Considered the last ecological frontier of the Philippines, Palawan is a popular destination for visitors heading to the island nation. It’s home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, countless beaches, and diverse towns and cities. You could spend months at a time in Palawan without running out of new things to discover.
Of course, with great diversity comes great difficulty in deciding where exactly to go. Most of us only have limited time to spend in a destination, so it’s important to do some research in advance. This way, you get to maximise your time there and see everything that appeals to your travel style.
That’s why we’ve built this guide! Palawan is a gorgeous destination, and we want to make sure you get your itinerary right. We’ve combined our personal experience with hints and tips from locals and tour guides, to bring you the three best places to stay in Palawan. Whether you’re here to relax, soak up the local culture or explore underwater, we’ve got you covered.
So, let’s get right to it!
Where to Stay in Palawan
Not looking for anywhere specific? These are our top recommendations for accommodation in Palawan.
Private Island in Palawan: Big Bamboo
Looking for something a bit different? It doesn’t get any more unique than your own private island! As you can imagine it’s pretty pricey, but if you feel like splurging, it’s still one of the cheaper islands on offer in the world. You’ll be provided with snorkelling, kayaking and SUP equipment to enjoy the crystal-clear water all to yourself.
Lively Hostel in Palawan: Happiness Hostel
Palawan is a super affordable destination, but you can save even more money by staying in a hostel. At Happiness Hostel, you’ll find peaceful dorms, fantastic social spaces, and an onsite bar. This is perfect for solo travelers looking to socialize during their stay.
Rustic Escape in Palawan: Balili Eco Glamping
Become one with nature in this charming glamping resort in Port Barton. It’s designed to be environmentally sustainable, and it has some fantastic reviews from eco-conscious guests. You will still get to enjoy regular hotel facilities from your tent – including room service and air conditioning. They even include breakfast every morning! There’s also a communal terrace where you can take in the jaw-dropping scenery.
El Nido is the beating heart of Palawan’s tourism industry, and it’s easy to see why! This region is among one of the most diverse in the entire country. With imposing limestone cliffs, idyllic beaches and vibrant nightlife hubs, El Nido offers a little something for everyone.
Although it’s actually a separate island, there’s a relatively quick ferry connecting Coron with El Nido. This fascinating destination is most famous for its diving locations. Whether you’re experienced or a beginner, there’s something for you in the water surrounding Coron.
Port Barton is a similar destination to El Nido – unsurprising, given how close it is. The main difference? There isn’t really any nightlife here. This makes it a fantastic choice for those looking to kick back and relax.
Palawan is one of the biggest islands in the Philippines. We’ve stuck to the northern end of the island for this guide as that’s where you’ll find most of the tourist attractions, but anyone with a car should consider taking a trip right around the coast.
El Nido is one of the most famous destinations in the Philippines. If you’ve already been doing some research, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard about it. In many ways, it’s a microcosm of everything Palawan has to offer. Whether you’re looking for party hotspots, peaceful beaches, or jaw-dropping beauty, you’re sure to find it here.
Looking for something a bit quieter? Port Barton is a short drive from El Nido and has a more laid-back atmosphere. It’s a little quieter and comes with a stunning coastline, making it an excellent choice for families visiting Palawan. We know some travelers have safety concerns when visiting the Philippines, but you won’t need to worry staying in Port Barton.
Finally, we have Coron. This is technically a separate island but lies within the Palawan region. This is a diver’s paradise! You can opt for a tour, or simply hire equipment if you have experience, and discover WWII shipwrecks in the depths of the sea. Onshore, you’ll also find some inspiring natural beauty.
Still undecided? It’s not an easy choice! It all depends on what you want to get out of your trip, so we’ve got some more information about each destination below. We’ve even included our top accommodation and activity picks for each to help you sort out your itinerary.
Palawan’s Top 3 Places to Stay in
El Nido is the beating heart of Palawan’s tourism industry, and it’s easy to see why! This region is one of the most diverse in the entire country, and is one of the most ecologically friendly destinations in the world. With imposing limestone cliffs, idyllic beaches and vibrant nightlife hubs, El Nido offers a little something for everyone.
As a major tourism hub, it is also well connected to other destinations across the island. You’ll find some great tour providers in the area that will take you further afield. If this is your first time in Palawan, staying in El Nido offers a great insight into everything on offer.
Cozy Loft in El Nido: El Nido Town
This charming little loft is right next to the ferry terminal – perfect for those arriving by boat or looking to explore further afield. The apartment is attached to a local bar, which provides a unique insight into the El Nido lifestyle. The rooms are modern and well decorated, with plenty of space for up to five guests.
Friendly Hostel in El Nido: Happiness Hostel
This welcoming hostel in El Nido really shines when it comes to social facilities. Though definitely not a party hostel, the laid-back bar downstairs is the perfect place to meet other travelers. Within the hostel itself, you can also enjoy a cozy lounge and spacious kitchen. The rooms are newly renovated, with sturdy furnishings and a modern design.
Coastal Getaway in El Nido: Buko Beach Resort
Located right on the beach, this four-star resort is the perfect retreat for soaking up a laid-back atmosphere. The rooms are designed in the typical Palawan style, with plenty of space and luxury extras. Corong Corong Beach is right on the doorstep, with a number of local bars and restaurants only a short walk away.
Things to See and Do in El Nido:
- Diving is one of the best activities in El Nido – head to basically any beach for snorkelling and diving experiences.
- Bacuit Bay is home to hundreds of islands, and you can take an island hopping tour to take in all the highlights.
- Mountain biking is a rewarding experience in El Nido. You can find trails (and hire shops) at Discover El Nido.
- Visit The Pangolin Cocktail Bar to start your night, before heading out to Pukka Bar to finish it off.
2. Coron – Epic Diving Location in Palawan
Although it’s actually a separate island, there’s a relatively quick ferry connecting Coron with El Nido. This fascinating destination is most famous for its diving locations. It’s home to some interesting WWII shipwrecks, with plenty of local guides able to help out any diving beginners.
The various areas of Coron are pretty laid-back and mostly act as major travel hubs connecting Palawan with the rest of the Philippines. If you’re planning a longer trip around the country, this is definitely worth a stopover. Even if you don’t stay here, we recommend taking the short trip from El Nido to experience a totally different vibe.
Secluded Escape near Coron: Big Bamboo
It doesn’t get any more secluded than a private island. You’ll be sharing with the host, but they live on the opposite side of the island from the guest house. Alongside free water sports equipment, you’ll also be able to book freshly cooked meals and boat tours off the archipelago for a small fee. You can dock up if you’ve got your own boat, but the hosts can also collect you from Coron.
Private Yacht in Coron: Coron Yacht Experience
Coron is bursting with unique accommodation. This private yacht lets you take in the coast in style. It can sleep up to six people across two bedrooms with plenty of room on the deck to soak up the peaceful atmosphere. You’re allowed to take the yacht on journeys around the Coron area.
Peaceful Hotel in Coron: Vienna Hotel
If you’d rather stay closer to civilization, this hotel is located in the main town of Coron. Despite this central location, it maintains a peaceful atmosphere where you can unwind in the evenings. Mount Tapyas is right on your doorstep – perfect for hikers and adventure travelers.
Things to See and Do in Coron:
- Diving! You can go to Coron Island where you can hire equipment and head off on your own. Alternatively, take a trip with a licensed guide if you’re a beginner.
- Island hopping is a really fun way to explore in Coron as you get to hop on board an authentic Filipino Bangka.
- Take a trip to the Maquinit Hot Springs. These are heated by geothermal activity and are the perfect spot to relax.
3. Port Barton – Best Area in Palawan for Families
Port Barton is a similar destination to El Nido – but its lack of nightlife here makes it an ideal place to stay in Palawan for a more laid-back atmosphere. Families in particular flock to Port Barton, as one of the safest and most peaceful neighbourhoods in Palawan.
Fair warning – it has a bit of a ‘rustic’ vibe. We believe this is part of the charm, but it isn’t for everyone. You will have plenty of opportunities to mingle with locals, and a lot of the scenery is untouched by tourism. It’s a bit of an adventure, and it’s totally worth it.
Spacious Villa in Port Barton: Villa Marguerita
With room for eight guests across three bedrooms, this is our top pick for large families deciding where to stay in Palawan. It’s built in the typical architectural style of the island, but it still maintains a contemporary edge so you’ll feel right at home. Our favourite feature is the huge terrace with a dining area. It’s fully covered for those wetter days, and boasts unbeatable views on sunnier ones.
Welcoming Hostel in Port Barton: My Green Hostel
This is one of the newest hostels in Palawan, and it’s already racking up outstanding reviews. It maintains a homely atmosphere, making it the ideal place to stay for any traveler. Even families can enjoy spacious private rooms if they’re looking to stick to a budget. The on-site bar is super laid back, and the hostel offers bike rentals to make exploring the region a breeze.
Eco-Friendly Glamping in Port Barton: Balili Eco Glamping
Camping is a great way to connect with nature – but it’s not for everyone. Thankfully, Balili Eco Glamping lets you keep all of your comforts whilst still sleeping among the unique plant life of Palawan. It’s only a short walk from central Port Barton, so you won’t feel too disconnected from civilization. They even offer four-person tents for families!
Things to See and Do in Port Barton:
- Swim with turtles and head over to the snorkelling area to explore the reefs.
- The rainforests around Port Barton have some small trekking areas. These are limited, but they’re great for families.
- Gacayan is known locally as the Cheap Place, offering local delicacies and even a few international dishes at fantastic prices.
- Bigaho Waterfall is a gorgeous spot for travel photography. It’s five kilometers away, so you’ll have to be experienced at hiking (although there is a road if you can drive).
Final Thoughts on Where To Stay in Palawan
Palawan is a gorgeous destination in the furthest reaches of the Philippines. Bursting with natural beauty everywhere you turn, the island is a photographer’s paradise. From the bustling parties of El Nido to the peaceful beaches of Port Barton, there’s a little something for everyone on Palawan. If you can, we recommend hiring a car to really take in its beauty.
If we had to pick one destination that stands out to us, it would be El Nido. It offers a little bit of everything Palawan has to offer, so you’ll get to experience a little bit of everything. From parties to paradise, you’ll be spoiled for choice in this small region alone. It’s also super close to Port Barton, and only a short boat ride from Coron.
All that said, it’s really up to you! We wrote this guide to give you a little guidance, but ultimately the best destination depends on what you want to get out of your trip. We hope we’ve helped you narrow down your options for your upcoming adventure in the Philippines.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
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