Palawan is one of the most popular islands in the Philippines. Explore its magical jungles, unique underwater world, dreamlike lagoons and heavenly beaches. Based on our Philippines Travel Guide you should spend at least 8 days here if you want to make the most of your time in Palawan. Here’s how you can visit the Top Places in Palawan in 8 days!
Palawan Route: 8-Day Guide.
Day 1 – 4: Port Barton
Port Barton is a small fisher village and the insider tip when it comes to the Top Places of Palawan! Many travellers that like more relaxed and less crowded places than El Nido come to this hidden paradise. Yet, it’s not really popular, but offers so much to do and is one of our favourite spots in the Philippines.
4 days in Port Barton will be enough time to explore its surroundings and enjoy the Port Barton vibes to the fullest. We planned to stay less than that, but extended because we liked this place so much and met many like-minded backpackers!
Port Barton and its calm beaches are the insider tip of the Palawan Top Places!
The village is located 200 km south from El Nido and offers everything from stunning beaches, great food options, day tours to fun nightlife in bars. The best way to get here is taking a plane to Puerto Princesa and jump on one of the shuttles bringing you to Port Barton.
➳ Must Read: 4-week Philippines Travel Guide.
The Beaches in Palawan belong to the Top Places in Palawan. There are different options to explore the beaches that surround Port Barton.
Itay Itay Beach
Itay Itay is the main beach in Port Barton and easily accessible by foot. You can spend the day here sunbathing, having some fresh juices from one of the many beach kiosks, coconuts and refresh in the water.
➳ Tip: When we were in Port Barton, we saw a lot of jellyfish in the water. They only come up during a certain time of the day depending on the temperature and waves, but you should definitely check before heading inside the water. We got stung by a jellyfish several times, which caused a red rush, nothing too bad, but the locals told us that the venomous box jellyfish can also appear in that area of the Philippines. Just be careful with that! 🙂
The main beach in Port Barton is perfect for spending the day.
Coconut Beach & White Beach
The second option is to rent a scooter and explore other beaches around Port Barton for one day.
We went on a small explorer tour for a day to check out dreamy Coconut Beach and magical White Beach (our favourite one). Both beaches are an absolute dream! Almost no tourists and palm-fringed white sand everywhere. The ride by scooter is a fun adventure as you have to cross several hills, gravel roads and mud puddles- drive slowly! The way to the beaches is worth it.
Relaxing times at White Beach close to Port Barton. This really is a dreamlike beach!
The last option is doing an island hopping. The fishermen at Itay Itay Beach offer tours with their boats to take you out to the best snorkel spots like Turtle Point and remote islands like Star Fish Island, Inaladelan Island, Exotic Island, Smart Island and much more.
Restaurants in Port Barton
Port Barton offers great breakky, lunch and dining spots. Here are some of our favourite places that I can recommend.
We always had breakfast at Deep Moon Resort. The resort offers breakfast for everyone, also for non-hotel guests and is located directly on the beach. They have various breakfast options from Smoothie Bowls or pancakes to other warm and cold options. This allows you to start your day in the best way: with yummy breakfast and ocean views.
Smoothie Bowl at Deep Moon Resort.
You HAVE to try Port Barton’s best and biggest pizza! Gorgonzola Pizza prepares huge pizzas that you can combine with your preferred toppings. It’s great for sharing!
Burger & Co
The Reef Cafe is a delicious restaurant where you can choose between yum burgers, fries and seafood meals. It’s known as one of the best cafes in Port Barton and very popular. There are also several vegetarian and vegan options.
Don’t miss trying the Filipino cuisine! It’s not necessarily known as the best cuisine in Asia, but one of the most simple and favourite dishes that I literally miss: garlic rice! If you’re a fan of garlic like me, this is a must try. 😀
Of course, there is much more to explore in Filipino cuisine. It’s not only delicious but also much cheaper. We loved to eat at Gacayan Restaurant in Port Barton. The portions were huge and so cheap! You can get a good, traditional meal including drinks from 100 PHP (2 USD).
Bars and Nightlife
It’s actually surprising to see what’s on Port Barton’s night program. There are many bars where locals and tourists really mix up.
One of the bars we really liked was Coco Rico, a hostel bar belonging to the party hostel Coco Rico, where free shots and drinking games are quite common. Other bars worth visiting include Hangover Bar, which is more like a club, and Raggae Bar located on the beach.
If you’re looking for accommodation, make sure to check out Lunazul. It’s an awesome guesthouse offering great private rooms with balcony, which makes it great for couples or small groups to stay at.
If you are more interested in staying in a hostel, stay with My Green Hostel! This new hostel is great to connect with other travellers and feel at home.
All in all, Port Barton is the backpackers paradise in the Palawan! Its location between Puerto Princesa (airport) and El Nido make it the perfect stopover when heading up. You don’t only break up the long shuttle drive to El Nido then, but can also enjoy relaxing days in a still quiet but increasingly trendy paradise. Don’t skip it!
Day 5 – 6: El Nido
El Nido is the next stop of the Top Places in Palawan. It’s located in the northern tip of Palawan Island and with its pristine beaches and stunning lagoons particularly popular for tourists. The limestone formations, sandbanks and blue water give this place its special feeling, which is why together with Coron, it has become one of the most popular locations to visit in the Philippines.
The main attraction in El Nido is the island hopping to explore the paradise islands surrounding this destination. You can get to El Nido by taking a 4-hour drive by shuttle from Port Barton.
El Nido is famous for visiting the lagoons and surrounding islands via island hopping tours.
➳ Tip: Most travellers spend several days in El Nido, but from my personal view 2 nights in El Nido are enough for seeing the main attractions.
Honestly, we didn’t like El Nido so much because it was very touristy and for us too full. That’s why we felt like 2 days were enough to do the island hopping and get to know the surroundings.
El Nido Island Hopping Tour
The only way to visit El Nido’s beautiful surroundings is by island hopping. That’s where you’ll encounter the Top Places in the northern tip of Palawan.
When choosing to do island hopping in El Nido, you first have to decide which tour you want to do. Tour A, B, C & D are all visiting different islands and it can feel a little overwhelming as there are so many tour companies in El Nido to choose from.
All the tours have drinking water and lunch included that usually consists of fresh fruits, rice, chicken, fish and salads.
We decided on Tour A because we wanted to do the kayaking in the famous Big Lagoon, but I will list the different tour options for you below.
El Nido Tour A
Tour A is the only tour that takes you to the famous Big Lagoon by kayak. Before kayaking, you will visit 7-Commando Beach, a beautiful but very crowded beach. There were so many boats and tourists that we couldn’t really enjoy this place.
However, our lunch spot at Hidden Beach was a dream! We were the only group here and it had the bluest water I have ever seen.
Hidden Beach from the top.
After Hidden Beach, we headed to Big Lagoon for kayaking. This was exactly how we had imagined El Nido and we enjoyed kayaking in the clear lagoon to the fullest.
Ville is doing all the work of course… 😀
When we finished our kayak trip, we explored the colourful reef with our snorkel gear. The tour finished at Secret Lagoon, which is a beautiful spot but also very crowded.
In general we liked the tour and the islands and lagoons really are a tropical paradise! However, we felt like there were a lot of tourists and partly crowded places.
➳ Tip: If you are looking for a way to explore lagoons and islands in a less crowded way, do the tour in Coron! We liked the island hopping tour there so much more. It was more relaxed and we saw amazing underwater life- the reefs over there are beautiful. 🙂
➳ Read: Things to Do in Coron: 3-Day Guide.
El Nido Tour B
Tour B is very different from Tour A. You will explore the dreamy white sand bank Snake Island, Entalula Island, Pinagbuyutan Island and the Cathedral & Cudugnon Caves.
El Nido Tour C
Tour C will bring you to Hidden Beach, Secret Beach, Matinloc Shrine for snorkelling and finally to Tapiutan and Helicopter Island. The chance to see turtles during this tour is very high!
El Nido Tour D
On Tour D you’ll have a great chance for snorkelling around Cadlao Island, visit the popular Small Lagoon, Pasandigan Cove, Bukal Island and Nat Nat Beach.
➳ Good to know: All the tours have similar prices. They cost about 23 – 30 USD. You can also book a private tour for a higher price, but with fewer tourists to escape the crowds.
Where to book the island hopping tour?
You can rather book the tour online or in person when you’re in El Nido. If you go in high season you should make sure to book at least 2 days in advance, but there are many tour companies selling tours in El Nido where you can just walk in to check for free spots. Here are two things you should consider when booking a tour:
- Check if the tour includes drinking water, as plastic bottles are not allowed on any of the tours.
- Check if snorkel gear is included.
- Don’t book the tours for the lowest price. The lowest-priced tours will most likely mix you with another group, which means a fuller boat and more people.
- The island hopping requires you to pay an environmental tax of 200 PHP. Check if the tour price includes this fee.
Water in El Nido
In general, you should never drink the tap water in the Philippines, but you have to watch out especially in El Nido! A lot of people get stomach sick when visiting El Nido because of food getting cooked in tap water etc.
Always check the reviews of the restaurants before you eat there and try to avoid eating raw vegetables and salads in El Nido.
Also avoid using the tap water for brushing your teeth, use drinking water instead.
Best Places to eat in El Nido
Due to the water problems in El Nido, you should always check the reviews on the restaurants before eating there. I have some places for you that are known to be safe and have good reviews below.
- Cafe Athena (amazing ocean views, great food)
- Boodle Fight Restaurant
- Happiness Cafe
Cafe Athena in El Nido.
Day 7 – 8: Nacpan Beach
Leave El Nido on Day 7 and spend your last two days in Palawan at Nacpan Beach, the last of the Top Places on Palawan Island.
This dream beach is about 20 km from El Nido and easily reachable by TukTuk or shuttle. Most travellers come here to spend only a few hours, but I highly recommend you to stay for 2 nights as this place is perfect to hang out and party a little.
➳ Good to know: Your accommodation places will organize your TukTuks or shuttles most of the times. They help you out with that, so no need to book online.
View of Nacpan Beach from Mad Monkey’s rooftop bar.
Mad Monkey Hostel
Mad Monkey Hostel is the best place to stay at in Nacpan, Palawan. This hostel is located directly on the beach, offers an amazing restaurant/bar with beach views and you can choose to sleep in dorms or tents. The vibes here are so chilled and it’s a nice place to meet other travellers.
Our tent for the next two nights.
Besides hanging out at Mad Monkey’s, enjoying delicious food and some beers, we enjoyed very fun parties and games at the hostel. The rest of the time was well spent on the beach.
Click here to book your stay at Mad Monkey’s
➳ Tip: Never leave your valuables unattended! Make sure to lock them away safely whenever you leave them out of sight. We heard from a few people whose belongings were stolen from their hostel rooms or in public places like bars etc. (My shoes got stolen too… and my boyfriend’s flipflops :D)
➳ If you’re a dog lover, this will be number 1 of your Top Places in Palawan! There are so many puppies all around and we would have loved to take a few of them with us.
New family photo! Can I keep this one? This cutie was hanging out with his friends at Mad Monkey’s all day long.
➳ Must Read: Our Nightmare Ferry Experience in the Philippines.
These are the Top Places in Palawan! Which place is it you don’t want to miss when coming here? Share your thoughts and questions below. 🙂