What to do in Palawan, The Philippines

Wondering what to do in Palawan, The Philippines?

After spending several weeks traveling solo in Taiwan, I decided to visit The Philippines next. I literally just looked at the map of countries closest to Taiwan, and voila! I booked my one way ticket to Manila and started my 2 month trip in this karaoke-loving archipelago.

My experience in manila

As you’ve probably heard, Manila is not the best city stay an extended period of time in. You do usually have to go through it to see the rest of the country. I wanted to give it a chance and see it for myself. I stayed for about 4 days to adjust before booking my flight to Palawan, and it’s where I got my 29-day visa extension.

The pollution is horrendous. It’s loud, congested, and chaotic. I went to the Museum of Fine Arts and neighboring Intramuros. I saw both in a few hours. The traffic was so bad that I stopped venturing that far from my Airbnb after that.

I made some great friends on Couchsurfing who I went bowling with and had lunch. I really tried to get to know the city as it was. As a highly sensitive person, Manila was A LOT for me.

People complain about the air pollution in Mexico City, but I’ve always felt fine there. As soon as I stepped out of my Airbnb in Makati, though, I could feel my lungs cave in a bit because of the smog. It was also really hot y eso que it was winter when I went there. There’s also no metro system, and the Grab app (their Uber) was down a lot of the time. There’s always lots of honking going on which was overstimulating. On my way to the airport, a local helped me wave down a taxi because Grab was down and I got to the airport in time.

I recommend staying in Makati if you absolutely need to stay in Manila as its about 20 minutes away from the airport without traffic. Another reason I stayed in Manila longer than any traveler I met is because it has the best wifi in the country. In Palawan, the wifi was not great, so I got my work done while in Manila.

Getting to El Nido via puerto princesa

I flew from Manila to Puerto Princesa, where I stayed for a few days. In hindsight, I wish I had just flown directly to El Nido/Coron instead of Puerto Princesa. Palawan is a relatively huge island, and Puerto Pricesa is about a 5-6 hour van ride away from El Nido. The beach in Puerto Princesa wasn’t nearly as nice as the ones in El Nido. I did the Underground River Tour from Puerto Princesa, which is similar to the Cenote Tours they have in the Cancun Area.

underground river palawan
The Underground River Tour From Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Puerto Princesa has cheaper flights from Manila. I still think it’s worth it to fly directly to El Nido, especially if you’re on a tight schedule.

3 days STAY in El Nido, Palawan

In Puerto Princesa, I stayed in a hotel for privacy and to unwind from the chaos of Manila. The pool and AC were nice. In El Nido, I stayed at the Spin Designer Hostel. As a solo traveler who craves social connection, I like to alternate between hostels and my own room. I’ll have the privacy of my own space for a few weeks/days, then I switch to dorm rooms. In dorm rooms, it’s much easier to meet people.

I spend a lot of time alone. I also just like knowing that I’m not the only person sleeping in the room sometimes. Sure, there can be loud, inconsiderate people in dorms, but it’s mostly just other travelers who want peace and quiet. Most of us just want to get a good night’s sleep while seeing the world. There may or may not be a bachelorette party going on outside. I just lower my expectations for resting in hostels. Having moldeable, silicone earplugs and noise cancelling headphones helps a lot, as well as white noise playlists on Spotify.

I liked this hostel a lot because of the big common areas. It included a buffet style breakfast with pancakes and omelettes. The dining area’s in an outdoor patio with palm trees all around. I met locals and several Europeans who’d just quit there jobs and were spending time in the warm weather while their friends froze their asses off back home.

Group c Island hopping tour in El nido

The beach itself near where I stayed wasn’t swimmable because of all the boats docked there and their fumes. Where I stayed, going to a nice beach was only doable by renting a scooter or taking an island hopping tour. There are different tours ranging from A-E. I booked Tour C via Klook for about $22USD, which included several stops and a buffet lunch. I chose Tour C because C is usually the best multiple choice answer ;). I’m sure you can’t go wrong with whichever tour you choose. I recommend this one.

I walked 10 minutes the morning of the tour to the dock. The tour was to leave around 8 am. It didn’t include water booties or snorkeling gear, so I rented it for about $3USD. The tour didn’t actually leave until 9:30 am, but that’s island time, baby! I always make sure to use the restroom before tours start because of delays.

el nido palawan
I <3 El Nido! Sana Ol!!

Our guides were great and took us to several snorkeling spots. I saw some clownfish and a baby shark! The buffet lunch was also delicious. Overall, the tour was a great value and it was an all day affair. I was so tired the next day that I just relaxed and laid in bed. My favorite travel hack is relaxing guilt free. You don’t always have to always do the most on vacation!

I also got two massages in the time I was there. I get multiple massages a week here and it’s all just part of living life in thriving mode. On day 3, I took the van back to Puerto Princesa. I stayed there for a day before flying back to Manila. That’s where I had to return for my “work commute” AKA the good wifi!

Any questions about what to do in Palawan? Leave ’em in the comments!

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