When we first started researching Philippines and where to visit, we were overwhelmed with choices. With only a little over a week up our sleeves (definitely not long enough), where to begin in this archipelago of over 7,000 islands teeming with jungle, volcanoes, witchcraft and religion? The island of Boracay with its party reputation and white-sand beaches? North to trek the rice terraces and view stunning scenery? Donsol to swim with whale sharks?

After much deliberation we finally settled on Palawan, an island in the western part of the Philippines which is described by the Lonely Planet guidebook as “frontier”.

Landing at Puerta Princesa, the capital of Palawan, we stacked our backpacks precariously onto the back of a tricycle, the local version of a tuktuk. Riding from the airport into town, the main drag is lined with small hostels and restaurants, and in the fresh air, knowing the beach is not far away, I immediately feel relaxed.

The next day, we head out on a boat trip to Honda Bay. At PHP1100 per person for a full day, plus a PHP40 fee for an environment permit, it’s a bargain and we spend the day lying on caster sugar-fine white sand beaches, occasionally dragging ourselves up for a snorkel. At one stop during the day, the boat pulls up at a jetty in the middle of the sea and we drop off the edge to marvel at the underwater world teeming with life.

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Each night, we find a new place to eat dinner, and stuff ourselves full of fresh seafood and barbecue meats. And the odd cocktail or beer.