A slice of “2014’s Most Beautiful Island in the World” – Palawan Island

My country is an archipelago of 7,107 islands brimming with wondrous natural treasures and beauties – both in nature and in the people.  Among many other things, white sand beaches, beautiful jagged mountains and amazing scuba diving locations can be found there.  Unfortunately, some islands are overdeveloped and others overrun by tourist and entrepreneurs, but many remained unspoiled.

One island that is considered a last frontier in the Philippines is Palawan.  It is a hidden piece of paradise that was recently named 2014’s “Top Island in the World” by Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards.  A recent article  by Huffington Post Travel accompanied by stunning photos also dubbed Palawan The Most Beautiful Island in the World.  We had to make this our new island to check out on our recent trip to the Philippines.

St Paul Karst Mountains

A small section of the St. Paul karst mountain range

Accolades like these make me proud and motivated us to experience the island – if not all of it then at least a slice of paradise.  To get there we left my mom’s house and drove the three hours from Moalboal to Cebu City, where we caught the hour and fifteen minute flight to Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan island.

Palawan Island

Cebu Interanational Airport

But we weren’t there yet!  From the Puerto Princesa airport we had to endure another two-hour van ride that hauled us over the narrow, twisty and hilly road to the Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort in Sabang.  At least the concrete road was in good condition!

Highway to Sabang, Palawan

The driver told us this passenger truck was on its last trip of the day from the city to Sabang

The drive there was long but very scenic.  Our driver pointed out several places to check out if we had time, including Honda Bay for island hopping and snorkeling, and Ugong Rock for rock climbing.  We stopped for a few minutes at a large karst mountain range, where if you are imaginative you can make out the “elephant cave” hovering over the small nipa huts.

Elephant Cave

Karst mountain range with rice fields in the foreground

Can you see it in this closeup?

Elephant Cave

Can you make out the elephant hovering over the nipa huts?  Steve couldn’t!

This unspoiled rock formation is immense, and within the range are numerous caves and narrow passageways carved out of the limestone.  A trail here can be followed by folks who sign up for the Ugong Rock Adventure.  We intended to take it, but many of the excursions here were far from our resort and involved long drives – which we just weren’t up for at the time 😦

For those not familiar with “karst”, I should explain.  Karst refers to water-soluble rock, including limestone, that can be dissolved by acidic water to form many different topographies, including interesting caves, outcroppings or even entire mountain ranges.  In combination with other types of rock, the resulting formations and features can take on amazing complexity and beauty.

Our driver took a picture as we posed for a few minutes to soak in the sweeping, serene, pastoral panorama.

Karst Mountains

More karst mountain ranges behind us

After a long travel day we finally arrived at our fabulous room with a beach view, where we holed up for the next 5 nights.  If you plan to come to this part of the island, we cannot recommend this resort enough.  Although there are other places to eat that we enjoyed a lot, these rooms facing the beach are by far the best on Sabang Beach.  That said, this is a very big island and there are many other areas that we did not see during our stay.

Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort

This is what we came here for!

Our mornings and evenings were spent walking up and down this white sand beach surrounded by the St. Paul karst mountain range.  Unfortunately, due to high waves this time of the year, the warning flags were up and we were forbidden to swim in the ocean. The lifeguard told us the waves are this high during the months of October to December. The best time to enjoy calm waters is in the summer, but be prepared for huge crowds and very hot weather!

Sabang Beach

Sabang Beach

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And so our exploration of the beautiful island had begun.  Within hiking (they call it “trekking” here) distance of our resort was an underground river in the heart of the karts mountain ranges a UNESCO World Heritage Site which put us in awe. But more on that and our other Palawan adventures when we come back after the holidays….