If you’re only going to be in the Philippines for a short period of time and if there’s one place I would recommend you to visit, it is Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The major reason is that it is where you will see and experience Puerto Princesa’s Underground River, which now one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature.
(The Underground River)
Your trip to Palawan won’t be complete if you don’t visit the underground river. When I was there, the nominations for the New 7 Wonders was just on going and now it is one of the country’s pride. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is also one of UNESCO’s World heritage site. This park has a limestone karst mountain landscape and the underground river’s length is about 8.2 kilometer, which used to be the longest in the world before the discovery of Mexico’s underground river.
I’ve never done this backpacker style but you can definitely rough it and get a bus or transfer from the airport or downtown Puerto Princesa to the port of Sabang. I recommend joining a tour group here because it is the easiest way to get there and doesn’t cost a lot for a whole day trip. The package we got costs P1100 per person or $20 which includes all transfers and lunch. It takes about 1-1.5 hours to get to the port from Puerto Princesa City and you’ll need a boat transfer from Sabang to get to the underground river park.
Other Things You Can Do:
(My cousin and I trying to fit into the coconut in Honda Bay)
Beach bumming in Honda Bay
Honda bay is a beautiful white island beach that can easily get to from Puerto Princesa Town. You could either go on an organized tour or take a taxi to the port to get a boat to the island. It is also considered as one of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines. The beach has white fine sand and clear blue waters. I recommend you go snorkeling as it is even more beautiful underwater.
(The fish didn’t look too happy to see me)
Puerto Princesa City is small. You can do a city tour for half a day and can actually do it cheaply so I don’t recommend joining a tour group with this. You can hire a tricycle (or tuktuk as it is commonly called around South East Asia) and negotiate with the driver to give you a tour of the city. I had my own guides so we just basically paid the driver P30 ($0.70) each way and went our way wandering the streets of Puerto Princesa City.
You will see an old church and there are a lot of markets where you can buy handicrafts and other hadicrafts native to Palawan which you can give as gifts when you return home.
*My Travel Tip for Women: If you are into pearls,this is the place where you can buy South Sea Pearls the cheapest. They harvest the pearls in Palawan and the price doubles or triples once they ship it to Manila or worst when they export the pearls internationally.
Baker’s Hill and Mitra Ranch
Baker’s Hill is not only a place where they have lots of baked goods specifically the Filipino food, hopia. It also offers a lot of good food restaurants. They are situated on top of a hill and has the most beautiful views of Puerto Princesa City. Very close by to Baker’s Hill is the Mitra Ranch, a touristy place where they have views of both Puerto Princesa City and Dos Palmas resort. This trip can be combined with half day city tour. You can do it by negotiating with a tricycle (tuk tuk). It cost us P250 ($6) for roundtrip fare here.
Where I Stayed
(Hibiscus Garden Inn Puerto Princesa)
When I went to Puerto Princesa, I didn’t know people who have been there so I went to Tripadvisor to check for a place to stay. Hibiscus Garden Inn was number one in the hotel category. The boutique hotel was quite new, beautiful, clean and has a huge hammock outside every room, which makes the place very relaxing. Aida, the contact person in this hotel was also quick in responding to inquiries. The only thing I didn’t like about this place is that they don’t take credit cards and that the deposit has to be made with cash or wire transfer. Since I was in Manila at that time, I had to do wire transfer for the deposit. The regular room was P1800 a night or about $40 for 2. As I was traveling with my cousin that time, she wanted a place that was very relaxing and we couldn’t have chosen a good place to stay. I highly recommend it.
If you have more time to spend in Palawan, my next recommendation and post is about Coron.