Palawan is the Philippines’ last frontier. Tourism has yet to penetrate this elongated island located southwest of Luzon, a paradise for tourists. Setting foot on Palawan, you’ll find yourself in a landscape of lush Jurassic forests, coves, waterfalls, white sand beaches and limestone cliffs, all surrounded by a coral sea.
We spent two short years on this pristine Pacific island, which left us longing for more. Aside from learning a few dozen Filipino words or so, I have many fond memories simply because this was the first foreign country that I set foot on.
The origin of the name Palawan follows several myths. Some say that "Palawan" is a corrupted form of the Spanish word "paraguas," or “umbrella,” reflecting the island’s closed-umbrella shape. Others contend that it was derived from the Chinese words "pa lao yu," which mean "Land of the Beautiful Harbors."
A typical route through Palawan might take you from Puerto Princesa (airport and gateway to Palawan) north to Honda, then up the coast to Dumaran, Taytay, El Nido and Port Barton. From there, you can take a ferry to Busuanga, Paluan and Calatagan or fly north to Manila. Surprisingly, the southern half of Palawan (south of Puerto Princesa) is relatively unexplored.
Port Barton boasts tropical rainforest and the famous Pamuayan waterfall. When in Honda Bay, don’t forget to check out the underground rivers that flow directly into the sea. In Taytay, take lots of pictures of the scenic Embarcadero River. El Nido, is magnificent, to say the least — this countryside town is surrounded by towering, verdant green limestone cliffs.
Hotels with common bath and toilet run around 400 pesos (about $8.50 US), while resorts will reflect more American prices. During the dry season, you can set up tent next to a sheltering tree. Life is good either way!
One long-lasting memory of Palawan: a palm-fringed beach with coconut trees swaying in the wind, majestic mountain ranges on the horizon and limestone cliffs rising over the crystal-clear water — the view from my hammock. Don’t forget pasalubong, souvenirs for your friends and loved ones. Avoid traveling during the rainy season, when the weather will make getting around a bit treacherous.