Headed to Palawan, Philippines?
If you’re looking for an epic Palawan itinerary (for any length trip), you’re in the right place.
The wifey and I just finished an action-packed 3-week backpacking trip to Palawan, so we know exactly the best places to go (and where to avoid).
So whether you’re looking for the best things to do in Palawan for 3 days or 3 weeks, I’ve got ya covered.
All you have to do is choose the length of your trip in the table of contents below, and I’ll show all the best Palawan island activities you can squeeze in.
***Even if you have a short trip, I recommend reading the full 3-week Palawan itinerary first where I’ll cover all the details. From there, we’ll gradually cut things out until we’ve widdled it down to a quickie 3-day trip.
Palawan Itinerary 3 Weeks
Wondering how many days in Palawan is enough? Personally, I think 3 weeks is the perfect time to explore everything the island has to offer without feeling rushed or getting exhausted from cramming too many activities in each day. It also gives you flexibility for bad weather days.
Palawan is a long skinny island, so to make the most of your time it’s best to arrive on one side of the island, and depart from the other (vs. flying in and out of the same city).
Here’s what I mean…
Palawan Tourist Spots Map
On one end of the route, you have Puerto Princesa. On the other end, you have El Nido and Coron. We flew into Puerto Princesa, traveled north, then left out of Coron (but you can do the opposite as well).
To keep things simple, I’ll just share the route we took.
One quick thing before we get started. If you haven’t created your budget yet, make sure to grab our Philippines expenses breakdown below. It’ll help give you an idea on how much your trip will cost (as well as some tips to save money).
Day 1-3 : Puerto Princesa
Is it worth staying in Puerto Princesa? Well, if you have 3 weeks in Palawan, I don’t see a need to rush. You can take your time, ease into the culture, get yourself set up, and finalize your Palawan plan. (Plus, you’ll have PLENTY of beach days ahead…trust me).
- Pick up a SIM card at the airport (more convenient, more expensive) or SM Mall (less convenient, less expensive). Get settled in and accustomed to island life.
- Take the city tour to see all the main Puerto Princesa tourist spots in one day
- Try the firefly tour at night (we didn’t get a chance to go, but heard mixed reviews)
- Finalize your Palawan game plan
- Hit up the SM Mall to stock up on anything you need (and savor your last taste of modern civilization for a few weeks)
- Stop at the Underground River Office to buy your permit
- Take bus or van to Sabang
Pro tip: Many Palawan guides online warn that you won’t have internet access in many destinations on the island. We were worried about this so we booked all our accommodation ahead of time before leaving Puerto Princesa. Turns out, this wasn’t necessary at all. We were able to stay connected everywhere we went with our Globe data plan. I was even able to work online while traveling. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have planned so far ahead in order to have more flexibility at each stop.
Day 4-8 : Sabang
Most people head to Sabang as a day trip from Puerto Princesa to see the Underground River. Instead of a day trip, I HIGHLY recommend staying in Sabang for a few nights instead. It’s truly a hidden gem. Unlike other popular Palawan destinations, you’ll have this place practically to yourself. We only stayed for two nights, but wish we could have extended for a couple more.
- Arrive in the afternoon, get settled, and pick up dinner on the beach
- Underground River Tour
- Day trip to Isla Rita – This is pretty off-the-beaten-path. See if your accommodation can help you organize your trip.
- Beach Day at Sabang Beach – Pro tip: Head to the end of the beach, we had it all to ourselves!
- Zip-lining, jungle hiking, waterfall hunting, kayaking, and/or trip to the mangroves – There’s TONS to do around Sabang. We didn’t have time to do any but met a couple who stayed busy for an entire week exploring different off-the-beaten-path sites.
- Van to Port Barton
How to get to Sabang from Puerto Princesa? Grab a tricycle to the Puerto Princesa bus terminal, then find the van going to Sabang (we used the Lexxus van company). There are also buses available that leave once per day in the morning. The trip from Puerto Princesa to Sabang takes 2-ish hours.
Update: You can also book a van online here. In retrospect, I would’ve bought our tickets online ahead of time. It would’ve saved us over an hour sitting around waiting for the next van to leave. (It also looks like it would’ve been a bit cheaper).
Where to stay in Sabang, Palawan? We stayed at Cafe Sabang. It’s pretty basic, but it was super cheap and got the job done. Plus, the manager is an ex-chef from Manila and whips up a delicious dinner. If you’re looking for something a bit more comfortable (and still reasonably priced), check out Hill Myna Beach Cottages.
Day 9-13 : Port Barton
During your Palawan itinerary research, you’ll probably read that Port Barton is the new, less touristy version of El Nido. I was worried that since everyone is writing about this “secret destination” that it would be crowded and overrated.
I was wrong.
If you have the time, Port Barton should definitely not be missed.
- Arrive in Port Barton and get settled.
- Book island hopping tour for following day (go with Coconutz Tours and you won’t regret it!).
- Dinner on the beach (BBQ chicken was my fav)
- Island Hopping Tour
- Ask about Island Camping Tour
- Rent motorbike and go beach hopping
- Kayak on the Inandeng River
- Check out the Bato ni Ningning view point
- Island Camping with Coconutz Tours – We didn’t have time to do this, but it looks awesome!
- Return from Island Camping
- Port Barton Beach day
- Van to El Nido
How to get to Port Barton from Sabang? To travel from Sabang to Port Barton, just buy a van ticket near the docks (or to save time, book online with 12go.asia. There are no vans that go directly from Sabang to San Vicente, so you’ll have to switch vans during your trip (transfer is included in price). Total trip time takes around 4.5 hours.
Where to stay in Port Barton, Palawan? There’s lots of options for places to stay in Port Barton. We chose a cheap private room a block away from the beach and liked it (again, you won’t spend much time in your room anyway). There are also some popular hostels as well as more fancy beachfront resorts.
Day 14-18 : El Nido
Out of all the things to do in Palawan, El Nido is the main attraction—home to the iconic limestone cliffs on everyone’s Palawan bucket list. And while it is absolutely stunning, it’s also way more crowded and touristy than Sabang and Port Barton (i.e. if you want photos without other people in them, you’re gonna have to work it). That said, no matter how many days in Palawan you have, El Nido needs to be on your list—it’s truly one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Philippines.
- Arrive in El Nido and get settled in
- Check the weather. Whichever day looks the best, schedule Tour C for that day (some stops can only be accessed when the sea is calm).
- Book your tours for the week (recommended A and C). Go Paradise was our favorite tour company (their lunch was tastier than the others).
- Corong Corong for sunset
- Tour A or C
- Spend the night at Nacpan Beach—one of my favorite places to visit in El Nido, Palawan
- Relaxing beach day at Nacpan
- For adventure-seekers, nearby there’s a zip line and huge water slide that launches you high in the air
- Return to El Nido Town to sleep
- Tour A or C
- Early bedtime to wake up early for the ferry
- Flight or ferry to Coron Island
How to get to El Nido from Port Barton? Buy your van ticket online in advance at 12go.asia to save a trip to the bus station. The van from Port Barton to El Nido take around five hours.
Where to stay in El Nido, Palawan? We spent two nights on Nacpan Beach at Mad Monkey Hostel. This is a great spot to party, but if you’re looking for something more relaxed, I’d check out Seaside Hue Resort. We walked past and it looked super quiet away from the crowds (for a similar price). In El Nido town, we stayed at Frendz Hostel, one of the most popular hostels in town. If you want to stay in the popular places, I recommend booking El Nido accommodation at least a few days ahead of time. We talked to MANY people who wanted to stay at Mad Monkey and Frendz, but it was all booked up.
Day 18-21 : Coron
Coron is the last stop on your 3 week Palawan travel itinerary. Like El Nido, Coron has many different island hopping tours to choose from. In my opinion, they are almost equally as stunning as El Nido (at least the tour I did). The two towns are very similar, but El Nido is known more for its island hopping tours, and Coron is famous for spectacular scuba diving (however, if you have time, visit them both!).
- Arrive and take a siesta (the boat makes you sleepy)
- Book tour for following day (recommended: Coron Island Super Ultimate Tour)
- Book scuba for following day if you’re a diver
- Coron Island Super Ultimate Tour
- Scuba diving (or another tour if you’re not a diver—there are many to choose from!)
- Boat or flight back to Puerto Princesa or Manila (Pro tip: Don’t schedule your boat trip on the day of a typhoon…learned that lesson the hard way).
How to get to Coron from El Nido? You have two options: You can take a ferry from El Nido to Coron (cheaper) or you can fly (more expensive). We chose the four-hour ferry ride to save money. Again, buying a ticket is quick and easy on 12go.asia.
Pro tip: When you arrive at the docks in Coron, you’ll get bombarded by tricycle drivers trying to charge 5x the normal price. If your accommodation is in the main town, don’t pay more than 50 PHP (this is still 2x more than locals pay). They’ll laugh at you and pretend you’re crazy, but just keep walking towards town until someone gives in.
Where to stay in Coron, Palawan? We stayed at Happy Camper Hostel and loved it. Super cheap, made some good friends, and the owner treats you like family.
Palawan Itinerary 2 Weeks
*The 2-week Palawan backpacking itinerary is a condensed version of the 3-week itinerary. Make sure to scan through the 3-week itinerary above for more detailed day-to-day recommendations for each destination.
If you have a 2-week trip to Palawan Philippines, you still have enough time to see all the main stops of the 3-week itinerary—you’ll just have to move a bit faster and prioritize your favorite activities at each stop.
Here’s the 2 week Palawan itinerary I’d follow:
DAY 1: Spend one night in Puerto Princesa to buy a SIM card, make a plan, and stock up on any last minute supplies
DAY 2-3: Two nights in Sabang to see the Underground River and chill at the beach
DAY 4-5: Two nights in Port Barton to do the Coconutz island hopping tour and chill at the beach
DAY 6, 7, 8, 9, 10: Four nights in El Nido to do Tour A, Tour C, and rent a motorbike to go beach hopping for the day
DAY 11, 12, 13, 14: Four nights in Coron to do the Coron Island Super Ultimate Tour and some scuba diving
Palawan Itinerary 10 Days
*The 10 day Palawan island itinerary is a condensed version of the 3-week itinerary. Make sure to scan through the 3-week itinerary above for more detailed day-to-day recommendations for each destination.
With 10 days in Palawan, you can still hit all four destinations, but you’ll have to do it at warp speed. If you want a more relaxing trip, consider choosing three of the four.
Speedy 10-day Palawan itinerary to all four destinations:
DAY 1: Arrive in Puerto Princesa in the morning, buy a SIM in the airport, head straight to Sabang and spend the afternoon at the beach
DAY 2: Underground River in the morning, van to Port Barton in the afternoon
DAY 3: Coconutz Island hopping tour in Port Barton
DAY 4: Arrive in El Nido and book tours
DAY 6: Tour A or C
DAY 7: Visit Nacpan Beach or do second tour
DAY 8: Ferry or Flight to Coron, Book tours
DAY 9: Scuba or Coron Island Super Ultimate Tour
DAY 10: Morning scuba or half day tour, Evening flight
Palawan Itinerary 7 Days
*The 1-week Palawan trip itinerary is a condensed version of the 3-week itinerary. Make sure to scan through the 3-week itinerary above for more detailed day-to-day recommendations for each destination.
Squeezing everything into a 7 day Palawan itinerary is tough. I recommend choosing just two or three of the destinations described above (making sure to include El Nido).
If it were me, I’d just choose two destinations and spend more time in each one (vs. wasting precious vacay time in transit every other day). But since many like to cram in as many places as possible, here’s how to do it:
Jam-packed Palawan 7 day itinerary:
DAY 1: Morning arrival in Puerto Princesa, buy SIM card in airport, and leave straight from Puerto Princesa to Port Barton
DAY 2: Coconutz island hopping tour in Port Barton
DAY 3: Morning van to El Nido and book tours
DAY 4: Tour A or C
DAY 5: Nacpan Beach day, evening flight to Coron
DAY 6: Coron Island Super Ultimate Tour
DAY 7: Morning scuba diving or half-day tour, evening flight
Palawan Itinerary 6 Days
*The 6-day itinerary for Palawan, Philippines is a condensed version of the 3-week itinerary. Make sure to scan through the 3-week itinerary above for more detailed day-to-day recommendations for each destination.
There’s really only enough time for two destinations in a 6 day Palawan itinerary. If you’re not a scuba diver, I recommend El Nido and Port Barton. If you are a scuba diver, I’d go with Coron and El Nido (3 days in each).
Here’s how to spend 6 days in Palawan (for non-divers):
DAY 1: Morning arrival in El Nido, book tours, rent a bike and explore nearby beaches for the afternoon
DAY 2: Tour A or C
DAY 3: Tour A or C (or Nacpan Beach day)
DAY 4: Morning beach hopping around El Nido, Afternoon van to Port Barton, Book tour
DAY 5: Coconutz island hopping tour
DAY 6: Morning van to El Nido, Evening flight
Palawan Itinerary 5 Days
*The 5-day Palawan backpacking itinerary is a condensed version of the 3-week itinerary. Make sure to scan through the 3-week itinerary above for more detailed day-to-day recommendations for each destination.
With 5 days in Palawan, you might be able to squeeze in two destinations, but you’ll waste a lot of time in transit. There are plenty of things to do in El Nido, Palawan to keep you busy for 5 days, so I’d focus your time there.
(Note: If you want to fit in two stops, you’re trip will be a lot more expensive. You’d have to fly into El Nido for a couple nights, then fly to Coron for a couple nights, then fly out of Coron—or vice versa.)
El Nido 5 Day Itinerary:
DAY 1: Arrive in El Nido and go straight to Nacpan Beach for the night
DAY 2: Spend day doing activities on and around Nacpan beach, then return to El Nido Town to book tours and sleep
DAY 3: Tour A or C
DAY 4: Tour A or C
DAY 5: Beach hopping or hiking in the morning, Evening flight
Palawan Itinerary 4 Days
*The 4-day Palawan backpacking itinerary is a condensed version of the 3-week itinerary. Make sure to scan through the 3-week itinerary above for more detailed day-to-day recommendations for each destination.
If you’ve got 4 days in Palawan, I’d definitely stick to just one destination—El Nido (unless you’re a diver, in which case I’d recommend Coron).
Here’s how I’d do a 4-day El Nido itinerary:
DAY 1: Arrive in El Nido and check the weather. Book Tour C for whichever day looks best (some Tour C stops can only be accessed when the sea is calm). Book Tour A for the other day.
DAY 2: Tour A or C
DAY 3: Tour A or C
DAY 4: Rent motorbike and go beach hopping, hiking, and waterfall hunting; Evening flight
Palawan Itinerary 3 Days
*The 3-day Palawan backpacking itinerary is a condensed version of the 3-week itinerary. Make sure to scan through the 3-week itinerary above for more detailed day-to-day recommendations for each destination.
With so much to see, this is a toughy. But if you absolutely can’t stay longer, here is what to do in Palawan for 3 days.
If you want scuba diving, go to Coron. Otherwise, El Nido is the place to be.
You simply can’t go to Palawan without experiencing El Nido—no matter how touristy it has become.
Here’s how I’d plan a 3 day El Nido itinerary:
DAY 1: Arrive in El Nido and book a tour for the next day (I recommend Tour A or C. Tour A goes to the most popular places but is more crowded. Tour C is a teensy bit less crowded and is still spectacular).
DAY 2: Go on tour (and pray for sunshine!) 🌞
DAY 3: Rent a motorbike and go beach hopping. Don’t miss Nacpan Beach (about 40 min ride), it’s gorgeous!
ALTERNATIVE DAY 3: If you loved your Day 2 Tour, you could do a different one on Day 3. Two boat tours back-to-back is a bit much for me though. (Also, if you have a flight, make sure you’ll be back in time).
Best Things to Do in Palawan Philippines Recap
Here’s a quick recap of everything we went over:
✔️If you have 2 or 3 weeks, make sure to visit Sabang, Port Barton, El Nido, and Coron
✔️If you have less than two weeks, be careful to not try to cram too much into your itinerary. You don’t want to spend half your trip in ferries and cramped vans. There is plenty to do in each stop to keep you occupied for at least a few days.
✔️Sabang and Port Barton are hidden gems with a relaxed vibe and less crowds. El Nido and Coron have more of a “WOW” factor, but you’ll have to share it with loads of other people (unless you opt for pricey private tours).
✔️Save yourself time, hassle, and (oftentimes) money by booking your transport ahead of time online.
✔️If you’re a diver, don’t miss Coron. If you’re not a diver, don’t miss El Nido.If you’re a diver, don’t miss Coron. If you’re not a diver, don’t miss El Nido.
✔️Lastly, prepare yourself for getting ripped off on every single tricycle ride! 🙂
And there you have it, folks! I hope you enjoy Palawan as much as I did!
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