As we noted in a previous post, Palawan was given the honor of "Best Island in the World" by the award-winning Conde Nast Traveler. The publication cites the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River — considered one of the New7Wonders of Nature — as one of the factors behind the island's top ranking. Regardless, anyone who's ever set foot on this "last frontier" can attest to the beauty of it. Even Filipinos who aren't residents of Palawan (this writer included) are completely blown away the moment they lay eyes on the place.
Since the Internet is already filled to the brim with Palawan travel guides, we're not going to repeat the usual "Visit the Subterranean River/El Nido!" tips anymore. Instead, we'll let you in on a few secrets that few — if any — other travel guides will tell you. For example:
Book Your Stay With a Bed-and-Breakfast, Not a Hotel
Aside from the fact that B&Bs are cheaper, they also have a homier feel compared to, say, The Legend Palawan. If you're planning to stay in one of them, however, make sure you reserve ASAP. Otherwise, you'll lose out on limited slots. Also, be sure to ask about their amenities before you book, in case you need to bring extra stuff like toiletries.
Befriend a Local or Two
We cannot stress this enough, especially in the Philippines (and Asian countries in general). If you're nice to your local guide, chances are s/he'll tip you off on must-visits that you'll hardly find in any travel guide. Take them along for lunch, and offer to foot the bill for them. If your guide is also your "chauffeur," add an extra bill or two on top of their usual fees. You'll be amazed at how fast they'll warm up to you because of these gestures!
Bring Only What You Need
Palawan may no longer be the isolated paradise that its "last frontier" moniker suggests, but it's no Metro Manila either. For example, if you're travelling to the subterranean river, you'll have to ride a van towards Sabang, ride a boat towards the mouth of the river, and ride yet another boat while inside the cave. There's a good chance you'll lose a thing or two along the way, so keep an eye on your belongings.
Eat a Hearty Meal Before Sight-Seeing
Unless you're swimming, it won't hurt to have a full belly before you head out for the subterranean river. It's a couple of hours away from civilization, at the very least, and even if there are stopovers along the way, there's no telling when your ride will get there. But don't allow yourself to get too full either; that rocky terrain can force your food up the wrong end of your digestive system!
Watch Out for the Animals
Yes, it's so tempting to touch the monkeys along the aptly-named Monkey Trail in Sabang. But those critters can be a naughty bunch: They're known to snatch DSLR cameras and other paraphernalia from unsuspecting tourists, so avoid getting too close to them.
The same goes for the reptilian residents of the Crocodile Farm, especially the hatchlings. Even though they're safely kept in tanks, tourists are warned not to dangle any of their limbs on top of said tanks — unless they want those precious limbs to be bitten off!
Have a First-Aid Kit on Hand
Speaking of monkeys, there was an incident in March 2014 when a child was scratched by one of these critters. The guides may already have medical gear on hand for these incidents, but it's better to have a means to attend to injuries like these ASAP. Who knows what harmful microbes those animals may have picked up along the way?
Plan Your Travel Carefully (But Don't Forget to Have Fun Along the Way)
Since Palawan is a large island, it usually takes a while (read: hours) to get anywhere within it. If you made it your personal goal to visit all of the island's wonders in one go, a week probably won't suffice. Write a rough itinerary for each day, if you don't have one already.
Of course, your itinerary shouldn't be restrictive to the point that you can barely enjoy the wonders you wanted to see in the first place. Bring a (preferably waterproof) camera, and take lots of pictures. Visit other places like the Palawan Butterfly Garden, the Crocodile Farm and the Calauit Safari Park. Breathe in the clean air of the place, and let the cool wind soothe your tired skin. Above all, have fun and experience Filipino hospitality at its finest!