Declared by Travel+Leisure Magazine as World’s Best Island for 2016, the island of Palawan is dreamt by every traveler in the planet to visit and explore. Inspired by its world-renown beauty, we decided to check Palawan off our list months after we made our “maiden voyage” to the islands of Cebu and Bohol (check out our trip in Cebu and Bohol here).
After booking our plane tickets at Cebu Pacific, we packed our bags and equipped ourselves with better and wiser planning tools and techniques that we learned from our previous trip. We were confident that these tools and techniques would help us make the trip worthwhile and at a very minimal cost.
We’re sharing with you the itinerary that made us agree to Travel+Leisure Magazine’s judgement: Palawan is definitely The World’s Best Island of 2016 (and in our hearts forever).
Day 1 : We landed at The World’s Best Island
10:00 a.m We landed at Puerto Princesa International Airport in Palawan after a 1-hour-and-5-minutes flight from Iloilo. We took a short break at a nearby restaurant and started off the 6-hour land trip to the northernmost tip of Palawan Island, the town of El Nido. We took a couple of stopovers along the way for toilet breaks, a quick lunch, and a mango quarantine inspection.
5:00 p.m. We arrived at the bustling town of El Nido and checked in at Anang Balay Turista, one of the most recommended places to stay in El Nido for “budgetarian” travelers.
After unpacking our things, we hurried off to the town’s coast to look for a trike to take us to Corong Corong Beach, a place that, many travelers say, offers the perfect spot to witness the sun’s splendid beauty as it descends below the horizon. Unfortunately, the gloomy clouds that blanketed the El Nido skies did not permit us to witness it. Instead, we strolled around the town of El Nido and had only a glimpse of the ethereal beauty of a sunset in Palawan by the seashore.
After sunset-watching, we had dinner at Silog Republic, a modest joint to have something to eat for the night.
Day 2: Tour C, a snorkel tour
We woke up at 7:30 in the morning, ate our breakfast served by the friendly owner of the inn, and readied ourself for island hopping. We rented pairs of aqua shoes after we heard stories from other tourists about marine “creatures” that could do fatal harm to the human body when stepped off. (You don’t have to rent if you don’t want to, but it’s always wise to err on the side of caution).
We were scheduled to do the Tour A on that day but when our trip organizer said that it would be the first time in days for the local coastguards to allow Tour C because of bad weather, we grabbed the opportunity and decided to hit Tour C first. We read from blogs that Tour C is the perfect choice to pick if you enjoy snorkeling.
By 9 in the morning, as the sun ascends over the horizon, we were on a boat together with a family from Norway for the first stop of the tour.
The first island we explored was the “Helicopter Island.” As its name suggests, the island really looked like a helicopter with the rotor blade the only missing thing to complete a full helicopter look.
Our next stop was Tapiutan island.
After seeing the pristine beauty of Tapiutan island, we sailed on to the Secret Beach. The Secret Beach, as what our tour guide recounted, is the inspiration behind Leonardo di Caprio’s movie The Beach.
Battling through the swelling waves that got bigger and bigger every minute sapped all of our energy. To our delight, our tour guides/boatmen cheerily invited us to a buffet, seafood-inspired lunch, al fresco.
As our now fully-loaded stomach started to digest what we just took in, our boatmen guided us to Matinloc Shrine and encouraged us to explore the island.
On leaving the shrine, our guide announced that we’re heading to our last destination for the day, the Hidden Beach. We thought, “What makes it different from the Secret Beach?” Well, we were on our way to find out.
When our boatmen announced that we just landed at the Hidden Beach, we looked at each other and asked in chorus, “Where the hell is the hidden beach?” Well, the hidden beach only appears when the tide rises and the water goes into the interior of an enclosed cliff creating a beach. It turned out that the hidden beach stayed true to its name.
After touring the best spots for snorkeling in El Nido, we dined and had some drinks at a local bar, went back to the inn, and slept soundly, knowing that the next day had more exciting things to offer.
Day 3: Tour A, a lagoon tour
We opened our eyes to the thought that we’d be visiting picture-perfect lagoons scattered around El Nido. What better way to start the day than that! After we ate our breakfast and readied ourselves for the tour, we decided to rent a kayak from the owner of the inn (at a discounted price!). So instead of renting kayaks in each of the lagoon we would see, we used the one we rented for the entire day to our heart’s content. Joining with us in the boat this time was a family from Bohol.
First stop: Small Lagoon. Our tour guide jokingly explained that the small lagoon’s water is composed of 40% saltwater, 40% fresh waster, and 20% tourists’ piss! You’ll know what he’s saying when you taste the water.
Second stop, the Big Lagoon. This picture-perfect big lagoon is the highlight of the tour. Magazines that feature Palawan use this spot for their covers. It’s one of those places where you can just point-and-shoot your camera and still take breathtaking photos.
Third stop: Shimizu Island. This island is named after a Japanese diver who died in an underwater tunnel in this island.
Fourth stop: Secret Lagoon. The enchanting entrance to the secret lagoon. Swimming in this area is discouraged because of fish that bite when their territory is disturbed.
Final stop: 7 Commandos Beach. Named after the 7 Commando soldiers who once lived here, this slice of paradise on earth instantly offers a “home” for tired travelers.
Before 5 in the afternoon, we were back at the inn. Even our check out time was at 2 in that afternoon, the owner of Anang Balay Turista gladly allowed us to leave our things in one of the rooms and take a shower there. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons why Anang Balay Turista is often mentioned by travelers staying in El Nido as one of the best places to stay.
After a 6-hour drive, we arrived at La Belle Pension House in Puerto Princesa before midnight. The next day, we passed by at a “pasalubong center” on our way to the airport.
There’s so much to bring home from Palawan, we thought. You could get a couple of “I love Palawan” shirts, a handful of keychains, or strings of necklaces made by the local craftsmen.
But, for us, the most fascinating thing we brought home is our agreement to Travel+Leisure’s declaration: Palawan, by all standards, deserves to be named as The World’s Best Island.
What more delightful “pasalubong” to bring home than that?
Note: There are 4 standard tours that you can enjoy in El Nido, all requires an entire day to complete and each has a general “theme.” For instance, Tour A will take you to the pristine lagoons, Tour B will let you see otherworldly limestone rock formations more closely, Tour C highlights spots perfect for snorkeling, and Tour D will take you to more awe-inspiring lagoons and islands.
All 4 standard tours have also these inclusions:
- Motorized boat transfer to the islands
- Buffet lunch and drinks
- Life vest and water safety equipment
- Licensed tour guide(s)
- Life guard and water guide