Palawan is the westernmost province of the Philippines, the one with the largest land area and with probably the most pristine natural environment away from its settlements. It is regularly voted among the most beautiful islands on Earth.
Metropolitan Filipinos tend to regard Palawan as their final, unspoilt frontier, but even here venal politicians conspire to degrade conservation lands and there are plans for virgin forest to be logged out so lucrative oil palms can be planted. Get here while the beaches are still relatively deserted and unspoiled; resorts are still relatively few and far between in most of Palawan.
The indigenous flora and fauna of Palawan are somewhat different from the rest of the country. Biologists draw the Wallace-Huxley line to classify ecological regions in the area; Palawan is west of the line, grouped with Borneo, while most of the Philippines is east of the line.
The Samal people, also known as Bajau, Badjao or several other spellings, and as Sea Gypsies, live on Palawan, as well as the Sulu Islands, mainland Mindanao and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. They are renowned for their skill at diving for pearls; some of them get down more than 30 m (100 feet) without breathing equipment.
The Philippine government considers Palawan part of the Mimaropa group of provinces, hence falling under Luzon at the next level of the hierarchy. An executive order to reclassify it as part of the Western Visayas region was issued in 2005, but has not been implemented as of 2015.
- the 1 Calamian Islands, northeast of Palawan Island
- the 2 Cuyo Islands, to the east in the Sulu Sea
- 3 Cagayancillo, south of the Cuyos
- 4 Kalayaan, to the west in the contested 5 Spratly Islands group
- 6 Balabac, off the south tip of Palawan Island, near the maritime border with Sabah in Malaysia
All of these are actually island groups; even the ones named for a single main island include several smaller islands as well.
On Palawan Island:
- 1 Puerto Princesa - provincial capital
- 2 Quezon - where "Tabon man" lived a long time ago. Some refer to Tabon Cave as the cradle of Philippine civilization.
- 3 El Nido - limestone cliffs, lagoons, beautiful beaches
- 4 Port Barton - a truly laid-back coastal getaway with a great beach
- 5 Sabang - town with the long Saint Paul underground river in the National Park
- 6 San Jose
- 7 Brooke's Point Mostly fishing and farming, but some beautiful scenery
- 8 Roxas
- 9 San Vicente - town on the northwest edge of Palawan with the 14km cream-coloured "long beach". With the near completion of an airport in the city, some are saying the beach could rival Boracay.
In the Calamian Islands:
- 7 Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park , a UNESCO World Heritage Site with exceedingly fine diving, usually reached by live-aboard dive boats operating out of Puerto Princesa
- Aborlan - a rural university town
- Calauit - game preserve and wildlife sanctuary
- 8 Narra - The Rice Granary of Palawan.
- Palawan Butterfly Garden - located south of Puerto Princesa
Most people in Palawan usually speak Tagalog, however, Palawan has some indigenous languages, such as Cuyonon (one of the Visayan languages) in Cuyo Islands, and Palawan Batak (distantly related to the Batak languages of Sumatra, Indonesia) in Palawan proper. Palawanos, however, will readily speak in Tagalog even if their native language is one of those. Most Palawanos are Tagalog-speaking due to migration from Southern Luzon.
Signage is normally in English, as anywhere in the Philippines, with some being or including Tagalog, but there may also be some signs with translations to Chinese (Traditional) or Korean to accommodate the island's many Taiwanese and Korean visitors.
- 1 Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS IATA) is the main gateway to Palawan, major airlines serve international and domestic flights; Philippine Airlines, Air Asia, Cebu Pacific have flights to and from Manila, Cebu, and Clark. Cebu pacific also has flights to Iloilo. Tiger Air Taiwan fly to Taipei, Eastar Jet fly to Seoul.
When departing from this airport, there is a terminal fee within the ticket price of ₱200 for domestic destinations and ₱700 for international destinations.
- El Nido Airport (ENI IATA) Airswift has flights to/from Manila and Cebu. book via their website
- Air Juan has flights to/from Puerto Princesa airport to Iloilo via Cuyo (CYU IATA). and Puerto Princesa to Coron via San Vicente.
A new airport has been "near completion" in San Vicente since 2012, but don't hold your breath since, like many projects in the Philippines, opening dates are often wildly optimistic. Even when it does open, the surrounding settlement provides very little to attract visitors to bounce over the rutted goat tracks - with the exception of the 14-km long strip of white sand that made resort developers salivate.
Cheapest option while getting around is the local jeepney for short distances and buses for long distances. Tricycles are also available within towns. Getting from one island to another is possible; daily boat trips are available. It is also possible to rent a car or van.
- Tabon Caves in Quezon. The Caves were the discovery site of the skull cap remains of the Tabon Man estimated to be 22,000 years old. Explore its 138 hectares of rugged cliffs and deep slopes and breathtaking sea view.
- Kalui in 369 Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa is a popular Filipino restaurant that serves varieties of seafoods
Pearl diving is common throughout the region and pearl or shell-based handicrafts widely sold. Several of the world's largest pearls, including both the current and the previous record holder, have been found around Puerto Princesa.