What to Pack for Palawan, Philippines
After visiting places like Costa Rica and Nicaragua, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I’d need for a two week trip around the tropical island of Palawan in the Philippines. I was mostly spot on but I’d underestimated the amount of water activities I’d be taking part in and also misjudged footwear. Who knew that my feet would end up wet more days than they didn’t?
Now that I’m back in Canada, I wanted to share with you what would make it into my backpack for a return trip to the island nation.
The one item that I’d wish I’d packed was water shoes. They’re far from sexy but they would’ve been handy. For some reason, it never occurred to me that island hopping in El Nido would require something to protect my feet. I also didn’t realize that visiting the Makinitkinit Waterfall on the way to Nacpan Beach meant about 8 stream crossings. Good watershoes would’ve been the better choice than my rubber flip flops. There’s a place in El Nido where you can rent them, but why not save yourself the 150 pesos/day and bring your own with you.
When it comes to other shoes, stick to easy on/easy off sandals. Many shops and restaurants in El Nido have signs up asking you to go barefoot and I found my beloved Merrells were actually more pain than they were worth so I spent 90% of my time in my flip flops. Sneakers are good for non-water hikes and motorbike exploring.
Another necessary item that I hadn’t thought about what a dry bag. If you don’t have one to pack, there are countless places in Puerto Princesa or El Nido to pick one up (we paid 500 pesos for a 20L and 300 pesos for a 5L but prices vary). If you’re getting into a boat, you’re going to want a dry bag. Island hopping out of El Nido requires you to wade out to the boat and even if you manage to get your stuff on board dry, the way the boats are built, water can easily slosh in around your feet so save yourself the heartache of ruined electronics and pack a dry bag.
Wet is the theme here. Even with the blistering sun beating down, you need to think about water. A pair of quick dry shorts would also be handy as you’re likely to get wet even on seemingly dry activities like visiting the Underground River in Sabang. They’re also great for throwing on over your swimsuit after snorkelling or island hopping.
The sun can be pretty intense so you may find that there are times you want to cover up a bit. I loved my chambray shirt for giving my shoulders and arms a break from the sun.
As much as I love my Pacsafe purse, the only time I used it was in Manila. For activities in El Nido, I found a backpack was better, whether it was a trip to the beach or a motorbike excursion.
Overall, I found things more casual in Palawan than I’d anticipated and I was more concerned with water than I ever thought I’d be.
Extras to Pack
- Mosquito repellant
- Anti-itch cream (because you’re going to be bitten anyway)
- Aloe Vera gel (because you’re going to get sunburnt anyway)
- Small first aid kit (bring some antibiotics, just in case)
- Travel towel (can also be used as a beach cover-up sarong)
- Snorkel mask & fins