I went to Puerto Princesa in Palawan in 2009, just before I started blogging. I loved the city; I loved its slow pace of living and I loved the friendliness of its people.
I went around with a good friend on a motorbike, and we went to a secluded beach, an inoperational lighthouse, and spent hours just walking around the city.
I haven’t had a chance to write about our visit there, though, although I did write about El Nido. I’m really glad that a Puerto Princesa local, the author of this guest post, has consented to write a guide about her wonderful city. May this help you in your trip there!
Unlike other tourist spots in the Philippines, there’s no way you could fit the entire Puerto Princesa in a two-day trip. The magnificent capital of Palawan, dubbed as the “city in a forest,” has just too much to offer—too many splendid sights, too many exciting activities, too many experiences to gain. It’s best to spend at least a few days here for your first vacation.
Take note of the word, “first.” Many locals will readily tell you about the legendary phenomenon called kambak-kambak (come back, come back) syndrome, which draws visitors back to this place again and again. That’s not that hard to believe at all, knowing how beautiful Puerto Princesa is and how easy it is to fall in love with it.
As with most of Palawan, there are many things to do in Puerto Princesa, like enjoying its unspoiled beaches, isolated lagoons, breathtaking cliffs, verdant rainforests, and rich coral reefs that you don’t get to see every day. If you’re visiting this city any time soon, here’s a quick list of awesome things to do while you’re here.
Explore the Underground River
Your trip won’t be complete without a visit to Puerto Princesa’s Subterranean River National Park, also called the Underground River. Get ready to be mesmerized by the spectacular limestone formations inside the cave such as the “cathedral” and “market.”
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this globally famous attraction has put Palawan in the map after being hailed as one of the new 7 wonders of the world. Even before you reach the cave and paddle your way through the longest navigable underground river in the world, you’ll be welcomed by stunning sights of white beaches, amazing wildlife, and verdant rainforests at Sabang.
Travel time from city proper to Sabang Beach is roughly two hours. Then there’s a boat ride that would take you from Sabang Beach to the Underground River set-off point. Tour per head is about P1,500 inclusive of entry permit and fees, taxes, licensed tour guide and buffet style lunch.
Aleah’s Tip: When you get to Sabang, you will be taken by boat to the underground river. Say no to that, and just take the Monkey Trail. Ask your guide where the start of the trail is–it takes around 45 minutes to reach the entrance to the underground river. You will see some monkeys along the way, but the best part is walking in the jungle without worrying about getting lost (there are a lot of directional arrows to guide you).
Just before going to the Monkey Trail, though, take the Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour ran by volunteers. It’s very near where the start of the trail is, and the fee of P200 is very much worth it. Two guides will accompany you and they will tell you everything you need to know about mangrove forests. By the end of the tour, they will also sing the song of mangrove trees. Don’t miss it when you’re there!
Jump from one island to another at Honda Bay
Just an hour from the city proper, you’ll find a collection of unspoiled beaches with dazzling white sand and clear turquoise waters within your easy reach. From the Sta. Lourdes Wharf, you’ll be taken on an island hopping tour around Honda Bay to enjoy its top beaches like Pandan, Cowry, and Starfish.
Pandan is where all the action is—plenty of water sports and activities. If you prefer some peace and quiet, spend more time at Luli Island, which means “lulubog lilitaw.” It’s really a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t island that’s not as packed with people.
Of course, you can’t forget to include Pambato Reef snorkeling in your itinerary. A protected snorkeling area that’s teeming with rich marine biodiversity, it would surely make your Honda Bay island tour even more memorable. For the whole trip, you’ll need to spend only about P1,300 per head. That already includes boat ride, entrance fees, and lunch.
Get up close and personal with dolphins and whale sharks
If you’d like to experience what it’s like to be close to sea creatures, you better embark on a dolphin watching tour at Baywalk or go swim with the whale sharks. Both provide incredible experiences that give you lots of good stories to tell back at home.
The dolphin tour costs P900 per head (inclusive of transportation, snacks, boat ride, and tour guide), and the swim with the whale shark activity sets you back at P1,200 per head (inclusive of boat ride, permit, and guide).
Take a stroll to see Puerto Princesa highlights
In between the action-packed activities, take a breather and spend some time strolling around the top attractions in the city. For your first stop, drop by the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. It was in this church that St. Ezekiel Moreno, then a Spanish priest (now a cancer patient patron saint) held the first mass in Palawan.
Just a few steps away is the Plaza Cuartel, a historic square where Filipino and American soldiers were massacred during the war. Other points of interest include the Crocodile Farm, Baker’s Hill, Mitra’s Ranch, and Iwahig Penal Colony. To fully take in all that these places has to offer, it’d be smart to divide your city tour into two days. For the entire day tour, you only need to pay P600 per head.
How to Go Around Puerto Princesa
There are various ways to get around the city. The most convenient is to book a tour with a travel agency and let them take care of everything. Or you can have it in DIY style and arrange the tour yourself. There are plenty of huge tricycles going around the city.
I say huge because it can fit up to six passengers including their baggage. Fare from one point to another within the city proper is P8 to P9 per head. But it goes up if you wish to travel any farther. There are also some multi-cabs traveling from the city proper to farther points like Sta. Monica, San Jose, and Tiniguiban. Figuring out your route with a map and guidebook before you set out is always a smart move.
Puerto Princesa surely has lots to offer in terms of attractions and activities. But take note, these are just the tip of the icing to begin with. There are even more off-the-beaten path attractions that you’d want to explore on your next Palawan adventure trip!
About the Author
Wendi P. Garcia is a writer, a mom to a six-year-old curly top and a newborn, and an avid traveler as well. She heads a team of writers at Pencil Head Creative Studio and co-founded with her hubby the group Artists for Nature.