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Palawan – The Best Diving and Island-hopping in the World

January 7, 2019 Destination Feature No Comments Email Email

The Palawan archipelago is the biggest province in the Philippines. It comprises of 1,780 islands starting from Borneo in the Southwest to Mindoro Island in the Northeast. Having earned the moniker “Philippines’ Last Ecological Frontier”, Palawan’s rugged landscape is blessed with dramatic limestone cliffs, exotic beaches with soft white sand, hidden lagoons, spectacular caves, lush jungles, and incredible underwater scenery.


Palawan is one of the best diving and island-hopping destinations in the world. You cannot go to Palawan without at least doing one of both. As an archipelago itself, Palawan offers numerous islands to explore, each more beautiful than the other. For island-hopping, El Nido is highly recommended for it has the most stunning islands. Some of the best islands are:

Cadlao Island: Usually included in the tours, Cadlao is the biggest island in El Nido. It has numerous white sandy coves that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. There are hidden lagoons, stunning beaches and the highest mountain in El Nido at 609 meters. If you explore further away from the coast, you will find a lush jungle waiting for you.

Vigan Island: Otherwise known as the snake island for its winding sandbar. This island actually comprises of 2 islets connected by a long and “snake-like” white sand strip. Visitors can walk from one island to the next even on high tide and at the end, there is a lush mangrove with endemic monkey species.

Pinagbuyutan Island: Also called “enchanted island”, Pinagbuyutan has the most incredible landscape. The black limestone towers provide perfect contrast to the powdery white sands. It is difficult not to be enchanted by this island.

Matinloc Island: Previously inhabited but now abandoned, this island has a shrine reminiscent of ancient Greece and is home to a natural wonder “the Secret Beach”.

Miniloc Island: Miniloc is one of the most popular islands in El Nido. It is where the Big and Small Lagoons are situated. Miniloc is also the best diving and snorkeling spot in El NIdo.

Entalula Island: Usually the place for lunch, Entalula Island is a small island with white sandy shores and limestone cliffs. The crystal clear waters are calm and perfect for swimming.

Shimizu Island: Another enchanting island with imposing tower cliffs, Shimizu Island is highly recommended for snorkeling. It is a place for constant sightings of sea turtles, clams, squids and numerous fish species.


Coron, El Nido’s twin is equally beautiful but its beauty lies under its waters. It is widely accepted as one of the best wreck-diving destinations not only in Asia but in the world. There are at least 12 ship wrecks that are still remarkably intact and are now transformed as artificial reef for marine life. The depth varies and the wrecks are quite close to each other. Some are within snorkeling depth while others require more experience and advanced diving skills.

Here are some of the best dive sites in Palawan:

Apo Reef: This is not in Palawan entirely but Apo Reef is the second largest contiguous reef in the world (second to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia). It spans 34 square kilometres and it is accessible from Coron and Occidental Mindoro. This marine sanctuary and protected natural marine park is home to more than 500 marine species and 400 different species of corals. Some of its inhabitants are mantas and sting rays, sharks, 26 species of algae and seven varieties of sea grasses. There are also 385 identified species of fish in the area.

Morazan Maru: One of the twelve wreck sites in Coron, Morazan Maru is ideal for both beginners and advanced divers. The wreck sits at a depth of 100 meters and divers can navigate around and inside the wreck. The cargo holds are empty but the steel boilers are still intact.

Iraku Maru: Located at a depth of 30-45 meters, this wreck has a lot of possible routes for divers of different levels. Divers will be treated to a huge school of jacks and barracudas as well as groupers, snappers and lionfish.

Barracuda Lake: One of the most dramatic seascape, Barracuda Lake offers out-of-this-world rock formations and an underwater cave. Although it is not known for marine life, it is still an awesome dive because of the thermoclines (difference in temperature in the water) and haloclines (oil-in-water kind of density).

Cuttlefish Shawl: This marine sanctuary has a maximum depth of 20 meters and is a haven for divers for its rich marine diversity. It is home to a large number of cuttlefish (hence the name), barracudas, angel fish and sea turtles. There are also occasional sightings of dugongs (sea cows), reef sharks and schools of fusiliers.

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