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Tropical Experience Travel Services - Tours of the Philippines

The Palawan Dream: A Sustainable and Low-Cost Tour of the Philippines

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Introduction

This tour of the Philippines focuses solely on the Palawan province, the last frontier of ecotourism, an archipelago made of 1000+ islands! If you dream to see one of the most beautiful and unique nature the world has to offer, Palawan is definitely a must-see, at least once in your lifetime.

Palawan’s nirvana is also famous for being an advanced eco-destination  in terms of sustainability. For example, the usage of plastic was progressively reduced and now in El Nido you cannot find one single plastic straw anywhere. At the Underground River of Puerto Princesa, daily entrances were limited and contained to preserve local ecosystems.

Palawan is the perfect destination for those travelers who want  to find themselves in communion with nature, at its most authentic and genuine state. This tour provides itineraries and transportation solutions that minimize environmental impact, it makes you sleep in small locally & family-owned bed & breakfast and guesthouses and allows you to share day tours and activities with fellow travellers.

The final result is an incredibly beautiful tour organized in a modern and practical way, meeting the needs of those who want to travel light, sustainable and low-cost!

Concisely

  • Keywords: ecotourism, exceptional nature, best beaches and seas of the Philippines, boat tours, sustainable tourism, low-cost.

  • Destinations: Palawan Province (Phlilippines) – Puerto Princesa, Port Barton, El Nido + Manila.

  • When: available all-year-round. The best time to visit the Philippines generally is November to May.

  • Accommodation: low-cost, simple yet clean and comfortable.

  • Assistance: see below.

Organization and Assistance

This tour is organized as Self-guided, with English assistance.

We'll organize your trip, then you and your companions will travel by yourself, supported (in English language) by experienced local operators in each destination. Before the start of the tour, you will receive a Travel Handbook with your itinerary in full detail along with travel documents and tickets, passes and vouchers, so you'll be able to travel around the Philippines in a smooth and organized way. This solution is advised for those that have some travel experience and can carry simple/basic conversations using the English language. Of course, it's also a good solution for those who want privacy or choose a rather simpler / not too complex tour. Nonetheless, it’s the best solution to keep costs low.

For day tours and transfers, you’ll be grouped together with other travellers to share costs and reduce the environmental impact of your transportation. Thus, this is not a group tour: you’ll just be aggregated with other people only for transfers and day tours (the other accompanying travellers will change every time). This way you’ll be able to get to know and interact with other people with different nationalities and backgrounds, contributing to make your experience more unique!

This formula is a proven good solution for small groups like couples, small families  or even for those who travel alone.

Destinations: the Untouched Magical Nature of Palawan

Palawan perfectly represents why most travellers from all over the world come to the Philippines.  Palawan is a very, very special Filipino Province. You’ll immediately spot it on the map: it’s that very long strip of land in the West of the Philippines. It is often dubbed as “the most beautiful island in the world”, though it’s not actually definable as an “island”. We are indeed talking about an archipelago of its own, made by 1780 islands and islets.

Nature dominates the local life, with landscapes that are not only unique for the Philippines, but it’s fair to say that it’s not like anything else in the world. Also its crystal-clear sea has few contenders in the world: and it’s not just us saying this, but also our clients who has travelled with us.

Yet it’s not just all about white sand and tropical sea. Palawan is much more: it’s an infinite mix of hidden islands, huge domes of limestone rocks emerging from the abysses of the sea, bountiful and diverse flora and fauna both below the sea level (superb snorkeling!) and on land. Plus lagoons, waterfalls and a spectacular subterranean river. 

 

The tour starts with the capital, Puerto Princesa. You’ll begin with an adventure discovering the famous Underground River, a long river flowing inside a mountain, which can be navigated for 2km. You will encounter wild monkeys and monitor lizards before your paddle boat takes you into a cave of  mind-blowing rock formations. The Underground River is a UNESCO Heritage Site and it was included in the list of the New 7 Wonders of Nature of the World. You’ll witness a primordial atmosphere, surrounded by very rare bat species, amphibians, fishes and reptiles. Through the years, the Park of the Underground River became an example of ecological management of tourism sites of great inspiration, thanks to interventions like the limitation of the number of daily visitors (to avoid unpleasant crowding of the place and to not overcome the carrying capacity of the site) and the provision of multilingual audio guides that allow you to visit this long cave in silence, minimizing the disturbance of the local species.

In Puerto Princesa you’ll also have the chance of a charming night visit to the local mangroves, where you’ll paddle your way into what the locals call the “natural Christmas trees”, which means plants swarmed with glowing fireflies. The activity is stunning and these magical insects are a proof of the cleanliness of the local environment.

The second destination proposed for this tour is one of the most hidden, new and also more virgin of the Province: it’s time to go off-the-beaten-track to Port Barton. This small village in the San Vicente municipality has been for many years mostly a base for local fishermen. To reach it, you’ll need to cross the local mountains in the center of Palawan. Port Barton is now a small hub for those travellers that want to have an alternative experience and have peace and relaxation in an exciting scenario. From the long local beach, boats depart daily to take you around the most hidden spots of the bay.

The environment here is still far from being spoiled by mass tourism. Port Barton will give you an experience in a different perspective as well as the excitement of swimming with sea turtles, strolling along super white sand bars, chilling on a hammock on postcards-like tropical islands and doing exceptional snorkeling on vast sea beds. 

 

Then, it will be time for the final stop: you can’t visit Palawan and skip El Nido! Many consider it as one of the most beautiful travel destinations of the world, especially if you love sea and nature. During the recent years, El Nido earned fame (much-deserved!) and it was unavoidable that, side-by-side with the great number of small family-managed guesthouses, new medium-size and luxury hotels were also developed. Anyway, thanks to its challenging accessibility and location and a limited number of rooms available (compared to its great fame), El Nido can rarely be defined as a crowded destination, even during super peak seasons. In order to be able to visit some of the most beautiful spots of the bay, it’s now required to secure an entrance permit in advance, to avoid that these areas will be too crowded during busy days.

El Nido Town is a sort of “dormitory” to rest and enjoy some food and drinks between your daily sea tours. Indeed, it’s exclusively with the wonderful day tours around the bay that you can actually see the very beautiful sceneries that made El Nido so famous. You’ll always keep in your heart those spectacular landscapes and beaches, the hidden lagoons, the majestic lava and limestone rock formations, always surrounded by a blue and emerald sea of a very rare and raw beauty. A stop-over on some islands to cook your barbecue lunch around these landscapes is the best way to fully enjoy your day!

 

After all these adventures it will be time to go back to Manila, the capital of the Philippines, before going home with unforgettable memories. If you like, there’s also an option to have a guided visit of Manila, to discover the cultural peculiarity and the contemporary life of this huge metropolis with an interesting history.

What Makes This Tour More Sustainable?

As said above, this tour is proposed as a low-cost and low impact one. Specifically, this is what we put in place to reach these goals:

  • Eco-locations: the itinerary is focused on Palawan Province, one of the most advanced destinations on sustainable ecotourism in South-East Asia.

  • Shared transfers and activities: shared vans and boats with other travellers, to reduce costs and environmental impacts.

  • Limitation of flights: the itinerary includes only 2 domestic flights (Manila-Puerto Princesa; El Nido-Manila). It’s a low number for a tour around an archipelago.

  • Simple accommodation: overnights are organized in small hotel-guesthouses, preferably family-owned and managed. Basic comforts will be provided, while choosing establishments that have low impact and bring actual profit to the local communities.

  • Environmental education: as for every Tropical Experience’s tour, travellers will receive a Travel Handbook which will also give tips and ideas on how to reduce your own environmental impact specific to each destination.

  • Solidarity: as for every Tropical Experience’s tour, for each traveller who will book, 5 € will be put into a found for our project “1 Traveller = 1 Donation to a Student”, which for the 4th year in a row grants scholarships to students in need of Tondo (Manila).

  • Direct purchase: if you’ll book this tour, you’ll book it straight with Tropical Experience, a local tour operator.

Recap of the Transfers

You’ll reach Palwan with a Manila-Puerto Princesa flight. A second flight El Nido-Manila will take you back to Manila. For Puerto Princesa-Port Barton and Port Barton-El Nido, you’ll use shared vans (shared with other travellers). For day tours on land, you’ll share a serviced  van with other travellers. For day tours on the sea, you’ll share boats and the crew with other travellers.

Occasionally you could use – for short distances – the local “tricycle” taxi (motorbikes with side-passenger cabin, the Filipino version of “tuk tuk”).

Meals and Information On Filipino Food

Every time it will be possible, we’ll let you try the tasty Filipino cuisine, especially in its most simple and genuine form, as typical in the countryside. You can expect a lot of fish and seafood, but also a lot of meat (Filipinos love pork and chicken), a fair choice of vegetables, rice and a bountiful amount of tropical fruits and juices. Filipino food is tasty but not spicy: it is an interesting mix of Native-Spanish-Chinese-American traditions. Anyway Filipinos appreciate international cuisines and it’s quite easy to find also “Western” food made and adapted with local products.

The meals included in the price are exclusively those mentioned as “included” in the Travel Program. The included meals are pre-defined sets: additional purchases will bring additional costs.

TRAVEL PROGRAM

The tours are organized with personally-chosen dates. The Travel Program is indicative and fully customizable.

Day 1 – Arrival in Manila, Time to Rest

  • Arrival in Manila with your international flight*.

  • Transfer hotel-airport with shuttle service. Check-in and time to rest. In the city, we’ll provide a hotel of a medium level in good proximity to the airport for convenience, though this is just a quick stop before starting your adventures in nature.

  • There are no meals nor activities included for this day.

*international flights are usually not included in our tour. We can assist you for this purchase if you need.

Day 2 – To Puerto Princesa, the Capital of Palawan, with Firefly Watching Evening Activity

  • Shuttle transfer from the hotel to Manila Airport. Flight Manila-Puerto Princesa.

  • Arrival and transfer to hotel/guesthouse in Puerto Princesa. Some free time.

  • By late afternoon, departure for your firefly watching activity. You’ll get into a boat and will go around the mangroves by the bay to gaze at the glittery night show. A Filipino  style dinner is included.

Day 3 – The Puerto Princesa Underground River: An Adventure in the Heart of Nature

  • This day is dedicated to the visit of the majestic Underground River, UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the 7 New Wonders of Nature. You’ll explore the Park and will enter the river with a paddle boat, exploring the first 1.2km of its length. Lunch is included during the day tour.

  • Extra optional activities might be proposed during the day (not included).

  • Back to Puerto Princesa in the late afternoon. Free evening and night. Dinner not included.

Day 4 – From Puerto Princesa to Port Barton, Discovering the Most Hidden Spots of Palawan

  • Transfer from your hotel in Puerto Princesa to Port Barton with a van with driver (shared with other travellers). You will pass by mountain ranges with their admirable wild nature as you go towards the hidden coasts of Port Barton. This transfer takes more or less 3 hours.

  • Arrival at the van station of Port Barton. Autonomous (not included) short transfer to your hotel/guesthouse (by walking or renting one of the local tricycles).

  • Free time to enjoy some of the peace of Port Barton and its main beach, strolling and discovering the village.

  • Lunch and dinner for this day are not included (just choose a restaurant by your own).

Day 5 – Island Hopping in Port Barton, with Bountiful Nature and Wonderful Seas

  • You will be spending this day going around on a boat, to admire the most deserving beauties of the bay of Port Barton. Local fishermen will take you around the beautiful islets, sandbars, snorkeling spots with beautiful reefs and other attractions (visit of German Island, Twin Reefs, Fantastic Reef, Exotic Island, local sand bar and others). You’ll be having these activities sharing the boat with other travellers, whom you’ll meet on the spot. Included pic-nic lunch during the day tour in one of the island stops.

  • Return to Port Barton mainland by afternoon, free evening. Dinner not included.

 

Day 6 – A Relaxing Day in Port Barton

  • A free day for relaxation or other activities by yourself in Port Barton. You could spend some time simply by the beach (which is always a good idea) or decide to visit other inland attractions, like the Long Beach of San Vicente (14km long!) or others as you prefer.

  • The Travel Handbook you’ll receive before your departure will give tips and suggestions on possible activities you could organize autonomously.

  • For this day, there are no activities included and there are no meals included.

 

Day 7  –  From Port Barton to El Nido, to Discover the Most Famous Landscapes

  • Departing from the van terminal  station of Port Barton,  you’ll move north towards El Nido town, with a van and driver shared with other travellers. The transfer takes around 3 hours.

  • From El Nido van terminal station, autonomous transfer (not included) to your hotel/guesthouse, using one of the local “tricycle” taxi.

  • Free time to relax or do other activities by yourself. The Travel Handbook you’ll receive before your departure will give you ideas and recommendations for your free time in El Nido.

  • There are no meals nor activities included for this day.

 

Day 8 – Explorations in El Nido: Travelling Around the Most Iconic Places of the Bay

  • This day tour is in the bay of El Nido, discovering extraordinary rocky landscapes and marvelo us beach. The boat will stop on beaches, islets and lagoons, for you to enjoy them with the right amount of time while having also some time to chill, swim, snorkel (visit of Big Lagoon, 7 Commandos Beach, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island and other destinations).

  • You’ll go around on a boat with crew, shared with other travellers that you’ll meet on the spot. Included pic nic lunch.

  • Back to El Nido town in the afternoon. Free evening and night, dinner not included.

 

Day 9 – El Nido, the “Hidden” Bay and Discovering Secrets

  • It’s going to be another unforgettable day with island hopping. This time you’ll go a bit more far in the bay of El Nido and will discover new wonders and beauties to make your experience unforgettable (visit of Hidden Beach, Secret Beach, Matinloc and other destinations).

  • You’ll go around on a boat with crew, shared with other travellers that you’ll meet at the moment. Included pic nic lunch.

  • Back to El Nido in the afternoon. Free evening and night, dinner not included.

 

Day 10 – Free Day to Relax or to Make New Discoveries

  • The purpose of this day is to give you some time to spend autonomously, to unwind or to see more of what’s in the “mainland” of El Nido. The beach within the town proper is mostly a port, though there is enough sand to relax and many restaurants and bars to enjoy. We usually advise to rent a tricycle or another mean of transportation to reach some of the most beautiful inland beaches. The twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang is a favourite. The Travel Handbook will give you information and proposals on where to go during this free day.

  • No meals included, no activities included for this day.

Day 11 – From El Nido to Manila

  • Renting a tricycle, you’ll transfer to the small airport of El Nido (transfer not included). It’s a short and simple transfer, your Travel Handbook will give information about it.

  • Flight El Nido-Manila.

  • Arrival in Manila Airport and transfer to the hotel with shuttle service.

  • Free time to relax or autonomous visit of the capital (the Travel Handbook will give you information and tips on what to visit and how).

  • There are neither meals nor activities included for this day.

Day 12  – Bye Bye

  • Transfer from the hotel to Manila Airport with shuttle transfer service. End of your unforgettable trip of the Philippines.

Price

​For a complete tour proposal with quotation, write an e-mail to experiencetropical@gmail.com

 

Below you can find sample computations for different group options. International flight from/to the Philippines are not included.

  • Price for a group of 2 persons (1 double room): 895 euro/person

  • Price for a group of 4 persons (2 double rooms): 895 euro/person

  • Price for a group of 4 persons (1 quadruple room): 860 euro/person

  • Price for 1 person travelling a lone (1 single room). 1155 euro/person.

You can choose any starting date for this tour.

Customization and other group configuration/size are available upon request.

The prices above include:

  • Overnights (all);

  • Breakfasts (all);

  • Daily tours and activities (all those mentioned in the Travel Program, unless differently indicated)

  • Transfers (all those mentioned in the Travel Program, unless indicated as "not included");

  • Some of the lunches and dinners (only those that are indicated as "included" in the Travel Program).

​Everything not indicated above is not included. The international round-trip flight to/from the the Philippines is not included.

The purchase of a health insurance (to be done in your own country of origin) is warmly advised and not included.

Possible Variations or Extensions to the Travel Program

Our tours are always customizable.  We have here some suggestions for other possible extensions, mostly useful for those who have extra travel days available. There’s no shortage of things to do:

  • Extend stay in each destination: in Puerto Princesa you could also have island hopping around the near Honda Bay. Other day tours are available in Port Barton, where you could even add some free days. Probably, El Nido would be the best place to spend more of your extra days: there are several other unique  island hopping tours waiting for you.

  • More of Palawan in Coron: you could complete your Palawan experience by adding Coron, another famous destination of the province.  Coron can be reached by ferry or by plane from El Nido. Here you’ll find exciting lagoons, breathtaking snorkeling spots, lakes and volcanic open-air hot springs.

  • Guided Visit of Manila: the city is not always easy to visit, having a local help could be useful. If ever, mention this preference when you’ll write us for a quotation.

  • Other places: in the Philippines, there are many more beautiful destinations to discover. Here you’ll find the list of the destinations we offer: we can add those of your preference to your itinerary.

Terms and Conditions

Before booking this tour, please read the page Terms and Conditions on our website. The itinerary presented above should be considered as broad and just for a general idea. It may vary due to weather, obstacles, booking availability or other uncontrollable variables. Furthermore, if one of the guests has allergies or other issues linked to food, please let us know in advance. Inform us, too, if there’s any physical obstacles or a particular health status that we should be made aware of.

For inquiries, you can also use the Contact Form below. You will receive an answer by E-mail as soon as possible!

Some of our videos in Palawan