Palawan is marketed by the Filipino tourism board as the “Last Frontier” of the Philippines. Situated out in the Sulu Sea and at least an hour flight from Luzon, the Visayas or Mindanao, it really does seem like the last frontier of the Philippines.
Palawan seemed very different from the rest of the Philippines. Puerto Princesa City, the capital city of Palawan and the Princess of the Philippines, is a bustling, progressive city.. that wears her crown proudly. The mayor is of German decent, surprisingly, and as such, runs the city with crazy German efficiency. PPC was by far an away the cleanest city I visited in the Philippines. I am not exaggerating when I tell you there was not one single cigarette butt on the side of the road, let alone trash.
The people are very welcoming and the staff at my hostel, JLC, were extremely nice. I had several conversations with them and they were just absolutely wonderful. JLC is family owned and run with only four rooms, and they make you feel like you are part of the family. The entire city is that way. Everyone was so nice and pleasant.
The real beauty of Palawan is the nature. I was only there for four days. Not nearly enough time to explore all that Palawan has to offer. I was unable to dive Tubbataha Reef, a premier dive site in the world. Nor was I able to visit El Nido, Palawan’s answer to Boracay. I did get to see Honda Bay and the Underground River.
Honda Bay apparently had its named changed ever so slightly since the occupying Japanese were not able to pronounce the original Filipino name. Regardless, the islands of Honda Bay are stunningly beautiful with white sand beaches, coconut palms and barangay (boats) sailing between them all.
I took a day trip around the islands for 1,100 pesos (about $25) that included lunch. I was with a nice Filipino family from San Fransisco, California. The grandmother told some amazing stories about the Philippines from the time of the war, her daughters chatted about their childhoods in the Philippines, and the children (around my age and a bit younger) talked about their experiences visiting the Philippines for the first time. The conversations and stories, and of course the beautiful islands, made for a wonderful day.
One of the premium attractions, and a World Heritage site, is the Underground River. The Underground River is the longest navigable underground river in the world (though, there may be a longer one in Loas that was recently discovered). Little paddle boats take you through the river and explain the formations. My little boat’s captain had a colorful sense of humor in both English and Filipino that had us laughing most of the ride. The day tour was 1,500 pesos (about $35) and included lunch with the option to try to tamilok wood worms. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, but apparently they taste like oysters.
Even though I was only in Palawan for four days, it was perhaps one of my favorite places in the Philippines. The wonderful people and beautiful natural scenery make Palawan and PPC a must visit destination in the Philippines.