Palawan: A Tropical Getaway

Palawan: A Tropical Getaway
El Nido, Palawan Island, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Palawan's turquoise waters and exotic wilderness are perfect for a summer break

Nikita Nikhil
June 06 , 2020
13 Min Read

Situated on Philippines’ western flank, Palawan is a thin and long island teeming with sugar-white beaches, hidden lagoons, exotic wilderness, underwater rivers, limestone caves and, not to forget, sumptuous Filipino seafood. Comprising of almost 1,800 small islets, this sparsely populated land mass rose to prominence after getting featured in Hollywood blockbusters The Bourne Legacy, The Beach and James Bond's The World Is Not Enough. Filipinos often dub this idyllic island as the “Last Ecological Frontier” because of its commitment to protecting its amazing wildlife and natural beauty. Palawan is a perfect island getaway for your summer vacay and if you are an aquaphile and adventure enthusiast, these are some of the places you should not miss:

El Nido

Aerial view of the beautiful lagoon and limestone cliffs in El Nido.

 

 
 
 
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Situated on the northern tip, El Nido is Palawan Island’s most famous tourist destination. The archipelago houses some of the country's best turquoise water and white sand beaches. Apart from water sports, the most popular thing to do in El Nido is island hopping. Rent a kayak to explore hidden beaches and caves around Cadlao Island in the Bacuit archipelago. Boat rides from one island to another are Instagram-worthy with the picturesque karst cliffs surrounding you. To add a little bit of adventure, travel across islands using a zip line. The stunning lagoons, exotic wildlife and pristine sea beds enveloped by light blue and sea green colour water will leave you in awe of El Nido. 

Coron Bay

 
 
 
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If you are a history buff, Corona Bay is your calling. Besides having a fantastic base for water activities, the bay also holds a fleet of sunken, yet well-preserved Japanese warships that date back to World War II and are at a diveable depth. Bangka or motorised outriggers will take you from Busuanga Island to the wrecks where you can dive and admire the coral-encrusted exterior, cranes and armaments of those ships. Adventure sports like kayaking and snorkelling are hot when visiting Kayangan and Barracuda Lakes, which are known to be the clearest in Asia. 

Puerto Princesa

A group of tourists entering the cave in Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park

 
 
 
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Arguably the cleanest and greenest city in Philippines, Puerto Princesa is a heaven for people travelling on a budget. However, the most exclusive site of the city is the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage site. This river park contains the Cabayugan, the second-longest navigable underground river in the world, which is about 8km long (only 4.3km is open to tourists). You can explore the majestic limestone cave by riding a paddle-powered outrigger boat, sailing through the cave’s mouth and marvel at those stalactites. It has a variety of species endemic to the river system, from crab-eating monkeys to monitor lizards, bats and swiftlets. 

Tubbataha Reef

 
 
 
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Another UNESCO World Heritage site, the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea is home to some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world and is a unique example of what is known as an “atoll reef”. It is divided into two partsNorth and Southand is a sanctuary to more than 1,000 species including manta rays, lionfish, tortoises, clownfish and sharks. 

Calauit Game and Wildlife Sanctuary

 
 
 
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Take a day off from water-related activities and visit the Calauit Game and Wildlife Sanctuary on Busuanga Island, which is home to a wide range of exotic African animals (brought here from Kenya on a boat!) and endangered species native to Palawan. Hundreds of giraffes, elans, waterbucks, Calamian deer, monkeys, freshwater crocodiles, zebras, bearcats, bushbucks and a variety of birds roam freely around this preserve.

Bird's Eye View

A beautiful and pretty Palawan peacock-pheasant

 

Endangered Palawan hornbill

As Palawan is an important stop for migratory birds, you’ll end up seeing some of the best birding sites in Philippines. Keep your binoculars ready as you’ll get to see hornbills, the Palawan Scops-owl, cave-dwelling Palawan swiftlet, Asian fairy-bluebird, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Palawan Peacock, and the pin-tailed Parrotfinch, amongst many others.


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