Imagine yourself in a touristy beach – trash littered all over, nothing visible but people’s heads and bodies bobbing in the water, strolling and playing in the sand and rides and boats full of them… well, that’s not how you would want to visualize your beach holiday to be, would you? When we imagine a beach-side holiday, it’s always full of pristine white sands, clear blue-green water and moments of uninterrupted and blissful solitude to enjoy the crashing waves and swift sea breeze.
No book truly encapsulates the feeling of lost paradise better than the celebrated novel ‘The Beach by Alex Garland, which came out in 1996. The novel talks about a beach that is secretly inhabited by a group of backpackers from around the world. The book describes an amazing, breathtakingly beautiful secluded beach on a seemingly uninhabited island that has a hidden lagoon too. The island in the novel was inspired by the very real Palawan Island.
Palawan Island in the Philippines is surrounded by the South China Sea on one side and the Sulu Sea on the other. There is a rich forest cover and the beaches are simply amazing. Its blue clear waters remind of the mysterious island’s clear waters from the novel, while the sandy beaches in Palawan seem to be exactly defined in the book as well.
#1 Nacpan Beach and its beautiful serene expanse looks like it is exactly how the main secret beach is described in the book. The small forest around the beach which covers it and gives it privacy is a replica of Nacpan Beach.
#2 El Nido’s secret beaches are exactly what the author of ‘The Beach’ is talking about! You can easily go and explore some for yourself on Palawan Island too.
#3 Honda bay resembles very closely the lagoon which has been described in the novel.
#4 Tabon caves, the very famous caves in Palawan which have provided proof of earliest cavemen called the Tabon Man, show a familiar and striking resemblance from The Beach’s caves from where the wounded Christo is retrieved by Richard.
#5 Estrella falls and Kuyawyaware hugely popular waterfalls in Palawan Island, which are also very swimmer-friendly and clean. They are just the way the book describes the waterfall where Sal, the leader of the backpackers’ group on the island gives a community and social harmony speech on the occasion of Sten’s funeral.
Apart from these spots, Palawan also has a lot of destinations to see and activities to do. It can be a perfect beach holiday destination. Here are some travel pointers you must take note of when planning a trip to Palawan.
Where to stay in Palawan
Palawan has some great properties to stay on and make your holiday memorable. There are about 5000 hotels of various types on the island (yeah that’s a shocker!) and also specialty lodging types like bed and breakfast and homestays in a huge number as well. There is a multitude of island resorts, on – the – beach places to stay, guest houses, value accommodations, and holiday homes for travellers of all kinds and tastes. You must pick a property that is appropriate for your travel preferences.
If you want to laze around the beach or do mainly water activities, pick a place which is close-by to the beaches. You can opt for a homestay if you are traveling with family and pets, and need to spend your time as per your own routine at a budget price. Palawan Island has something for everyone, so one can plan accordingly. If you are a backpacker on a tight budget, go for the hostels and lodges and if you need a relaxing holiday book a specialized resort with facilities such as a spa, yoga, water activities and the like.
What to do in Palawan
Palawan Islands have a wide variety of things to do for all ages, and thus provides a complete holiday for all types of traveler. The reason it was chosen as the best island in the world for multiple years, is that Palawan offers the widest selection of attractions imaginable. Below are only some of the main attractions which you must cover:
Nacpan Beach, Hidden Beach, Marimegmeg Beach (all 3 in El Nido) and Nagtabon Beaches are all highly rated by travelers and are a must-do for their pristine sands, clear blue waters, and many water activities and rides to do.
#2 Parks and natural trails:
Palawan Butterfly Ecological Garden and Tribal Village, Palawan Wildlife Rescue, and Conservation Center, Onuk Island and Kuyba Almoneca Meditation garden promise an organic experience of the Palawan Island and one can closely observe and absorb nature in these parks. You can also go firefly watching as it provides a very surreal experience. Tubbataha Reef is a national marine park and is a traveller recommended place to visit for diving and sea life.
#3 Island hopping and underground river tours:
There is a unique river body in Palawan which flows underneath the ground and one can visit it on a boat. There are multiple tour providers who give island hopping options around El Nido and it is a highly recommended activity.
#4 Bays and lagoons:
Honda Bay, Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Kayangan Lake, Twin Peaks Reef are a few places one must visit. These are scattered between various locations in Palawan such as Puerto Princesa, El Nido, and Coron. So, wherever you visit, make sure you allocate at least one day for an island hopping tour.
#5 Islands and waterfalls:
These are abundant in and around Palawan and one might take multiple days to visit all. The main islands are Ariara Island, Snake Island, Entalula Island, Simizu Island and waterfalls like Salakot Waterfall, Kayulo and Olanguan waterfalls are a beautiful sight for urban sore eyes.
Getting to Palawan
After being voted as the most beautiful beach Island in the world by popular travel websites, the means of reaching Palawan have become better. You can easily get to Palawan Island from Manila or Cebu. Fly to Palawan from Manila, Cebu or Caticlan.
There are airports in El Nido and Puerto Princesa and the other easily accessible airports are in TayTay and Busuanga. But you cannot fly internally from El Nido to Puerto Princesa so make sure you book internal travel accordingly. The ports in Coron and Puerto Princesa are operational and one can sail from Manila, but it takes at least 12 hours to get there.
The next and the new
Palawan Island is unfortunately no more an untouched and unexplored island, thanks to all the attention it has been getting from the travel industry. It is beautiful indeed, but now it is touristy and for travelers who are looking for peace and tranquility, it can feel a bit too busy. So, you can try one of the following places, if you are searching for a non- touristy and quaint place to spend your vacation:
#1 Siargao Island: located about 800 kilometers from Manila, and contains the largest mangroves in Mindanao It has beautiful coral reefs, excellent waves for surfing and also has good wildlife reserves.
#2 Camiguin Island: it is close to Mindanao and is a very small province in the Philippines’ islands. The island is popular for very sweet Lanzone fruit. There are culturally crucial places like on the island and also beautiful scenery. The historical heritage gives the island a unique vibe.
Have you been to the Philippines? Where would you recommend others should visit? Perhaps you have visited other exotic places that you would like to share with others.
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