Palawan is an archipelago that is located in the MIMAROPA Region of the Philippines. It is the largest province in the country in terms of total area of jurisdiction. Its wildlife, both terrestrial and aquatic, and the water that surrounds it make Palawan one of the most enchanting regions in the country. Areas of interest are El Nido, Puerto Princesa, Coron and more. Here are some suggested sites to visit in Palawan.
The capital of Palawan, Puerto Princesa is one of the largest cities in the Philippines based on land area. It is full of natural wonders, good food, outstanding cleanliness, and friendly disciplined people. This paradise is a base for boat trips through the massive limestone caves and underground river of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. There are so many things to do in this unique paradise.
1. Go diving at Coron Bay
Situated in North Palawan, Coron Bay is the most westerly part of the Philippines. It is the third-largest island in the Calamian Islands in northern Palawan. Several Japanese shipwrecks of World War II vintage are found in the waters around the island and because of this, it is entirely protected by several legal proclamations.
Forbes Magazine named Coron as one of the ten best dive sites in the world, with is well known wreck diving sites and fabulous diving all around the area. The sea around provides excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities with underwater visibility of up to 20 meters.
2. Cruise the underground river and climb Ugong Rock
One of the new seven wonders of nature and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, everyone should experience the majesty of the Puerto Princesa underground river. While riding a boat and cruising inside the cave, you can marvel at its natural beauty such as the stalactites and stalagmites of very interesting patterns. To get here, take a one and a half hour travel by bus or rented van from Puerto Princesa to Sabang, then a 20-minute ferry ride to the cave’s entrance. All visitors are required to required to register and secure a Visitor Entry Permit at the booking office before proceeding to the park.
From here, you can go caving, climb the top of Ugong Rock, climb down or zipline down. The trek is not very difficult, and with the well-worn wooden stairs and ropes built around the crevices to guide the tourists, this is not a very tiring exploration.
3. Take a boat ride on the Iwahig River at dusk and watch the fireflies
Firefly watching is another exciting experience in Palawan. Taking place before dusk, the tourists are advised to be quiet and not to take any pictures with flash so as not to scare the dazzling and flickering insects known as “Fireflies” or “Lightning Bugs”. It is important to make prior arrangement so as not to get disappointed since they are usually fully booked.
4. Go island hopping at Honda Bay
Go swimming at Honda Bay. Feed the fish at Pandan Island. The islets and reefs found in Honday Bay teem with fishes and sea creatures of various shapes and colors. Located on the eastern shore of the island of Palawan near Puerto Princesa City, just 45 minutes north of the city proper, you can hop on a boat and go island hopping, visit the stunning islands with white sand beaches. Each island at Honda Bay offers different thrills and great swimming and snorkeling experience.
5. Discover El Nido
El Nido Marine Reserve is the largest wildlife preservation area in the country. It is located 238 kilometers north of Puerto Princesa. This popular tourist spot boasts of diverse ecosystem such as rainforest, mangroves, white sand beaches, coral reefs, and limestone cliffs. Many varieties of fish are found here such as manta rays, and one of the world’s rarest marine mammals, the sea cow, known locally as “dugong”. The water in and around the bay are a perfect nesting sites for hawksbill turtles.
6. Dive at Tubbataha Reefs
Diving the Tubbataha Reefs takes you to a different world – surreal, magnificent underwater garden. Beautifully colored fishes and marine life of all types as well as sharks, swim with the divers in this mass of pristine corals. The Tubbataha Reef National Park is home to some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world and supports an astonishing variety of marine life. This is the Philippine’s first national marine park and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
7. Visit Plaza Cuartel and Puerto Princesa Cathedral
If you had enough of the sea and the sun, head to the city and take a tour of the island for some history. A small park located in Barangay Liwanag, Plaza Cuartel may look like an ordinary city park but it has a dark history. The ruins of an old garrison and tunnels are proofs of its grim past – the site of the Palawan Massacre. During World War II, 150 American prisoners were kept in the tunnel but on December 14, 1944, the Japanese decided to kill them all by burning them alive. Many perished but eleven prisoners were able to escape and survive the mass execution.
Adjacent to Plaza Cuartel is the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. One of the famous tourist destinations in the city, the blue-colored cathedral with its pointed spires has a touch of Gothic architecture of the Medieval European era. This historical landmark is the site of the first celebrated mass in Puerto Princesa in 1872 where a Spanish expedition proclaimed the Immaculate Conception of Mary as the Patroness of Puerto Princesa.
8. Visit Mitra Ranch and buy foodstuffs at Bakers Hill
Located in Sta. Monica Heights, this family owned estate is a popular tourist destination. The view deck on top of the hill offers a stunning view of Puerto Princesa City. It is open to everyone who wants to have a relaxing time after spending days in the sea and the sun. Admission is free.
Another popular destination in the area is Baker’s Hill. This establishment started as a small bakery and then expanded to become a theme park. The place is famous for the baked goodies and food products such as cashew nuts, hopia, and brownies they offer at very reasonable prices. Admission is free.
9. Go pet a crocodile and visit the butterfly garden
The Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, or popularly known as the Crocodile Farm, is home to Palawan’s endangered species. Aside from the different species of birds, the center is home to crocodiles of different ages. Before the tour ends, you can have your pictures taken holding a baby crocodile.
Nearby is the butterfly garden which is a nice little relaxing change from the hectic schedule. You can sit in the gardens and look for butterflies among the plants that grow inside.
10. Lunch at Badjao Seafront or go on exotic food trip
One cannot leave Puerto Princesa without experiencing the one of its must-visit and must-eat at restaurant. The restaurant is located in front of the sea and beside the mangroves. They serve excellent seafood dishes that will really satisfy your gastronomic yearnings in very relaxing atmosphere.
You may opt to experience exotic food served in many restaurants around Puerto Princesa Baywalk. Try the crocodile sisig, tastier than the real thing. If you are more adventurous, you can try a platter of tamilok or wood worms served at Kinabuch. Visit Balinsasayaw, a restaurant that serves the nests of this bird, balinsasayaw, the Filipino term for swallow, an endemic bird in Palawan.