The province of Palawan is the Philippine Islands’ last frontier. Any diver who dares to venture into this natural wonderland is usually faced with a difficult decision once they say yes to this trip: go up north, or journey down south?
While the southern side of Palawan island is where you’ll find the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Tubbataha Reefs, there are a lot of underwater gems to be found within the waters by the northern part of the province as well.
Take it slow when you opt to dive up north. Here are the top ten scuba dive spots in Northern Palawan:
- The Wall (Roxas Town)
- Tecas Reef Marine Park and Sanctuary (Municipality of Taytay)
- Dinot Rocks (Municipality of Taytay)
- Abalone Island (Municipality of Taytay)
- Pabellone Islands (Municipality of Taytay)
- Quimbaludan Marine Reserve (Municipality of Taytay)
- Cadlao Island (El Nido)
- Dilumacad Tunnel (El Nido)
- Miniloc Island (El Nido)
- Malapacao Island (El Nido)
The Wall (Roxas Town)
Most journeys into the great unknown of the Palawan Island start at the province’s capital city. After all, only the Puerto Princesa International Airport caters to short-haul commercial flights.
Get started as soon as you land on Palawan soil. This site is in a town only two hours away from Puerto Princesa City, and its dives are perfect for both beginner divers and more experienced ones who are just warming up.
Walking through Roxas City’s humble market, you would not think that there is a whole new world to behold just beyond its shores. Well, believe it.
The waters within and around The Wall is filled with excellent marine biology. If there is a place to get a crash course on what to expect when diving in Palawan, it is right here. The underwater creatures you will find in this spot are beautiful and diverse, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easily you can get to them.
Diving out into The Wall requires a quick 20-minute boat ride from the town proper to nearby Modessa Island. This is where you will set up and then ready yourself for the first of many, many dives.
Tecas Reef Marine Park and Sanctuary (Municipality of Taytay)
We’re going easy on you with these first few spots. Drive for an hour and a half drive north from Roxas Town and you will find a municipality bordered by seas on both its west and east sides. Taytay, Palawan is a quiet town by all means. However, past the quiet facade of its local villagers’ huts is a medley of different kinds of underwater life.
Tourism is on the rise in this part of Northern Palawan. Nevertheless, most tourists have yet to hear of the municipality of Taytay. Tour packages are now being offered by local tour companies, but most—and the best—sites are spots that remain best reached by a private boat.
Seek out a local in the town proper and rent your own bangka for a day. There are many places you can reach while the sun is out. Let your first stop be this unassuming island in Taytay Bay.
Tecas Reef Marine Park and Fish Sanctuary is a protected area. It is composed of an island and its surrounding reefs. On top of this island is a small guardhouse. Underneath it is a buffet of the most colorful corals.
You don’t need to go deep to see what treasures the Tecas Reef holds. The waters here are so crystal clear you can see almost everything from the comfort of your boat. You are welcome to go deeper, though. This area is unpopulated and is the perfect diving spot to welcome you to the waters of Taytay.
Dinot Rocks (Municipality of Taytay)
In the middle of Taytay Bay are rock formations waiting to give you a preview of what is to come when you see the limestone cliffs of El Nido.
There is no proper island for you to step on to here, just rocks that are so delicate that it is best they are left untouched. Opt to wade around the waters near it instead.
Underneath the water in this area of Taytay Bay is wide, colorful coral formations, and fish of different shapes and sizes mingling with land-logged crustaceans.
Be careful when taking a dive in this area. There are a lot of seaweed growing around it. Seaweeds here are not what you usually expect. They are more pearly than they are grassy. Make sure to have a taste of this local delicacy once you are out of the water.
It is not just the local people who fawn over their beloved seaweed. The sea critters love them, too! When you are diving by the Dinot Rocks area, always keep an eye out for sea turtles. So many of them circle this spot to get their fix!
Abalone Island (Municipality of Taytay)
By this point in your journey, you have already seen so much of the sea. Now, it is time for you to see food.
Abalone Island – located in Taytay, Palawan. This lush island is uninhabited yet its reefs are a source of abalone, an expensive delicacy in Asian cuisine. It is nature’s success story as its southern reefs that sustained damage from the El Nino phenomenon are now restored. Catch a glimpse of its white sand bar which only appears during low tide.
While going around the many regions of Palawan, do not be surprised to find just laying around what are otherwise coveted and expensive ingredients elsewhere. Sea urchins that make up uni and swiftlets that provide nests for bird’s nest soup usually hide in plain sight.
The next spot on this list boasts dozens and dozens of abalone, a type of mollusk that can be sold for as much as $500.00 in the west. You can come across 500 of these sea snails within a few steps on this island and still have your money very much intact in your bank account.
The island itself is uninhabited by humans. Take a dive, and find so much more than abalone wading within its nearby waters.
Schedule your visit to this destination wisely, though. It will be a struggle to go under when the tides are low, but a beautiful sandbar will appear as compensation.
Pabellone Islands (Municipality of Taytay)
A little farther away from the bay—but halfway to the last stop on the Taytay leg of this list—are the twin Pabellones Islands.
Just like the Dinot Rocks area, these islands are more limestone than islands. They are named after the shapes they resemble. Take a close look at both and then decide for yourself which one is Elephant Island and which one is Castle Island.
Swiftlets are aplenty here and they cannot be disturbed. Dive in the waters that keep these two islands afloat, instead.
Once done marveling at the underwater life below, take a minute to wade in a pool in one of the island’s caves. Rest yourself well because there is one last stop on this island hopping and scuba diving journey, and it’s probably the best destination here.
Quimbaludan Marine Reserve (Municipality of Taytay)
Straddling in between the Mesecoy and Taytay Bays on the northernmost tip of the municipality’s covered area is the Quimbaludan Marine Reserve. This is where you will find Isla Blanca, an uninhabited island with fine white sand that is a favorite hangout spot of local sea turtles.
Sea turtles are shy! If you want to see them up close and personal, take a dive into the deep waters immediately surrounding Isla Blanca. The deeper you go, the higher the chances are of you getting to meet them!
Aside from sea turtles, there are also a rainbow’s worth of corals and fish in this area of Taytay Bay.
With a rocky surrounding that is not so inviting, going around this area is going to be hard. Rest assured that it will be very much worth it.
Cadlao Island (El Nido)
Get ready to battle crowds on this leg of your journey. The limestone cliffs and crystal blue waters of El Nido is what hordes of tourists from all over the world go to Palawan for. Now, it is time for you to see why.
Another hour up north from the municipality of Taytay is the world-famous town of El Nido. There are more limestone cliffs than there is flat land in this area of Palawan. Your eyes will already be in for quite a treat the moment you see these majestic mountains, but hold your horses. There is more to see down below.
Move on over to the western side of Palawan, and then plunge right into the waters of the West Philippine Sea. All it will take is a chartered boat from El Nido town.
The big brother among the islands of Bacuit Bay is the island of Cadlao. This is where best to test the waters before diving headfirst. Coral gardens are not too far from the ground. Play around in this area before hopping onto your next diving destination.
Dilumacad Tunnel (El Nido)
Right beside Cadlao Island is an island that is shaped like a helicopter. There is no denying it is cute to look at above water, but the main attraction here is underneath.
The Dilumacad Underwater Tunnel is located precisely under Cadlao Island. It is around 12 meters below sea level, and runs for 40 meters long.
You would think that not much can be seen in a light-deprived tunnel under the sea, but we are here to tell you that the case is actually otherwise yet again. Fish, eels, and corals fill this passageway. Allow your local guide to shine light on where it should be shone and you’ll see.
This comes without warning: a trip through the Dilumacad Tunnel is for advanced swimmers only! As much as there is a plethora of things to see here, safety must always be the top priority.
Miniloc Island (El Nido)
After such a challenging dive, lax things back up with an easier diving spot to tackle.
Northwest to the island of Miniloc are three important reefs nestled in between the two tiny islands of Tagbao. Take your pick of which one to explore. Miniloc’s house reef is a favorite among divers. The waters here are shallow and perfectly safe for you to just wade around.
Malapacao Island (El Nido)
The last stop on this tour of the best diving spots in Northern Palawan is privately owned. Malapacao Island is home to a private resort. Within and around it though are caves and corals much like those of the other islands on this list.
What can be guaranteed for you when diving in the shores of Malapacao Island is total privacy. Not everyone is allowed to bask in all that it has to offer. To do so is a privilege only few can afford. The cost it will take to come here is definitely unlike those of more common and public diving destinations in El Nido.
There are so many diving spots waiting to be uncovered in Northern Palawan! Why not take your sweet time in conquering them all on your trip? Let Binga Beach Resort in San Vicente, Palawan be your headquarters as you do so. There is nothing like coming home to a truly untouched and unadulterated stretch of wide sand after so much adventure.