discover these fabulous remains from World War II.
- Location: Most of the sunken Japanese ships are located between Manglet and Huson Islands in the north part of Coron Bay
Calauit Safari Park is a wildlife sanctuary that covers the 37 km² of Calauit Island, just north of Busuanga Island and Coron. During the '70s, Philippines' president Marcos decided to import endangered animal species from Kenya in east Africa, and to offer them an entire game preserve island to start a new life. The imported giraffes, zebras and antelopes adapted pretty well to Calauit, and their population increased since then. Day and overnight trips at Calauit Safari Park are available from Coron Town.
- Location: Off the northern tip of Busuanga Island, just north of Coron
Located on the northwest coast of Coron Island, Barracuda Lake is a spectacular site. With emerald green, brackish waters surrounded by an impressive limestone karst formation naturally sculpted through the years by the weather, Barracuda Lake offers not only a splendid place to visit, but also one of the most original dive sites in the region. Like many exceptional places, getting there requires some efforts: a 30-minute steep walk is necessary to reach the lake. If you take the strenuous effort needed to carry your diving equipment, including a tank, to get there, you’ll surely enjoy it.
- Location: On the northwest coast of Coron Island
Honda Bay (Deep Bay, in Spanish) is a superb body of water dotted with small islands, located just northeast of Puerto Princesa on the eastern shore of Palawan Island. The bay is an important fishing area, yet has seen its recreational aspect developed according to the ever-growing number of visitors who come to Palawan. Boats can be rented for the day or you can join a scheduled tour to hop from one island to the other, and enjoy excellent snorkelling.
- Location: Just northeast of Puerto Princesa on the east shore of Palawan Island
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1993, Tubbataha Reef National Park is a marine and bird sanctuary that covers a 97 km² area that includes two large atolls and the Jessie Beazley Reef. Located in the middle of the Sulu Sea, some 150 km southeast of Puerto Princesa, Tubbataha Reef is considered one of the best dive sites in the world. You’ll find here no less than 360 coral species, hundreds of fish, sharks, dolphins and whale species, as well as many sea turtles that use this area as a nesting ground. Due to its isolated location, Tubbataha Reef National Park can only be visited on live-aboard boats.
- Location: 150 km southeast of Puerto Princesa
El Nido’s Small and Big Lagoons are both located next to each other on the northern coast of Miniloc Island. El Nido is famous for its limestone karst formations erecting from vivid turquoise waters, and these two lagoons offer the perfect site to see them. Sea kayaking and snorkelling are the two main activities at hand here. These two lagoons are part of the most popular island-hopping day trips, and it roughly takes 20 minutes to get there from El Nido main town.
- Location: On the north coast of Miniloc Island
The Twin Beaches, Nacpan and Calitang, are located toward the northern end of El Nido Bay, some 15 km north by sea from El Nido main town. Often included as part of day trips, you can also get there by tricycle or by renting a scooter. Note that the road is made of soil and can be pretty muddy after rainy days. Nacpan is about 3 kilometres long while Calitang is only 500 m. The Twin Beaches join each other on a tiny cape forming a viewpoint from which you can see both beaches and the Bolog Islands, two tiny rocks jutting out from the sea a short distance from the cape. The area is perfect to relax, and you’ll find here a few establishments to dine, as well as a few accommodation choices.
- Location: Toward the northern end of El Nido Bay
Located at the tip of a cape named Lipuun Point, between Nakoda and Malanut Bays in the southern part of Palawan Island, the Tabon Caves are a group of over 200 caves. Only 29 of these caves have been explored, and seven of them are open to the public. Called “Philippines' Cradle of Civilization”, the Tabon Caves are the place where the oldest human bones – dating back 22,000 years - were found in the country. Declared a National Cultural Treasure in 2011, the caves can be visited on scenic tours from Quezon, the closest municipality.
- Location: At Lipuun Point, north of Quezon municipality, in the southern part of Palawan Island