Okay so to be honest, a week is pushing it to maximise your trip to Palawan. 10 days would be more ideal, 2 weeks perfect. But, let’s go with 7 days.
This article assumes you are starting in Manila or Cebu, as these are the only two cities you can travel to Palawan from.
This article also assumes you want to maximise your time in Palawan, you have a medium budget and you value privacy and special experiences above purely cheapest options, you’re looking to experience the authentic beauty Palawan has on offer.
This article is written by me, a British traveller, who spends most of his time in Palawan and has seen and experienced everything.
Now a disclaimer, I am one of the founders of BDBM Coron which is mentioned from days 4-7 so of course I am somewhat biased here, but if you don’t like the sound of my suggestion I have included alternatives at the end of this article.
Here we go…oh and shamelessly, all of the pictures are from our expedition.
Fly to El Nido from Manila booking either through Airswift directly or through Skyscanner, check in to your hotel, which on a medium budget I would recommend The Nest or Cadlao, these are both next to each other and my preference would be on Cadlao as it has a pool, on a super premium budget I would recommend El Nido resorts but that is not the focus of this article, you can see them on the link if interested.
Once you’ve checked in to the hotel either rent a bike through your hotel or flag a trike and head to Napcan beach for the afternoon, head back to your hotel, change up and head out into the town for a local dinner and drinks, make sure you book the tour for day 2 through your hotel.
Go on an island tour in El Nido, either private or group, this can be booked through your hotel and I won’t assume your tour preference, it’s personal choice, there are about 6 to choose from. Whatever you choose expect to be among the heaps of crowds even if you go private there is little avoiding this (although wait till day 4 of the itinerary and this will change). When you come back head to Las Cabanas beach and watch the sunset and zip wire over the ocean, maybe have a few drinks down at the two bars they have there. Spend the evening eating a nice dinner in town and prepare for the early ferry to Coron tomorrow, it leaves at 6am.
Get the 6am fast ferry operated by Montenegro lines to Coron, if you haven’t booked your ticket in advance then book through your hotel on the day you arrive as they can sell out. You will arrive in Coron around 11am (it says you will arrive at 9.30am but you won’t). Head to your accommodation in Coron, this again is budget dependant so just choose somewhere from booking.com. Spend the afternoon walking around Coron town, walk up Mt Tapyas, (ideally for sunset around 5.30pm) and then in the evening visit the Maquinit Hot Springs.
Grab dinner and drinks in town and a good nights rest for the early start tomorrow.
Big Dream Boat Man expedition (either group if you want to join a group or private if you already have a group). We leave at 7am from Coron town and head to snorkel the top 3 Coron sights, Kayangan Lake, Seite Pecados and Twin Lagoons, WW2 Shipwrecks, the early start means you are there before all of the other boats and can enjoy the sights in relative peace and quiet, if you have done the island tour in El Nido you will appreciate the difference. Then there is lunch on Banol Beach before heading to Banana Island for overnight stay in authentic beach hut accommodation on the sea front, there is only accommodation for about 15 people on Banana so it’s like you have the island to yourself. All your meals and drink are provided so unwind with sum rum and cokes and star gazing in the evening.
Second day of the expedition rise with the sun and head to Malcapuya & Culion island for local experience before heading to Pass Island for overnight stay in the native beach cottage, same situation as Banana, only room for 10 people to stay overnight so you have the island to yourselves, bar a few locals who help keep it run, it’s unbelievable. Star gaze, volleyball, drinks and dinner, and usually some singing entertainment from the local guides.
North Cay and South Cay Island, Calauit wildlife safari and then heading over to Black Island for overnight camping, again, unlikely to be many if anyone else there. This is a real remote island experience you don’t want to miss, the beach is in front of huge black limestone cliffs and you walk through the caves.
Sail back to Coron town stopping off at Coral garden, lusong gun boat and then heading to Busuanga Airport to fly back to Manila.
That’s it. My honest view on the best 7 days you can have in Palawan from my own experience on a budget of $1000pp for everything.
Assuming you have longer, or maybe you think I’m just trying to sell you our expedition, here are some alternative options, or the things that I’ve missed out:
- WHERE IS PUERTO PRINCESA IN ALL THIS? IT’S ONE OF THE 7 WONDERS IN THE WORLD MAN!
This was tough, yes the underground river is one of the wonders of the world but I’ve left out PP for a few reasons. Firstly, the underground river is really the only thing to do there, that’s it. Secondly, it is SO busy, it’s crazy. Thirdly, PP is the only place in Palawan where there is even the possibility of safety concern. So ultimately, although it’s one of the 7 wonders, really, if you just have a week, it’s not worth all of the stuff you miss out on. One other thing to note, when you speak to people about Palawan they will have almost all been to PP, this is not why you think it is. It used to be that PP was the ONLY airport you could fly in to, then you had to make your way to El Nido or Coron by van/boat and it took forever too. This is no longer the case, it’s now easy to fly in to El Nido or Coron from Manilla or Cebu.
- Doing Island Tours in Coron not with BDBM
Although we are the only expedition operator in Coron you can do island tours, day trips, similarly to the one in El Nido and these are cheaper and can be arranged through your hotel, I have written an article on why I advise against this, it’s also the reason we set up BDBM, it’s our most valued blog post too so do check it out, it will help your trip regardless of whether you travel with us or not.
Really I can’t think of anything else I’ve left out… maybe some more island tours in El Nido but to be honest they’re so busy and you will see the beauty equivalent in much quieter setting on our expedition so I wouldn’t advise it.
If you think I’ve left anything out please do contact us.
If you’re interested in our expeditions feel free to check them out:
- Private Expedition (if you already have a group/family of 8-10 or more that you’re travelling with)
- Group Experience (if you’re over 14 and open to epic experiences and adventure)