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Palawan Island is the closest you’ll come to paradise on Earth. Don't believe us? It's a land of many charms, from its friendly Filipino culture to its astonishing scenery. Expect tropical forests filled with exotic wildlife and ringed by clear jade seas, powder white shores, and soaring limestone cliffs. Palawan is famous for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River and the magnificent islands and beaches of the El Nido area. There are accommodation options for all tastes and budgets and below, we take a look at some of our favorites from a boutique glamping site to an eco-friendly resort that doubles as a sea turtle sanctuary.
Best Overall: El Nido Resorts Pangulasian Island
Perched on a tiny island off the coast of El Nido, El Nido Resorts Pangulasian Island is the epitome of everything that makes Palawan special. Your adventure starts with a 25-minute private boat transfer across the crystalline waters of Bacuit Bay. The resort lies between lush rainforest and glistening white sands and boasts both sunrise and sunset views. There are 42 individual villas, all crafted from local timber and designed with the environment in mind. In addition to a private balcony, expect Wi-Fi, satellite TV, and an iPod dock.
Canopy Villas stand on stilts amidst the forest and are a great choice for birders, while Pool Villas come with their own private swimming pool. During the day, discover the island’s natural wonders through a vast array of activities including lagoon tours, island hopping cruises, snorkeling, windsurfing, and scuba diving. There’s a beautiful swimming pool and a spa with an impressive list of Asian and European treatments. You can dine in the main restaurant or arrange private dinners on the beach.
Hibiscus Garden Inn is a 15-minute drive from Puerto Princesa International Airport, making it ideal for budget layovers or for those planning on spending just a few days in Palawan’s capital. TripAdvisor reviewers label the hotel an affordable oasis and it has a reputation for comfort and cleanliness. Despite its urban location, a charming garden filled with outdoor artwork gives you a taste of the island’s natural beauty. There are just 14 rooms to choose from, creating an intimate feel that’s enhanced by the hotel’s friendly service.
All rooms are simply decorated yet spacious, with air-conditioning, a private bathroom, cable TV, and a mini-fridge. Spend a lazy afternoon reading or dozing in the hammock on the porch outside, or sample the Asian and European menu at the restaurant; wood-fired pizzas and fresh fruit shakes are a specialty. The communal dining area overlooks the palm-filled garden and there are four choices for breakfast: continental, American, European, or authentic Filipino.
Best Boutique: Qi Palawan
Despite being ranked on TripAdvisor as the number one hotel in El Nido, Qi Palawan is located a 55-minute drive from the town in a tract of wilderness that redefines the concept of tranquility. With just eight eco-friendly cottages and villas scattered between the clear waters of the Sulu Sea and the virgin forest, it’s the ultimate boutique escape. Cottages are designed for couples with a spacious sea-view patio and an outdoor shower, while villas are made for families with sleeping space for five spread out across two stories.
Start your day with sun salutations in the open-air yoga studio. Other activities include scuba diving, mountain biking, island tours, and kiteboarding. The spa offers Swedish or traditional Filipino massages, while the ocean-view restaurant specializes in fresh seafood and imported wines. It’s also a great place to spend time between adventures, with a billiards table and a lending library of books and board games. Private van transfers can be arranged from El Nido or Puerto Princesa.
Best for Families: Astoria Palawan
Luxury Astoria Palawan is located 37 miles northeast of Puerto Princesa on a twelve-acre beachfront property that’s far enough from the city to feel like a proper getaway, but close enough for an easy journey with small kids. The resort is home to the only waterpark in Puerto Princesa, complete with slides, themed play areas, and a lazy river ride; the hotel also offers a 128-foot infinity pool and a dedicated kiddie pool. With a complimentary putting green, tree house, off-road bikes, and kayaks at your disposal, there’s no chance of boredom here.
The resort has 40 rooms and suites in wood cabin-style villas. Characterized by a tropical color scheme, all rooms offer individual climate control, a kitchenette, flat-screen TV, and free Wi-Fi. One and two-bedroom suites provide extra space for large families. Breakfast is complimentary and The Reserve restaurant serves local and international cuisine against an impressive Sulu Sea backdrop. Parents who need a moment off duty will find peace in the spa.
Best for Luxury: Cauayan Island Resort
Tucked into an idyllic cove on an island in El Nido Bay, Cauayan Island Resort has all the ingredients for a luxury stay. Turquoise shallows wash upon white sand shores, the service is impeccable, and the individual villas have sloping thatched roofs and natural wood interiors. All 23 spoil with a wooden terrace or veranda with a lounge bed and outdoor shower, but for the most opulent experience, choose a stilted Water Villa or the Cuayan Pool Villa. The latter offers 360-degree views punctuated by a private deck and dipping pool.
Public spaces include a sparkling swimming pool, a stunning ocean-view restaurant, and a pool bar perfect for evening cocktails. There are plenty of activities to choose from, too. Sign up for a professional scuba course at the dive center or explore the bay on an island hopping tour or kayaking excursion. Treks into the island’s forest interior can also be arranged. If you prefer a more laid-back approach to vacationing, treat yourself to a spa day instead.
Best for Romance: El Nido Resorts Lagen Island
Dense forest, sheer limestone cliffs, and a paradise lagoon set the scene for romance at El Nido Resorts Lagen Island. This Bacuit Bay eco-sanctuary provides a secluded getaway for nature-loving couples and honeymooners. Monkeys, lizards, and endemic birdlife can be spotted on the forest trail that leads to a picturesque cove on the other side of the island. All 51 rooms, suites, and cottages are masterpieces of recycled Filipino timber, with full-height sliding glass doors that open out onto a private veranda.
Forest Suites are the largest and most luxurious option, but there’s something infinitely romantic about the resort’s over-water cottages. Join the other guests at the Clubhouse Restaurant, or celebrate a special occasion with a private beach dinner. The Beach Sala Bar offers splendid views of the Bacuit Bay sunset. During the day, reconnect on a coracle boat or kayak tour, sign up for an island hopping cruise, or discover the underwater world on a PADI dive course. The spa offers tropical face and body treatments.
Best Eco-Friendly: Secret Paradise Resort & Turtle Sanctuary
Many Palawan hotels are eco-friendly but Secret Paradise Resort & Turtle Sanctuary is in a class of its own. Located in between Port Barton’s Marine Park and the famous Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, it's spread out over 2.5 miles of pristine coastline. Discover two sunset-facing coves, four palm-lined beaches, spectacular waterfalls, and a series of hiking trails that offer close encounters with the reserve’s wildlife. The resort is also an accredited turtle sanctuary and guests can observe endangered turtles nesting and hatching in season.
Protected reefs provide exceptional snorkeling and diving, while excursions range from boat trips down the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River to seaplane flights over the Port Barton islands. When you’re not immersing yourself in nature, unwind with a massage or session in the native sauna. All of the beachfront cottages and suites come with air-conditioning, a smart TV and a balcony with private sun loungers. Rates include a breakfast buffet and a la carte meals are available for lunch and dinner.
Best Glamping: The Birdhouse El Nido
Travelers in search of something out of the ordinary should book a stay at boutique glamping site The Birdhouse El Nido. This Instagram-worthy sanctuary is located 330 feet from the beach to the south of El Nido town and comprises three luxury “nests” or bell tents. Each tent is built on a raised platform that puts you at eye level with the surrounding birdlife and includes a private bathroom and open-air balcony. The lights, hot water, and electrical outlets are solar powered, and the views of Bacuit Bay are astounding.
All nests have a queen sized bed and two twins. The communal Mother Nest provides a social space for dining and relaxing complete with a book and board games library, while nightly s’mores and cocoa receptions are a highlight. Breakfast is provided and the menu of the day is inspired by local market produce. The beach is great for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. The lodge also offers four different island hopping tours, all with a beach barbecue included.
Best Hostel: Mad Monkey Hostel Nacpan Beach
TripAdvisor reviewers claim that Mad Monkey Hostel Nacpan Beach is the ultimate choice for those traveling around Palawan on a shoestring. Located a 45-minute ride north of El Nido town, the hostel sits on the edge of breathtaking Nacpan Beach and makes the most of its setting with thatched beach palapas and hammocks strung beneath slender palms. Accommodation comes in the form of six or 12-bed mixed dormitories. The dorms are fan-cooled and each bunk has a power socket, mosquito net, and secure locker.
Stilted loft Nipa Hut offers a little more privacy, though super cash-strapped travelers will appreciate the hostel’s two-person tents. Equipped with mattresses and battery-powered fans, camping doesn’t have to mean being uncomfortable. Whichever room type you choose, you’ll have access to a shared bathroom. At the beachfront bar and restaurant, local dishes are served alongside signature cocktails. The friendly staff can book you onto an affordable island hopping tour, with a seafood lunch and a swim to Secret Beach included.