Where is the sun???? We have been working in Hong Kong for six months and it seemed like our bodies completely forgot what sunlight felt like. Back home, the weather was warm and we got so jealous seeing photos from our friends and families on their beach vacations. It was about time that we went searching for islands again.
We knew that we wanted to soak up some sun, go somewhere tropical and not blow our budget. We both love snorkeling and after doing some research online, it seemed like Palawan was our best bet.
Palawan was recently voted the “best island in the world” by Condé Nast Traveler and only a few hours away from Hong Kong. As we planned our holiday over Chinese New Year, we opted to book our flights with Cebu Pacific Air as they were the most affordable.
Our first flight was to Peurto Princesa via Iloilo. As we got on the plane we already felt like we were on an island. Reggae island music was pumping in the background with a flight full of Filipinos all smiling and ready to go home for the holidays. The plane itself was not made for Westerners. It hardly had any leg space and I could not, for the life of me, fit my legs in without feeling like I just bent my back backwards in some strange way. While the Filipino lady next to me slept, with her body all stretched out, we were sitting straight up like real yogis. All I could think about was the sunlight, the island and how this plane made me feel like a giant! Luckily it all went by quickly with their on board entertainment like a karaoke session and “guess the song” game.
(The flight back was much better as it was a bigger aircraft with more space. For short trips we would definitely recommend Cebu Air for their affordable prices.)
Side Tip: You will need to pay extra terminal fees when travelling to Palawan. This is not included in your travel ticket and will need to paid at the airport. For more information you can have a look over here.
Filipinos are some of the most friendliest people on earth. Always smiling and laughing. Always happy. This is probably why we immediately felt right at home when we landed at Puerto Princesa airport. We quickly found our accommodation, that was a short walk away, and headed into town for exploration.
The next morning we hopped on a small mini van and made our way to El Nido. It is about a six hour trip and it will cost you around 600-700 PHP. It is not the most comfortable way to travel, the leg space is very narrow and sometimes extra seats are squashed in for more passengers, but we were told that this is the fastest mode of transport. If you are on a serious budget, you can opt for a local Roro bus that will cost you around 400PHP.
Side Tip: Make sure that you have some change as you need to pay when using the restrooms at every stop.
Palawan is a very chilled out place but there are places that can get overcrowded with tourists. I mean, it’s one of the top ten islands to visit in the world so, off course, people from all over the globe want to visit it. We only had a week here which was enough time to go out and explore a few places.
We combined a little list with some of the best spots we went to, tours we took and also where we stayed.
1.Where to stay?
Nothing will make you feel more at home than arriving at Victoria Guest House! The one thing that will make us go back in a heartbeat were the people! They are all very friendly and welcoming and will assist you with all your needs. Even the owner herself took us to the airport on our flight back to Hong Kong!
This place is absolutely gorgeous! It has a lovely garden area and you will feel like you are one of the locals. There is a small shop, just outside the guesthouse, that sell basic things such as water and snacks. The restaurant doesn’t have a menu so you will need to order what they give you, but the food was out of this world! (And also a lot for two people sharing!) Towards the left of the guesthouse is a little dirt road that leads to a beach area. It’s not a beach for swimming but rather just a little peaceful walk.
El Nido / Corong Corong beach:
We stayed at Novie’s Tourist Inn and were greeted by the friendly local staff. Our room was very basic but all we needed was a bed. The place had a backpacker-hippie vibe to it and their free coffee was amazing! Especially since AJ and I are both coffee lovers! We stayed in Corong Corong, This is the beach area just before El Nido and only about a 15 minute walk to the town center. The area is very laid back and not as touristy as El Nido.
The staff are all very helpful and you get a discounted tour when you book through Novie’s. At night, you might find one of the staff members playing on the guitar and in the morning they will give you some tips on where to eat or what areas to explore.
2. Surfing at Duli beach
Duli beach is an amazing long stretch of beach with hardly anyone in sight. It’s about an hours drive, by motorbike, from El Nido and the ride there is beautiful! There is one little restaurant where you can chill out and rent boards. They also set up a few hammocks and chairs so you can really relax. You will drive past through little villages and see some rice fields and farms along the way. Make sure you have a map with you as the sign posts are well…..non existent. The locals are super friendly so if you do get lost, just ask one to point you in the right direction.
3. Island hopping in El Nido
Your trip to El Nido will not be complete without an island hopping tour. As there was an earthquake in Taiwan at the time of our arrival, most of the tours got cancelled during the first two days of our stay. Luckily we had the chance to do one island tour. As we wanted to snorkel we opted for Tour A that takes you to the big and small lagoon. We booked the tour through Novie’s Tourist Inn with a lovely tour guide. Although the lagoons are very touristy, it was stunning! These were beautiful scenes that should be on the front cover of a National Geographic travel magazine! No wonder Palawan is rated as the one of the top ten islands in the world!
Our guide also took us to a little secluded beach area where we had lunch. And by lunch I mean a feast! Fruit, fish, rice, mussels, prawns, pork and chicken….all fresh! After lunch we headed to Papaya beach for more snorkeling where we saw some amazing corals and sea life.
(If you don’t go on a tour, try to get a local to take you out to Papaya beach. It is a must! You can also rent a kayak to go there as it is just around the corner from Corong Corong beach.)
4. Honda Bay
In Puerto Princesa we took a trip to Honda Bay. This tour included a trip to Cowrie Island and Starfish Island. You do get to see some sea life at Starfish Island but this tour was more for swimming than snorkeling. The water was very murky as there are a lot of people that visit these islands and swimming is only allowed in restricted areas. It is still very beautiful and the scenery is completely different to that in El Nido. The tour includes lunch, but snorkeling is charged extra. Try to rent some booties when visiting Starfish Island. It is very rocky and you need to walk over loads of rocks before you reach the corals.
5. Watch the sunset, rent a motorbike and just chill!
Palawan is really a magical island if you are open to explore it. Take a walk on the beach, watch the sunset, rent a motorbike, chat to the locals, chill somewhere in a hammock and just relaaaaaaaax! The locals are all very friendly so if you do need help with anything, don’t be scared to ask! There are so many corners of this island that we still want to explore and, hopefully, we will return one day!
Wanna see some more of Palawan? Check out our travel video! 🙂