Although known as the ‘last frontier’ of the Philippines, Palawan is pretty accessible from Manila and many other points across the archipelago. As one of the premier traveller’s destinations in the Philippines, there are several options for getting there cheaply by sea or air. Many people head here direct from the capital.
Puerto Princesa airport is the main gateway to Palawan’s beach resorts and handles daily flights from and to Manila with Philippine Airlines, Zest Airways, Air Philippines and Cebu Pacific Airlines.
Cebu Pacific also operates services three times a week from the island of Cebu and travellers coming from Boracay can take advantage of a weekly flight with South East Asian Airlines (website: www.flyseair.com). It is also possible to take internal flights between Busuanga in the extreme north to the main travelers’ centre of El Nido. This is the preferred option for many visitors due to the primitive state of many island roads and pretty essential during heavy rains when many roads are simply impassable.
Coming direct from Manila by sea involves a scenic, once-a-week, 18-hour journey calling at the port of Coron and onto Puerta Princesa with Superferry. Negros Navigation also offers a scheduled boat service, with prices from around Php700 for a single journey.
To get well off the beaten path, motorised banca boats can be chartered to the many west coast offshore islands for a day of fishing, dolphin watching or snorkelling. The biggest concentration can be found in the El Nido area where many resorts offer full or half-day excursions or your own tailor made trips for around Php1,500-2,000 with a little bargaining.
There is a fairly good road network along the coast but you can invariably expect bumpy, uncomfortable and time consuming journeys. The San Jose bus terminal is the main hub for bus routes throughout the island which serves destinations such as Tatay, Roxas and El Nido. For longer journeys such as the latter, last departures leave around midday. Sweety Busline has a wide network of local and longer distance routes from here and has a fleet of minivans which can be chartered for the day.
In addition to the ubiquitous jeepneys which ply local commuter routes, four wheel drive vans venture inland on some of the less travelled routes to traditional towns and villages and are a good option for visiting out of the way attractions such as the popular Ihawig Penal Farm. Saviour Shuttle Vans is a good bet and offers the best rates for day long vehicle hire.
For visiting tourists, transport infrastructure is focused mainly around the El Nido area which is the jumping off point for the many plush offshore beach resorts at Miniloc and Lagen. There is no shortage of tricycles available to flag down here for short trips and most congregate at the port and Lio Airport just outside town. Fares should cost no more than Php100 for a quick cross town journey, but always agree on a price beforehand.
Due to the challenging nature of travel by public transport which can be exceedingly time consuming, many travellers opt to pay more for the comfort and convenience of a tour bus itinerary. There are several companies, such as Island Paradise (website: www.islandparadise-tours.com) offering island tours, snorkeling trips, dolphin watching and trekking through the island, all at similar prices.