A Solo Traveler’s Photo Story of Backpacking in Palawan

While on an island hopping tour of El Nido (Palawan), I chanced upon this lonely kayak lying idly on a small beach cove. The setting was perfect! The high noon heat was glaring mercilessly upon the bay with low lying trees sheltering the shore.

The shallow waters were painted with a refreshing aquamarine and in the distance with lurky deep blue colors. The verdant foliage was lit up like emeralds bordered by jagged rocks and tall limestone cliffs accentuated by sinister shadows.

Images of “Survivor”, “Lost”, and “The Beach” suddenly filled my mind and from than moment on I was relieved of satisfying what I was longing to experience for my visit to Palawan.


During my sojourn, I got to see a lot of Northern Palawan … it was definitely worth more than my initial expectations. Here’s my photo story of my 13-day backpacking trip:

Day 1

I’ve always been interested in backpacking or to “live/travel in a backpack.” When I go on trips, I prefer to take the local transportation, cheapest accommodations, local food … sacrificing comfort for the chance to visit more places and have a more authentic experience of the destination. For me, traveling should be an educational journey, to learn about foreign places and people and in the process learn more about yourself. The thrill of exploring places on your own and getting closer to the locals also makes the trips much more special and memorable. That’s why I set myself to go on a solo backpacking trip to Palawan so I can experience the backpacking lifestyle and visit the one place in the Philippines that I’ve always wanted to visit. My Palawan adventure started by taking a roll-on roll-off (roro) ferry from Iloilo City to Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. The 36-hour boat ride includes a stopover in Cuyo Island and crosses the Sulu Sea. The ferry leaves Iloilo after dark and arrives at Cuyo for a short stop over the next day.


Waiting for the Iloilo – Puerto Princesa Montenegro Boat (RoRo) Ferry in Lapuz, Iloilo

Day 2

Cuyo is a group of 45 islets scattered in the middle of the expansive Sulu Sea between Panay Island and Mainland Palawan. The town of Cuyo used to be the capital of Palawan during the late 1800s and is home to the historic Cuyo Fortress Church. The main island itself is bordered by scenic beaches but  some of the other islets has secluded white sand beaches, thriving dive sites, and ultra luxury resorts such as Amanpulo.


6-hour Stopover and tour of Cuyo Island, Palawan


Cuyo Fortress Church circa 1683s, Cuyo Island

Capusan Beachfront, Cuyo Island


Capusan Beach, Cuyo Island


Quijao Beach, Magsaysay, Cuyo Island


Taking a breather in Quijano Beach


Tabunan Bay and View of Bisucay Island


Preparing to depart Cuyo Island

Day 3


Approaching Puerto Princesa City


Arrival in Puerto Princesa Seaport


Shuttle Van Ride to San Vicente Poblacion


Sunset in San Vicente Pier

Day 4

San Vicente is a rising tourist destination in Palawan. It is home to Long Beach, a 9 kilometer stretch of white sand bordered by tropical trees and azure waters. Aside from Long Beach, San Vicente’s coast is also fringed by many other smaller white sand beaches and surrounded by beautiful off-shore islets. Palawan is currently building a new airport in town and improving roads to accommodate the huge tourism potential of San Vicente.


Long Beach, San Vicente


17km walk to Long Beach and Tandol Beach, San Vicente


Stuck in the rain between the limestone cliffs and caves of Long Beach and Tandol Beach


Tandol Beach after the rain, San Vicente


Brgy. Alimanguan, San Vicente

Day 5

Taytay is a small coastal town surrounded by scenic hills and off-shore islets in Northern Palawan. A short hike to a restaurant perched on top of a hill provides a great view of Fort Santa Isabel built during the 17th century, Taytay’s coast, and a charming bayside promenade.


Unplanned Sidetrip to Taytay Town


Overview of Taytay (Sta. Isabel) Fort from Casa Rosa Cafe


Bus to El Nido


Bus Ride to El Nido

Day 6

El Nido is a popular backpacker’s destination in Palawan. The biggest attraction of El Nido is the picturesque islands sprinkled off its coast. The author, Alex Garland, was rumored to have stayed in El Nido while he was writing his novel, “The Beach,” and it was one of his inspirations for creating his mythical island paradise. The novel later became the inspiration of a similarly titled movie in the 1990s starred by Leonardo de Caprio. El Nido, hands down, has the most scenic seascapes I’ve seen. The towering mountains jutting out from the sea and bordered by steep jagged limestone cliffs and white sand beaches were just an amazing sight. I loved El Nido so much that I decided to extend my stay there so I can see more of its islands, lagoons, white sand beaches, coral gardens, and marine life.


El Nido Island Hopping Tour A (Hidden Beach, Lunch in Star Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach)


Hidden Beach in Matinloc Island, El Nido

Star Beach in Tapiutan Island, El Nido


Helicopter Island, El Nido


Cadlao Lagoon, El Nido


Walking Tour of Calaan Beach, North of El Nido Town Proper Beach


Sunset at Calaan Beach


Stuffed Squid and Mango Shake with Rum at Squidoo


Day 7


Small Lagoon in Miniloc Island, El Nido


Big Lagoon in Miniloc Island, El Nido


Umbrella Beach in Miniloc Island, El Nido


Secret Lagoon in Miniloc Island, El Ndio


Beach beside the Secret Lagoon in Miniloc Island, El Nido


Exploring the Beach beside the Secret Lagoon


Closing in on Shimizu Island, El Nido


Fish feeding off the coast of Shimizu Island, El Nido


Walking Tour of Corong-corong Beach, Santikan Beach, and Marimikmik Beach


Sunset view at Marimikmik Beach

Day 8

Port Barton is another of Palawan’s popular backpackers’ destination but has an even more laid back and local feel to it that El Nido. It has an excellent beachfront area lined with backpacker friendly resorts and hostels. Like El Nido, many tourists also go to Port Barton for its many off-shore islets.


Toploading the Bus from El Nido to Roxas


Port Barton, San Vicente


Unsuccessful Trek to Pamuayan Falls


Twilight at Port Barton Beach

Day 9

The St. Paul Underground River became widely popular when it was voted as a finalist for the “New Seven wonders of Nature.” Also known as the Puerto Princesa Underground River, it is the longest navigable underground river in the world at 8.2 kilometers and is an integral component of a 3,500 hectare protected national reserve. Sabang Pier is the main jump-off point to the Underground River, beside it is a similarly named white sand beach lined with restaurants, resorts, and guesthouses.


Sabang Beach


2 hour Jungle Trail to St. Paul Underground River, Sabang


Monkey Trail to St. Paul Underground River, Sabang


Mouth of St. Paul Underground River, Sabang


Paddle Boat Tour of St. Paul Underground River, Sabang

Day 10

Puerto Princesa City is the capital of Palawan and is one of the most visited travel destinations in the Philippines. It is known as the “City in a Forest,” mixing the comfort of urban living, proximity to excellent eco-tourism destinations, and awareness of environmental protection among its people. Within the city proper are many interesting places to go to such as beaches, seafood restaurants, a local theme park, and a beautiful seaside promenade.


Top loading the Jeepney from Sabang to Puerto Princesa


Immaculate Concepcion Church, Puerto Princesa City


Plaza Cuartel, Puerto Princesa City


Busy Intersection in Puerto Princesa City


Palawan Provincial Capitol, Puerto Princesa City


NCCC Mall, Puerto Princesa City


Puerto Princesa City Baywalk


Tuna Steak Dinner at Ka Lui Restaurant, Puerto Princesa City

Day 11

Off the coast of Puerto Princesa City are the islets of Honda Bay. Within an hour’s travel from the city proper, visitors can already experience white sand beaches, thriving coral gardens, and scenic seascapes.


Pandan Island, Honda Bay


Snake Island, Honda Bay


A Quick Self-portrait in Snake Island’s Long Sandbar


Starfish Island, Honda Bay


Beach bumming at Starfish Island


Sunset at Silica Beach, Puerto Princesa City


Seafood Platter Dinner at Badjao Seafront Restaurant, Puerto Princesa City

Day 12


Mitra’s Ranch, Puerto Princesa City


Baker’s Hill, Puerto Princesa City


Puerto Princesa Airport – Flight to Manila


Aerial Views of Calamianes Group of Islands (Calamianes, Coron, Busuanga) in Northern Palawan – Still on my wishlist of places to travel


Arrival in Manila

Day 13


Visit to Plaza Miranda and Hidalgo St., Quiapo for some Camera errands. Had my Nikkor 18-105mm AF-S VR fixed and bought a new Sigma 18-250mm DC OS HSM to pair with my Nikon D5000.


Flight Back to Iloilo, Home at last!