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Palawan is often called the ‘Final Frontier of the Philippines’ because this vast region in the Sulu and South China Seas is composed of hundreds of islands and beaches just waiting to be explored.
While Philippines’ islands such as Cebu have long been developed for tourism, the islands of Palawan have only recently emerged onto the traveler scene. But what an emergence they’ve had, and while much of the region is still undeveloped, lacking good infrastructure and few luxury hotels, Palawan has been transformed into a popular backpacking haunt in just a matter of years.
Travel in Palawan is still a raw experience, you can spend your nights sleeping in beach huts, and your days taking fishing boats on trips to golden beaches. It’s an undeniably beautiful place, and to inspire your trip, here’s our 7 day Palawan travel itinerary.
Best Time to Visit Palawan
To really enjoy the best things to do in Palawan in 7 days, you’ll want to travel here at the right time of year. The best time to visit Palawan is during the dry season when there is virtually no rain, the skies are blue, and the waters are perfectly clear.
The dry season runs from December through to May, but you might find the end of the dry season, between March and May, is blistering hot, as this is also the height of the Filipino summer. Try to visit between December and February if you want to avoid the worst of the heat, but also bear in mind that for snorkeling, the end of the dry season is always best.
During the rainy season it’s not particularly advisable to visit Coron. Many destinations close down for the low season, while you might also find yourself on the unwelcome tail-end of a typhoon. If you want to avoid the crowds during your Palawan trip though, then the wet season is the only time to do this.
Traveling Around Palawan
While Palawan has become an incredibly popular travel destination in recent years, it won’t necessarily be the easiest in terms of travel. El Nido and Coron are places where tourism has grown quickly, and infrastructure hasn’t exactly kept up with the increasing demands of tourists. So expect some exciting challenges throughout your week in Palawan.
WiFi is always slow, and road and boat transport can be rustic. This is what travel in Palawan is like though, and you’ll need to be prepared for bumpy rides in packed minibuses from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, and rustic boats when it comes to island hopping.
In peak season especially, you’ll want to try and book accommodation and transport as far in advance as you can. Island hopping trips aren’t so much of a problem to find space on – there’s always a willing fisherman – but ferries and flights can sell out, particularly in Coron. Try to buy your ferry tickets at least a day before your intended departure date.
Where to Stay in Palawan
As mentioned above, if you are visiting Palawan during high season make sure to book accommodation well in advance.
If you are backpacker take a look at Hostelworld for a huge array of hostels and cheap dorm rooms. For hotels and guesthouses, Booking.com is hands down the best place to look. Airbnb might also be a great option, especially if you use our coupon!
If you’d like to quickly find accommodation for your trip, we’ve provided our recommendations for each stop on this Palawan itinerary below.
The Perfect 3-Day Palawan Itinerary
However, before we get to our Palawan guide, we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and, trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
We personally use and recommend SafetyWing. For only around $10 a week, it’s really a no-brainer. You can get a quick, non-binding quote below:
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with SafetyWing, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere. One popular alternative, for example, is World Nomads.
With that important point covered, let’s get to this Palawan itinerary already, shall we?
Day 1: Puerto Princesa
The first of your 7 days in Palawan will begin in Puerto Princesa. This is the largest city in the province, and it’s found on the main island of Palawan. The city’s airport has regular flight connections across the country, and you can easily fly in from Manila, Cebu, or many other destinations. If you can, try to arrive the previous evening or early in the morning, so that the first day of your itinerary can be a full one.
While the city itself has few sights, nearby you can find one of the most impressive natural attractions in the Philippines, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Found just one hour from the city, you can easily book a river tour to this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The river flows through this limestone karst cave system for about 8 kilometers, and when you’re on the underground river, you can see the glimmering colors around you in this otherworldly destination.
After visiting this underground marvel, you can spend the afternoon relaxing at Sabang, a village just outside the national park’s entrance. You can enjoy the beaches and dine on fresh seafood while you drink cocktails for an excellent start to your week in Palawan.
Best Places to Stay in Puerto Princesa:
Paboreal Boutique Hotel • Susan’s Place Bed & Breakfast • Subil Guest Cabins
Day 2: El Nido
From Puerto Princesa, you’ll be heading north as your trip to Palawan really begins. Palawan’s most famous tourist destination is El Nido, but unfortunately it’s not easy to reach. It’s all part of the challenge and the fun of traveling in Palawan, but you’ll need an early start from the city, as it’s at least a 5-hour drive north, on rough roads from Puerto Princesa.
Just a few years ago, El Nido was just a sleepy fishing village, but now it’s an iconic backpacker destination. You’ll soon realize why, and when you arrive, you can spend the afternoon enjoying the beachfront and the views across the bay.
El Nido is surrounded by limestone karsts, and if you’re feeling up for it after the long ride, you can tackle the canopy walk and climb to the top of Taraw Cliff for outstanding views across the area.
Best Places to Stay in El Nido:
Matinloc Resort • Cuna Hotel • Pawikan Hostel El Nido
Day 3: Island Hopping in El Nido
El Nido became so popular because of its proximity to some of the best natural scenery in the Philippines. This is classic island-hopping territory, and you’ll want to secure a spot on a local boat online or the night before for day 3 of your Palawan travel itinerary.
There are four official tours to choose from, A, B, C, and D, with tours A and C being the most popular. But in all honesty, it doesn’t particularly matter which one you choose. Wherever you end up on your first day island hopping, you’ll be amazed at the clarity of the water, the whiteness of the sand, and the diversity of marine life.
However, to give you a better idea of what you’ll see on each tour, here is a short break down of all four tours:
- Tour A: Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and Seven Commando Beach. Book Tour A.
- Tour B: Snake Island (Vigan Island), Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Beach, and Cudugnon Cave. Book Tour B.
- Tour C: Helicopter Island, Matinloc Island, Secret Beach, Star Beach, and Hidden Beach. Book Tour C.
- Tour D: Ipil Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Natnat Beach, and Bukal Beach. Book Tour D.
Day 4: Island Hopping in El Nido
On your second full day in El Nido you will want to join another island hopping tour, because this really is the best way to get around.
Simply pick one of the tours that you didn’t do on day 3, and don’t forget to sign up the evening before to secure your spot. You’ll have another action packed day as you ride the fishing boats across the turquoise water to hidden coves, white sand beaches and dramatic, limestone karst scenery.
When you return to El Nido’s beachfront, hang out for the evening at the bars. Enjoy some cold San Miguel and order up a fresh seafood BBQ.
Day 5: Coron
On Day 5, you’ll be traveling to Coron, one of the best places to visit in Palawan, but once again, be prepared for an early start and a long journey. From El Nido you have the option of taking either the slow 6-hour ferry or the faster, but more expensive, 4-hour tourist boat. If it’s busy though, you might not have a choice. You can compare and book ferry tickets from El Nido to Coron at Bookaway.
Coron is one of the most up and coming destinations in the Philippines, and while the limestone scenery is similar to El Nido, it always seems as if there are more places to escape to, and more deserted islands to discover while exploring Coron.
You won’t have much time on your first day for island hopping, but in Coron Town, you can make the short hike up to the top of Mount Tapyas, where you’ll be able to watch the best sunset in town.
Best Places to Stay in Coron:
The Funny Lion • Acacia Garden Inn • Hop Hostel
Day 6: Kayangan Lake & Twin Lagoons
The best of Palawan can be found across the many islands in Coron. This large archipelago is home to deserted islands, unique local cultures, and excellent coral reefs and shipwrecks. It’s truly an island paradise, and you’ll want to spend at least two days exploring.
Coron Town on Busuanga Island is the best base, as there you’ll find all the hotels and restaurants. It’s also where the island hopping tours leave from.
On your first full day in Coron you’ll be exploring the most iconic of Coron’s natural attractions. You can easily join a tour the night before, or even in the early morning, and most tend to depart around 8 or 9 am.
Make sure your itinerary includes Kayangan Lake and Twin Lagoons, as these are the two must-see attractions. Kayangan Lake is where you’ll find the most classic Coron viewpoint, looking out over green, limestone cliffs. The water here is beautifully refreshing. Twin Lagoons is a spot where two lagoons are separated by a limestone cliff, and you can swim under the cliff to travel between the two areas.
You’ll enjoy lunch on a white sand beach, and you’ll have lots of opportunities for snorkeling the coral reefs too.
Day 7: Pass Island & Black Island
On your second full day in Coron, you’ll also be island hopping as there are hundreds of islands still left to see.
Today though, you’ll be heading much further afield than the sights you saw yesterday. It’ll be an early morning start, but it will be worth it to escape the crowds. Organize a boat the night before, and in the morning you’ll be on your way to Pass Island, a small white sand island that looks like it’s straight out of a castaway movie.
From Pass Island, you then travel by boat to Black Island, a limestone rock which rises abruptly from the ocean and is home to soft sands, caves, and swaying palm trees.
On your day of departure you can either catch a slow overnight ferry, or a quick 40-minute flight to Manila, from where you can continue your journey or head back home.