Province of Palawan is the largest province in the Philippines in terms of total area of jurisdiction. The province is named after its largest island, Palawan Island. Its capital is Puerto Princesa City. With Stunning 1,200 miles of coastline, 1,780 islands and small islets Palawan has a lot to offer to visitors. In 2013 and 2015 Palawan Island was voted the most beautiful island in the world by Condé Nast, and again in 2016 landed as #2 on this coveted list. In March of 2020 Palawan reclaimed it's title as the “Best Island in the World,” according to a survey conducted by renowned travel magazine Travel + Leisure.
The new Puerto Princesa International Airport was inaugurated in May of 2017, and is a boost to tourism and trade in the area. The terminal was built by a South Korean contractor, spans 13,000 square meters with a seating capacity of 1,500 and parking slots for more than 200 cars.
It can accommodate 2 wide-body and 4 small aircraft at once. The airport services Philippine Airlines, PAL Express, Cebu Pacific, Cebgo and Air Asia. The old airport will be used by the military.
Puerto Princesa is a popular tourist city with many beach resorts and seafood restaurants in the western part of the island of Palawan. Many hotels ranging from basic to five-star luxury accommodations have been developed to cater to a growing number of tourists in the city. There are also a large selection of restaurants, bars and shops. I saw a number of new real estate projects being developed; some were specifically marketed to foreigners.
Gorgeous beaches, wildlife, mountain regions and friendly people are the reasons that so many people visit these islands. There are many activities ranging from island hoping to snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, cave climbing, zip lining and sightseeing to keep you busy for weeks!
Honda Bay (Island Hopping)
You cannot be in Puerto Princesa and not spend a day island hopping!
Forty five minutes north of the city proper you can get on a boat and hop from one island to another. Honda Bay is on the eastern shore of the island of Palawan in the southwestern Philippines. There you will find beautiful islands with white sandy beaches.
The islands are great for swimming, snorkeling and as is the case for most of the Philippines, photography.
We were picked up from our hotel at 7:30 am by the tour company and started our journey. Popular islands to visit are Starfish, Luli and Cowrie islands. You will need to rent or bring your own snorkel gear. The rental fee is reasonable. And believe me you will need the gear! If you just want to relax, do nothing, unwind and enjoy the view you will have fun sunbathing.
If you go on an island hopping tour, the boat, tour guide and lunch are all included. Most islands are 45 minutes or less from the shore.
Bring island hopping essentials such as sunblock spray, UV blocking hat and sunglasses, camera (underwater is better), towel, outdoor herbal spray, food, drinking water, snorkeling gear and swim wear.
Starfish Island has the greatest population of star fish in all of Palawan. Five-armed orange star fish are everywhere. We snorkeled, fed the fish, took pictures and had a delicious seafood and Filipino lunch prepared by our tour guide.
Cowrie Island is named after the sea snail cowrie. The island has a number of cabanas, showers and toilets. You can also ride a banana boat or rent a jet ski.
Skilled locals set you up for fun pictures (See the beer bottle and castle shots above!). Recommend wearing your aqua shoes when swimming since you may inadvertently step on the sea urchins that may be under the sands.
Luli Island is a small beautiful island. The term Luli is short for "Lulubog - Lilitaw", which means Sink & Rise. And that is what the Island does. At high tide the island disappears and at low tide, it reappears. You can snorkel, feed the fish and dive from a platform.
Caving and Zip Lining at Ugong Rock
On the way over to the Underground River our tour guide took us to Ugong Rock Adventures. And that was a pleasant surprise! We did not know this was going to be part of our tour. Ugong Rock is a 75-feet high limestone formation located in the middle of a rice field in Barangay Tagabinet.
It was named after a hollow limestone inside the cave that makes anugong or a reverberating sound when tapped. With helmet and gloves on we walked and climbed through caves and narrow passageways that can make you feel humble quickly. Eventually we made it to a viewing deck at the top of the rock formation.
Ugong Rock Adventures' zip line is one of the fastest in the country! We had the option to do it in sitting or in superman position. I used to skydive and hang glide; so I was looking forward to this short zip line ride. It was fun and a picture taken and presented to us at the end of the zip lining was a nice souvenir to buy.
If you are into hiking, caving, or just enjoy an unexpected adventure go for Ugong Rock and have a blast!
On the way to the Underground River you can make a quick stop at Cleopatra's Needle which is considered one of the mystical mountains of Palawan. The name came from the obelisk-like rock structure that is found in its peak. Karst Mountain was a leg for both Amazing Race Philippines and Amazing Race Ukraine in 2012.
Puerto Princesa’s 8-kilometer Underground River is the longest navigable underground river in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The river is in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Many different plant, bird, bat, mammal and reptile species live in this biodiverse environment. The cave has major formations of stalactites and stalagmites. It was educational and fun to go through the cave and well worth the 3-hour wait for the tour. Our guide was very funny and made our little adventure delightful. Recommended!
This crab-eating macaque, also known as the long-tailed macaque was fast enough to grab food from our tour guide and climb a tree!
Palawan Wildlife Rescue & Conservation Center
Formerly known as the Crocodile Farming Institute, this wildlife reserve is a complex of concrete buildings and outdoor pens that house hundreds of crocodiles, from newly hatched to scary looking ones. Towards the back other animals and birds are kept in aviaries and cages. Guided tours leave every 30 minutes.
At the main entrance you will see a skeleton of a huge crocodile. Above it is the armored skin of a 17-foot crocodile. These belong to Rio, a 67-year-old saltwater crocodile captured in Palawan. Even though he was taken care of properly, stress of captivity caused him to eventually die.
Above the crocodile area is a metal walking path where guests are able to look at the crocodiles below. You will be able to see huge salt water and smaller adult crocodiles.
You can walk through a small wildlife park at the back of the facility. Guests can see monkeys, birds, and other animals. There is also a souvenir shop on the premises.
An interesting animal is the bearcat. Looking half-bear and half-cat but neither a bear nor a cat, the Palawan bearcat is also known as “Musang” in Tagalog. The bearcat is a species of its own, with population in the forests of Palawan, Borneo, Burma and Vietnam.
Heavy rain welcomed the guests on the way out. Overall, this was an enjoyable experience. Next time you are in Palawan plan on spending a few hours at the center. You will have a memorable time walking around, buying souvenirs from the local vendors and taking pictures with the crocodiles and the snakes!
Butterfly Eco Garden and Tribal Village
Located in Santa Monica, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan Butterfly Ecological Garden and Tribal Village has a collection of different species of butterflies, plants, insects and reptiles.
You will be able to interact with native people of the Palaw'an tribe. They will show you their skill in blowing darts, hunting and playing native musical instruments. You can donate as a way of support and also buy the goods that are handmade by the local village people.
Where else do you get a chance to hold a live Scorpio?!
A popular destination in Santa Monica Heights that started as a simple bakery is the Baker’s Hill. It is famous for the baked goods like hopias, crinkles, mini cakes and brownies. It is a fun place to take pictures. The park also has restaurants and snack bars.
If you want to buy pasalubong (souvenir) you may want to check this place out. Pasalubong is the Filipino tradition of travelers bringing gifts from their destination to their friends and family back home.
Another popular tourist stop in Santa Monica Heights owned by the family of the late Senator Ramon Mitra is Mitra's ranch. You will have a chance to relax and enjoy great views of Puerto Princesa City.
At this well-liked shop handloom woven products using local material such as coconut, buri, pandan, cogon grass, pineapple and buntal are manufactured. The family that runs the business sells the finished products locally and to the US.
It was raining hard when we got there. The factory was in full swing and workers were busy creating placemats, hand bags, blinds, purses and other goods. Great products to take home with you!
Aziza Paradise Hotel
One of the hotels that I have stayed at in Puerto Princesa was the Aziza Paradise Hotel. The package I booked through Agoda included the ride from and to the airport and daily breakfast. They even bagged a breakfast-to-go for my 4:30 am departure to Cebu!
The staff was very friendly; the food was good and the warm pool was fantastic for night swim! Recommended.
Canvas Boutique Hotel
I have also stayed at the Canvas Boutique Hotel in Puerto Princesa. Rooms are comfortable and the breakfasts and dinners are great! Friendly staff. It is less than 5 minutes from the airport and the hotel provides pickup and drop off service. Stay upstairs near the pool area to enjoy a quiet evening. Definitely recommend!