Vacation season is here, and few places in the world offer as many stunning locations as the Philippines. In this issue of Urban Family, Classic Travel presents the first of a two-part travel feature about the country, starting with three top destinations on the beautiful island of Palawan.
According to many travelers, Palawan is the best destination in the Philippines. The island is often referred to as “the last frontier of the Philippines” due to its raw and underdeveloped paradise-like nature. If you are looking for a vacation in a place with out-of-this-world beauty (and who isn’t?) the island’s jungles, hidden beaches, lagoons and coral reefs will do the trick.
The island makes a perfect destination for a relaxing family vacation without the hustle and bustle of some of the busier party islands in the Philippines, and it has repeatedly been voted the No. 1 island in the world by travel magazines and websites for its unspoiled beauty. Classic Travel recommends these destinations:
The capital of Palawan, Puerto Princesa, has been named the cleanest and greenest city in the Philippines, and serves as a great starting point for discovering all the nearby wildlife and attractions. The city is a multicultural melting pot with a population from all over the Philippines and other countries. Locals will often tell you about the kambak-kambak (come back, come back) syndrome – the way visitors are drawn to come back to the city again and again.
The island’s nature doesn’t disappoint, with picture-perfect views and wildlife reserves. Activities such as scuba diving, wind surfing and dolphin watching are available either within the area of the city or a short boat ride away. The city offers a wide range of restaurants and bars, and the slow, relaxed pace of life in the city won’t interfere with your vacation vibe. These are only a few of the great attractions of Puerto Princesa:
- Underground River – Also known as the Subterranean River National Park, this attraction can be accessed by boat and offers spectacular limestone formations inside a cave.
- Honda Bay – This beach can be reached within an hour from the city center and is well worth a visit if you’re interested in perfect, unspoiled beaches.
- Swimming with dolphins and whale sharks – There are several opportunities for these memorable experiences if you are staying in Puerto Princesa.
- Plaza Cuartel – Take a break from the sun and visit the memorial site for all the Americans who were killed in Puerto Princesa during World War II.
- Ugong Rock – Climb the mountain and zip line your way down again; this is a cool experience and can be done even if you are not an experienced rock climber.
- Iwahig River – Go for a peaceful paddle down the river while watching millions of glowing fireflies.
When to go: The weather is generally good all year round with few typhoons; the dry season is between November and June.
How to get there: Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines and Zest Air all have daily flights taking about an hour from Manila to Puerto Princesa. Boat trips from Manila are also available.
Where to stay: Dos Palmas Island Resort and Spa is nestled in the tropical waters of Honda Bay, northeast from Puerto Princesa. This 20-hectare private island is the ultimate island paradise getaway, set amidst pristine natural surroundings, white sandy beaches and clear turquoise blue waters.
The mythical Bacuit Archipelago can be reached from the simple coastal settlement of El Nido. The 45 islands and islets of the archipelago are best discovered by island hopping and kayaking. Hidden lagoons, magical seascapes and stunning limestone cliff backdrops (similar to the ones found in Guilin) create true magic in a way only nature can.
Although the beachfront area of El Nido has increased in population and is now mainly a party area crowded with tourists, bars and restaurants, it serves as a great spot to stay while discovering the surrounding sea and archipelago by day. Top attractions include:
- Taraw Peak – This limestone karst rising over El Nido offers a bird’s view of the area.
- Twin Beach – Nacpan and Calitang together make up the Twin Beach which is an interesting and beautiful spot where you can meet friendly locals – about 45 minutes away from El Nido.
- Marimegmeg Beach – Another mesmerizingly beautiful beach for photo ops and relaxing vacation days.
- Makinit Hot Springs – Great place for trekking and going for a dip.
- Nagkalit-kalit Falls – Beautiful waterfalls with a pool you can swim in that can be reached by walking through several rivers for about 45 minutes.
- Mike’s Point – A surfer’s dream destination and, according to many, the best beach in the Philippines.
- Corong-Corong and Calaan Bay – The most stunning sunsets imaginable can be enjoyed from these spots.
When to go: November to August or February to May for island hopping.
How to get there: Island Transvoyager Inc. (ITI) are offering 55 minute flights from Manila to El Nido.
Where to stay: El Nido Resorts is a group of eco-resorts located in the El Nido-Taytay municipalities in northern Palawan. The resorts offer genuine, local hospitality and unique and enriching experiences amidst beautiful natural landscapes. El Nido Resorts is currently composed of Miniloc Island Resort, Lagen Island Resort, Apulit Island Resort in Taytay and the eco-luxury property, Pangulasian Island Resort.
One of the main perks of Coron is the spectacular wreck diving on offer, which makes the area one of the top diving destinations in the world. At the bottom of the ocean you can find around a dozen well-preserved wrecks surrounded with coral reef, including a Japanese fleet from World War II. For the less adventurous, there are a number of islands with untouched beaches and crystal lagoons which are spectacular to visit by kayak. Coron is home to the beautiful Kayangan Lake which is famous for being the cleanest lake in the Philippines. The island itself has a number of tiny bright white beaches that are perfect for relaxed sunbathing for families.
The island is managed by an indigenous tribe which keeps a sustainable environment and a calm atmosphere. Some of the top tourist spots include:
- Mt. Tapyas – Climb the path of 700 steps to the top of the mountain for breathtaking views over the island.
- Mangroves – Natural mangroves are frequently occurring and a popular way of experiencing them is by kayak.
- Kayangan Lake – This cleanest (and Palawan’s most-photographed) lake has a higher entrance fee than some other attractions but is truly stunning and well worth a visit.
- Twin Lagoon – A breathtaking lagoon located at the foot of some impressive towering rocks.
- Barracuda Lake – The ideal place for snorkeling because of its beauty. Interesting rock formations can be seen underwater, so make sure to bring your goggles!
- CYC Island – Being the only admission-free beach in the area, this place is beautiful but a bit busier than some of the other beaches.
- Banol – One of the most picturesque beaches with its fine white sand and its backdrop of flower trees and rocks.
When to go: January to August is generally the sunniest period, but the weather is good all year round, with the exception of September which is the rainiest month.
How to get there: Fly from Manila to Busuanga with Airphil Express, Cebu Pacific or Zest Air. Take a van transfer from the airport to Cebu.
Where to stay: Huma Island Resort consists of 81 contemporary tropical villas designed for extreme comfort and relaxation. High ceilings create an additional sense of space while wooden sundecks are perfect for private sunbathing or admiring the panoramic views. Recreational facilities include an infinity pool, dive center, fitness center, kids club, walking trails and the Huma Island Spa.
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