Although the Philippines has a lot of awesome travel experiences to offer, Palawan and Coron Islands are two of my favourites and this is the Palawan Itinerary I did on my trip there for around 10 days.
One of the things the Philippines is most famous for is white sand beaches and fun in the sun. You can find all that on Palawan.
Technically Coron Island is part of Palawan but I’ve added it as a separate destination in itself as quite a few travellers I met in El Nido didn’t plan to go there as they didn’t realise beforehand about it.
There is a lot to do on Palawan, but myself and my travelling companions chose to stick to the northern part as we wanted to continue on to Coron Island and Apo Reef.
North Palawan Itinerary
Day 1 – Puerto Princesa
The beginning of this Palawan itinerary begins in Puerto Princesa as this will most likely be your port of entry and is the main town on Palawan.
There are things to do around Puerto Princesa although we didn’t spend long there ourselves as we wanted to head to the west coast and the north of Palawan.
Take transport to Sabang the day after arriving in Puerto Princesa.
In that regard this article can be seen as suggestions for things you can get up to.
Day 2 – Sabang Subterranean River
If you managed to get to Sabang on the first day then you can take it easy in the morning, or if you stayed in Puerto Princesa get up early enough to get to Sabang.
Sabang is known as the entry way to get to the ‘Subterranean River‘ that is well known on Palawan.
It’s a cool place to visit (pun intended as it can be chilly inside) although it is a popular tourist attraction so can get busy.
You go on a small boat into a cave system in the rocks and is fun enough to do, although if you can’t make it there you aren’t missing the Taj Mahal or something like that.
For the rest of time in Sabang just chill out on the beach and grab some fresh fish dinner at one of the buffet dinners on a beach hotel.
Day 3 – A Big Jump Up To El Nido
Ok there is a bunch of stuff you can do between Sabang and El Nido in the north of Palawan, but we jumped straight up to El Nido from Sabang as we planned for time on Coron Island and another little getaway we discovered (revealed later).
Day 4 – 6 El Nido And Boat Trips/Beaches Around The Area
El Nido is such a good place to base yourself in the north and you can do day trips to surrounding beaches, islands, nature areas from there.
Two to three days will be enough to get a taste of what it has to offer, but if you have the time then take it easy and see more of things you can do in El Nido.
The boat rides in this area are epic. You can see karst rock outcrops, secluded white sand beaches, and there’s good kayaking and snorkelling to be had.
You can find secret beaches as well while exploring the turquoise waters of the lagoons.
Many companies run local boats to these places and can be found when in El Nido.
That being said if you want to book everything ahead then do so through a good travel company in Palawan, especially if you don’t want the hassle of doing everything by yourself.
El Nido itself is a small town with hotels/hostels and plenty of restaurants. Having a good fish dinner on the beach for sunset is a great way to finish the day there.
Speaking of sunsets the ones around El Nido are some of the best in the Philippines and make for great photographic opportunities.
The whole area around El Nido will be one of the highlights for any Palawan itinerary.
Day 7 – Boat to Coron Island
Although you could technically visit Coron on day trips from El Nido it’s way better to stay on the island itself otherwise it’s so rushed.
Take a local boat leaving from a small pier not far from El Nido (an agent in El Nido will help arrange everything if you want).
You should arrive late afternoon into the town where you will stay (there’s only one main one and is where the boats stop).
Climb up the small hill above the town for a good view, and if it’s the right conditions, a good sunset pic.
Day 8 -11 – Snorkel/Dive Boat trips Around Coron Island
Coron Island is epic for its shipwreck diving as there are many Japanese shipwrecks from World War II you can dive on.
It is also a good place to do a PADI scuba diving course, which would take 3-4 days for a beginners course. This is what one of the friends I was with did.
After doing the course you could then go out and try some shipwreck diving if you feel confident enough.
There is also good snorkelling and boat trips around on local boats to turquoise lagoons.
In the early morning or evening check out the local fish market in town to get a taste of local life and some fresh fish, if you like that.
Coron should generally be all about diving/snorkelling, and just general chilling.
Day 12 – Boat to San Jose (Mindoro Island) Then Transport to North Pandan Island)
The last few days actually take you away from Palawan but on to a secret little gem of a place.
Take a boat from Coron to Mindoro Island (to San Jose town) then straight away some local transport north up the coast a few hours to Sablayan where you can arrange a small boat for the short trip to North Pandan Island.
There’s a bungalow resort on the island for you to stay at. Get a drink and enjoy the sunset.
Day 13 – Apo Reef
Apo Reef Natural Park is between Coron and Mindoro islands.
This is the ‘secret spot’ I have mentioned for the article. Secret simply because most travellers haven’t seemed to have heard about it, outside of a few divers I met.
It’s a nature reserve so isn’t overrun with tourists. Most people that visit come on dive boats that pass through there on longer trips, or day trips to dive/snorkel Apo Reef from Mindoro (what I did).
You won’t stay on the island but a long day trip from North Pandan Island is enough to get some seriously good diving or snorkelling in.
One of the resorts on North Pandan Island can arrange for you to join a boat trip going there (as long as they’re running).
At Apo Reef there is some excellent diving down a steep reef cliff, or if you are snorkelling it’s also just as good to get a look at what Apo Reef is famous for: sharks!
Yep, there’s a lot of reef sharks at Apo Reef and they are not dangerous enough for people (although you never really know with nature).
Even just snorkelling you will see loads of sharks just swimming around the reef.
Just being so remote in the ocean away from lots of tourists is another big appeal of the place.
After a great day of diving/snorkelling you come back to North Pandan Island again.
Day 14 – Wherever You Go Next
The end of the suggested Palawan itinerary.
This ones entirely up to you where you want to keep exploring in the Philippines.
Practicalities For Visiting Palawan & Coron
A standard tourist visa for the Philippines (check that link to Wikipedia for all countries visa requirements) for most nationalities is 30 days. This can be extended however, and if you apply before going to the Philippines at an embassy you can get 60 days (2019).
To get to Palawan you will most likely fly from either the capital Manila, or Cebu City, as this is the easiest way. Puerto Princesa as mentioned is the gateway town to fly into.
This is what I would pack for visiting Palawan and travelling anywhere in fact.
Useful links for a visit to Palawan
Take the Lonely Planet Philippines travel guide to help plan your trip to the Philippines.
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