When most people think of Palawan, their minds automatically go to El Nido and Coron. If you ever came to Palawan and didn’t visit these two areas in the north, you’d be absolutely crazy. However, there is so much more wildlife, island hopping, wreck diving and food devouring to be done on this island.
Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path and discover the next El Nido-esque towns like Tay Tay and Port Baron where the food is cheap, the beer is cold, and the beaches are a lot less crowded. Or take a detour into a mid-sized city like Roxas or Brooke’s Point that are full of authentic Filipino food, quiet waterfalls, peaceful wildlife sanctuaries, and incredible local experiences. It’s often the most unsuspecting areas that have the most unforgettable experience waiting. Find something on this list that speaks to you, pack your bag and just go!
Lets’explore the best things to do in Palawan Island:
1. Island Hop in Honda Bay
45-minutes from the capitol of Palawan, Honda bay offers an island hopping tour that will make all of your vacation dreams come true.
You’ll explore Pandan Island, Cowrie Island, Luli Island, Starfish Island, and Verde Island where the famous Dos Palmas resort is located. All of these islands offer out-of-this-world white sand beaches with turquoise water so beautiful that that you might get a little emotional.
You can spend the whole day island hopping in Honda Bay where you’ll have the opportunity to snorkel, explore the inland of the islands, and splash around in the water. These tours typically provide lunch and snacks for your trip.
2. Scuba Diving in El Nido
If you think what you’re seeing above ground is amazing, take a dive underwater in Bacuit Bay.
It’s no surprise that dive sites around El Nido are rich in marine life and thrilling topography including a 50-meter underwater cliff and a 12-meter underwater tunnel. Expect to see animals such as spotted Mata Rays and fully-grown green sea turtles. Take a night dive and you’ll see even more elusive creatures such as seahorses, shrimp and cat sharks.
You can take any and all of the diving courses here for pretty decent prices.
3. Ugong Rock Adventures
Ugong Rock is a natural formation just north of Puerto Princessa that is beautiful, wild, and makes a funny noise when you tap it. Ugong Rock Adventures is a tour company that has built a triple threat of exhilarating fun around this formation and travelers love it.
Crawl in and out of rock caves with spelunking, climb up to the zipline as it catapults you through the jungle at high speeds, and trek through the jungle on some strategic trails that lead to incredible views.
4. Beaches of El Nido
Some of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world can be found in the north of Palawan in the province of El Nido. Literally, every beach is more beautiful than the next with white powdery sand, turquoise water, and many surrounded by unique towering limestone cliffs.
Visit Secret Beach tucked away in a hidden cove, Nacpan Beach which is 4-kilometers of smooth sand and coconut trees, Pangalusian Beach that looks like a post card, Las Cabanas Beach with warm water perfect for swimming, and the list goes on.
5. Visit Port Barton
Venture over to Port Barton, a sleepy fishing town on the North West coast of Palawan. Think of Port Barton as a less trendy, less crowded version of El Nido where you enjoy all of the same attractions for half the price.
Go kayaking on the sea, explore rocky cliff sides, get a good tan while laying on a sandy beach- you get the picture. See how locals live as they fish, take their buffalo on a walk, or head to school.
You can find plenty of budget accommodation here at the expense of electricity. That is, there isn’t any. Most guesthouses in Port Barton run on generators that turn off at night. No fans and no ATMs, either.
6. Tabon Caves
At the very tip of a large peninsula jetting off the southern half of Palawan, you’ll find the Tabon Caves. The Tabon Caves are significant for the Philippines as it is home to one the oldest discoveries of human inhabitants. Remains of the Tabon man, along with his artifacts, were found at this very site. Hence, the Tabon Caves are also a National Museum.
When you visit, there are 2 large, cathedral-type caves for you to explore, named the Diwata Cave and Liyang Cave. Hire a boat to take you over and point you in the right direction. When you find the caves, your jaw will drop. The limestone formations nestled into jungle brush look alien. As you walk through, there are small signs dishing out historical information to tie the whole experience together.
7. Baker’s Hill
After a long day of adventure tours, consider stopping into Baker’s Hill for a chocolate milkshake, a coffee, or a full-on dinner. They’ve got lots of seafood dishes featuring rock lobster, fish, crab, shrimp and more. If you happen to come in the middle of the day for lunch, you can take advantage of their seafood lunch buffet.
Outside of the amazing food, Baker’s Hill is quite scenic. There are peacocks that love to show their feathers, cutsie life-size Disney statues that locals can’t get enough of and a picturesque garden perfect for a breezy afternoon.
8. Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center
A quick 20-minute journey from Puerto Princessa, Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center is a refuge for endangered, hurt, or abandoned animals. The center dedicates itself to the education and progression of the animal species thriving here.
On example is the Crocodile Farm, which raises dozens of young crocodiles to adulthood. The species otherwise may struggle to survive past youth in the wild. You’ll see some massive Palawan Crocodiles in their habitat, and if you’re lucky enough- you’ll be there during feeding time.
There are lots of bird species including eagles, hawks, and hornbills as well as an education museum to peak your curiosity.
9. Eat Tamilok
If you though Balut was a crazy thing to eat, wait til you feast your eyes on Tamilok. This Philippine delicacy is a type of mollusk that lives inside of mangrove trees. At a glance you might think that Tamilok look more like a bowl of worms with their long slimy bodies.
You’ll find many restaurants that serve Tamilok on Palawan Island, but if you’re looking for a place that also serves some incredible dishes to get the salty taste out of your mouth, try Kinabuchs restaurant in Puerto Princesa on Rizal Avenue.
10. San Jose Market
Renting an AirBnb with a kitchen? Fancy doing some cooking? Make a trip to San Jose Market in Puerto Princessa where rows of freshly caught fresh fish, shrimp, clams, and squid are waiting for you to take them home. You’ll find lots of poultry, pork, and beef all chopped up and ready to go. There are also whole pigs, but I don’t think those will fit in your oven. Side dishes are easy to whip up with lots of green produce to purchase, some of which you may not recognize and just need to take the gamble.
Not interested in cooking? San Jose Market also has lost of stands grilling fresh fish to eat on the spot.
11. Underground river
At 8.2 kilometers of winding water, this is one of the longest underground rivers in the world! Officially labeled the ‘7th New Wonder of the Natural World’, the underground river in Palawan is a must-do.
You’ll take a short hike through the jungle where monkeys will come out and beg you for snacks, and then you’ll reach small boats at the mouth of the cave. Climb in and you’ll paddle together through complex cave tunnels with hanging bats and calm waters. You’ll learn all about the formations from your friendly guide as you go.
Recognize that these tours are so popular that they can be full for a few days in advance. Plan your trip now by booking with a tour group online.
12. Puerto Princesa City Tour
See a couple days worth of sites in one day! That might sound miserable and rushed, but it’s not! It’s just a highly efficient way to navigate the city thanks to the knowledge of your local tour guide.
On this Puerto Princessa City Tour, you’ll be pedaled around the city in a comfy tricycle taxi while you visit historical sites like the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, the WWI Plaza Cuartel, Baker’s Hill for treats, Mitra’s Ranch to visit the horses, the Crocodile Farm and more. You can ask to stop for food, snacks, and shopping at any time!
13. Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park
Off the coast of Palawan in the middle of the Sulu Sea is the unbelievable Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park. From the sky, this park may look like a sandy island with its light blue and white coloration, but that’s actually just the plethora of reef only discovered by a group of divers in the 1970’s.
Because of it’s far out location, divers who want to get an up-close look will have to sign up for a live aboard boat where they’ll spend a couple days on the water.
The trip is worth it to see the unspoiled wildlife in its natural habitat. In and around the reef, expect to see thriving populations of green sea turtles, manta rays, 11 species of shark, tons of colorful fish and more.
14. Starfish Island
As if you couldn’t guess by its name, Starfish Island is littered with groups of starfish doing what starfish do best. As you walk the shores and swim in the water, watch where you step! These colorful and diverse species of starfish are lounging all around you.
You’ll see many of the bright orange starfish with black horns. These starfish are poisonous but not to humans. You’ll also find the skinny royal blue starfish called the Blue Linckia, the brown and tan spotted starfish called the Pebbled Sea Star and hopefully, many more.
15. Estrella Falls
Estrella Falls has one of the most swimmer-friendly plunging pools of any waterfall on the island. Flowing down Victoria Peak, these 20-foot rapid falls rush off a rocky ledge splitting into two waterfalls as they fill up a clean, blue basin below. From the clear pool, the water keeps flowing downstream into two other pools of varying depths. There is a lot of space to play and splash around.
You can find Estrella Falls about 95 kilometers south of Puerto Princesa in a town called Narra. Hire a private car to drive the 2.5-hour distance, or make Estrella Falls a stop over on your way to the southern tip of Palawan.
16. Bakbakan Falls
In Brooke’s Point, you can find Bakbakan Falls. This 64-meter waterfall is beautiful and unspoiled, as it doesn’t get as many visitors as the more touristy areas in Palawan. The waterfall slides down a smooth rock slide into a nice cool pool where you can take a dip.
To get there, take a van to Seven Falls Hot Spring and Nature Park Resort. Next, you should easily be able to find a guide that will transport you to the falls via tricycle and guide you through the rigid hike to get there.
Nearby you’ll find the Mainit Hot Springs that are perfect for a quick dip after your hike.
17. Visit Tay Tay
This off-the-beaten-backpacker-path town is certainly worth a stop during your Palawan adventure. Located just below the province of El Nido, this place has a lot to offer. Tay Tay is not only fun to say, but fun to explore!
Take in a bit of history from the 17th century Spanish invasion by visiting the fortress called “Fuerza de Santa Isabel”, the Church of Sto. Niño, or the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
Go inland and explore natural wonders such as the Canique Waterfall, Pinangyarihan Falls, and Lake Manguao. Or get on a boat and go island hopping in Tay Tay Bay. You can also find beautiful stilt bungalows on the water and comfy jungle guesthouses for dirt-cheap.
It’s quite a surprise that Tay Tay is typically skipped over completely! Come see what you’re missing!
18. Go Pearl Shopping
With clams and oysters galore off the shores of Palawan, you best believe that pearls of all shapes, sizes, and colors can be found on this island. Because of their abundance, you can get these pearls for relatively low prices.
Hire a tricycle driver and tell them what you’re on the hunt for and your price point; he will be happy to take you shopping for a couple of hours. You will find bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and more with the help of knowledgeable sales ladies that can educate you about each pearl. Imagine what a lovely gift this would be to take home to mom.
19. Nagkalit-kalit Waterfall Hike
If you’re up in the El Nido area, you must go on the Nagkalit-kalit waterfall hike! This hike is usually paired with a trip to nearby Nactan Beach so there is another selling point for you.
The hike is leisurely down some dirt paths, across a couple riverbeds, and through the forest (it’s easy enough to do in flip-flops). Take in the natural surroundings on your 20-minute journey until you start to hear the sounds of rushing water. When you arrive, you’ll see that you get two for the price of one! That is, there are two waterfalls that collaborate to create sparkling pools of water which are super refreshing after your hot hike.
20. Iwahig River Firefly Kayaking
Mix things up a bit with a night adventure on the water where you can kayak under the stars with glowing trees full of magical fireflies all around you. The fireflies fly from tree to tree, lighting up a path like Tinker Bell on their way.
When you show up at the Palawan Ecotourism center, the guides will give everyone a quick kayaking lesson on land. You’ll all put on your life jackets, take a paddle and together will practice paddling. This adventure is perfect for any person of any age, even kids.
21. Simizu island
There are many island hopping tours in El Nido, just make sure your trip includes a stop by Simizu Island! One of the most fun experiences is visiting Simizu Island where you can hop over the edge of the boat and get up-close and personal with tons of curious fish. The tour guides will give you fish food to feed them and before you know it, you’ll be surrounded!
From the water, you’ll get gorgeous views of the limestone cliffs that surround a small stretch of beach. Some think this island looks like a natural, tropical castle. From the water, you can swim ashore for some fantastic photo opps in a surreal surrounding.
22. Tiki Resto Bar
When you think “Tiki Resto Bar” you might picture a quaint little thatched roof bar with one bartender making you simple cocktails- but that’s not at all what you get here.
Instead, Tiki Resto Bar is a full-on live music club. There’s a huge stage with live performers who sing, play instruments and put on a great show. The lighting is dim with laser lights dancing with the music and glowing neon lights all around.
Groups of locals come here to get a bit tipsy on yummy cocktails, and fill up on appetizers and entrees. While there isn’t much dancing happening here, there are pool tables to rent per half hour if you want to be up and moving.
23. Go Wreck Diving in Busuanga Island
Many travelers know Busuanga Island as the neighbor to the oh-so-famous Coron Isand. But what many people don’t know is that aerial attacks in 1944 hit and sunk dozens of WWI Japanese ships right off the coast of Busuanga. Now, these ships make for the most fascinating, eerie wreck dives.
You can actually fly to or from Basuanga Island from Puerto Princesa to the Francisco B. Reyes Airport. If you don’t want to spend a pretty penny, however, Travel2go Ferry Service will take you from Puerto Princessa to Basuanga.
24. Visit Roxas
This mid-sized city in Palawan offers a welcomed break from the backpacker trail and resorty beaches. There are certainly fun adventures happening here, only they are half the price of El Nido and not nearly as crowded.
Spend a day chasing waterfalls with Umalad Falls and Matalangaw Falls, both of which require a refreshing walk through the jungle and reward you with a nice cool pool of water at the finish.
You can go island hopping off the coast of Roxas to a few peaceful beaches where snorkeling and sun tanning await. There is also a Butterfly Resort that is full of gorgeous flowers and a collection of native Philippine butterfly species.
The best thing to do in Roxas, however, is to just wander around eating and shopping your way through the city.
25. Mitra Ranch Horses
When visiting a horse farm or going horseback riding abroad, you always want to be sure that you’re supporting an establishment that loves, nurtures, and respects their animals. This is it.
Located in Puerto Princessa, Mitra Ranch is home to dozens of well looked after horses grazing the pastures all day. There is a small entrance fee if you’d just like to sit at a picnic table and relax. Alternatively, you can pay around PhP 50 to go on a quick ride around the premises.
Once you’ve seen enough, there is a zipline course nearby that you might want to consider visiting.