Want to have an awesome Palawan itinerary? Want to know the top things to do and visit at the ‘last frontier of the Philippines’? Here’s the 5 days travel guide through Puerto Princesa and El Nido that will give you unforgettable memories!
When planning a trip to Palawan, for sure you’ll constantly hear about these 3 highlights – the Underground River (hailed as one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature), El Nido, and Coron. There are also a wide range of accommodations and tour operators to choose from. To help you make sense of it all, outlined below is the itinerary we used and hopefully it can shed light to your planning. Before we proceed though, here are the considerations and limitations that shaped this travel guide:
- we only had 3 days leave from work so including weekend, this itinerary must be 5 days only.
- we did not want to spend too much time inside buses/vans just to get to a place only to spend a few hours there before leaving. For this reason we decided to skip Coron and saved it for a later visit.
- we saved up money for months before booking anything but we aren’t really rich; we wanted to keep expenses including airfare below Php 20,000 each. Because of this we never even thought of staying at the likes of Miniloc and Lagen resorts.
- we are the types of travelers who prefer quieter places; For this reason, El Nido was the obvious choice over Puerto Princesa.
As a result, this 5 days Palawan itinerary ended up being an 80% El Nido and 20% Puerto Princesa (specifically the UR) trip – an amazing I’ll-do-it-again-in-a-heartbeat holiday!
Whether you follow this travel schedule to the letter or just pick from it the activities that fit your requirements and travel dates, I am just glad to be of help. Do let me know in the comments if you have further questions or if this travel guide has been useful to you. ^_^
Day 01 – Start the Journey to El Nido aka Paradise
This is mainly a day of just getting from point A to B. Getting to El Nido will require you to go to Palawan’s capital city first – Puerto Princesa, which is accessible by plane via Manila or Cebu. Here’s the breakdown:
- Manila/Cebu to Puerto Princesa by plane – less than 2 hours; best get the morning flights (ours was the 10:55 – 12:05 flight).
- Lunch – upon arriving in PP, get something to eat before proceeding to El Nido since it’s going to be a long ride.
- Land Trip to El Nido – we availed of De Loro’s van transfer services since they’re near the airport and can easily pick us up, plus they have a restaurant where we got lunch. This land trip takes 5-6 hours. There are only 2 stops along the way, so make sure you and your bladder are on good terms.
- Arrival in El Nido and check into your accommodation – you’ll arrive at the terminal in the evening and probably sore from the 6 hours van ride, so the best thing to do is just get a tricycle to your accommodations right away. We stayed at Makulay Lodge, a great choice since it has great ratings on Trip Advisor, isn’t uber expensive and the amazing view pictured above is right at their doorstep! The lodge is close enough to the town center but far enough for you to enjoy some quiet and a good night’s sleep.
Day 02 – Tour C Island Hopping
Island Hopping in El Nido, Palawan is a straightforward affair since whichever operator you approach, they’d generally offer you 4 options named Tour A, B, C and D. Uncreative, I know, but the naming convention does make everything easier to remember. For our second day in Palawan, we decided to do the second most popular tour in the island (based on the several opinions I’ve read online):
- Breakfast at Art Cafe – the El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe is one of the popular tour operators and restaurant in the area. They’re a hundred or a couple hundred pesos more expensive than others there but we still chose them because their boatmen are well trained and made fully aware to take good care of their environment.
- Whole day island hopping – settle in your boat for the day, get acquainted with the crew and other tourists in the boat (around 10-15 people) and discover some of the most amazing secret lagoons and unspoiled beaches in the world! Snorkel to enjoy the teeming wildlife under the ocean. Lunch is part of the tour and will be served at one of the several islands you’ll visit for the day.
Day 03 – Tour A Island Hopping
This was our last day in El Nido (time constraints booo!) so of course we had to do Tour A, the most popular tour in the area (again based on the opinions of bloggers I’ve read prior to this trip). Once again, we booked this tour from Art Cafe and our flow for the day was this:
- Breakfast – go ahead and try the other food establishments in the center of town or you can have this at your hotel.
- Whole day island hopping – visit more lagoons and beaches, equally or even more beautiful than those visited the previous day. More opportunities to snorkel and enjoy the ocean too.
- Goodbye El Nido – I soooo never wanted to leave but alas, pack we must and move on. This part of Palawan is so beautiful and mesmerizing that 2 days spent there cannot really give it justice. So if, unlike us, you’ll have more time to spend there, go ahead and enjoy Tour B and D too. There will be kayaking opportunities! To go home, you can take the last van trip from El Nido to Puerto Princesa, which leaves around 5-6 PM. Just go to the terminal to get a ride. Once again, the road trip will take 6 hours, so expect to arrive in PP around midnight.
Day 04 – Underground River in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
We saved the Underground River for last because it’s in PP meaning we’ll be staying nearer the airport, minimizing the chance of missing our flight back home. That would have been a nightmare! Here was the agenda for this day:
- Wake up early – yes, you would have arrived just a few hours ago (it would be midnight when you’ll stumble out of the El Nido van to your hotel room remember?), but yes you still have to wake up very early, around 5AM so you can get ready for the day trip to the Underground River. We booked this tour through Ysabelle Mansion, our Puerto Princesa accommodation. They too have great Trip Advisor reviews; a bit pricey but a welcome luxury for your body which would be sore at this point.
- Ugong Rock Adventures – half of the day trip will be spent at this place. Activities here include caving, admiring rock formations and rocks that ring like bells when tapped, and ziplining.
- Take a banca to Sabang to experience the Underground River – around lunch, you’ll be taken by your van driver and tour guide to a port to wait for a banca that’ll take you to see one of the newly hailed 7 wonders of nature. Expect queuing at the port and queuing prior to entering the UR. The wait can be long and the attraction will most likely be super crowded. Despite the stress that piles up, please be patient because it’s all worth it. The rock formations there are a sight you shouldn’t miss and the commentary from the boatmen can be hilarious if you keep an open mind ^_~
- See the fireflies at the mangroves – we actually booked this tour to cap off our day in PP because I heard it’s a great experience. Unfortunately, the boat that was supposed to take us to the mangroves had engine problems so we weren’t able to see the fireflies. In any case, if you still have energy after the Underground River, why not give this a try?
Day 05 – Goodbye Palawan
The cursed 5th day has arrived and so we packed our bags and got ready to leave Palawan. After eating breakfast, we checked out but didn’t go to the airport yet. We stopped by at a souvenir shop first to get pasalubongs for folks back home. My friends and I got some shirts, sarongs, and lots of rain shakers for office mates. Finally we headed to the airport and left Palawan cash poor but rich in memories and stories to tell!
There you have it everyone, the 5 Days Palawan itinerary that requires lots of energy but worth the muscle pains and one sleepless night because El Nido is an entrancing paradise and the Underground River is nature’s reminder of how awesome she is!
I’ll be creating another post for the budget summary so please watch out for that. Also, I’ll be doing a series of posts detailing our daily adventures in Palawan soon.