Palawan is actually made up of well over 1,000 different islands and is the second largest province in the Philippines. Known throughout the country for its spectacular biodiversity, Palawan has abundant rainforests, mountains shrouded in mist, miles of deserted coral fringed beaches and the world’s longest underground river.
Travel can be arduous away from its plush beach resorts but only adds to the pleasure of exploring this pristine wilderness. It is a real haven for nature lovers with varied flora and fauna including dozens of exotic endemic species.
Palawan guide – Asia’s last frontier for adventure travel
Palawan and its surrounding islets offer a host of natural attractions, but the main draw is as a world class scuba diving destination which so enchanted Jacques Cousteau. Challenging shipwrecks and gently sloping coral gardens provide a rewarding experience for all levels.
The sheer beauty of its tropical coastline is hard to beat with sublime powdery white sandy beaches found throughout the coastline, often rubbing shoulders with dramatic limestone cliffs and mangrove forests.
Palawan pretty much offers it all whether you crave a rustic back to basics holiday or a no expense spared luxury beach resort. Despite its continuing popularity, there are huge swathes of territory that see very few adventurous travellers and many traditional tribal communities can be found dotted about the province that have changed little in generations. Palawan definitely deserves exploring in detail and its famously infectious laidback atmosphere makes it incredibly hard for visitors to leave.
A great kids’ favourite, this nature reserve and ‘croc hospital’ offers close encounters with fearsome crocodiles in a lush tropical setting. There are feeding sessions several times a week and an enlightening research and conservation centre to explore. Within the grounds is a mini zoo and reptile house with dozens of endemic mammal species and colourful birdlife. It makes for a fun day out and especially rewarding for older children with an interest in wildlife and conservation. Barangay Irawan, Puerto Princesa, Open Monday to Saturday 09:00 – 17:00.
Calauit Island Wildlife Sanctuary
Another wildlife park that is definitely worth a day exploring, this is a large 4,000-hectare safari park-style reserve housing zebras, giraffes and gazelles along with endemic species such as the Palawan bearcat and mouse deer. It has a maze of forested trails for adventurous wildlife spotters to get well off the beaten track. It is worth taking advantage of the simple hut accommodation on site and going native for a day or two. Nature-loving photographers will have a field day with lots of accessible flora and fauna to see. Busuanga Island, Tel: +63 243 37532.
Palawan National Museum
This is one of the finest provincial museums in the Philippines and offers a comprehensive introduction to early Palawan life through historic artifacts, art, music and culture. The exhibition space is crammed with old textiles, weaponry and everyday utensils along with a detailed collection of early colonial Spanish art and treasures. The jewel in the crown is the Bronze Age relics recovered from the famous Taban Caves which are some of the earliest known artifacts in the Philippines. Old City Hall, Valencia Street, Puerto Princesa Open Monday to Saturday 10:00 to 17:00
St Paul Subterranean National Park
Regarded as one of the most spectacular natural attractions in the Philippines, this eight kilometre underground river is an essential part of any trip to Palawan. Visitors glide along an illuminated cavern by paddle boat glimpsing weird and wonderful rock formations and huge stalagmites and stalactites. Eerie and silent for the most part, it flows straight into the azure sea of the northwest coast and features cavernous chambers that can reach over 60 metres in height. St Paul Bay, 50kms north of Puerto Princesa.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the laidback beach life of Palawan, but that doesn’t stop adventurous holidaymakers having a whale of a time. Palawan’s stylish beach resorts are a great base for energetic fun on and below the ocean waves and is one of the Philippines’ most vibrant centres for water sports. There is plenty of variety to take your mind off basking in the sunshine with no shortage of fun activities such as kayaking and jet skiing.
Palawan is right up there with the very finest scuba diving and snorkelling spots in the Philippines and also offers more relaxing pursuits such as fishing and whale watching. Heading inland, Palawan stands head and shoulders above many other tourist hotspots in the Philippines for its spectacular biodiversity which makes for adventurous days out.