Long before tourist resorts began setting their sights on Palawan, adventure travelers known as "backpackers" had discovered and explored the rugged natural wonders of the province. Palawan earned the Destination of the Year from the prestigious Kalakbay Awards in 1995, proving that the province has made it to the mainstream travel industry in the country.
From a few hundreds, tourist arrivals have steadily increased to 204,834 in the year 2004. Palawan's tourism statistics started to pick up in year 2002. Earlier initiatives and innovations were recognized in the 2001 Kalakbay Awards, the highest national award- giving body for tourism. The Palawan Tourism Council was hailed as the Tourism Council of the Year in 2001 and 2003. Miniloc Island Resort and Lagen Island Resort in El Nido won the A and AAA categories respectively while Club Paradise Resort in Busuanga won the AA category. Palawan chalked up more awards in the Philippine Travel Mart namely Best in Marketing Effort and Best in Destination Booth in 2001 and Best in Marketing Effort, 2nd place in 2002.
Committed to the tenets of environmental conservation and protection and with eco-tourism as the byword in the travel industry, Palawan resort operators are going to great lengths to ensure that the natural wonders of the province are preserved.
Outdoor recreation goes hand in hand with stewardship of our natural heritage. Pleasure and enjoyment combine environmental protection so that future generations may still experience the pristine wilderness of Palawan. Water sports constitute the major attraction for tourists. The Philippines' premier scuba diving destination is Palawan, where 35 percent of the country's coral reefs are found. Popular dive spots include Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Seam El Nido in the north, and the Calamianes islands. Snorkeling in the clear, emerald waters around the islands is an option for less adventurous guests. Kayaking in placid lagoons provides the perfect break from hours of swimming or basking in the sun. Some resorts offer motorized sports facilities, but these activities are limited to minimize disturbance to wildlife, especially in ecologically sensitive areas.
Gaining popularity among divers are the sunken shipwrecks in the waters of Coron in northern Palawan where they can explore World War II vintage Japanese battleships and freighters at depth of 10 and 40 meters. For divers, a close-up view of the imperial Japanese fleet is like being in an underwater museum.
For landlubbers, trekking in the rainforests is the activity of choice. Mountain climbing during summer is slowly becoming a favorite sport, as the challenge of reaching the peak of Mantalingahan or Cleopatra's Needle outweighs the unwelcome prospect of mosquitoes. Cross- country hiking from the east to the west coast, usually taking up to a week, is another favorite sport of the physically fit. Along the way, chase butterflies and watch out for bright splashes of plumage in the forest canopy.
One may also encounter tribal peoples in upland communities, providing a glimpse of indigenous lifestyles. Respect for local traditions and customs is a MUST when interacting with the tribes.
When the day is done, visitors may dine in native-style cottages and villas offering sumptuous feasts of seafood delicacies. There's always time for a drink or two in seaside restaurants while gazing at the moon and stars in unpolluted skies.
Lodging places range from upscale resorts to affordable family-owned inns. Among the highly rated resorts in Palawan are the Lagen and Miniloc Resorts of Ten Knots Development Corporation in El Nido, Club Noah Isabelle in Taytay, Club Paradise in Busuanga, and Amanpulo in Pamalican Island in Cuyo. Modest accommodation is also available in tourism destinations like Sabang near the Puerto Princesa City Subterranean River National Park, Port Barton in San Vicente , and El Nido town.
With its natural charm and abundant potentials in eco-tourism, northern Palawan is expected to enhance the growth of the industry in the province. As such, both the Provincial Government and the resources nature has offered by optimizing their potentials as one of the best tourism destinations in the Philippines.
The municipalities of Taytay, El Nido, Culion, Coron and Busuanga at the northern tip of the province are beneficiaries of a $17M loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation under the Sustainable Environment Management Project. Components of the project are: 1.) Project Management and Tourism Development in which eight new tourism products will be developed in El Nido and Busuanga; 2.) ECAN Zoning for the preparation of a land use plan; and 3.) rehabilitation of the 60 km national road between Taytay and El Nido. By the end of 2006, locals and tourists can look forward to faster and smoother travel between these two municipalities.
As the province continues to move forward in the travel trade, local government units are striving to to harmonize the needs of "backpakers" with leisure- oriented tourists, and adventure travelers with retirees on vacation.