Solo Travels: Palawandering in the Phillippines

Palawan, officially the Province of Palawan, is an island province of the Philippines that is located in the Mimaropa region.

It’s been voted as “the World’s Most Beautiful Island” by Conde Nest Traveler’s readers and it’s very clear as to why. Which has led to me coin my adventures in Palawan as “Palawandering”.

As a solo trip for the sole purpose of exploration and relaxation, I chose not to book too many things in advance. I scored a super cheap return ticket from Dubai to Manila for 107 AED ($28) back in January. Yes, you read that right, $28 for a roundtrip ticket to paradise (thank you Cebu Pacific!) It’s definitely a no frills airline though, so be sure to prepare accordingly. So the lineup of my week’s activities is where spontaneity met functioning while hungover.

Day 1:

I arrived in Manila and took a trike over to the Domestic Private Terminal to catch my private charter plane to El Nido. I booked through ITI (click here to book) and was in El Nido before I knew it! My first night I got in late and with the full day of traveling, I just grabbed dinner at one of the beachfront restaurants and called it a night.

Day 2:

The next day it was overcast and fearing it might rain; I skipped the Island Hopping and opted for the mountain trekking up to the Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls. Entrance to the falls is run by a local family who run the tours. The hike up to Nagkalit took about 45 min through several shallow rivers, fields, and through the bush. Once we finally reached the waterfalls it was time for a dip! The water was so cool and refreshing! I spent the rest of the day relaxing at the private Twins Beaches, having my fair share of pancit and a coke & rum filled coconut.

I love hostels because they truly do bring travelers together. I stayed at the gorgeous and newly opened SPIN DESIGNER HOSTEL  EL NIDO. The property is gorgeous and just a short walk into town and the beach! The staff is amazing and caters to your every need! From BBQ dinners, to sing-alongs, to beer pong tourneys, there was never a dull moment at SPIN!  I met some of the coolest people during the trip that were also staying at my hostel. Canadians, Americans, Spaniards, Brits, Mexicans, Filipinos, Austrians, Germans, and tons of other nationalities. We drank, we partied, we passed out.

Day 3:

Took a full day to recover, from the night before (read: extreme hangover). Yes, it was THAT epic!

Day 4:

So postponed from the day before, I finally got to hit the ocean during a Discover Scuba course with Sea Dog Diving. Owned by a pair of American guys, they were very attentive and made me feel so comfortable. I had my own private instructor for the day as the others were already certified divers. For those who know me, this is my 4th scuba experience and I do not know how to swim! But I’m completely comfortable in the water and I’ve had great instructors who have been very patient with me (especially when I occasionally panic and want to pull my mouthpiece out at 12 meters beneath the surface). There’s really no better way to really get a sense of the Philippines without going diving. All the beautiful fish, corals, sea turtles, octopus, and tons of other gorgeous aquatic life.

Day 5:

You can’t come all the way to El Nido and not do one of the infamous island hopping tours. You can book the tours thru any of the merchants along the beach. I decided to wait until the morning of to book as I wanted to make sure the weather was perfect. You also have more leverage to negotiate the price on the morning of as they want to try and fill the boats! Each tour is catered to your particular interests. There’s tours that focus on the lagoons, some on the beaches, some of caves, and some on snorkeling and diving. I chose to go for the most popular, Tour A that goes to the best 3 lagoons on Miniloc Island (Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon and Secret Lagoon), snorkeling around Simizu Island and then enjoying the white Sand on 7 Commandos Island. The weather couldn’t have been any better! The sun was shining and not a cloud in sight! A full day of kayaking, snorkeling, beach bumming, ended with a seafood lunch on the boat prepared by the crew. I couldn’t have imagined a better day! Went alone and met some great new friends from Ireland, Australia, France and Israel!

After a shower and a quick nap, I packed my bags and took the night bus to Puerto Princesa for stop #3 of my adventure! I had heard horror stories about the 6 hour bus/van ride, but it actually was not so bad. Was able to stretch out over 4 seats, got a bit of rest and made it in one piece. Glad one of the guys I met at the hostel decided to join me. We reached our hostel around 3AM and quickly fell asleep.

Day 6:

I swear I blinked and it was 8AM, time for me to get up and get ready for my tour to the Sabang Underground River. After some spelunking (cave trekking) and a zipline over Ugong Rock, we were finally at the UNESCO site, the Subterranean Underground River of Puerto Princesa. It was truly amazing. All my photos are dark as it was pitch black inside the cave, so you’ll have to go see for yourself! I was so exhausted, so I showered, packed my bag, and rested for my long travel day the next day.

Day 7:

Made it to the Puerto Princesa airport just in time before a monsoon hit! It was raining so hard, which of course means delayed flights!! The flight from Puerto Princesa to Manila is only an hour, so I had allotted a 3 hour gap to ensure I had enough to grab lunch, surf the internet, before my flight from Manila to Dubai. Well of course my flight is delayed by 2 hours! So once I landed in Manila, I had 9 minutes to get my bag from baggage claim, go to check in counter, through security and the long walk to my boarding gate before it closed! I don’t think I’ve ran that fast since my days of running track! I’m sure people thought I was a madwoman. LOL.

I finally made it  and when the German gentlemen seated in my row clearly seeing how distraught I was, politely offered me a whiskey (a man after my own heart). I put my earbuds in, tossed back the mini shots, pulled my eye mask down, and pulled my Cebu Pacific blankey over my head.

Before I knew it, I was back in the sandpit. Excited to finally be done traveling, but I had left my heart in Palawan. I’m definitely making a return to the Philippines! Back to find my heart in El Nido, and adding on Cebu, Bohol, and Boracay.

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