Palawan the Philippines Travel Blogger Lumen Beltran
Asia,  Travel,  Travel Tips

A Guide to Palawan, the Philippines for Solo Travellers

If you’re one of the lucky ones planning to check out Palawan in the Philippines, boy, have I got the guide for you. My solo trip to Palawan was definitely a memorable experience and I can guarantee you that you will always feel like you’re in paradise while you’re there. I hate long introductions, so let’s just get to the itinerary.

Getting there

The most famous hotspots in Palawan include El Nido, Coron, and Puerto Princesa. Unfortunately, I was unable to take a ferry to Coron since ferry services were halted due to the weather conditions, so I’m going to be focusing on my El Nido and Puerto Princesa experience. If you’re looking for a guide to Coron, you can read this blog post created by Salt in our Hair.

I spent 3 days in El Nido (although I wish I had spent more time there!) and 2 days in Puerto Princesa.

Now, you’re likely going to be coming from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, so what you need to do is book a flight from Manila to El Nido, since Palawan is an entirely different island. The only airline that offers this service is AirSwift. Make sure to book early! I booked my flight literally a few days before and paid about 5800 PHP for a one-way trip. The flight is approximately 1 hour.

Pro tip: If you’re planning on seeing Puerto Princesa, my recommendation is to book a flight from Puerto Princesa back to Manila, which cost me around 1500 PHP. Not only is it cheaper, it saves a ton of time. From El Nido, you can take a van that will take you to Puerto Princesa in 5 hours for 500 pesos. Van departures are available every hour starting at 5 pm.  You can ask your hotel or hostel for more information!

So to summarize, I booked a one-way flight from Manila to El Nido, took a van from El Nido to Puerto Princesa, and flew from Puerto Princesa back to Manila. To get from the airport to your accommodations, trikes and cabs are available for hire. 

Where to stay

While there are many hotels available, I stayed in at the Amakan hostel for two reasons:

1. You have to remember that the Philippines, unfortunately, may not have infrastructure at the quality level you’re used to. When I arrived in El Nido, it was actually storming, so many accommodation options did not have electricity. The Amakan hostel was one of the few that did.

2. I appreciate a luxury experience as much as any other person, but after 3 weeks of catching up with family, I was ready to expand my circle and meet new people. A hostel is the perfect place to do that!

Okay, as much as I love getting to know locals and their lifestyles while I’m travelling, I also appreciate destinations with a lot of other travellers from around the world. I’m Filipina-Canadian, so I’m pretty familiar with the language and culture already,  and wanted to make some new friends who can give me pointers on what to visit in their respective countries in the future. 

The nice thing about Amakan is that they actually have a decent hot water tank in their dorms (yes, this is a rarity in the Philippines!) which you’ll appreciate after a day packed with activities and tours. I got lucky – I just showed up and fortunately they had rooms available. 

If you’re looking for other cool hostels to stay in, Spin Hostel and Frendz Hostel. (Amakan doesn’t have a website as far as I know, but if you Google them they will show up on Booking.com and other travel aggregator sites) 

Okay. Time for the fun part. 

Things To Do in El Nido, Palawan 

I’m just going to break this part down based on the types of activities you wanna do. Let’s get started. 

Inland tours

My first full day in El Nido was spent doing an inland tour, mainly because I didn’t really have a choice. Sometimes, the Philippine coast guard doesn’t allow island hopping because the waves from the West Philippine Sea are too dangerous. But that doesn’t mean you’re gonna miss out on a cool experience if the island tours are cancelled! I had SO much fun my first day. 

Getting around inland

I recommend hiring a motor bike or scooter to get around! I believe it’s 500 PHP for the full day. You can also hire a trike driver but it’s not as fun and honestly? The smell isn’t the greatest. 

1. The Gardens 

The Gardens tops this list because it was by FAR the most memorable experience from my first day! If you’re a fan of waterparks, drinking, and giant slides, you’re going to have a helluva time here. They also have delicious burgers, a DJ who knows their audience, and servers who just kept bringing us free shots hahaha. 

The Gardens PH

Entrance fee: 5oo PHP*

*Disclosure: I paid 300 PHP because I am a blogger πŸ™‚ I love supporting local businesses and sometimes they give me discounts and complimentary items to help spread the word. Please note that discounts and such are NOT something I will ever expect as a content creator, especially if it’s coming from a small business!  

2. Lio Beach 

If you’re looking to flex for the ‘gram, this is one of the best inland destinations to do it! Amazing luxury restaurants and hotels, a forest that lights up in the evening, and the beach, of course, are just one of the many Instagrammable locations this beach has to offer. 

Lio Beach Lumen Beltran Travel Blog

3. Nacpan Beach 

If you’ve hired a tour company to take you on an inland tour, this beach is where you’ll likely be going for lunch! It’s absolutely beautiful and there, and if you’re a fan of glamping, there is where you’re gonna wanna do it! 

Inland tour fee (full day): 1000 PHP

*Disclosure: I paid 800 PHP because I am a blogger πŸ™‚ I love supporting local businesses and sometimes they give me discounts and complimentary items to help spread the word. Again, please note that discounts and such are NOT something I will ever expect as a content creator, especially if it’s coming from a small business!  

Island Tours 

Island tours are probably what you came to El Nido to do! Luckily, many of them are VERY affordable and include activities and equipment. 

Before I let you know what’s up for go-to islands, I should plug my amazing personal tour guide, Mark, from CJ Travels & Tours. He was recommended to me by my cousin and I’m super happy with my experience. You can give him my name and he would be happy to offer you a special on their services! 

For each tour I’ve done with them, they’ve picked me up right from my hostel and provided a super yummy lunch consisting of rice, seafood, pork dishes, vegetables and fruit. 

Island Tour A 

1. 7 Commando Beach – This beach is quite busy, especially when I arrived since the island tours have been halted by the coast guard for a few days. Don’t expect to have this beach by yourself! Your tour guide can provide more details on the origin of its name, but from what I remember, 7 soldiers got stranded on this beach during World War II. There’s a really HIGH swing you’ll be able to see there! Donations for the swing experience are optional but I always recommend leaving one. 

Here’s a photo from the swing! 

2. Shimizu Island – Your lunch stopover! While your tour guides prepare your family-style feast, feel free to snorkel in this area. Please note that this island does not have a beach, so you will eat your lunch on the boat. 

Friendly reminder: As with every destination literally everywhere in the world, please leave only footprints and take only photos. There are very strict laws in El Nido regarding littering, so I just want to remind you guys not to leave any plastic packaging from snacks you bring for the day. 

The next three destinations from Tour A are not accessible by boat, so you have two options: You can either swim to them or hire a kayak (300 to 500 PHP depending on how many people 

3. Big Lagoon – I remember wishing that I had a GoPro or a drone SO BAD because the lagoons are so beautiful but I wasn’t able to get any photos! I didn’t bring my dry bag, so I don’t have any iPhone photos either, sorry guys. Next time, I’ll have to bring it for sure. Take your time and enjoy the crystal clear turquoise waters here. 

4. Small Lagoon – There are very few photos of the Small Lagoon since you’re going to need a dry bag to bring your gear. If you’re swimming, it can be quite far and you will get tired if the currents are quite strong and not flowing in your favour (speaking from experience).  

Lagoon El Nido
Apologies for the quality of this photo! It was taken on someone else’s device and it’s the only one I have from the lagoons. Sorry folks!

5. Secret Lagoon – Once you’re entered the Small Lagoon, you can venture even further and check out the Secret Lagoon, too! 

Island Tour A fee (full day): 1200 PHP* 

*Disclosure: I paid 1000 PHP because I am a blogger πŸ™‚ I love supporting local businesses and sometimes they give me discounts and complimentary items to help spread the word. Again, please note that discounts and such are NOT something I will ever expect as a content creator, especially if it’s coming from a small business!  

Island Tour B 

1. Lovers Island – Also known as Pinabuyutan Island. This place is postcard perfect, complete with white beaches, an abundance of palm trees, and limestone cliffs! I met a fellow solo traveller (shout-outSophie from the UK! I miss you!) and we took SO many photos from this place. 

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Ladies!! There are very few things more empowering than travelling solo – I promise ✈ There are so many marketing campaigns that revolve around women empowerment this, women empowerment that. They want you to buy a product that doesn't always perform the way it's advertised, or tickets to a speaker panel or event that isn't always hosted by a diverse team. ⁠ ⁠ And while I'm loving that companies are finally catching on to what matters to us women, I think it's also important that we're media literate πŸ€”β  ⁠ I encourage you to THINK CRITICALLY and figure out which companies ACTUALLY care about empowering us, or if they're using this "trend" as a way to your hard earned dollars. ⁠ ⁠ I'm saying all this because I really want you guys to value travel experiences rather than material objects, so you're putting your money towards something that really is empowering. ⁠ ⁠ When you travel solo, you make your own executive decisions, you learn to be resourceful, and you become super comfortable with being alone (but not lonely)! You don't have to make compromises for anyone else's schedule and you'll meet other solo travellers who will really change how you see the world. ⁠ ⁠ Here's a pic from my solo trip to Palawan 🌞 After spending 3 weeks out of the month catching up with family I haven't seen in almost 2 decades, I really needed some time to recharge my social batteries lol. Have a great day!

A post shared by LUMEN (LULU) BELTRAN (@lumenbeltran) on

2. Snake Island – Travellers beware! Snake Island isn’t named the way it is because it’s filled with snakes (thank goodness, haha). It’s actually named after the main attraction – a beautiful winding sand bar. I’m saying beware because if you arrive during high tide, the sand bar is not visible. If it’s low tide, I definitely recommend hiking up the trail (your tour guide can show you where that is) and get awesome photos from above. 

3. Entalula Beach – Your lunch spot! Take a break and enjoy yummy seafood and other traditional Filipino dishes. If they have it, make sure you try the eggplant dish – it’s my favourite vegetarian option. 

El Nido Palawan lunch
With my new friend Soph!

Shop our style below!

4. Cudugnon Cave – Hands down my absolutely FAVOURITE destination on this tour! You may visit this cave before or after lunch (we saw it before). You basically have to climb through the smallest little hole to view the wonders of the cave. Bring water shoes or wear flip flops since there are sharp rocks on the side of the island where you’ll be wandering to access the little opening. 

Cudugnon Cave

5. Snorkeling Site –  If you’re planning on going snorkelling and you’re not bringing your own gear, it is possible to rent water shoes and snorkel googles. You can ask your tour guide where to rent equipment and all tours include life vests. 

If I’m being completely honest, my snorkelling experience was better at Puerto Galera since visibility was much higher and we were able to hire a small boat to take us to more reefs. 

Snorkeling El Nido

Other equipment I recommend: You’ll notice that there are many vendors who will prompt you to purchase dry bags that can hold 5kg, 10kg, 15kg, or 20kg worth of stuff. I purchased a 5kg for around 300 PHP and believe me, it was well worth it, since I was able to bring my wallet and other personal materials to various islands. If you don’t have a waterproof phone case, they will also have waterproof phone bags available for roughly 100 PHP! 

Island Tour B fee (full day): 1400 PHP 

*Disclosure: I paid 1000 PHP because I am a blogger πŸ™‚ I love supporting local businesses and sometimes they give me discounts and complimentary items to help spread the word. Again, please note that discounts and such are NOT something I will ever expect as a content creator, especially if it’s coming from a small business!  

Moving on … 

I’m super sad I wasn’t able to do the following two tours since I had limited time in El Nido but if you’re sticking around for longer, I highly recommend doing these if they’re available. Having said that, I don’t have much to say about them since I haven’t experienced them myself. Let me know if you guys find any other travel blogs that mention these and I’ll link them in this post! 

Island Tour C

Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach, and Hidden Beach

Island Tour D

Ipil Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Natnat Beach, and Bukal Beach 

Feel free to ask your tour guide for more details on these islands! And send me photos from your trip if you get to do Tours C and D – I would love to see them. 

Book your experience below!

Other Activities 

1. Hiking trails: As beautiful as beaches and islands are in El Nido, sometimes you want to switch it up. That’s what travellers do, after all. They’re always looking for something new to see. If you’re taking a day to hike, try seeing Nagkalit-kalit Falls. Most people hike this trail in flip flops, since your feet are going to get wet.  

2. Scuba diving: I don’t have very many regrets in life, but not making enough time to go scuba diving in El Nido is probably one of them. You can get certified for cheap in the Philippines if scuba is your thing. If the views from snorkelling are any indication, I think Palawan will definitely capture your heart for scuba! 

3. Full Moon Parties: Unfortunately, I missed out on the full moon party as I had arrived in El Nido right after the parties. But I hear they host them pretty regularly (monthly I believe!). Let me know if you end up checking one out after reading this so I can update this post. 

Where to Eat 

Because half of the travel experience is what fuels you for the day. 

Baked Goods 

Despite the numerous coffee shops offering baked goods, there’s only one real bakery in El Nido, and that’s Midtown. Be prepared for line-ups!

Breakfast 

Filipino: If you didn’t eat a traditional Filipino breakfast, did you even go to the Philippines? A classic Filipino breakfast consists of eggs, a choice of protein, and of course, no Filipino meal is complete without rice. Your hotel or hostel probably offers Filipino breakfasts, but if not, you can always try Silog Republic. My favourite is “tocilog” πŸ™‚ 

*Pro tip: Filipino breakfasts are the best after a night out, lol. 

Other: If you’re not feeling a Filipino breakfast that day, Art Cafe is a popular spot because the food is consistent, they have the strongest Wi-Fi signal, and you can pay by credit card. 

Filipino Kamayan

Complete your Philippines experience by heading over to Boodle Fight in El Nido. You’ll get food served on banana leaves and you’re encouraged to eat with your hands (the way us Filipinos ate pre-colonization). Don’t knock it till you try it – eating with your hands is actually really funEach boodle is good for approximately four people, so if you’re travelling solo like me, make sure to bring your new friends! 

Italian 

Trattoria Altrove offers pizzas for vegans, vegetarians, and meat lovers alike. Portions are HUGE, so be prepared to spit with a friend. Service is quick and staff are extremely friendly, which doesn’t surprise anyone considering you’re going to be in the Philippines. This spot is popular so plan accordingly and be prepared for long line-ups. The only thing I can tell you is that the wait is worth it. 

Vegan 

Taste El Nido has wonderful staff, beautiful interiors, and the best smoothie bowls you’ll ever have in your life. Cafe Athena also has vegan options, along with Mediterranean and Greek offerings. 

Cafes 

Kopi + Bake is the cutest, most eco-friendly cafe I went to in El Nido!

Dessert

Gusto Gelato offer crepes, waffles, and as the name may suggest, gelato. If you’re more of an ice cream person, go to L’Assiette instead.  

*Bonus: If you’re up for something soupy, make sure to try “chaolang”, a Palawan noodle speciality. 

Where to Dance 

With all the eating you’re going to be doing in El Nido, you’re going to want a place to burn all the calories. Here are some of my favourite spots. 

Hub 

The place you go to after the pre-game at the hotel but before all of the really hype places. Yummy cocktails and friendly staff! Attached to Frendz Hostel so it’s easy to get to if that’s where you’re staying. 

SAVA Beach Bar 

A bar with cheap beers, a dance floor, and a beautiful view of the beach. Who could ask for more? 

Happiness Beach Bar 

Similar to SAVA above! Beautiful interiors AND views. 

Pukka Bar

Highly recommend this bar since it was the most lit hahaha. That’s all I will say about that! πŸ˜‚ The DJ played mostly hip hop, Top 40, pop, and R&B music that night but I hear it’s also renowned for its reggae beats. 

That’s it for El Nido!

Things To Do in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Although I really do feel that I should have stayed in El Nido for a longer period of time, I’m very content with how I used my time in Puerto Princesa. Here’s a quick summary of my two days! 

Subaraw Biodiversity Festival 

I got SUPER lucky and happened to be in Puerto Princesa during the very last day of the Subaraw Biodiversity Festival! This famous festival lasts a span of two weeks, and they close it off with a vibrant parade. The parade features locals representing their schools and companies, live music, dancing, and of course, floats that portray the many species of wildlife that is so abundant in Puerto Princesa. I’m so happy I had the opportunity to witness this special day. In fact, I left El Nido at 7 am just to witness the parade (I had originally planned on going to the spa and leaving that evening). 

Subaraw Festival 2019

To end off the evening, I went to a concert in celebration of Subaraw and was able to see I Belong to the Zoo LIVE! If you’re looking for Filipino and Tagalog music, check out the “OPM Hits” on Spotify. You’re likely to find some of my favourite Filipino musicians there, including Ben&Ben and Moira de la Torre. 

I Belong to the Zoo Sana Subaraw

Bakers’ Hill 

Calling all lovers baked goods! This colourful eating outlet offers Filipino desserts including yema, hopia, taro chips, and more. For the most adventurous foodie, try tamilok, which is also offered in Bakers’ Hill. (No, I’m not going to tell you what it is – you just have to try it lol) 

Tamilok Filipino Food

Bonus: Bakers’ Hill also happens to be one of the most Instagrammable spots in Palawan. Don’t forget your camera, since the mini-botanical garden is filled with sculptures, leisure parks, and a 10/10 view of Puerto Princesa.  

For my Filipinos: This is the ultimate pasalubong spot. Bring cash. 

Mitra’s Ranch 

If you’re interested in horseback riding, ziplining, or enjoying the views of Honda Bay, this is the spot for you! 

Mitra's Ranch Palawan the Philippines Travel Blogger-13 Puerto Princesa

Sabang Ziplining Adventure 

I went ziplining mostly to kill time while our travel group waited for our turn to see the Underground River. The site is protected heavily and they will only allow a certain number of tourists there at a time. Because the wait times can be quite long, your tour guide will recommend one of the following 3 activities: 

1. Ziplinin’

2. Mangrove tourin’ 

3. Chillin’ 

I chose ziplining because I had already seen mangroves in Puerto Galera and, surprisingly, it was the first time I had gone the entire trip. 

The hike up to your starting destination is an experience in and of itself. Bring comfy shoes for trekking through the forest. Don’t be surprised if you spot monkeys on the beach, too! Once you reach the top, they strap you up and send you on your way. 

Ladies: I didn’t really plan on ziplining that day, so I wear a dress, which is not the best idea if you’re going to be strapped up to the zipline. Luckily, I wore spandex shorts underneath, which is something I always recommend bringing for travelling. 

If you’re also keen on the ziplining option, I would highly recommend bringing your GoPro if you have one (yes, I am saving up for one! Lol). You can purchase photos at the end of your zipping experience, but the photos provided don’t capture the view. And because the line is 800 meters long spanning right over the ocean, I wouldn’t risk capturing the experience with your pricey cell phone. 

Puerto Princesa Underground River 

Ahh, the famous underground river. This natural phenomenon just so happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, get this, one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World! 

Palawan the Philippines Travel Blogger-16 Underground River Puerto Princesa

To see the underground river, you’re going to take a van from Puerto Princesa for 2 hours. This is also a great time to meet other travellers since the van offers pick-up and drop-off services at a number of hotels. You’ll then need to take a boat to the entrance of the underground river, which is on a separate island. 

You’re required to wear a life vest and helmet while on the tour. While it’s not the most fashionable ensemble, you’ll be grateful for the equipment! Bats that dwell in the caves like to drop unwanted “gifts” for travellers. 

You’ll also be provided audio equipment that will point out notable rock formations within the river. It’s available in many different languages so it’s very inclusive. Your tour guide will also point these out. 

Underground River tour fee: 2200 PHP 

*Disclosure: I paid 1700 PHP because I am a blogger πŸ™‚ I love supporting local businesses and sometimes they give me discounts and complimentary items to help spread the word. Again, please note that discounts and such are NOT something I will ever expect as a content creator, especially if it’s coming from a small business!  

Book your experience below!

You’re probably not surprised that I have a lot more content to share with you about the Philippines. I mean, I was there for a month. I’m in the process of creating a 24-hour guide to my hometown, Manila, the Hundred Islands and Baguio. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, you can check out my other adventures on Instagram and YouTube πŸ™‚

Till next time,

Lulu Meets World Signature Professional Travel Beauty Fashion Blogger

As mentioned previously, I received special rates and complimentary items as a travel content creator. Please view my disclosure policy.

Palawan the Philippines Travel Blogger El Nido

2 Comments

  • Omar

    Woow this is really good in terms of content. Will be using this info for my upcoming winter holiday in el nido. If you went to cebu too, please make a blog post about your experience over there

    • lumenbeltran

      Yay!! Glad it was helpful hahaha I wrote it with you in mind 😊 I didn’t go to Cebu this time but I want to take my sisters next time. If you do end up going, send me pics so I can see them too

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