The Best Things to See and Do in Palawan, Philippines

 Island hopping in Coron, Palawan | © Allan Ascaño/Flickr
Island hopping in Coron, Palawan | © Allan Ascaño/Flickr
Photo of Katrina Escalona
12 October 2017

In a place as stunning as Palawan, visitors can be sure they’re in for an absolute treat. To say that there’s nothing in the world quite like the beauty of this Philippine island is no overstatement. Here are the must-sees and must-dos on the “Best Island in the World“.

Visit one of the world’s new ‘7 wonders of nature’

Officially recognized as one of the world’s new seven w onders of nature’ in 2012, the Puerto Princesa Underground River is one of the top tourist destinations in the island’s capital. Here, visitors are taken aboard a small boat and guided through a section of the eight kilometer long underground river. Equipped with individual audio guides and a tour guide, visitors marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites that abound inside the cave. Unique and impressive, this site leaves visitors in awe with the works of nature.

Get adventurous — feast on wood worms and crocodile

Looking for a great story to take home and tell family and friends? Be bold enough to try the island’s most interesting delicacies: fresh woodworms and sizzling crocodile. The former, locally known as tamilok is not actually a worm but a kind of mollusc. So those willing to give it a try can expect a taste resembling that of oysters. They are found within mangrove forests and are usually prepared simply with some vinegar and sometimes chilli. The latter, on the other hand, is locally known as crocodile sisig. Sisig is a Filipino dish made primarily of chopped up parts of a pig’s head and is served on a hot plate. This version of the popular dish simply swaps out these cuts of pork for crocodile meat. As bizarre as either of the two might seem, there’s really nothing to worry about as both are actually really delicious dishes.

Tamilok | © Shankar S. / Flickr

Go firefly watching

Another great experience in the city of Puerto Princesa takes place after the sun sets and whimsical little creatures can show off their glow. About a half hour from the city center, visitors can go on the Iwahig Firefly Watching Tour, where they board a little boat, which the tour guide rows down the Iwahig River. Lining both sides of the river are rows of mangroves which then light up like Christmas trees. The silence of the evening, the plankton in the river, and the twinkling of the fireflies in the trees, make for a truly magical experience.

Dive the Tubbataha Reefs

Even the waters surrounding the beautiful island of Palawan are remarkable. Southeast of the island lies the nearly 100,000-hectare large protected area of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Beneath the surface, a wonderland of extraordinary marine biodiversity awaits. A true diver’s utopia, Tubbataha is home to about half of the world’s coral species, hundreds of species of fish, and several of sharks, whales, and dolphins. Anyone interested in this one-of-a-kind experience should plan ahead as diving these waters is only possible through visiting aboard live-aboard boats during its limited diving season.

Tubbataha Reefs | © Q Phia / Flickr

Swim with turtles in Port Barton

Unlike El Nido and Coron, the coastal town of Port Barton is not quite on the tourist radar just yet. Aside from peace and quiet, and more tranquil island hopping tours, this hidden gem also allows its visitors to swim alongside sea turtles. Boatmen and guides take visitors to sites turtles are known to frequent and everyone snorkels and waits for one to appear. Allow the interesting combination of excitement and calmness to take over in the moments of spotting the graceful creature and watching it swim about.

Kayak through the lagoons of El Nido

Among El Nido’s most popular island hopping stops are its gorgeous Big and Small lagoons. A beautiful shade of turquoise and surrounded by towering limestones, these lagoons seemingly transport visitors to another world. Rent a kayak on site and explore them on your own. The Small Lagoon in particular has many exciting nooks and crannies that are fantastic to paddle around.

Island hop in El Nido and Coron

One of the best ways to explore El Nido and Coron’s pristine surrounding islands is by chartering a boat or signing up with a tour company for a day-long island hopping tour. El Nido’s trips, simply called tours “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D” are different combinations of the best islands and lagoons in the area — the most popular of which are tours A and C. However, if there are specific places you’d like on or off your tour, it’s very easy to customize your own by arranging it with the boatman or tour company.

Sail aboard a traditional paraw

This spectacular experience is a five-day sailing journey between El Nido and Coron aboard the biggest traditional paraw in the country. In addition to the magnificent views all throughout the trip, this tour by Tao Philippines gives you the experience of meeting equally adventurous people from all over the world, camping out on virgin islands, feasting off of fresh seafood, and taking in the true beauty of Palawan in the best way possible. Book slots in advance as these tours tend to fill up very quickly.

Aboard the Tao Philippines Paraw | © Göran Höglund / Flickr

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