Saturday, March 26, 2011

Puerto Princesa: Palawan’s One-Stop Shop

Ever since I was a kid, my ultimate place to visit has been Palawan. In my mind, I painted a picture of pristine white beaches, schools of jack (fish) and lime stone cliffs dot the whole island.

And then there’s the dugong, bearcat, and Palawan hornbill.

Palwan Bearcat living the life.

Do you know that Dos Palmas Resort in Puerto Princesa has a regular dugong visitor? It loves to feed on one of its seaweed beds. I haven’t seen one but I am on my quest to swim with a real dugong.

So imagine my joy when Person A mentioned that he wants to go to Puerto Princesa and visit the Underground River.

I said “Tara!” with the biggest smile and roundest eyes and 48 hours after leaving El Nido for Manila, Person A found himself again, this time in mid-section Palawan. This was sometime April last year.

Puerto Princesa is the best choice for a Palawan getaway. It’s got everything Palawan stands for:
 1. Heavenly beaches (Honda Bay)
2. Underground River!
3. Exotic Animals
4. Amenities

Let’s not forget that it’s probably the cheapest Palawan destination, except for Coron.

What are my Puerto Princesa Highlights?

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (~PhP 1500/person)

In common language, it’s Underground River, a UNESCO heritage site and was a strong contender in the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Magnificent is my word for it. Reputed as the world’s longest underground river and navigable no less, it has numerous chambers which houses astounding stalactite and stalagmite formations. There’s a chamber dedicated for religious images, another chamber with humongous vegetables and there’ a male mushroom. 

It’s mushroom with a male sex organ on top.

While waiting for your turn to get into the cave, make sure to observe the fishes, the monkeys and monitor lizards which cross the river.

Kayak is used to navigate the river so as not to spoil the river with petroleum by-products from motorized boats. The guide who is also your Manong Bangkero is very knowledgeable about the river.

Fifi just had to take a picture with the Manong Bangkero because he had a great time listening to him during the 30-min paddle ride.

To get to the Underground River, arrange a trip with any reputable tour operator. It cost us PhP 1500/person that time, inclusive of Puerto Princesa – Sabang van transfers, banca ride to the Underground River take-off point, the tour itself and lunch.

I just have to share, our Sabang Trip guide looks like Carlos Celdran.

Bakawan Paddling Cruise (PhP 150/person)

While in Sabang, might as well request your driver and trip guide to take you to Sabang Mangrove. It’s past Daluyon Beach Resort – the only resort in Sabang which has comfortable amenities.

Pay the fee at the local tribe association, don a life vest and ride a kayak. I love the fact that the locals prioritize safety and take care of the environment.

All types mangroves dot both sides of the wide river. It’s the perfect place to commune with yourself and drown in your own thoughts. The place is so silent that I find it rude to speak.

Your guide will then educate you on the different types of mangrove and how to spot male and female mangroves. Then he’ll slowly point out the fishes spawning in the brackish water. Yes, despite it’s “murky” color, it’s actually teeming with life. The main role of mangrove forest in the ecosystem is to serve as a spawning area for salt water fish. 

Can you spot the king fisher?

Then there are monkeys, poisonous snakes and king fishers! Despite of the afternoon heat, the temperature is cool.

Person A considers this as his highlight of the Puerto Princesa trip.

Honda Bay Island Hopping(~PhP 1200/person)

This is all about white sand beaches and snorkeling. This is a whole day trip where you get to visit 3-4 islands, your guide packs sumptuous lunch while you swim and snorkel at each stop.

Pandan Island

Lots of wild pandan and great for snorkeling too.

Snake Island

A wide stretch of white sand with minimal cover, prepare to get baked. Snorkeling is the best in this island. One meter fish, schools of butterfly fish, nemo and a “forest” of one-meter wide sea urchins!

Starfish Island

I was already pooped from the swimming and snorkeling we did in the previous 2 islands that I just listened to my iPod in one of the run-down huts.

Don’t forget to rent snorkeling gears and if you can bring an underwater camera, that would be better.

In Summary:

1. Puerto Princesa is a one-stop shop for a Palawan get-away. It has great beaches, the Underground river and has all the urban amenities. It doesn’t cost as much as an El Nido vacation.

2. Hats off to Mayor Hagedorn, the city and travel destinations are very well maintained. It’s both sustainable to the environment and the tourism industry. Tourism cities should learn a thing or two from Puerto Princesa. 


  1. Thanks for posting the prices for each activity. Im planning to go there this January.

  2. You're welcome -(",)-*wink* Have a great time in Palawan! It's one of my favorite places. If you have an interesting find, kindly let me know. -(",)-*wink*



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