After spending two months in Japan as part of our round-the-world trip, we were in desperate need of some beaches. Think beaches, think Philippines, right? As with most trips to the Philippines our first destination was Manila, a place where most people fly directly out of. However, we strongly encourage you to give it some time, maybe a couple of days.
Z Hostel, located in the hip and upcoming Poblacion area of Makati, is surrounded by cool craft beer breweries, trendy bars and even boasts its own rooftop bar, all filled with locals and tourists alike. It’s a great place to socialize, but if you can tear yourself away from the live music at the rooftop bar, you’ll find plenty more to see in the bustling capital.
However, we were still craving those postcard perfect beaches, luckily AirAsia offers no less than five daily flights to Puerto Princesa, the ideal place to begin your search for paradise.
Puerto Princesa doesn’t seem like an obvious choice in your search for paradise. Its fairly busy and bustling town centre serves as a hub for visiting one of the natural 7 Wonders of the World. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, or simply the underground river, is located two hours north of Puerto Princesa town, but all of the tours run from here as it is where you will find the ticketing office.
Once you’ve travelled the winding roads by minivan and crossed the sea by a small fishing boat, you’ll feel instantly relaxed as you’re slowly paddled through the majestic cave, floating peacefully in pure darkness amid stalactites and stalagmites.
Situated halfway between Puerto Princesa and El Nido, this remote port town seems to be missed from most holidaymakers’ itineraries, which makes it the perfect stop for some relaxation before hitting the main tourist hub of El Nido. A word of warning though, with it being such a remote area, there are no ATMs in the local vicinity so make sure to stock up on cash before arrival.
Port Barton is made up of a handful of beach hut-style guest houses and restaurants, but don’t worry—there is food to suit all needs, even as vegetarians. As with most Palawan destinations, the main tourist attraction is an island hopping boat tour, however we decided to go it on foot. A one-hour walk along the beach will find you at the well-known ‘white beach’. It certainly lives up to its name, boasting super soft white sand, warm blue ocean and barely any other tourists around, making for a dreamy day of relaxation. An hour on a dirt path in the other direction will lead you to the Pamuayan waterfall which is simply stunning. The huge waterfall cascades in a cold pool ideal for a swim after the hike and complete with a cliff jump for adventure seekers…yikes!
El Nido is all about island hopping, and rightly so. For the ultimate paradise enthusiasts, we recommend staying out of the busy main town of El Nido at the fabulous Outpost Hostel. Located right on the beach, it offers the most perfect sunset views each evening and has the chilled out vibes to match. They have combined the best of the four main tours (A, B, C and D) into two tours and organise it in a way that you’re not with the majority of other tours, meaning you have your own slice of paradise. And that’s the only word to describe the crystal clear waters, the uninhabited islands and the white sands of the island hopping tours.
We also recommend spending at least one day renting a motorbike (or hiring a tricycle) and heading to the beautiful Nacpan beach, about 20 km north of El Nido. Here you can rent a kayak and paddle to nearby islands to snorkel in the blue waters and see turtles (if you’re lucky!)
We saved the best till last and spent our last few days on Palawan, camping on a private beach island resort. We say camping but it was more like ‘glamping’. It was the perfect way to end our trip; with crystal clear waters, a beach all to ourselves and we even spotted a few sea turtles while snorkelling in the area… Paradise found.
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies to Puerto Princesa from Manila. For flight info and fares, visit airasia.com.