It’s worth the trip. You just need to figure that part out first…
It’s not often that people agree on anything, but for years running, numerous publications have labeled Palawan archipelago as the most beautiful island on earth. Considering the competition, crystal blue waters and pink sands you can find elsewhere – that’s quite a statement. Despite international acclaim, the island has managed to remain as low key as anyone could reasonably hope, in part because getting there isn’t quite “easy” from most of the world. Here’s how to get to Palawan with the least hassle and most enjoyment, wherever you are.
Palawan El Nido Or Puerto Princesa?
Don’t score an own goal on vacation by forgetting to confirm which one of these destinations you’re going to. If you do, you’ll be faced with a 5+ hour van ride or extra flights to get there. In Palawan there’s El Nido, which travelers love, and Puerto Princesa which travelers also love. The operating idea: getting to either is a different process than the other, and they’re nowhere near as close as you think. It could be argued that El Nido is more exclusive.
When To Visit Palawan: Palawan is warm, dry and stunning from mid October to early May. It’s always warm, but the wet season often shows up from late May to early September, depending on the year. If you go then, expect some brief, but intense showers – and humidity.
Side, Side Tip: Look up Air Juan. The secret is safe with you, right?
But it’s worth it. Unless you live in Manila, Cebu or Angeles, Philippines – you’re going to be connecting. In most cases, more than once. The only easy to reach direct flights to Palawan are from Manila, Cebu or Angeles. Very few airlines offer direct flights from most of the world to any of the above, with the exception of Philippines Airlines, known as PAL.
PAL flies to Manila or Cebu from Europe, both coasts of the USA, Middle East and Asia. For most airlines, you’re going to want to eye an intermediary city like Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Taiwan or Hong Kong for the first stop of your long haul flight, and then hop onward to one of the above Philippine cities. Depending on which part of Palawan you’re going to, the key is figure out which.
Hot Tip: Booking flights from wherever you are to Palawan in one go is often going to be more expensive than putting the pieces together separately. This also allows you to use a combination of great fare deals from each place to the next, or use some points and miles. The only way to know for sure is to compare both options.
The least cost effective but best time saving option to stunning Palawan El Nido is an airline called AirSwift, which flies direct from Manila, Cebu. You can also fly with them from Puerto Princesa, but Since you’d need a connection just to get there, it’s much faster to book from Manila or Cebu. Prices vary, but are generally around $200 per person. For a much more cost effective but time consuming option, you can fly to Puerto Princesa and take a bus for the 5+ hour journey to El Nido. The bus is around $15USD per person. There’s also a fast ferry boat between El Nido and Coron Island, which is roughly $35USD one way.
Example: You could use points to fly from your starting point to Hong Kong, grab a direct flight to Cebu using cash and then book a Swift Air flight from Cebu to El Nido. It’s important to note that while this can save hundreds or thousands, if a flight makes you miss another, you’re likely not covered. Moral of the story: leave plenty of good connection time.
Puerto Princesa is much easier to reach, at least in terms of airline options. AirAsia, PAL and Cebu Pacific are the most common flights from Cebu, Angeles or Manila to Palawan. Be sure to look up prices on Google Flights and consider playing around with different country versions of booking sites to unlock extra savings. Remember – if your hotel is in El Nido and you don’t want a five hour bus ride after landing in Puerto Princesa, this is not the best airport for you. If your hotel is around Puerto Princesa however, this is perfect.
Example: You could fly from your starting point to Manila on PAL and then grab a direct flight to Puerto Princesa using cash on an airline like AirAsia. If no direct flights are available on PAL, you can consider a cool side trip in Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore or Hong Kong en route.