When I think of an exotic island location filled with bright sun, lush green vegetation, white sandy beaches, and crystal clear waters there are endless possibilities. However, when I think of one of my favorite vacations ever there is one particular place that comes to mind. Palawan, Philippines offers all of that and more and is only a 1-hour flight from Manila.
The reason I prefer Palawan as a perfect island getaway is because it is less touristy than Boracay in many ways. When most people think of the best beaches in the world, Boracay is one that comes up because not only does it offer gorgeous beaches and scenery, the nightlife is great as well. On the other hand, Palawan is a little more “uncharted.” Palawan is for those travelers who prefer to go a little off the beaten path in a more secluded environment with less party animals scouring the beaches.
To follow my footsteps on one of the most epic trips ever you would first need to be in the Philippines, a given. The best jumping off point to most island destinations will be Manila since it is the capital and many beaches can be reached within an hour from the city. A friend and I flew into Puerto Princesa, Palawan and rented a cheap hotel room for the night. The city is pretty typical for this part of the world meaning things move very slowly and nobody is in a hurry. The beers are cheap and the food is delicious, nothing more to note. Other than that I would not recommend staying here for too long because there is so much more to be explored.
The next day we went to a local shop and rented motorcycles for the day. For about 25 USD we rented 125cc motorcycles with unlimited mileage. The shop also gave us a map with a rough guide of how to go north to the beach. The beach we sought to visit was called “Sabang” (“white beach” in Tagalog), on the north west coast of the island, about a 2-hour ride from Puerto Princesa. There are actually endless beaches along the coast so you cannot go wrong, however, this one is near the famous Underground River, also worth a look.
Some people may not be bold enough to just rent a motorcycle, grab a map, and drive off into unfamiliar territory but I assure you if you have the guts the reward is completely worth it. Winding roads, rolling hills, and dense green trees along the way were nothing less than amazing. The occasional “chicken crossing the road” for any number of reasons can be seen. Heat from the blazing sun brings sweat to your brow as the warm breeze dances across your face. There are no other people around for most of the ride creating a peaceful and serene journey. When you do happen to come across somebody he or she is always waving, smiling, and more than willing to offer help if you are lost.
Finally, after several twists and turns, ups and downs, stopping to take selfies with mountains in the background, and perhaps a refreshing coconut on the side of the road, you have reached Sabang. There are almost no people on the beach. In fact, there is only one resort on this beach the last time I checked so you have the entire place pretty much to yourself. Unlike Boracay, where there are tons of vendors or kids running up to you trying to sell necklaces or mangoes, Sabang Beach offers a bit more peace and serenity.
From here you can easily make a stop over to the Underground River and still make it back to Puerto Princesa before nightfall. My friend and I decided to have a swim followed by lunch and the obligatory mango shake at the resort before we rode back. By the way, Philippine mangoes are the best in the world, bar none. Do NOT leave without trying them. If you are flexible with time it would certainly be worth renting a room at the resort. They offer a van that can take you from Puerto Princesa as well but that will be shared with several other people. The motorcycle option is certainly the way to go.
All in all, Palawan is one of my favorite island destinations in the Philippines and I have visited several different parts on multiple occasions. The beauty of the Philippines is in the fact that not only do they have over 7,000 islands, black sand, white sand, pink sand, tan sand, Underground Rivers, Tarsiers, exotic fish, Chocolate Hills, Whale Sharks, and the list goes on and on, but the people are among the friendliest I have ever met. The kind-hearted nature of Filipinos will enhance the already amazing atmosphere and should round it off to be one of the best trips you will ever take. Get there.
Ever been to Palawan? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
*Opening photo by Hector Garcia