Palawan Tourist Spots: Top Attractions and Activities for 2024

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Palawan is a stunning island province situated in the Philippines. It is home to a wide range of tourist spots and attractions that cater to various interests. The island is known for its picturesque landscapes, crystal-clear waters, and rich biodiversity and has earned a well-deserved reputation as a top travel destination. Tourists worldwide consistently give Palawan high ratings due to its exceptional beauty and natural wonders.

Palawan Underground River
Palawan Underground River

One of Palawan’s many delights is its diverse range of activities, ensuring plenty of things to do while exploring this tropical paradise. Adventure enthusiasts can enjoy island hopping, snorkeling, and scuba diving in the pristine waters. At the same time, nature lovers can find solace in the lush rainforests or marvel at the enchanting Underground River. It is no surprise that Palawan’s tourist spots have prompted an increase in travel bookings from visitors eager to experience the wonders of this Philippine gem.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, Palawan promises an unforgettable journey filled with stunning sights and unforgettable experiences. Its captivating beauty and diverse attractions make it a must-visit destination for anyone looking to discover the best that the Philippines has to offer.

Palawan Peacock Pheasant
Palawan Peacock Pheasant

Geography and Biodiversity

Palawan is a large island located in the western part of the Philippines. It is known for its vibrant biodiversity and picturesque landscapes, which earned it the nickname “Last Ecological Frontier.” The island boasts numerous marine sanctuaries, lush rainforests, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

Palawan’s marine sanctuary is home to a wide array of aquatic animals, including several species of endangered sea turtles, dolphins, and tropical fish. The island’s terrestrial biodiversity is also impressive, with endemic species like the Palawan Peacock Pheasant and the Palawan Bearcat inhabiting its pristine forests.

Cultural Significance

The island of Palawan has significant cultural value, as it hosts a number of unique traditional practices and customs. For example, the island is known for its indigenous swiftlets, called balinsasayaw, which are harvested for their edible nests. These nests are considered a delicacy and have been part of local cuisine and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.

Additionally, Palawan’s rich history has led to a diverse cultural heritage that includes influences from Spanish, Japanese, and American settlers. This blend of cultures has resulted in a unique and distinct local culture, which can be observed in the island’s architecture, cuisine, and customs.

Conservation Efforts

Due to its ecological importance, various conservation efforts have been implemented in Palawan to protect its natural resources. One notable example is the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a marine protected area known for its diverse and healthy coral reefs. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is strictly regulated to ensure that its delicate ecosystems remain undisturbed.

Another example is the Calauit Safari Park, a wildlife sanctuary that houses both indigenous and African animal species, such as giraffes and zebras. This park was established to promote the conservation of wildlife and to educate visitors on the significance of biodiversity and ecosystem preservation.

Top Destinations in Palawan

Palawan is a stunning archipelago in the Philippines, offering a plethora of tourist spots and experiences. This section focuses on the most popular tourist destinations in Palawan that can be found Puerto Princesa City, El Nido, and Coron.

Puerto Princesa Underground River
Puerto Princesa Underground River

Puerto Princesa Underground River

Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan, is known for its unique attractions and pristine environment. One of the city’s most famous tourist spots is the Puerto Princesa Underground River.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site features a spectacular 8.2-kilometer navigable river, stunning rock formations, and diverse wildlife. It is truly a remarkable place and it deserves to be included in your palawan tourist spots itinerary.

Honda Bay, Palawan, Philippines
Honda Bay, Palawan, Philippines

Honda Bay in Puerto Princesa

Honda Bay is a popular destination in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, known for its beautiful islands and white sandy beaches. Visitors to Honda Bay can enjoy an island hopping tour to explore its scenic islands, see underwater gardens, and engage in various watersports. Island Hopping in Honda Bay will help you discover tourist spots in Puerto Princesa City.

The bay is just a short boat ride from Puerto Princesa, and tours often include stops at several notable islands such as Luli, Cowrie, and Starfish islands. These tours provide plenty of time for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling, making it a perfect vacation escapade for those looking to experience the tropical beauty of Palawan.

Big Lagoon in El Nido
Big Lagoon in El Nido

Big Lagoon in El Nido

The Big Lagoon is a stunning natural feature located on Miniloc Island in El Nido, Palawan. Known for its crystal-clear waters and towering limestone cliffs, it is one of the most iconic spots in El Nido. Visitors can explore the Big Lagoon by kayak or as part of a guided boat tour, which is often referred to as Tour A, one of the standard tour options in El Nido. The area around the Big Lagoon is renowned for its rich marine life and is a prime spot for snorkeling.

Due to its popularity, the management of the Big Lagoon has implemented a visitor limit to protect the environment, allowing only 400 visitors per day with allocated time slots to ensure the preservation of its natural beauty. This measure helps maintain the serene and unspoiled nature of the lagoon for future generations.

Nacpan Beach in El Nido
Nacpan Beach in El Nido

Nacpan Beach in El Nido

Nacpan Beach is a breathtakingly beautiful and serene destination located about 17 kilometers north of El Nido town proper in Palawan, Philippines. It features four kilometers of soft, cream-colored sand flanked by swaying coconut palms and offers expansive ocean views. This beach is known for its natural beauty, with a wide and fine-sanded shoreline that is perfect for long walks and beachcombing.

In the past, Nacpan Beach was a relatively secret spot known to a few tourists, but it has since gained popularity due to its pristine condition and the tranquil experience it offers. Despite its growing fame, the beach remains a haven for those looking to escape the more crowded and bustling areas of El Nido. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful day of sunbathing, swimming in the clear waters, or simply relaxing in a hammock under the shade of the palm trees. The beach is also famous for its mesmerizing sunset views, making it an ideal location for those seeking a romantic or reflective evening by the sea.

Kayangan Lake in Coron
Kayangan Lake in Coron

Kayangan Lake in Coron

Kayangan Lake is a crystal-clear lake located on Coron Island, near Coron Town on Busuanga Island, part of the Palawan province in the Philippines. It’s known for its underwater rock formations and is a mix of 70% freshwater and 30% saltwater.

The lake is accessible via a boat ride and a steep climb of around 300 steps. Visitors can swim and snorkel in the lake, which is managed by the indigenous Tagbanua people. The lake is considered sacred by the Tagbanua, who ensure its preservation and respect its cultural importance.

Barracuda Lake in Coron
Barracuda Lake in Coron

Barracuda Lake in Coron

Barracuda Lake in Coron is a unique and popular diving spot known for its dramatic underwater scenery and the thermocline experiences it offers. The lake is located on Coron Island, which is part of the Calamian Islands in Northern Palawan, Philippines. It’s named after the discovery of a large barracuda skeleton in its depths, though sightings of live barracudas are rare.

The lake is particularly famous among divers for its layers of fresh and saltwater and the distinct temperature shifts between these layers, which can be felt while diving. The warm top layer of freshwater sits above the colder saltwater, creating a thermocline, which is a stark temperature transition that divers can experience as they descend. The water in the lake can get quite warm, with the freshwater reaching a very comfortable 31°C as reported by PADI.

Diving in Barracuda Lake offers a chance to see the unique rock formations and the aquatic life that has adapted to its unusual environment. The lake’s underwater landscape includes dramatic limestone cliffs that extend below the waterline, creating a moon-like terrain that offers a surreal diving experience.

Unique Adventures in Palawan

Palawan offers a variety of unique adventures for tourists looking to explore its natural beauty and diverse ecosystem. In this section, we will discuss some of the most popular activities, including island hopping and snorkeling, diving and marine life exploration, and eco tours and safaris.

Cadlao Island in El Nido
Cadlao Island in El Nido

Island Hopping and Snorkeling in El Nido

Island hopping and snorkeling are among the most popular activities in El Nido, Palawan, known for its stunning seascapes, crystal-clear waters, and diverse marine life. Visitors often take part in organized tours, commonly referred to as Tours A, B, C, and D, each offering a unique set of destinations and experiences.

Tour A often includes stops like the Big Lagoon, a majestic turquoise waterway surrounded by limestone cliffs, and Shimizu Island, known for its vibrant coral reefs and ideal for snorkeling.

Tour B may feature visits to enthralling caves and pristine beaches, including the Snake Island and Cudugnon Cave, offering a mix of adventure and relaxation.

Tour C is renowned for its beautiful snorkeling spots, such as the Hidden Beach and Helicopter Island, featuring dramatic limestone formations and rich underwater ecosystems.

Tour D includes lesser-known locations and is perfect for those looking to escape the crowds, with destinations like Bukal Island and Paradise Beach.

The snorkeling experiences in El Nido allow visitors to immerse themselves in the underwater world, with the chance to see a variety of tropical fish, corals, and sometimes even sea turtles. The clear waters provide excellent visibility, making El Nido a snorkeler’s paradise.

When planning an island hopping and snorkeling trip in El Nido, it’s essential to consider the environmental protection fees and the carrying capacity regulations set to preserve the natural beauty of the islands. Booking with a reputable tour operator ensures that these guidelines are followed and that your experience contributes positively to the sustainability of this stunning destination.

Tropical Beach in Coron
Tropical Beach in Coron

Coron Island Hopping and Snorkeling Tour

Coron is renowned for its mesmerizing island-hopping and snorkeling tours, which showcase some of the most picturesque and biodiverse underwater environments in the world. The tours are designed to give visitors a glimpse of Coron’s famous marine landscapes, including its clear lagoons, shipwrecks, and vibrant coral reefs.

One of the most sought-after experiences is the Coron Ultimate Tour, which is a shared tour that typically includes destinations such as Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, Twin Lagoon, and several snorkeling spots like Siete Pecados Marine Park and the Coral Garden. The tour lasts about 8 hours and is priced at $50.00.

For those looking for a more private experience, the Coron Palawan Snorkeling & Island Hopping Tour offers a personalized adventure around the islands. This 9-hour tour includes a visit to the Twin Lagoon, which is known for its stunning limestone formations and brackish water that’s a mix of fresh and saltwater, creating a unique swimming experience.

Another highlight is the Coron Reefs & Shipwreck Snorkeling Tour, which allows guests to explore the rich marine life surrounding the famous WWII shipwrecks that lie beneath Coron’s waters. These sunken vessels have become thriving artificial reefs teeming with aquatic life.

It’s important to note that while enjoying the natural beauty of Coron, visitors are encouraged to respect the environment by following the guidelines provided by the tour operators and local authorities. This includes not touching or stepping on the corals, not feeding the fish, and taking all trash back to the mainland. By doing so, you contribute to the preservation of Coron’s marine ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.

Port Barton Palawan Sunset
Port Barton Palawan Sunset

Island Hopping and Snorkeling in Port Barton

Port Barton offers a more laid-back island hopping and snorkeling experience compared to the more famous spots like El Nido and Coron. It’s a great place for those who want to enjoy the beauty of Palawan’s islands without the crowds.

Island hopping tours in Port Barton typically include multiple stops where you can snorkel and relax on beautiful beaches. The Port Barton Island Hopping Tour includes destinations like German Island, which is known for its clear waters and is a good spot for snorkeling, and Exotic Island, which is often less crowded and offers a peaceful beach experience. The tours also usually provide opportunities to explore vibrant coral reefs and see a variety of marine life, including turtles at spots like Turtle Spot.

The tours in Port Barton are generally relaxed and flexible, with plenty of time to snorkel, swim, and soak up the sun. Lunch is often served on one of the islands, giving you a taste of local cuisine amidst the tropical scenery.

When booking an island hopping and snorkeling tour in Port Barton, it’s important to choose a responsible tour operator who follows eco-friendly practices to help preserve the natural beauty of the area. This helps ensure that the beaches and reefs remain pristine for future visitors.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Diving and Marine Life Exploration at Tubbataha Reef

Diving at Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines is a bucket-list experience for many scuba divers due to its exceptional biodiversity and status as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The reef is located in the middle of the Sulu Sea and is only accessible by liveaboard dive boats, typically between the months of March and June when the seas are calmest.

Tubbataha Reef is made up of two atolls—North Atoll and South Atoll—and the Jessie Beazley Reef further north. It’s a marine sanctuary that’s home to about 600 species of fish, 360 species of corals, 11 species of sharks, and 13 species of dolphins and whales, as well as a variety of birds and nesting sea turtles.

Divers at Tubbataha can expect to encounter a range of marine life, from large pelagic species such as manta rays, whale sharks, and hammerhead sharks to a variety of smaller fish and invertebrates that inhabit the coral walls and lagoons. The reefs are also known for their impressive vertical walls and drop-offs, which are covered with vibrant corals and sponges.

Because of its protected status and remote location, the reefs of Tubbataha have been preserved in their natural state, offering divers the chance to see marine ecosystems that are largely untouched by human activity. This also means that the area is regulated to ensure sustainable tourism practices are maintained.

For those interested in diving and marine life exploration at Tubbataha Reef, planning ahead is crucial. Booking a trip on a liveaboard dive boat is necessary, as there are no day trips to the reef due to its distance from the mainland. These liveaboard trips usually last for several days and offer multiple dives per day, allowing divers to fully immerse themselves in the underwater wonders of Tubbataha.

Calauit Safari Park
Calauit Safari Park

Visiting Calauit Safari Park

In addition to exploring the underwater wonders of Palawan, travelers can also enjoy land-based eco tours and safari adventures. One popular destination is the Calauit Safari Park, situated on Calauit Island, which is home to a variety of African and Philippine wildlife, such as giraffes, zebras, and endemic animals. Visitors can take guided tours to get an up-close look at these unique creatures in their natural habitat.

San Vicente Palawan Long Beach photo via DOT
San Vicente Palawan Long Beach photo via DOT

Explore the Long Beach of San Vicente

Another fantastic destination for eco-tourism is San Vicente, home to the Long Beach, the longest white sand beach in the Philippines. This emerging tourism hotspot offers a peaceful refuge for travelers seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of the more popular tourist spots. San Vicente is also an excellent destination for bird-watching, trekking, and mangrove exploration.

Maquinit Hot Springs
Maquinit Hot Springs

Relax at Maquinit Hot Springs

Maquinit Hot Springs in Coron, Palawan, is one of the few saltwater hot springs in the world and is a perfect place to relax after a day of island hopping or hiking. The hot springs are situated amidst a mangrove forest and offer a therapeutic soak in naturally heated water, which is said to have healing properties for the skin and muscles.

The springs are open from 8 am to 8 pm, with the entrance closing at 7 pm. The best time to visit is in the early morning or late afternoon when it’s cooler, and the setting sun can add to the relaxing atmosphere. It can get crowded around sunset, so planning your visit outside of peak times can provide a more serene experience.

You can enjoy the hot springs by dipping into the large pool or sitting along the sides where the warm water flows through. The temperature of the water is naturally hot, so it’s advisable to enter slowly and acclimate yourself to the heat. There is an entrance fee, which is typically around PhP 300 or $6 per person.

To get to Maquinit Hot Springs, you can hire a tricycle from Coron town, which is about a 30-minute ride. Some visitors also opt to hike or rent a motorbike for a more adventurous journey to the springs.

Visiting Maquinit Hot Springs is a relaxing and rejuvenating experience that allows you to enjoy the natural beauty of Coron while soaking in the warm, mineral-rich waters.

Off-The-Beaten-Track in Palawan

Palawan is not only about its famous destinations but also about hidden gems that offer unique experiences. This section covers lesser-known tourist spots in Palawan such as Balabac Group of Islands, Cagayancillo, and Northern Palawan.

Onok Island
Onok Island

Balabac Group of Islands

Located in the southern part of Palawan, the Balabac Group of Islands is an off-the-beaten-track destination that offers a tropical paradise perfect for nature enthusiasts and photographers. Balabac Island is known for its stunning lagoons, sandbars, and diverse wildlife.

One of the must-see spots in the Balabac Group of Islands is Onok Island. Considered a privately-owned island, Onok offers crystal clear waters, pristine beaches, and rich biodiversity. Despite being lesser-known, the Balabac Group of Islands can still be included on the list of Palawan tourist spots.

Cagayancillo

Found off the eastern coast of Palawan, Cagayancillo is a small group of islands surrounded by a marine sanctuary. It boasts rich underwater biodiversity and is perfect for those who appreciate natural attractions. The islands of Cagayancillo are mostly undisturbed and offer great opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and island hopping. Visiting these remote islands gives you a chance to explore the natural beauty of Palawan in a more intimate setting.

The stunning Inaladelan Island in Port Barton, Palawan.
The stunning Inaladelan Island in Port Barton, Palawan.

Visit Port Barton

Port Barton, located in the municipality of San Vicente on the north-western side of the island of Palawan in the Philippines, is a charming and less developed alternative to the more popular tourist destinations of El Nido and Coron. It offers travelers a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere, perfect for those looking to unwind and experience a slower pace of life.

The area is known for its beautiful beaches, clear waters, and the opportunity to enjoy island living without the crowds. Visitors can indulge in activities such as island hopping to nearby pristine beaches and snorkeling spots, enjoying the tranquility of the area, and exploring the local natural attractions, including waterfalls and coral reefs.

Port Barton’s appeal lies in its simplicity and the natural beauty of its surroundings. It’s a place where you can relax in a hammock on the beach, take a boat tour to explore nearby islands like Boayan Island and White Beach, and enjoy the local cuisine. The area also offers opportunities for diving and snorkeling, where you can witness the rich marine life of the Palawan region.

Port Barton is an ideal destination for those seeking a serene tropical getaway and the opportunity to connect with nature and local Filipino culture.

Culion Island by Sebastian Pichler via Unsplash
Culion Island by Sebastian Pichler via Unsplash

Explore the Town of Culion

The town of Culion in Palawan, Philippines, is a place steeped in history and natural beauty. Once known as a leper colony during the American colonial period, Culion has transformed into a destination that offers both historical insights and picturesque landscapes.

To explore the town of Culion, visitors can embark on a Culion Town Historical Tour, which is a walking tour around the town proper. The tour typically includes visits to the Culion Museum and Archives, where you can learn about the town’s past as a leper colony and see historical artifacts. The museum plays a crucial role in understanding the social and medical history of the area.

Another significant landmark is the Immaculate Conception Church, which stands as a symbol of faith and resilience for the people of Culion. The church has witnessed the town’s transformation and is an integral part of its community.

Aside from historical sites, Culion also offers natural attractions such as Ditaytayan Island and the Bay Of Buddhas, both of which are mentioned among the top attractions to visit. Ditaytayan Island is known for its long stretch of white sandbar surrounded by clear waters, making it an ideal spot for relaxation and swimming. The Bay Of Buddhas offers a serene setting with statues of Buddha placed along the bay, providing a unique and peaceful experience.

For those interested in further exploration, the surrounding areas of Culion offer beautiful seascapes and landscapes, with opportunities for snorkeling and diving to witness the rich marine life of the Calamian Group of Islands.

Visiting Culion provides a unique combination of historical education and natural exploration, making it a meaningful and enriching experience for travelers.

Practical Information

Travel Tips

When planning a trip to explore the beautiful Palawan tourist spots, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with some practical tips. Take advantage and get some free palawan tourist spot brochure upon arriving at the airport. Most of these brochures can help you navigate Palawan attractions easily.

Travellers should consider booking tours and accommodations in advance, especially during peak season, as Palawan attractions are popular and can fill up quickly. Keep in mind the group size when organizing island hopping and other activities, as some locations may have restrictions on the number of visitors. For a more personalized experience, opt for smaller tours or private bookings. Don’t forget to check ratings and reviews when selecting tours and accommodations to ensure you choose the best quality and value for your budget.

Accommodations and Dining

Palawan offers a wide range of accommodations, from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious resorts. Popular areas for booking accommodations include Puerto Princesa, Coron, and El Nido, each with its unique charm and attractions. While searching for a place to stay, pay attention to the property’s proximity to your desired Palawan tourist attractions to maximize your time.

When it comes to dining, you’ll find an equally diverse selection of options. Savor authentic Filipino dishes, as well as international cuisine, at local restaurants, resorts, and street food stalls. Be sure to try Palawan specialties, such as seafood dishes cooked with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Best Time to Visit

The ideal time to visit Palawan and experience the multitude of things to do depends on the weather and seasonality. Generally, the best time to visit Palawan is from December to March, when the climate is dry and less humid. During these months, travelers can expect sunny days, making it perfect for exploring the beaches, islands, and other outdoor attractions.

The wet season, from June to September, brings heavy rainfall and is not recommended for travel. However, quick jaunts to the region during the shoulder months of April, May, October, and November often provide pleasant weather and fewer crowds. Keep in mind that the weather in Palawan can be unpredictable, and it’s recommended to check forecasts before booking your trip.

Palawan Tourist Spots
Palawan Tourist Spots

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top-rated destinations to visit in Palawan?

Palawan is home to multiple stunning tourist destinations. Some of the top-rated destinations include El Nido, known as the crown jewel of Palawan, Coron, famous for its shipwreck diving spots, and Puerto Princesa, with its renowned Puerto Princesa Underground River.

Which natural wonders should tourists not miss when visiting Palawan?

Visitors should not miss out on Palawan’s breathtaking natural wonders such as the Puerto Princesa Underground River, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the pristine beaches and towering limestone formations in El Nido, and the majestic Coron islands.

What are the must-do activities for tourists in Palawan?

There are countless activities for tourists to enjoy in Palawan. Some of the must-do activities include island hopping in El Nido and Coron, exploring the Puerto Princesa Underground River, snorkeling and scuba diving to witness the rich marine life, and enjoying the pristine white-sand beaches.

Can you recommend some hidden gems in Palawan for tourists to explore?

For a more off-the-beaten-path experience, tourists can explore hidden gems like Port Barton in San Vicente, known for its serene beaches, or the Tabon Caves in Quezon, which hold great archaeological and historical significance.

What are the cultural and historical sites that tourists can visit in Palawan?

Cultural and historical sites worth visiting in Palawan include the Tabon Caves, which house artifacts dating back to the Late Pleistocene period, and the Culion Museum and Archives, where visitors can learn about the island’s history as a former leper colony.

How can visitors best experience the marine life in Palawan?

To best experience Palawan’s marine life, tourists can engage in activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving, which are popular in Coron and El Nido. Visitors can also take a guided tour to explore the rich biodiversity of the local coral reefs and underwater environments.

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