Words & Photos By Nathan Allen
For me, there is no better way to explore Palawan than by motorcycle. It is the modern day stallion, providing nomads and wanderers the ultimate freedom and mobility. As a photographer, I especially love the ability to stop along the road anywhere I see something that catches my eye.
Bus rides may be more comfortable, however, they are torture for photographers.
In the Chinese zodiac, I was born in the year of the horse. According to tradition, this perfectly explains my penchant for wandering. In other words, I need to stretch my legs; gallop far and wide. It’s fitting that I have ended up in Asia the past few years, submersing myself in cultures and climates vastly different than my own.
A Motorbike Trip On Palawan Island, Philippines
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Palawan, it’s a large Philippine island bordering the South China / West Philippine Sea. Palawan has consistently been ranked as one of the top tropical islands - with the best beaches in the world. As you'll see later, it surely deserves the honor! Along with Boracay island, it's one of the top tourist draws in the Philippines.
However, the island still has vast stretches of rugged, untouched jungles and white sand beaches. Well off the beaten path. That’s why when rent-a-bike.ph offered to provide me a motorcycle, I jumped at the chance.
Where To Rent a Motorcycle in Palawan
I landed in Palawan’s main hub, Puerto Princesa, and stopped by the motorcycle rental place next door to the airport. I tested out a yellow Kawasaki Rouser, and loved the way it felt. It’s an on road bike, but I've had heaps of practice riding off road if needed.
Rent-a-bike.ph is owned by a Russian transplant named Sergey. He offered to take me on a quick ride to some of the nice beaches nearby. I certainly looked forward to seeing this region of Palawan!
The next morning, after a great stay at the Ivywall Hotel, I met Sergey and we made our way out of town. He rode a Honda XR150, which is better for off road. It's available for rent as well. I figured most of my riding would be on paved roads, so the Kawasaki would be more comfortable for my trip.
The roads in Palawan are nice and windy, - quite scenic as well! We pulled over at a mountainous overlook, and Sergey posed his bike so we could get this shot.
The Rough Road Trip to Kalaodiong Beach
After that, we continued to little known Kalaodiong Beach. The last stretch of road is unpaved, steep and rough. However, the beach at the end is pretty good. It’s probably the nicest, undeveloped beach relatively close to Puerto Princesa.
To clarify, there's actually nothing on this beach. Just a few locals who might ask for 20 pesos to park your motorbike. We had more to see in this part of Palawan, so after relaxing here for a few minutes, we started back for Nagtabon beach (another gem which we had passed on the way).
There's a vista point along the way between the two beaches...at least I think that's where it was. If you want to relax with a fresh coconut and views out to sea, this is a great place in central Palawan.
Nagtabon Beach, Palawan
Nagtabon beach is barely developed. To be sure, there are very few options for snacks, food, and drinks. If you walk to the end of the beach, an American has returned to his roots in the Philippines and opened up a unique guest house there. I think it's called Caroline's Secret Resort.
It’s basically a simple beach bar, but there is a giant castle “turret” which you can stay overnight in. However, it has no windows or screens, and is a bit pricey for what you get. I suppose it’s the unique experience you’re paying for?
We were pretty hungry by the time we arrived here, so we stayed for dinner. Drinks and burgers seemed a bit expensive, however, no other options are available on the beach. Prices reflect that. It's a bit remote, so transporting supplies probably costs him. In any case, super nice guy.
Nagtabon Beach View, From The Castle
Here is the vista from the top of the castle turret. In addition to nice views of the beach, there's also an adventurous rope bridge you have to cross to get up here...
Caroline's is an excellent place for watching the sunset, too. As chance would have it, 2 women from Latvia were there practicing “stick dancing” on the beach. I captured these silhouette shots just before we left...after the sun had dipped below the horizon.
( In photos: 1. Silhouette of 2 women checking their phone on beach 2. Nagtabon Sunset landscape )
We walked all the way back to the motorbikes on the other end of the beach...and of course then I realized I left my sunglasses at the resort. I told Sergey I would just meet him back in Puerto Princesa later, and then I ran back to get them.
Luckily I found the sunglasses, and trekked all the way back to the bike again. I rode back to Puerto Princesa in the dark...the trip seemed to take forever! Without a doubt, I was completely exhausted.
(Continued below...but I'd be honored if you want to follow along with me on FB)
Once back in Puerto Princesa, I met with a tour operator to get more information about my next stop, the Underground River tour in Sabang (central Palawan). She invited me on the tour as a way of saying thanks for promoting the Philippines. Very kind, and she even told me there was no need to promote her company specifically!
Looking Forward To Day 2 on the Motorbike...
Basically, this short ride was just a warm up for the rest of Palawan. Just wait until you see how much better the beaches get! The ride to Sabang the next day was unforgettable, too I’ll leave that for chapter two…
You can find hotel rates and reviews for Puerto Princesa and Palawan HERE
*Motorbike for this trip was provided by www.rent-a-bike.ph.
* Updated October 7, 2018
If you notice anything that needs correcting, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
- Nathan Allen
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