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.
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 both 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.
Palawan Island is much the largest part of the province both in land area and in population, but a number of other islands are also included in this province:
- the Calamian Islands, northeast of Palawan Island
- the Cuyo Islands, to the east in the Sulu Sea
- Cagayancillo, south of the Cuyos
- Kalayaan, to the west in the contested Spratly Islands group
- Balabac, off the south tip of Palawan Island
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:
- Puerto Princesa - provincial capital
- Quezon - where "Tabon man" lived a long time ago. Some refer to Tabon Cave as the cradle of Philippine civilization.
- El Nido - limestone cliffs, lagoons, beautiful beaches
- Port Barton - a truly laid-back coastal getaway with a great beach
- Sabang - town with the long Saint Paul underground river in the National Park
- San Jose
- Brooke's Point Mostly fishing and farming, but some beautiful scenery
- 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:
- 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
- Narra - The Rice Granary of Palawan.
- Palawan Butterfly Garden - located south of Puerto Princesa
Like most of the Philippines, many people understand the official national language of Filipino (based on Tagalog). However, the majority of inhabitants have a Visayan language such as Cebuano or an indigenous local language as their mother tongue.
Again, like most of the Philippines, you will never be far from English speakers.
A group of expatriate Swiss operate a shortwave radio network using Swiss-German.
Puerto Princesa International Airport (IATA: PPS) 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 Pacific also have Fights to Cebu city, Iloilo. while MASWings part of Malaysia Airlines connects Palawan internationally with Kota Kinabalu. When departing from this airport, you have to pay a terminal fee of PHP200 for domestic destinations and PHP700 for international destinations.
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 14km long strip of white sand that made resort developers salivate.
Cheapest option while getting around is the local jeepney, tricycles are also available. Getting from one island to another is possible; daily boat trips are available. Car and van rentals are also available.
- 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.