This week, I flew from Manila to Puerta Princesa, the capital of the Filipino island of Palawan. Palawan has been voted the world’s best island for the last two years running on several travel websites and in several magazines. It has now overtaken Boracay with its beauty and top travel destinations.
View across the ocean from Cowrie Island, Palawan
Hotels in Palawan on Hotels.com
It was a tough decision from me as to whether to spend five days in Boracay or Palawan. I decided against Boracay because it is really now being advertised as a party destination, which is just not me. I’m not a big drinker (well maybe at home!) – I like to see scenery, wildlife and culture. My concern was that Boracay would be quite over-run with tourists, taking away the relaxing nature of the island.
I am so glad I chose Palawan. It was definitely the right choice for me.
Staying at Sheebang Hostel
In Palawan, I stayed at the fabulous Sheebang Hostel. It has dorms for 300-350 Pisos and also there are private rooms available from 900 Pisos. It’s a very friendly hostel, with a great bar, restaurant, WIFI and Ping Pong. One of the great things about Sheebang hostel is that they will organise tours for your on reception.
A visit to Puerta Princesa’s underground river is a must. The journey takes you deep into a bat cave! This underground river was known to be the world’s longest subterranean river until the underground river in the Yucatan Peninsular of Mexico was discovered in 2007.
Boarding the motor boats to head to the Underground River
This trip can be done as a day tour from Puerta Princesa, as it is two hours there and two hours back, with the actual underground river tour lasting approximately 45 minutes. You can book with Viator (a partner of TripAdvisor).
Honda Bay Tour
For some paradise Island hopping from Puerta Princesa, take the Honda Bay tour. This day trip will introduce you to three paradise islands: Star Fish Island, Luli Island and Cowrie Island. You will find clear water perfect for snorkling, so make sure that you take your swimming gear. There is a snorkel hire shop on the way in case you need to borrow equipment.
Star Fish Island was one of my highlights of Palawan. You are allowed to hold and touch the star fish, but remember to put them straight back into the sea, because they can die after more than 2-3 minutes out of the water.
Things to see and do in Puerta Princesa
If you like nice cakes and Patisseries, stop off at bakers hill in Palawan. They have a beautiful selection of high-end cakes and pastries. This is a good place to get treats or gigs to take home (remember to choose ones that travel well!) They also have moon cake to die for!
Cakes in the fridge at Bakers Hill
Palawan wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre
At the Palawan Wildlife rescue and conservation Centre, you will mainly find two types of crocodile – the saltwater crocodile and the freshwater crocodile.
On the tour, we were told that the freshwater crocodiles where endangered, and therefore bred here for conservation purposes. However, I was very disappointed to find many baby crocodiles stuffed into small tanks and even massive adult crocs (64) in dirty pens with not much room. You can also see Minah birds and other animals including the Filipino bearcat.
What really put me off was that near the end of the tour, tourists were given the chance to have a selfie with a baby crocodile. The poor crocs were getting passed around to different people, some of the screaming and really not holding them properly. They also had their man is typed together.
On the whole, Palawan practices eco-tourism. However, I really didn’t see how this was good the animals.The only saving grace, is that they aim to release the animals back into the wild.
If I were you, I’d give the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre a miss.
If you like to see local crafts, you can visit the women’s loom weaving cooperative – Binuatan Creations. They’re weaving is turned into bags, placemats, purses and many of the beautiful souvenirs. Once you have visited the women’s work space, you can then going to the shop to buy souvenirs.
Puerta Princesa Cathedral – Immaculate Conception Cathedral
If you Enjoy Church architecture, I highly recommend a visit to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. This blue Gothic style Cathedral is Catholic, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Book a Puerta Princesa 1/2 day tour here
Puerto Princesa to El Nido
From Puerta Princesa, most backpackers head north to the lagoons of El Nido. This is about a 6 hour drive, so if you want to break it up, you could do so with a stopover in Port Barton, which is about halfway, and has some wonderful resorts.
The snorkling in El Nido is amongst the best in the world – you will certainly find nemo! Sadly, I didn’t make it this far north due to time restrictions – I’m heading back to Manila in just a few days for TBEX!
You might also be interested in reading about Philippines on a budget and Camotes Islands.