I’ve been to Puerto Princesa once before with my brother, but I just had to take Espie there and didn’t mind going again this time. It’s a coincidence though, that both times I went there in December, one in 2010, and the other way back 2005. In hindsight, it seems it was a good choice because it was less crowded and it was very festive at the city proper.
We stayed at Lola Itang’s Pension House and Restaurant in the center of the city. It was the same place we stayed at before and we loved it for its close proximity to everything. They were also very affordable, comfortable and best of all, clean. It’s not a hotel, mind you. So please leave all your pre-conceived notions of that behind if you plan on staying there. It’s a place you go to if you don’t want to spend too much. We got the suite room for just PHP1500/night. They can also help you book your tours at affordable prices. They also serve food at the restaurant and though it’s not 5-star hotel quality, it’s like home-cooking which is good enough for us.
Way back in 2005, we stayed in Puerto Princesa for 4 days and 3 nights. That, I think is the ideal length of time to enjoy the trip fully. This time, we only stayed for 3 days and 2 nights so we had to prioritize which tours we wanted. We opted to go for the Underground River (ofcourse!), the City Tour and the Day Tour at Dos Palmas Resort.
For the City Tour, we were picked up by the bus at Lola Itang’s and we visited the Crocodile Farm, where you can see both salt water and fresh water crocodiles. You can feed them chicken for a price, and then you can have your pictures taken with them. With the safety of a rubber band on it’s snout of course.
After that, the next part of the city tour was Mitra’s Farm/Ranch which offers the best view of Puerto Princesa City. For those of you who don’t know him, he was a popular political figure in the Philippines during his time and he even ran for president.
Next stop was Baker’s Hill. It’s one of the newer attractions in Puerto Princesa and it was my first time to visit
the place. You can buy souvenirs and baked products and have your pictures taken in the grounds. We were also able try our hand at weaving when we stopped over at Binuatan Creations.
Day 2 of our Palawan Trip was spent on a trip to the Subterranean River National Park or the Underground River as it is popularly known. It’s one of the new 7 Wonders of the World. Way to go,Philippines! We were at Sabang Pier quite early in the morning and the view was beautiful! We were lucky to have beautiful weather since the waves are usually strong on the way to the park. As I said, it was my 2nd time there but seeing it again did not diminish the elation I felt seeing the limestone cliffs and aquamarine waters. The surroundings were breathtaking!
There is a short trek before you get to the river itself and you need to put on the usual safety gear like the life-vest (since inside the cave the water can get pretty deep), and the hard hats. The boatman’s narrative was as entertaining as ever with all the “bat” jokes and the impressive cave formations (e.g. likeness of the Holy Family, Pegasus, vegetable section, fruit section). Just like last time, the most amazing part of it for me was “The Cathedral” or the highest point within the cave. The ceiling went up as pretty high you can fit a building inside it. The boat ride inside probably lasts a little less than an hour. It goes pretty deep but that’s a different trip altogether.
By the way, if you intend to go to the Underground River, don’t bring any plastic with you. The resident monkeys have associated it with food and will try and grab it along with anything you have inside it. Aside from the monkeys, you can also see a lot of monitor lizards walking around. Don’t get too close.
On our way back, our tour included a lunch along Sabang Beach and we called on our “Fear Factor” spirit and
tried some “Tamiloc” or what they call the wood worms. These are worms that live in the mangrove trunks. They are said to be strong aphrodisiacs. Given that at this point, Espie and I had been unsuccessful so far in having a baby, we though, there’s no harm in trying. 🙂
After lunch, we spent an hour or two relaxing in front of the then under construction Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa. Though it’s a bit far from the city proper, it’s quite near to the Underground River and is far away from the noises of the city. They have beach huts on the shoreline and you can order refreshments while enjoying the beach view.
Sabang Beach is not your idea of calm waters, the waves are strong but it has this untouched and really natural feel to it. I would not advise swimming alone (we didn’t even try it), but if you are a strong swimmer, then go for it by all means.
Dinner that day was at one of the more popular restaurants in Puerto Princesa, the Kalui Restaurant. I don’t think it’s the food (although they serve a number of Palawan native dishes) that makes it a nice place to eat but it’s really the ambiance.
Day 3 was dedicated entirely for the Day Tour to Dos Palmas Island Resort and Spa. When I mention the name, people immediately call to mind two of it’s more infamous references but I won’t be focusing on that. That was a long time ago, and it’s not entirely the fault of the resort. It is one of the most beautiful resorts I have seen, and the resort staff are very hospitable.
The Day Tour starts with a bus ride from a nearby mall which takes you to the Honda Bay pier where you then transfer to a native banca/outrigger which takes you to the island itself. Upon reaching the island, the staff are there to greet you with drums and cheers. The lunch buffet on top of the use of it’s facilities is worth every penny.
You can go snorkeling or scuba diving and you can go kayaking around the island among the mangroves or just simply enjoy swimming in the clear waters and discovering all sorts of underwater animal life on it’s beach front. They also have a souvenir shop where you can buy quality shirts, stuff toys, etc. which you can bring home to your family and friends.
We really enjoyed our visit to Puerto Princesa, Palawan and we will definitely visit again soon. If you want a stress-free, quiet vacation and you’re a nature lover, this is the place for you. There are so many attractions to visit and you can also enjoy the nightlife in the city. Transportation is easy and you don’t have to spend too much money. You can have your tours tailored for what you can afford and what you want to see.