Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

by - November 30, 2018

I stayed in PP for 3 nights and 2 days. It was my last stop in the Philippines (typing through the tears). If you want my opinion, you only need one day here: go to the underground river and then leave. We did 2 in the hope to go to Honda Bay, but we ran out of money and so that didn’t happen, but we managed to quite happily fill our day..

The Underground River

It’s amazing. Go. 
It is a long day and (as is the Filipino way), the tour seems simultaneously overly complicated whilst being strategically organised. 
There are a lot of things that make it seem like it can’t be worth it. In the spirit of transparency, I will go through them, but as a geography graduate who has always admired Mother Nature in her infinite wonder, I strongly strongly recommend this UNESCO World Heritage Site as a must-see spot in the Philippines (and it’s something they are so proud of).
  • It’s expensive - I paid P2000 (just short of £30 - seeing the conversion to english money does make me weep a bit but I am still adamant it was worth it) for the day which included being picked up in an air-conditioned van from my hotel and dropped there after, lunch, the whole tour and everything that involves. That is the most I paid on any day trip in the Philippines with the only exception of diving. I was a bit baffled by this price because I read online it would be less (but after checking, these were from blogs in 2012 so either it’s increased, or I was royally mugged off but I everywhere I saw it was advertised at P2000). I know people who were put off by the price and I don’t blame them, but if like me, it’s something you don’t want to miss, just allow it in your budget as a pricier day. 
  • It’s an early start. I was told I would be picked up at 6.45-7am but in true Filipino fashion, my transfer arrived at 6.30am. 
  • It’s a long drive. Although it is technically in Puerto Princesa, from the city it’s about a 2/2.5hour drive. Travel sickness pills are advised (dodgy roads). 
  • Waiting. Now, I was told you wait around all day. I don’t know if I was just lucky, or whether people hideously exaggerated, but I didn’t have to do much waiting. 

    • What I was told would happen: when you arrive you have to wait for a boat to take you to the river. You are given a number and that’s your space in the queue. You wait for hours and then get the boat, and then have to wait for more hours for your river boat tour to start. You are encouraged to zip-line or paddle board in the mangroves in this time but it’s an additional price. You wait and wait and wait. 
    • What actually happened: we arrived, we waiting about 1.5hours for our number. We got a 5-10 minute boat to the river. We then got straight on the boat and the tour began. The 1.5 hour wait is not in a stuffy queue, but is next to a lovely beach and you can get a smoothie, relax, and we made some lovely friends with people in our group.
  • The tour itself is only 45 minutes. This does seem ridiculous given the travelling and waiting, but yeah just a heads up (it’s worth it). 
As Nike would say: Just do it. 
It’s beautiful. It’s unlike so many other places on Earth. It’s one of those natural phenomena that blows you mind: it shouldn’t be able to exist but yet it does. It’s worth it. 

Despite what I had hope, it was too dark for my camera to cope and so I have no photos of the cave!!

So, how did we kill an extra day in Puerto Princesa with very little money?

We went to Blue Palawan beach resort and paid P250 for use of their swimming pool for the day! It was actually the perfect way to end the trip - just relaxing and doing nothing before a long journey home for me and a long journey to Auckland for Anna. The staff were amazing, and no one was really there all day. We paid P120 for a tricycle there and the same back from our hotel - we had to do some serious negotiating on this price and our return driver tried to ask for P200 at the end (despite agreeing before the P120) so obviously we stuck with our agreed price but it was extremely uncomfortable. You can get food and drinks there if you want (but being a fancy resort it was very expensive so we did not indulge) but drinking water was free! 
According to google, a lot of the resorts with pools will let anyone use them for a fee - we messaged a bunch on Facebook to find the best deal but Blue Palawan was great so I would recommend it if anyone else wants just a pool day. 

Other things to do in PP: 

Honda Bay: P1250 (I think) for an island hopping day trip. We would’ve done this if we had the money, but have heard it is disappointing after Coron/El Nido. 
Nagtabon beach: apparently very beautiful and not too busy. It is about an hour from the city (and so we didn’t do it as the journey would be too expensive) but have heard it’s worth a visit! 

Where to eat: 

Have to say, we weren’t super adventurous. It was the end of our tour, and we weren’t huge fans of the city (we are nature gals) and so we just stayed around our hotel. Recommendations are:
La Terrasse - awesome food. Around P300 for a meal and P150-180 for a cocktail. Really good food and drinks, definitely recommend.
Eighty nine cafe: good breakfast and coffee. Blueberry pancakes for P150 are a great way to start your day, and opens at 6.00am so you can even go before the underground river. 

Where to stay: 

To be honest, I don’t know. We treated ourself to a hotel (called Island Stay Hotel - it was very nice) but was a bit pricey compared to everywhere else we stayed. It was our last stop and last time together for over a year (as we go our separate ways) so we just felt like being a bit fancy. I would recommend it but like I said, did cost a little more so might not be on every backpackers list (including mine if I wasn’t headed back to London the next day). 
Rizal Avenue is the “main road” so close to that and you’re sorted - is also very close to the airport. 
From there, tricycle to the airport is P50 (plus a possible airport entrance fee - again, not too sure on this as my transfer was included with my hotel room). 

Final thoughts:

For the underground river, I do think PP is worth going to. But unless cities are your thing, you do only need 2 nights and one day there. In hindsight, an extra day in El Nido would’ve been better for us, but we still had a great time! 
I took no other photos in PP hence this post is quite barren of colour - sorry!

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