Aquamarine waters, lush palm forests, exotic wildlife and unspoilt fishing villages. Yes, Palawan Island has it all, which is why it’s fast forging a reputation as the world’s new favourite island escape.
One of the 1780 islands of the Philippines’ Palawan archipelago, it’s home to hidden lagoons, white-sand beaches, spectacular limestone cliffs and amazing zoology (there are more than 600 species of butterfly, just for starters).
It’s luxe yet affordable, with eco-conscious resorts treading lightly on their pristine piece of wilderness; a destination geared equally to the thrillseeker and the hammock dweller. And the icing on the cassava cake? Palawan sounds like it’s a long way from civilisation but your holiday begins just over an hour by plane from Manila.
Palawan with kids is a mighty good plan. The island has several family-friendly resorts, including Miniloc Island Resort, an eco escape with overwater thatched-roof rooms and cottages that sleep up to four, its own beach club and a kids’ activity centre. Puerto Princesa, the capital of the island province, is regularly voted one of the cleanest, greenest cities in the Philippines. Grab a kayak and paddle on the calm lagoon or don a mask and snorkel to better see the mesmerising sea life below. Taking a spin in a traditional bangka (outrigger canoe) will keep all ages happy.
It’s not hard to slip into a romantic frame of mind on Palawan, with its luminescent blue waters, scalloped fringes of sand and towering limestone cliffs. Chartered boat operators will take you on a half- or full-day island-hopping trip to secret beach coves, where you’ll feel like you’re the only people in the world. If you really want to get away from it all, an operator such as Tao Philippines can organise a private boat safari, visiting remote islands and camping in style on deserted beaches. Whatever you choose, the Palawan sunsets are reliably spectacular and best enjoyed with a cold drink in hand.
For luxury travellers
Parts of Palawan can be rough and ready, with a patchy electricity supply, but you won’t be forsaking any creature comforts at Two Seasons Coron Island Resort & Spa. Located on a secluded island 40 minutes by boat from Busuanga, to the north of Palawan Island, it’s an exclusive, eco-conscious retreat of 42 bungalows, complete with every conceivable spa treatment, transparent kayaks, submersible scooters and a bar that boasts views of both the east and west beaches on its narrow spit of land.
It’s not all rest and relaxation on Palawan. The island has some of the best scuba diving in the world, with shipwrecks to explore at the bottom of Coron Bay and endless reefs forming an underwater universe for long-nosed dolphins, endangered sea turtles and colourful fish. Make sure you take a canoe down the 8.2-kilometre-long Puerto Princesa Underground River, a UNESCO World Heritage site comprising a vast network of limestone caves accessed via an improbably small sea opening. Palawan is also known as one of the Philippines’ last hiking frontiers. Whether you’re looking to exert yourself for a couple of hours on the 3.5-kilometre Jungle Trail near the Underground River or for a few days to reach the dizzying heights of Cleopatra’s Needle, this incredible jungle wilderness is sure to deliver.