Planning your trip to Philippines is not going to be easy. Yes, I said it. Truth be told, it wasn’t easy for us at all. We booked our tickets to Manila from India just in a fluke. It was a hasty decision. And as you know, we usually regret otherwise great choices – not due to the conclusion, but due to the experience of choosing.
Not because we never wanted to visit Philippines. But because we chose a destination which required meticulous planning beforehand. Biggest challenge – we wanted to be there in Philippines for our anniversary but no amount of research or information online would help us know that it wasn’t going to be easy!
But here, your adorable goofballs have done all the dirty work so you don’t commit mistakes we made while planning our trip to the PHILIPPINES! This Philippines travel itinerary focused on Palawan will help you sort everything from bookings, flights, visas, itinerary to transfers.
Precisely Philippines archipelago comprises of 7,641 islands, and of these many, we decided to focus our Philippines travel itinerary on Palawan – the far-flung Philippines Island that is also described as the “last-frontier”.
We really wanted to spend about a month in Philippines, and even that would not have been sufficient! But (yes there’s always a BUT) as you all know we had to relocate to Germany within a week of our return so we had to wind up our trip well within 10 days.
Now those who’d like to know why we zeroed in on Palawan – well, let the pictures do that taking.
Kayaking in emerald green water in Palawan
Palawan break in El Nido and Coron
So we had to cut short on our Philippines travel itinerary and simply focus our energies on planning Palawan breakie – our hearts longed for a beach vacation. With our anniversary happening in this paradisiacal island, we couldn’t have asked for anything else! God bless Harsh’s work! And of course our love for travel!
Once you are have set your dates for the Philippines, the first step has to be making the bookings.
Before anything (HIGH PRIORITY) – before even booking your flight to Manila – make sure you’ve booked your interconnecting flights to El Nido and Coron.
Fly into Manila – take a direct flight to Puerto Princesa – spend a few days – or take a jeepney and head straight to El Nido. Spend a few days in El Nido. Take a fast ferry to Coron. Fly back from Coron to Manila on Cebu Pacific.
Depending on the amount of time you have at hand, plan your Philippines itinerary and manage days accordingly. Ideally, 2 days in Puerto Princesa would be good and then you can simply take a jeep ride that lands you in El Nido. The jeep ride takes 5-6 hours and costs around 600PHP per person.
Then after spending a few days in El Nido, you can simply take a 3 hours fast ferry and get into Coron. From Coron, there’s a direct flight to Manila but make sure you check the tickets availability before making any reservation.
Now in case you do not want to explore Puerto Princesa, you can simply consider our option 2.
Fly into Manila – take a direct flight to El Nido – spend a few days. Take a fast ferry to Coron – Fly back from Coron to Manila on Cebu Pacific.
Option 2 is costlier as you need to take a flight (Airswift) in order to reach El Nido. Explore El Nido and take a fast ferry to get into Coron.
Again, take a flight from Coron to Manila, and you’re pretty much sorted. In our opinion, it is best to fly back on Cebu Pacific from Coron to Manila as the flight is well on time and quite luxe.
The easiest away to travel between El Nido and Coron is Montenegro Fast Ferry. This fast ferry runs once a day and takes about 4 hours sailing time to take you from El Nido to Coron and vice versa. It is by far the best and the fastest means of getting you from one island to another. It would set you back by 2000 PHP per person. But peace of mind assured with Montenegro fast ferry. The ferry leaves early morning at sharp 6 AM from El Nido which means you need to be at the jetty by 5 AM for check in. Take everything into consideration before locking in your accommodation and flights.
If you have more time, say 8 or 9 hours, then you can even opt for slow ferry service which is not as luxurious and is a bit risky as well. One side ticket would set you back by 1400 PHP easily.
There’s a story to tell. And this isn’t a happy story so you know!
This literally gave us nightmares! Two nights before taking the life-changing trip of our lives, well I’m not exaggerating – we lost our sleeps! Know why?
Because sadly we didn’t do our research properly. And relied on little information we got hands on when booking our Philippines trip. Then? We read it from the wrong resource and believed that Indians do not require a visa to enter the Philippines! BAMMM!!
Imagine 2 days before the trip – Harsh politely mentions if we have made all the arrangements properly. And we realise in the middle of the night that we might not have read the visa instructions properly. So, us, the smart planners went berserk reading all the information and blogs that were available online and realised we had made a MAJOR MISTAKE!
INDIANS REQUIRE A VISA TO ENTER PHILIPPINES! (Please read it in Capital Letters!)
We cannot forget the commotion that followed – when we couldn’t sleep the whole night and were just trying to look for some alternate. Our spur of the moment decision was proving all wrong and we were literally cursing ourselves for being such reckless idiots.
We woke up early next morning only to realise we really did not require the Philippines visa! Ask why? Because we both already had Schengen visa which allowed us visa-free entry into the Philippines! Our nightmare finally came to an end and we couldn’t stop thanking god and Harsh’s job (Schengen visa courtesy them) enough for making our Philippines trip possible. Lesson learnt.
In a nutshell, to enter Philippines Indian do require a visa. If they do not want to get into the whole process of visiting the embassy they can simply fly into Singapore and get a visa which allows them free entry into Philippines.
And in case you already have a Schengen visa (just like us), you do not require a visa for Philippines. But make sure your visa isn’t expiring before your return as that might void your entry into Philippines. To sum it up – Indians need a visa to enter Philippines and they need to apply for the same at least 30 days before their travel date. There’s only an exception for Indians who already have Schengen visa that’s valid during the travel period in Philippines.
Indians need a visa to enter Philippines
Getting back to the planning process – when planning your Palawan tour guide make sure you set your priorities well. If you are someone who loves crowd, beautiful lagoons, pristine beaches, then you should spend more time in El Nido. And if you are the one who appreciates undisturbed sunsets, being marooned on island that’s uninhabited and quiet, Coron is your destination. We decided to spend equal amount of time on both the islands. Pat on our backs! It was a good decision.
Spend time on the coastal city. The capital of Palawan. The cleanest and the greenest city. Your Philippines travel guide to Palawan needs you to explore Puerto Princesa – the nature lover’s city.
Explore the limestone caves and the underground river national park. The highlight of your visit to Puerto Princesa is going to be definitely the Underground River National Park. It is the UNESCO World heritage Site and an absolute must feature on your Palawan travel guide. Make sure you have a permit set in order a day before your visit.
You must visit the Honda Bay for enjoying swimming and snorkeling. If you want to do island hopping, make sure you are there before 10 AM at the island. The entry to the island is 100 PHP / person. For island hopping, you will have to shell around 1300 PHP/person. You can visit three islands – Starfish, Luli and Cowrie.
If you have more time to explore Puerto Princesa, you can visit Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center and Baker’s Hill.
SouthWind Palawan Hotel Puerto Princesa is one of the highly rated hotels in the city. One of our reasons for staying at SouthWind Hotel was its closeness to the Airport and other locations. They even dropped us to the Jeepney point from where we left for El Nido.
Other hotel recommendations would be: Best Western Plus The Ivywall Hotel, Hue Hotels and Resorts Puerto Princesa and Hotel Centro.
After exploring Puerto Princesa, it’s time to leave for El Nido in a jeepney.
Admiring the breathtaking views of Puerto Princesa
The jeepney ride is an experience in itself. There are various scenic pitstops in between so you can relax and have food during the 6 hours journey. Make sure you sit in the front to avoid nausea.
On this day, you can check into your hotel. In our case, we had already booked our El Nido accommodation on a beachside hotel. We were very clear in terms of where we wanted to stay. Once you have checked in, settle into your hotel. Explore the markets around. It is best to seek accommodation near the jetty so you do not have to struggle waking up each day in order to reach the meeting point for island hopping.
In the evening, if you have energy, you can simply head to the Las Cabanas Beach and lie down at the Sun Bar. It is a gorgeous point for watching the sunset. Take my word – you’ll love us for this recommendation. To do so, you can rent a bike/scooty which will cost you 250-300PHP a half day.
Sign up for El Nido Island Hopping Tour. You’ll be approached by a lot of local Filipinos offering El Nido island hopping tour packages wherever you are on the island. Simply BARGAIN a fair deal for two El Nido tours & sign up for island hopping experiences.
This tour is going to be your introduction to El Nido and you’ll get to know why this is called the tropical paradise. Be ready to experience crystal clear waters, blue lagoons, and well preserved islands.
There is a reason why this is the most popular El Nido tour and you understand that well once you have experienced it yourself. This is a 7-8 hours tour so be well prepared. Don’t forget to carry your SUNSCREEN and SUN HAT at any cost. Anyway you are still going to be so tanned!
You will get to visit –
Seven Commando Beach
This tour cost us 1000 PHP/ person. This is usually priced at 1200 PHP / person but the generous tour agent seemed to like us a lot and offered a good discount.
Living up the best Beach life in Philippines
El Nido Island Hopping ready
Now this time is really important as you need to have private rendezvous with El Nido ultimately. We rented a scooty yet again for the whole day and went around uncovering gorgeous attractions of El Nido Palawan.
First stop was the renowned Nacpan Beach. It is the most stunning beach of El Nido and is 16.6 kms away from the centre. The whole trip is going to cost you around 900 – 1000 PHP for a couple. Though the ride is an hour or so but it sure is worth it.
In the afternoon, leave for Las Cabanas Beach yet again. It’s time to experience Ziplining in El Nido. At night, chill by the hotel and watch the sun go down. Sunsets are a magical business in El Nido.
The most beautiful beach in El Nido – Nacpan Beach
Nacpan Beach so pretty
No trip to El Nido is complete without doing the famous island hopping tour C. This tour is all about exploring gorgeous beaches and islands in Bacuit Bay.
Just like El Nido Tour A, the tour C starts early morning at around 9 AM and takes about 7-8 hours in whole. El Nido is the ultimate beach destination, but why, is exactly you get to know on this tour.
On tour C, you uncover steep limestone cliffs, beautiful coral reefs, lagoons, striking seascapes, and clear waters.
You will get to visit –
This tour cost us 1000 PHP per person though it is otherwise priced at 1400 PHP per person. It is best to do Tour C first as on boatmen may cancel this tour if the weather is not pleasant.
There are a lot of options for those looking for creature comforts in El Nido. Yes! Power cuts are common. Even the Wi-fi connection can be sketchy so you must choose the hotel for your stay smartly. We were clear on where we wanted to stay in El Nido hence booked MaryGold Beachfront. The hotel offers both beachfront and non-beachfront rooms and the best part is that it is located at the centrepoint of the bay.
If you are looking to opt for a really luxury stay in El Nido then we would recommend El Nido Resort Miniloc Island or Matinloc Resort. These island hotels offer complete seclusion and are an experience in themselves. But I would still choose to stay in the middle of everything and enjoy the beauty of El Nido from the centre.
Pretty Helicopter Island scenes in El Nido Palawan
There are many people who’ve asked us this question. So if you have limited time in El Nido and can choose only one tour between A and C, we would recommend you to go for Tour A.
Tour A is all about kayaking, beach bumming, and fun photoshoots. On the other hand Tour C is about secluded shores and fantastic views. Well, the call is yours now!
Ferry transfer from El Nido to Coron on Montenegro Fast Ferry.
Island hopping is fun be it A or C
Coron is a tropical island province in Palawan that is hands down one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been to. Still afar from the touristy radar, this island is quite remote and simply perfect for honeymooners looking for sometime off from the busy city lives. Tricycles are everywhere in the island which means getting around easy. But if you would like to be on your own, get a motorcycle as soon as you land in Coron.
Usually, travellers opt for a package tour which isn’t expensive and lets you discover the town properly. But we rather chose to explore Coron on our own. One thing – there are no beaches around Coron town so be prepared for it.
Ultimate Coron town tour will include visit to the following places:
Mt Tapyas View deck
Public market and town Plaza
St. Augustine Church
All in all, it is one of the easiest and cost-effective ways of touring Coron and we recommend going for one.
Next day be ready to hop on one of the best tours of your lives. At least for us, it was a great experience. So half day we got to spend at a beautiful Safari Park in Coron feeding giant giraffes and the rest half we spent island hopping.
Coron Calauit wildlife sanctuary is far off from the Coron Town so the tour starts sharp at 5:30 AM in the morning.
You can read all the details from our CORON Calauit Safari Tour HERE.
In the afternoon, after you have explored Calauit Safari to your heart’s content, it’s time for island hopping in Coron!
This tour will take you to:
Lusong Coral Garden
Lusong Gun Boat
The total cost of this Calauit Safari and island hopping experience can be anything from 2200 PHP – 2600 PHP. Luckily, we got a great deal and did the tour for 2000 PHP.
Calauit Safari time in Coron – the favorite kind of days
Visit hidden lagoons, lounge on untouched sandy beaches, discover magical underwater life.
The ideal way to see Palawan (El Nido and Coron) is by a boat. You can opt for either affordable group island hopping tours or pricey private custom boat tours.
This tour gave us an idea about what Coron’s sealife has in store for us. It was all about snorkelling, diving, and beaches. Your day will be packed with adventures and needless to say it was a fun experience for us.
We got to visit:
We did not even had to pay 100 PHP each for snorkelling masks as well.
Coron sea life and what lies beneath the heaven
Japanese shipwreck in Coron
Experienced local Filipino life and blended with the locals
Snorkelled in some of the clearest waters in the world
Did most scenic lunches of our lives at the hidden beaches in Palawan
Discovered the dramatic landscapes and cliffs on a kayak
Swam with the most gorgeous sea creatures
Slept at the deserted islands
Capped off almost each day with the best sunset – one better than another
The archipelagic province of Philippines is home to over 737,000 people as per the state census data from year 2000. This picturesque island houses around 87 ethnic and racial groups that live in the wondrous environs of this land. The dominant and well-observed ethnic groups include the Palawano, Batak, Tau’t Bato, and Tagbanua Tribe.
We got to engage in long conversations with a lot of local Filipinos, most of whom knew about the Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan quite well. We used to crack up hard whenever any Filipino would sing a Bollywood song.
Interestingly, these communities live in remote areas such as mountain villages or secluded coastal areas. They also tend to have specific vocational pursuits associated with different groups. Despite the diverse population with variant cultural values and beliefs, the peoples of Palawan coexist in harmony.
The province of Palawan experiences dynamic weather conditions which vary across different regions. The northern, southern, and western extremities of Palawan has two distinct seasons – a six month dry spell alternating with six months of rain.
The eastern coast, on the other hand, has a dry season lasting no more than three months, and little to no rainfall for the rest of the year. Torrential rain, typically limited to only the northern region of Palawan, is often accompanied by typhoons which can cause much destruction in some cases.
The best time to visit Philippines (Palawan) is from March to June when the seas are calm and there is ample opportunity to enjoy the beaches. We visited in April and even though it used to be a bit hot during the afternoons, it was still the best weather to enjoy Philippines.
The various tribes of Palawan typically dress as per their native customs and cultural specificities. The communities that reside in the more remote mountain or coastal areas are in fact known for their scant attire which is often fashioned out of organic materials such as wood bark and raw fabrics.
Visitors to Palawan may however dress in accordance with the weather and the general purpose of visit. Light, airy clothing is best for beaches though the evenings sometimes are cooler and warmer clothes may be required.
Tourists are typically advised to carry clothes that provide some protection against mosquito bites in the evening.
Hope you enjoyed reading our Philippines travel itinerary focused on Palawan. Do write us if this itinerary helps you plan your trip at all. We would love to see your pictures.
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