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Discover the Best of Puerto Princesa Edit

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Michelle Tobias  • Contributor
Opinions expressed by Explora.ph Contributors are their own.
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Cover photo from the City Tourism of Puerto Princesa. Graphics by Noodle Donato.

At a Glance

One of the world’s darkest, longest, and largest water-filled cave systems is found in Puerto Princesa. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by limestone formations, biodiverse forests, mountain ranges, and sweeping coastal beaches. Fun things to try in the city include tribe immersions, island hopping, and spelunking!

Overview

Like the rest of Palawan, Puerto Princesa is a highly protected territory and is considered the largest and greenest city in the Philippines. A third of its population is concentrated in the city proper, which faces Puerto Princesa Bay. The rest of the city is underdeveloped, with huge trees, forests, mountains, and wide coastal beaches.


About 70km north of the city proper is the Puerto Princesa Underground River, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. This complex cave system is half-submerged in water and surrounded by well-preserved limestone formations and a jungle teeming with monkeys, monitor lizards, squirrels, and other species. Its main cave, the scenic 8.2km tunnel, is the second-longest navigable underground river in the world. It is also declared one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.


While thousands of travelers are getting funnelled down the underground river, what they don’t know is that there are about 50 other thrilling attractions scattered across the city. Hallmark destinations are geared towards nature lovers, beach junkies, and adventure enthusiasts. These attractions include island hopping in Honda Bay, spelunking in Hundred Caves, paddling along Sabang Mangrove, and immersing with the Batak Tribe.


Built on the pillars of ecotourism, Puerto Princesa employs a community of locals and indigenous peoples to serve as tour guides and protectors of its natural attractions. Tribal villages meanwhile are transformed into cultural experiences where tribesmen share their lifestyle and traditional music and dances. Come between February and May and you’ll witness native cherry blossom trees in full bloom just like those found in Japan. Lovely!

Get the most out of Puerto Princesa with these Top 8 Things To Do

Written by Colleen Cabili

Sabang Mangrove Paddling and Jungle Trek

Part of the UNESCO World Heritage-protected landscape of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, these two activities allow visitors to learn about the other forest types in the park: limestone karst forest, swamp forest, and mangrove forest. Read more.

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Paddling along Sabang Mangrove.

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Sabang Mangrove from the air.

Iwahig River Firefly Cruise

The one-hour banca cruise along the pristine Iwahig River offers close encounters with thousands of fireflies. These fragile insects come out at around seven o’clock in the evening. Given the site’s remoteness (roughly 45 minutes away from the city proper), far from the blinding city lights, the guides also take the time to tell travelers to look up and admire the starry sky, and even help them identify various constellations. Read more.

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Iwahig River at late afternoon.

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It's a bit of a challenge to take photos of the fireflies on a moving boat!

Sabang Beach

Aside from being the gateway to the world-renowned Puerto Princesa Underground River, the flaxen coastline of Sabang is also home to a quaint fishing village and a handful of resorts. Travelers seeking a much more laid-back getaway will surely have a good time here. Read more.

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Sabang Beach, one of the nicest beaches in Puerto Princesa.

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The rolling, flat waves of Sabang Beach.

Batak Tribe Immersion

Kalakwasan is one of the 5 Batak villages in Puerto Princesa. The hour-long trek requires travelers to cross the Tanabag River 10 times, so it's highly recommended to pack a pair of sturdy sandals or flip flops. At present, the village has more than 200 residents from 50 families whose main source of livelihood is resin harvesting. Read more.

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A tribesman exhibits his skills in the Batak Village.

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Visitors can try out some local dances and music in the Batak Village.

Island Hopping in Honda Bay

This activity is perhaps one of the most recommended for travelers who have a couple of days to spare in Puerto Princesa. The tour includes four beautiful islands and a colorful snorkeling site. Snorkeling gear can be rented at the wharf at an affordable price. Here are some of the stops in Honda Bay:

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Pandan Island. Photo by Mac Dillera.

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Cowrie Island. Photo by Mac Dillera.

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Luli Island. Photo by Mac Dillera.

Hundred Caves

The Hundred Caves Viewing Adventure in Puerto Princesa holds the distinction for offering the first caving activity in the province of Palawan. Featuring glittering crystals, the whole system spans approximately 1km with countless interconnected and multi-storied passages, hence the name. A full tour can last up to 2 hours, although a 45-minute option is also available for beginners. Read more.

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One of the crystal formations in Hundred Caves.

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Another formation of crystals in the cave. No one is allowed to touch!

Maoyon River Cruise

This cruise takes visitors to a 45-minute boat ride along the unspoiled Maoyon River. The tour includes a delicious seafood lunch on board such as shrimp, fishes, crabs, and various seashells. The meal is also accompanied by relaxing traditional songs sang by local musicians. Read more.

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The cruise along Maoyon River. Photo by Mac Dillera.

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The cruise ends with a visit to this immense Dao Tree. Photo by Tiffany de Leon.

Don't Miss: Puerto Princesa Underground River

This captivating 8.2-kilometer-long UNESCO World Heritage Site covers a half-submerged extensive cave system whose water flows out directly to the open sea. Here you'd see dramatic tunnels, cavernous chambers, and catch sight of wildlife in and around the tunnel. Read more.

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The entranceway to the Underground River.

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The 8.2km passage is eerily long and quiet, punctuated by the sound of animals.

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The Underground River features many spacious caverns such as this.

Must-try local food

Written by Amanda Lago and Michelle Tobias

Palawan Beer

Not many people go to Palawan in search of a great craft beer, but you’ll find it here if you head to Palaweño Brewery—the first and only craft beer brewery in Palawan. The brewery uses only local ingredients, and most are in season. Hence, the flavors of beer that they produce are unique and original.

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The different flavors of Palawan beer at Palaweño Brewery.

Tamilok

Contrary to popular belief, tamilok is not actually a worm but a shell-less fatty mollusk that thrives in dead mangrove trunks and branches. Eaten fresh, it is usually dipped in calamansi juice with crushed chili and salt à la kinilaw. Locals who enjoy this exotic treat claim that it is even better than oyster! There is no better way to experience this than eating it right after the underground river tour in Sabang.

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The exotic tamilok. Are you brave enough to try this?

Chao Long

Puerto Princesa City welcomed Vietnamese refugees in 1975, and with their arrival came their cuisine. One of the results of the fusion of Vietnamese and local Palawan culinary traditions is the noodle soup called Chao Long. There are several Chao Long shops in the city, which also sell the Vietnamese sandwich called Banh Mi. Viet Ville, the former refugee camp, has a restaurant serving this dish in many variations.

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The flavorful Chao Long, a fusion between Vietnamese and Palawan cuisine.

Crocodile Sisig

It looks like Filipinos’ all-time favorite sisig, except that it is made of crocodile meat! Crocodile Sisig is similar to pork sisig in taste and texture, but has lower fat and calorie content. The dish is cooked with spices and is drizzled with calamansi or lime. It is definitely the perfect match to a cold bottle of beer along the city’s Baywalk Park. To take home, you can get it in vacuum-sealed packs at Palawan’s crocodile farm.

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Crocodile Sisig.

Packaged Tours and Experiences in Puerto Princesa

Don’t like to organize your trip? No problem! We’ve partnered with the city’s top rated tour operators who offer the most affordable tours and experiences in the city.

Iwahig River Cruise and Firefly Watching

Come and fall in love with the majestic glows of fireflies at night. Get to enjoy the silence of the night and be mesmerized with these insects. A romantic cruise awaits those who book this tour. Book here.

Wild Expeditions in Palawan

WILD Expeditions in Palawan is a local tour operator that specializes in nature-themed activities from simple trekking tour to more complex trips and wildlife expeditions. Check out their various tours and book a trip here.

Where To Stay in Puerto Princesa

Book your stay in Puerto Princesa with Explora for as low as P500! You can view all our hotel and resort listings here or pick from our recommendations below. Booking with Explora is easy, seamless, and secure, with multiple payment options!

Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort is an eco-friendly and upscale base point in doing the Underground River tour. This 4-star resort is equipped with Filipino-inspired cabanas, facing the gorgeous Sabang Beach and surrounded by nature and mountain views. Rooms start at P5,025, good for four. Book here.


Kaibigan Soul Camp Palawan is a backpacker-friendly hideaway with a relaxing island vibe. It features beachfront native-designed huts tucked in a fishing village and surrounded by hundreds of palm trees. Some of its activities include yoga, boat tours, and diving. Rooms start at P1,500, good for two. Book here.

Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa is a modern and classy resort conveniently located along Sabang Beach in the Underground River tour. Three of its features include a spacious swimming pool-bar, a restaurant that serves delectable organic food, and a wellness and nature spa. Rooms start at P8,000, good for two. Book here.

Aziza Paradise Hotel is a poshly landscaped hotel with a number of amenities such as a pizzaria, coffee shop, children's playroom, karaoke room, swimming pool-bar, gym, wall climbing facility, and a 130-seater restaurant. It is located in the city proper, 10 minutes away from the airport. Rooms start at P5,000, good for three. Book here.

Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa is a sprawling oceanfront resort a few kilometers south of Honda Bay. This eco-friendly holiday destination features chlorine-free swimming pools, Asian-themed suites and villas, and its own boardwalk and white sandbar. Rooms start at P8,000, good for four. Book here.

Where is Puerto Princesa, Palawan

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Puerto Princesa is located in central Palawan, at west central Philippines. Graphics by Noodle Donato.

Best time to visit Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa is best visited during the Balayong Festival (March 4) when locals celebrate the city’s foundation day and the season of the beautiful Palawan Cherry Blossoms. The most pleasant time to explore Puerto Princesa is during the dry season between December and May. It can get a little too hot between April and May, though, and rainy between June and November.

How to get to Puerto Princesa, Palawan

From Manila or Cebu, you can reach Puerto Princesa by booking a flight with Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, or Air Asia. The flight takes about one hour. From the airport, you can reach your hotel by tricycle. In some cases, you can arrange with your hotel to have you picked up from the airport. From Metro Manila, a more affordable alternative to get to Puerto Princesa is by booking a ferry with 2Go Travel. It operates trips from Manila on Tuesdays and Fridays, 1:00pm. Travel time is about 32 hours with a stop in Coron. To get from one destination to another in Puerto Princesa, just take a tricycle or jeepney. You can also rent a motorbike, tricycle, or van for half a day or a whole day’s service.


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