How to Travel Palawan for 1 Week on the Cheap
If you are looking to travel Palawan on a budget and need advice on what to see and do, I made this guide… Just for YOU! Palawan is a gorgeous but isolated island province on the tip of the Philippines that stretches all the way to Borneo. Full to the brim with the bursting colours of sea life and sunken Japanese warships, Palawan has some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world. With beautiful beaches, deserted islands and rugged jungle, Palawan has something for everyone and it really is paradise on earth!
Where is Palawan?
Palawan is located on the South Eastern edge of the Philippines on an island province that stretches down to Borneo. The quickest and easiest way to get to Palawan is to fly from Manila (flights can be found for as cheap as $30USD depending on when you travel). Or if you have more time and less money a ferry can be caught between the two islands.
Highlights & Things to Do in Puerto Princesa
The main highlight of Puerto Princesa (PP for short) is the Underground River – one of the New7 natural world wonders. It is a day trip from PP but absolutely, unforgivingly packed with tourists being herded from place to place, boat to boat. The caves themselves are beautiful, but are an easy miss if you’re not too keen on those types of tours. Puerto Princesa is a smog-filled town used mainly as a landing place to get somewhere else. If you do find yourself here with a spare few hours I highly recommend going down to the harbour for cheap and tasty Filipino food and a nice view.
Where to Stay in Puerto Princesa
The place I stayed in I don’t really recommend. It was cheap and farrrrr from everything. But we did check out a couple of other places and this is what I can recommend:
Kambakambak Doss Haus – An intimate set of cottages with a lovely, attentive owner. Very central location (can be a bit hard to find on your own) near a shopping centre. Gorgeous little garden and outdoor area. Private rooms start at $24USD.
Uyang Bead and Breakfast – A quiet and peaceful garden hotel set back in residential area. The main perk of staying here is the owner, Alfred who is a winner with everyone as he constantly accommodates his guests. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and the breakfast is tasty. 6 bed dorm is $14USD per night.
Where to Eat & Drink in Puerto Princesa
The harbour is filled with funky places to eat that are not only cheap but have a great view. If you’re into seafood, this area is a smorgasbord of fresh, cheap and tasty seafood. I highly recommend trying ‘Boodle Food;’ a buffet of freshly cooked crab, prawns, marinated fish, clams, squid and other delicious local foods. Can be shared between 2-3 people and is only 300PHP ($7USD)
Getting To & From Puerto Princesa
Chances are you’re flying into PP from another island. Hopefully you got a real cheap flight (sometimes only $30) from Manila to PP. Try using Ctrip to find cheap flights.
Getting away is a different matter. You’ll either be catching a pre-organised van, a local bus/van or a Jeepney. What sort of adventure do you want? A Jeepney allows you to ride on the roof, though that can get uncomfortable after a while.
Highlights & things to do in Port Barton
Port Barton was my favourite place in Palawan! Laid back, small sandy town, beautiful beaches and nature everywhere. Plus it was CHEAP (much cheaper than El Nido). It’s a great place to be able to watch the sun set over the water. Cool things to do are trek to the waterfall, do an island hop tour (for half the price of El Nido) or go and relax on picturesque White Beach. During our 5 night stay here we hired a local fisherman to take us to our own deserted island for a night where we camped and had fresh seafood on the fire.
Where to Stay in Port Barton
There are so many cool places to stay in Port Barton but I’m going to recommend only the best ones:
Deep Moon Resorts – Our fave was a beautiful set of beachfront cottages so close to the beach you could touch the sand from your cabaña. Think about watching gorgeous afternoon sunsets over the water from your front porch and listening to the ocean at night. Agoda do an amazing price for only $18USD per night.
Elsa’s Beach Cottages – Set within one of the most extravagant and bushy hotel gardens I’ve ever seen, Elsa’s is an unforgettable stay. The driftwood treehouse-style cottages are set only meters from the beach. And all for only $22USD per night for a private room.
Where to Eat & Drink in Port Barton
Port Barton is quite isolated and so it’s a little more expensive to eat out here. Some delicious yet cheap places we found were Paella Bar and Restaurant where huge plates of local and western food go for about 200PHP ($4.50). The food here was fresh and tasty and always had elaborate side of fruit. Another popular place was Ayettes Bamboo Cottages with a gorgeous little garden, tasty food and great prices. Gacayan Restaurant was constantly full of people, with cheap breakfast an moderately priced lunch/dinner.
Getting To & From Port Barton
Getting here from Puerto Princesa is a teeny tiny bit complicated. All vans and buses can be caught from San Jose terminal (New Market). Direct Vans from PP to Port Barton leave at 10am and 2pm and cost 300PHP. This is the easiest option. Direct Jeepeney leaves at 9am and costs 250PHP. If you do not take a direct bus/van you can take any of the vans leaving “whenever” to small town Roxas and then catch another Jeepney to Port Barton, times vary and there may not be a bus that day so be careful. A more expensive option is to catch any of the vans all the way to San Vicente and get a boat to Port Barton Bay (1,500PHP).
Getting to El Nido is easy-peasy. A direct Jeepney and direct vans are all in competition and all leave at 8am from the Bus Stop. Haggle hard and pretend to catch the Jeepney, the vans will drop prices dramatically when almost full (you should be able to get a direct van for 500PHP which is the same price as a Jeepney/van combo).
Highlights & Things to Do in El Nido
For some reason El Nido is absolutely overrun with tourists. It caters very well to budget backpackers with cheap tours to the islands, bars and “cheap” food everywhere. The town itself is quite dirty and I’d recommend getting out of the town whenever possible as there are loads of gorgeous beaches and fun things to do nearby. The Island Hop Tour, staying on an island overnight, beach-bumming and rock-climbing to name a few.
Where to Stay in El Nido
El Nido is inundated with tourists and therefore prices are higher than other places and constantly booked out. My places of recommendation are:
Our Melting Pot (OMP) Hostel – Perhaps the most popular hostel in the area so book early! Neat and tidy rooms, great location. The best place to meet other travellers. Fun and friendly atmosphere. $11USD for a 7 bed dorm.
Hakuna Matata – This cute and friendly hostel is set a little back from the beach in the town centre. This is a great place to meet other backpackers. The staff ore very friendly and accommodating. $8USD for a 4 bed dorm.
Tapik Beach Park Guest House – The cutest little bamboo cottages right on the beach! This rare gem is a place for people wanting to get away from the crowds of El Nido and relax. An isolated guest house which is the perfect place to watch the sun set with a book and a cocktail. Only $35USD for a private cabaña.
Where to Eat & Drink in El Nido
El Nido is one of those backpacker towns where the beach is just lined with bars and restaurants with tables going all the way down to the water. Our favourite eating haunt (we went back here several times due to great food and cheapness) was nameless a BBQ seafood joint on the beach located right near the exit off Rizal Street. With whole BBQ’d fish for 200PHP it was a delicious winner. We did an all-you-can-eat breakfast for 99PHP at Austria Hostel a few times which was economic and did the job. Cocos Bar has 45PHP beers from 5-7pm – great for watching the sunset on the beach. The Reggae Bar seemed to be the most popular place to party until early hours of the morning.
Getting To & From El Nido
Getting here is easy. There are direct vans to and from Puerto Princesa and Port Barton that cost around 500PHP and Jeepneys or local buses that cost 300PHP. You cannot fly into El Nido anymore; Puerto Princesa is the closest airport. You can also catch a ferry from either Coron or Luzon Island.
Most people will go on to Coron Island from El Nido. A daily ferry between the two costs can be bartered down to 1,200PHP (or less) and takes 8-9 hours.
Highlights & Things to Do in Coron
A small, hilly island that is most famous for its awesome ship wreck dives. Any diver who knows anything will be aware of the wondrous hidden gems that lay beneath the waves here. Coron bay was heavily populated with Japanese ships during the war. Many of them were bombed and sunk, huge vessels scattering the depths around the islands of Coron. Coron town itself isn’t magical in any way, but the oceans and beaches surrounding this town are fantastical! Read this great guide on Things to do in Coron by the guys over at Adventure In You.
Where to stay in Coron
Coron is another popular tourist destination and dive resorts have began to pop up offering dive and stay deals. There are also loads of cool hostels.
Marleys Guest House – With fun artwork and a seriously friendly and helpful owner this place was a cosy and convenient stay for us. Ocean views from the top verandah and a kitchen to cook your own food.
Sea Horse Guest House – Great little hostel right in the centre of Coron (and next to my favourite eating joint!). New building with a sunny roof top and good wifi. Free breakfast included in the $16USD per night room price.
Sanctuaria Treehouses – Lovingly crafted by hand using drift wood and and other materials, this secret and secluded spot is the perfect place for relaxing and rejuvenating. The owner, Brian, will bend over backwards to help you and offers kayak hire, BBQ dinners and a very tranquil escape. Stay in a teepee for only $39USD per night.
Where to Eat & Drink in Coron
I always opt to eat at night markets and there’s a small one on Don Pedro street with seriously cheap food. My favourite place to chow down some cheap grub was WG Diner across the road from the night market. The 75PHP Tasilog Gabi with drink for Breakfast is a great deal.
Getting To & From Coron
There is an airport 45 min from the centre at Busuanga which is an easy 150PHP airport van drive to/from your hostel. Flights between Manila and Coron can be found for cheap, try using Ctrip.
There is also a ferry between Coron and El Nido leaving once daily at for 1,200PHP (haggled price).
|Place||Daily Average in Philippine Peso (PHP)||Daily Average in US Dollar (USD)|
|Average Daily Expenses for the Philippines||1, 401.12 PHP||$31.53 USD|
|Manila||1, 070 PHP||$24.08 USD|
|Puerto Princesa||1, 457 PHP||$32.79 USD|
|Port Barton||1, 194 PHP||$26.87 USD|
|El Nido||1, 638.3 PHP||$36.87 USD|
|Coron||1, 803 PHP||$40.66 USD|
NOTE: You can definitely save more than me easily! My costs went way up when I started scuba diving. Also I was travelling fast which is a proven more expensive way to travel. Happy haggling and good luck on your quest for low-cost travel!
Language: Many; officially Filipino, but also Tagalog and English
Currency: Philippine Peso
$1 USD = ₱44.65
I was there: May 2015
Check out my Highlights of the Philippines!
The Magic of Palawan
Surrounded by pristine, clear water, Palawan is a travellers haven in the heart of the Philippines. Nothing can define it more than the water that surrounds this God-gifted island. Pictures do not lie and the images you see online will be the same beauty that will capture you the moment you set foot in Palawan. Its seascape encapsulates the beauty of Southeast Asia, its wildlife terrestrial and aquatic life that are always picture-perfect, long silver silhouette that stretches all the way to Borneo, area few of the reasons why local and foreign travellers keep on visiting this island.
It has been noted as the ˜best island in the world by conde Nast Traveler for 2014 and 2015, while its popular underground river has been declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It has nothing but well-preserved nature for adventure-seekers, and hereâ€™s how you can plan out your trip to this beautiful island of Palawan:
Planning where to go
There are three popular destinations one can choose to stay in Palawan, Puerto Princesa, El Nido and Coron. Your choice of destination will determine the places you can go to and things you can do. Coron is a town of on island found at the tip of Palawan. Itâ€™s not a beach resort, but a great launching point for local island hopping. Nothing much is going on in Coron like the other two spots, but it gives you a scenic, calm, and local experience for those who are just there to enjoy a relaxing time while exploring the cultural significance of the island. El Nido comes with a more expensive taste of Palawan, as the little town comes with beach, great restaurant, high end hotels, and the best island hopping adventures in the Philippines. The best way to get here is by flying to Puerto Princesa and take a van ride. Lastly, Puerto Princesa is the home for the popular underground river that is a must for all tourists. However, you need to book a park entry ticket before you need to travel here. Trekking is also available in some of the mountains in Puerto Princesa like Mt. Aborian and Victoria Peak for land adventurers.
Keep your health in check
Travellers should note that the Philippines is plagued with nature-related illnesses that visitors should need to prepare for, such as Dengue, Malaria and other infectious diseases. Its very important to visit a doctor to get the right vaccinations and medications before leaving your home for an adventure trip to Palawan. A resource on travel diseases mentioned a few vaccine planning tips for international travellers, such as leaving enough time to arrange a doctors appointment, getting the right advice, comparing vaccine costs, and having travelling clinic details at hand. However, this is a different case if you are pregnant (or suspecting to be one) and if you will be travelling along with kids. Some vaccinations are not allowed for mom-to-be and doctors may require further testing on children before pricking them. Nevertheless, Palawan is a safe zone for all types of travellers with plenty of things to do and sights to visit, a short stay is not enough to explore this magical island.
Things to do here
Now, let’s go to the part where you plan the best activities you can squeeze in your trip to Palawan! With so many activities to try, a short stay may not be quite enough, but with some proper planning, you can get as much done in even a three day stay on the island. First up you absolute must see the popular underground river but do note that its not for the weak-hearted people, as you along with your group will need to ride a small boat going to the destination. The depth of the water inside the cave is still unknown and there are deeper areas of the 8.2km long underground river that is impossible to explore due to oxygen deprivation. Don’t worry, though as a helmet with headlight and life vest will be provided for your trip. Also be sure to catch the seafood festival every April where entrants feature all the best fish, crabs, shrimp and more delicacies in this special day. In the third week of June, Palawan also annually celebrates the “Feast of the Forest” where people head out to an area to plant trees. Eco-camping, performing environmental artists, and contests are also held alongside this event.