Dear Ben,

On Sat, Jan 24, 2015 at 5:02 AM, Adelaide <ben@opto.net> wrote:

Hi Alex,

I am Ben, Thelma’s best friend at UP Medicine. Chito advised me to get in touch with you to get advice regarding Palawan. My family and I (8 people) are planning to go there (March 2nd -5th). We were wondering if you can give us any travel advice. We haven’t booked anything yet.

Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you, Ben


Hi Ben,

If I wanted to capture the Palawan experience in three days, I would  visit either El Nido, Coron, or the Underground River (UR). You have enough time for only one choice.

retirednoway, "The top three tourist destinations in Palawan."

The top three tourist destinations in Palawan.

If I had four days, it would either be El Nido and the UR or Coron by itself. It’s possible to also do El Nido and Coron or the UR and Coron but you’ll be rushed (due to logistics) and you’ll spend a lot on transportation.

Five and more, you can visit any two unhurriedly. Five days (and four nights), in my opinion, is the ideal duration for enjoying Palawan in one visit.

El Nido and the UR are in Palawan’s long island. Coron is in its own island (called Culion) to the north. It is possible to go to Coron from El Nido (or vice versa) but the eight-hour long voyage will be made on safe and not-so-safe motorized bancas (pumpboats).

Each place has its own appeal. El Nido is simply spectacular and unique. It is an outstanding venue for water sport lovers (e.g., diving, sailing). It’s the most expensive but for water sport lovers, it’s worth it. This is my personal first choice if I could only visit one.

There are non-diving and diving reasons to choose Coron however. To enjoy Coron you have to be physically fit. Even if you simply want to laze around, you have to use those legs. Its attractions require walking and climbing and boarding bancas here and there. Now if you like diving, Coron will be a treat. It’s the site of a dozen or so Japanese naval ships that the Americans sank when the latter beat the former during the battle to recapture the Philippines in 1944. I wasn’t wreck-certified then (and neither am I now) and it’s certainly riskier than regular open water diving but you can do it by getting wreck-certified in the process.

Finally, there’s the Underground River. This is the longest one in the world — it’s a natural cavern, half-submerged, that connects the inland side of a mountain to the sea. In 1974, with a family friend, we saw the mouth of the UR where it spills into the sea. It didn’t become a park until some 20 years later so it was pretty wild then. When I saw the wildness of Palawan’s forests and seas, well, that’s how I fell in love with Palawan.

In 2012, the Department of Tourism estimated the average expenditure of a Palawan visitor at 3,500 PHP per day. The majority of that goes towards accommodation. Then depending upon the visitor’s arrangements, food and transportation or vice versa are the biggest categories.

If you have a specific question, please ask it, otherwise I shall close by wishing you a happy and safe trip.