The province of Palawan is extolled as the ‘final frontier’ of the Philippines, and the seascapes around the region are touted as some of the best in the country. So it was easy for Xiker and I to decide to spend time and money traversing this long sliver of land— but 15 days was barely enough, and we were sadly misinformed on where to spend the brunt of our time!
So I decided to list and compare the top several destinations here, for any prospective visitors. (Unfortunately we aren’t certified to dive so no info here about that.)
Best island hopping: Close call between El Nido (Bacuit archipelago) and Coron Town (Calamian Group). Both have incredible karst islands, picturesque destinations, and colorful coral reefs. Main differences are price and proximity: the tours in Coron Town mostly center around the nearby Coron Island, which means there are big variations in costs (from 650 pesos per person to 3000 pesos per, for far-flung Malcapuya beach). El Nido offers several different types of tours both nearish and far-ish, but only a short range in prices (1,200 to 1,500 pesos per person).
Final note: tours notwithstanding, the better place, between the two, to hang around for a few days is El Nido, because there is an actual beach to lounge on, and an active nightlife, and a good variety of places to eat and sleep, while Coron Town has none on all counts.
Bottom line: yer call!
Most economical island hopping option: Port Barton, at 1200 pesos per boat for a private, personal tour—you pick where you wanna go! Whether its just you and your significant other, or you and your family/friends, the price will remain the same. Boats can hold up to 8 people.
Cheap beachfront accommodation with hella comfy basket hammocks, and though theres only one cheap eatery in town, that place offers incredible value for their dishes. Lovely coral reefs to be found, but admittedly the islands are not as scenic as the karst formations found in El Nido and around Coron Island.
Best beach to chill out for a few days: scenic Sabang. Since it is an easy day’s trip from Puerto Princesa, most visitors come here only to see the subterranean river, which leaves the beach for the overnighters. Possibly the only beach of mainland Palawan with white sand and clear, aquamarine waters! The beach is long enough so that the boats have their own parking lot, and the rest of it is left open for swimming and sunning. Plenty of shade to be found, and lovely, comfy basket hammocks line the front of each resort. There are also other, completely secluded, beaches within walking/swimming distance, and a 5.3 km trail through the jungle. In comparison, the mainland beaches of Port Barton and El Nido are not white sand, so you’d have to hop onto a boat to find one!
Beach town off the beaten path: Port Barton takes money, time and effort to get to, but beachfront accommodation offers great value for the peso, and you really feel as if you are alone in your own palm-fringed haven. Island hopping is cheap, but swimming at the town beach can be painful— watch out for giant jellyfish!