getting to palawan

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 immense 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.

a blue water with boats and rocky hills

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?

a plane on the runway

Either Way, You’re Not Going Direct

But it’s worth it. Unless you live in Seoul, Hong Kong, Manila, Cebu or Angeles, Philippines – you’re going to be connecting. In most cases, more than once. The only semi easy to reach direct flights to Palawan are from Seoul, Hong Kong, or the Philippine cities 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 or CEBU Pacific. The one other noted exception is Eastar Jet from Seoul.

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 Hong Kong, Seoul 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.

getting to palawan

Best Way To Get To Palawan El Nido

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.

While the bus may be cheap, very few people report that the savings were worth it ; )

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.

a group of boats in a river

Best Way To Get To Palawan Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa (PPS) is much easier to reach, at least in terms of airline options. AirAsia, PAL and Cebu Pacific are the most common flights from Hong Kong, 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.


Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. And… another secret pristine location has been spoiled by a travel blog.
    RIP another exotic, clean and isolated island.

    1. Haha yeah, because my little blog ruined what every print publication announced in 2015 and millions knew before!

  2. Stayed on El Nido for 3 days last year before heading out to our over water bungalow on Apulit island.
    Absolutely stunning area. Took Airswift from MNL down to EL Nido.

  3. Last year stayed at a small resort on the west coast of Palawan. Used to be a really rough road to get there but now is paved and takes 45 minutes from Puerto Princesa. Totally unspoiled low key amazing villa resort with amazing empty beaches. Google Herwig palawan to find it. It is an amazing place.

    Palawan is all experiencing it’s wonderful nature. So avoid fancy resorts. Low key is the way to go.

    You also forgot to mention Cebu Pacific from Manila to Puerto Princesa. Just remember to buy luggage online before your flight.

  4. I stayed in Puerto Princesa for about a week. Flew in from Manila. Cool spot, not cheap, nice beaches and UNESCO sights to see. Can’t say I’m rushing to get back.

    1. Yes Puerto Princesa is just a city. Nothing special has some beaches but lots of tourists. The UNESCO sight is this underground river. Yuck … tourist trap !

  5. There are flights to San Vicente now. Only 2 hours away to El Nido compare to 6 hours from Puerto Princesa.

  6. The Philippines has been back burner on my must-visit list for a while, and this really gets me thinking about it in earnest. Where are the above pictures from, respectively?

  7. Eastar Jet, a Korean LCC also operates from Seoul-Incheon to Puetro Princesa. You probably won’t be able to look it up on Google flights, but their website is perfectly fine to use. Plus ICN would be a fairly easy place to get to from most parts of the world, much better than Manila.

  8. To each his own. I’m a US Citizen. Employed in
    US. I have a wife & children in Puerto
    Princesa. I absolutely love it. So much
    Unspoiled beauty. Let me recommend
    A hotel. Princesa Garden Resort. Doesn’t get
    Much better. Couple hours out of town
    Is Sabang. Best hotels: Sheridan Resort
    Or Daluyon. You cant go wrong with any
    Of those 3

  9. Break up the 5 hour shuttle ride with a stop at Port Barton or San Vicente and get a much more enriched taste of the unspoiled, less touristy Palawan. Because Palawan is already over touristy with party boats 🙁

  10. Heading to Palawan next week. Connecting via Manila (PAL) to Puerto Princesa for 4 days, then by van to el Nido (supposedly beautiful drive). 4 days later to Cebu by AirSwift for a week.

    Your pictures are beautiful. Hope real life is as nice. Have heard el Nido is pretty polluted.

  11. Don’t bother with Palawan, save up and go to Amanpulo on Pamalican, 100 miles East. You’ll be glad you did.

  12. There is also direct flight from Panglap, Bohol to El Nido. Quite affordable if booked well in advance through AirSwift

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