A Solo Backpackers' Travel Guide to Palawan (Coron, El Nido, Balabac, Puerto Princesa City)

By Anne Elizabeth Apolona Gumiran - 11:34 PM


Every day for 17 days, people asked me, "Why are you traveling alone?" I usually tell them that I can't find people whom I can travel with for that long because they can't just leave from their job or the trip might cost a fortune. I responded with those because those were the easiest answers I can give. I did not have to explain a thing because the people who asked me could understand. But deep in my heart, I know that it's not just it. Though partly true, those were not entirely my reasons.

Let me tell you, this is beyond the pictures that you see. It's more than just seeing the best scenery, diving into the deep. chasing sunrise and sunsets, craving for the perfect color of summer. It's more than just wearing bikini, posing and getting a gorgeous tan under the sun.


I embarked on this solo backpacking trip that lasted longer than my usual not for the bragging rights or anything. I chose to travel alone as I see it rather as a journey to self-actualization. I need to experience the world totally for what it is and coexist with it, outside my comfort zone and get a sense of euphoria, joy and wonder; to realize who am I, what I want, what I need to be in this world's context in order to transcend.
It's a process of 'becoming'; even a search for a profound meaning to life and being. The process I must say is crucial and painful. I had to delve into the unknown, defy my self and others' convention, lose people along the way, face my fears that almost threatened my security. Regardless, I yearn for growth. I yearn for the understanding and acceptance of my nature and complexities. Because it's in this state that I could only allow myself to be understood and let others love me unconditionally.

Why Palawan?

I've gone to Palawan once last July 2018. The moment that I took a glimpse of the islands down below from the plane, I swam into its lagoons, did free diving and saw how diverse and rich its marine life is, walked into the shore of its pristine beaches, I fell in love. The weather was gloomy and it rained hard that time its beauty still prevailed. This made me want to come back during the sunny days in the country and experience the best of these islands.

The first that I have visited in Palawan is Coron

Apart from its incomparable attractions, I found the province a solo traveler-friendly place. I did my research prior to my trip and arrived into that conclusion. There are various agencies which offer affordable tours and that joiners aren't much of a problem since there are a lot in the place. They can just simply put you into a boat, say for instance, together with other tourists whom you can also make friends with.

One of the activities that you shouldn't miss to enjoy the lagoons in Coron and El Nido is kayaking 

The giraffes of Calauit Safari


17 Days 16 Night 4-Leg Itinerary

1ST LEG: CORON, PALAWAN

DAY 0: MNL TO CORON
DAY 1: ultimate Tour
DAY 2: TOUR D (reefs and wrecks)
DAY 3: Safaru Tour
DAY 4: TOUR C-1
DAY 5: chill/ Town Tour
DAY 6: Ferry from Coron to El Nido
PM: El Nido Inland tour

2ND LEG: EL NIDO, PALAWAN

DAY 7: TOUR A
DAY 8: TOUR C
DAY 9: Inland Tour (Taraw Cliff, Nacpan Beach, Las Cabañas)
DAY 10: Land Travel from El Nido to Buliluyan Port (Entry to Balabac)

3RD LEG: ISLANDS OF BALABAC 

DAY 11: Tangkahan Is., Patawan Is. and Candaraman Is.
DAY 12: Camiaran Island and Onuk Island
DAY 13: Sicsican Is., Canibungan Is. and Candaraman Is. (campsite)
DAY 14: Candaraman Is. Sandbar, Mansalangan Sandbar, Punta Sebaring
day 14 PM: buliluyan Port to Puerto Princesa City

4TH LEG: PUERTO PRINCESA CITY

DAY 15: Underground River Tour
DAY 16: Town Tour/ Island Tour
DAY 17: HOME BOUND/ next day arrival via 2Go Travel vessel

Puerto Princesa Underground River


Where I Stayed

High end resorts and luxury hotels didn't appeal to me. I'd rather spend my money on tours as I'd be spending most of my time exploring than staying in my accommodation. With that, I searched for budget-friendly accommodations prior to my trip.

NCB Home Stay is known by the locals as King Michael  Hotel

For my Coron trip, I stayed at NCB Homestay. The room where I've stayed is air-conditioned with hot and cold shower, towels and Wi-Fi. The rate is also inclusive of breakfast and unlimited coffee. I have enjoyed my stay even more with the accommodating staff.



For my El Nido trip, I stayed in Northern Hope Inn. It's among the cheapest accommodation I've looke at in El Nido. It is just a minute away from the port and the beach. The room where I stayed has air-conditioner and Wi-Fi.

On my third leg, I chose to stay in the island than in Poblacion. For two night, I stayed in Candaraman Island. Expect basic accommodation and camping in the island as there are no high end resorts in there nor electricity.

At the porch of my accommodation in Green Villa Pension, Puerto Princesa City

For the last leg of my backpacking, I stayed in Green Villa Pension in Puerto Princesa City. I love the homey vibe of the place. It is a few minutes walk from the highway making the whole place peaceful nad quiet. I was expecting a simple air-conditioned room with Wi-Fi because that's what I usually get from pension houses but this one's way different. It's actually a two-bedroom apartment with living room, kitchen with refrigerator and kitchen sink, and bathroom. Each apartment has its own terrace. What I love the most about it is the breakfast. They set it up at the table in the terrace where you can hear birds chirping, enjoy the garden view and feel the morning breeze - indeed, the best way to wake up, enjoy mornings and be grateful for everything.

Getting To, Around and Away

M/V St. Francis Xavier sails once a week from Manila to Puerto Princesa City departing on Friday nights from Pier 4 North Harbor Manila Port arriving next morning at the port of Coron and proceeds to Puerto Princesa City docking at around 6:00 PM.

Instead of flying from Manila to Coron as the entry of my backpacking adventure, I booked a trip to Coron via 2Go Travel as it is cheaper. I booked it three days before my trip and I got a supervalue accommodation for only Php 1,700.00 The trip took 11 hours. Dinner was included. I just felt uncomfortable in the accommodation that I booked as there are no air-conditioner and my spot was right in the middle - far from the windows and electric fan. Good thing that the type of accommodation I have booked for my return was at megavalue for Php 2,025.00. The trip took 24 hours. It is like a smaller room with 20 double-decker beds, fully air-conditioned with television. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is included. I commend 2Go Travel for they consider my food restrictions. I am allergic to chicken dishes. I told them about it and they did not even think twice in offering me a different meal.

The megavalue accommodation of 2Go Travel

Getting around Palawan is not challenging at all most especially if you have a contact number of van drivers. If none, you may book your transfers with Book-A-Way. They can actually pick you up and drop you off the hotel where you've checked in. It's guaranteed hassle-free as you can book anytime as long as you have internet and credit or debit card. I also booked my trip from Coron to El Nido and El Nido to Puerto Princesa City via Book-A-Way. I was sent an email with my voucher which served as my e-ticket.

Montenegro Shipping Line has their super fast ferry which sails once a day at 12:00 NN from Coron to El Nido for $36

The biggest boat in Balabac, Palawan that can carry up to 30 persons owned by Engr. Ronald of the Yellow Drybag Adventures

The best way to save while exploring the best of Palawan is through joining organized tours since there are people whom you can share the expenses with (i.e. van and boat rental). Drivers of tour agencies pick up guests from their respective hotels after breakfast and drop them back after the tours. The following are the tour agencies in which I have booked my tours with.

1. Coron: JY Travel and Tours
2. El Nido: Northern Hope Travel and Tours
3. Balabac: The Yellow Drybag Adventures/ Motet Sanson of Candaraman Island, Balabac, Palawan
3. Puerto Princesa City: Northern Hope Travel and Tours

The cerulean waters of Onuk Island

Estimated Budget

Fare (2Go Travel) Manila to Coron - Php 1,700.00
Fare (2Go Travel) Puerto Princesa City to Manila - Php 2,025.00
Terminal fee (Manila port) - Php 90.00
Terminal fee (Coron port) - Php 20.00
Terinal fee (Puerto Princesa Cit yPort) - Php 20.00

TOTAL: Php 3,855.00

1ST LEG: CORON, PALAWAN

Ultimate Tour - Php 1,500.00
TOUR D (reefs and wrecks) - Php 1,300.00
Safari Tour - Php 1,750.00
Busuanga Tour Fee - Php 100.00 (required by their municipality and is not included in the tour fee)
Calauit Safari transfer - Php 250.00
TOUR C-1 - Php 1,500.00
Town Tour - Php 800.00
Food (dinner for 6 days) - Php 600.00
Accommodation (for 6 days) - Php 3600.00 (sharing)
Ferry from Coron to El Nido - Php 1,872.00


TOTAL:  Php 13,272.00

2ND LEG: EL NIDO, PALAWAN

TOUR A - Php 1,600.00
TOUR C - Php 1,400.00
Food - Php 500.00
El Nido Motorbike rental - Php 500.00
Gas - Php 150.00
Land Travel from El Nido to Puerto Princesa City  - Php 500.00
Accommodation - Php 1,500.00

TOTAL: Php 6,150.00

3RD LEG: ISLANDS OF BALABAC 

I joined a tour that is inclusive of the following:
1. Van Transfers from Puerto Princesa City to Buliluyan Port v.v.
2. Accommodation (Candaraman Island and Onuk Island)
3. Entrance and environmental fees
4. Food

Accommodation (Puerto Princesa City) - Php 1,500.00
TOTAL: Php 11,500.00

4TH LEG: PUERTO PRINCESA CITY

Food - Php 150.00
Underground River Tour - Php 2,000.00
Town Tour - Php 500.00

TOTAL: Php 2,650.00

GRAND TOTAL: Php 37,327.00

Other expenses such as booze, gear (i.e. snorkel, mask, fins) rental and souvenirs are not included. The good thing is, I do not drink nor smoke and I also brought my own gears. Thus, I didn't have to spend for those.


Tips in Solo Backpacking in Palawan

1. Travel with insurance. Whether you like it or not, you might encounter unfortunate events while on a trip. It's better to be safe than sorry anyway.
2. Make friends. Do so not solely for the purpose of having people to split expenses with but because these people will make your trip more fun and that you'll also learn a lot from them.
3. Avoid wearing of revealing clothes when traveling to southern Palawan. Most parts of it are populated with Muslims. Respect the locals' culture.
4. Plan well ahead of your trip so you'll have an idea as to how much do you need to save and spend, where can you stay, how will you get around and away. Always have a contingency plan. Things might not go as planned but at least you have a fall back.
5. Always bring dry bag, waterproof phone case, aqua shoes and reef-friendly sunscreen.
6. There are places in Palawan most especially in the southern where there is no mobile network signal or just sporadic. Make sure that you'll establish your contact well to the place to save yourself from stress and hassle later.

Taraw Cliff, El Nido, Palawan


Should you decide to do one leg at a time, you may also read my detailed travel guide to these top attractions in Palawan here:
Coron, Palawan Travel Guide
El Nido, Palawan Travel Guide
Balabac, Palawan Travel Guide

  • Share:

You Might Also Like

1 comments

  1. Spent my whole lunch break finishing this blog! Photos are all sharp! I am ecited for my coron solo trip. Thanks for the tips! :)

    ReplyDelete

You might also like:

Booking.com