The Philippines, while made up of thousands of islands, has established certain hotspots - notably, Boracay and Cebu. But if you are trying to escape the well-trodden beachlife, or are simply trying to get away from it all with some comforts at hand - head to Palawan. Sas and I spent part of our honeymoon in Palawan, making our way from El Nido to Coron. While our preference ultimately was for El Nido, both offer certain charms.
If you want to cover a lot of ground, fly directly to Puerto Princesa - the most frequent and reliable airport - and spend a night at the Best Western Plus (The IvyWall Hotel) - which has a great pool, breakfast, is super cheap/incredibly clean, and located conveniently near tons of decent restaurants and a tiny gelato place with Italian expats that speak basically no english.
In the morning, arrange for a private bus to transport you directly (with a lunch break on the way) to El Nido beach, a pleasant enough 4.5 hour drive through the island. Upon arrival in El Nido, make your way to Cadlao Resort on Caalan Beach - a quaint but incredibly charming hotel situated perfectly on the shore overlooking Cadlao Island. While some venture to stay on Cadlao Island, we were told it was very isolated, dry (no liquor), and not worth the money. We couldn’t say enough about Cadlao Resort, where we spent New Year’s Eve and celebrated with the staff - eating delicious Lechon and feasting like a local. El Nido is also a charming town to explore, with adorable small restaurants along a simple, unpaved main strip just off the fishing beach.
Once you have your fill of the small fishing town of El Nido, book a trip (any will suffice) to Miniloc Island for a day of indulgent snorkeling and swimming in crystal blue waters amongst charming lagoons and secluded inlets. Not much more to it than that - come with a desire to swim, eat fried food and cold beer, and be dazzled by the staggering number of tourists who are joining you but can’t swim (lots of life jackets).
Once done with El Nido, catch a ferry to Busuanga (or fly if the weather cooperates) where you will want to check into the Funny Lion - a charming boutique hotel with a beautiful rooftop hot tub, and a delicious restaurant. Once settled in, book a day trip to Coron Island for another day of snorkeling, kayaking, eating and drinking, and head scratching at how many people go snorkeling without knowing how to swim.
Cadlao Resort (El Nido) - Our mainstay for El Nido, really solid food and never got old.
Gusto Gelato (El Nido) - best gelato in town, get it to go!
Makulay by La Plage (El Nido) - Best cocktails/sundowners within walking distance of Cadlao Resort, secure a bean bag on the private deck overlooking the ocean and thank us later.
The Funny Lion (Coron) - Best restaurant in Busuanga, great boutique spot with a fairly varied menu.
Cadlao Resort (El Nido) - Charming mini-resort, with private bungalows on the pool’s edge. Definitely stay in the nicest option, well worth the upgrade.
The Funny Lion (Coron) - Excellent boutique in Busuanga, easy to get to and fro for all Coron activities - but a special spot for excellent views over the bay and sipping sundowners from their roof during cocktail happy hour.
Two Seasons Resort (Bulalacao) - Most upscale option in the area, nestled on a private island conveniently located near Coron Island.
Explore El Nido town for shops - but not much to take home other than a magnet or two.