Puerto Princesa or also known as “City in the Forest” is a popular travel destination located in the western provincial island of Palawan, Philippines. The first thing that comes to mind for me is the Subterranean River National Park and of course, island hopping. So, we decided on a whim to take a short vacation and finally we were able to check it off our bucketlist. I won’t be writing much detail about the places we went to, just mostly what we did. 😛 Here’s our itinerary for our 4-day trip, as well as expenses/ budget, tips and a few recommendations.
Day 1: Transit from Manila to Puerto Princesa, City Tour
Travel time from Manila is roughly an hour via plane. While on the plane I was already amazed just looking at the islands and the beaches while approaching Puerto Princesa’s airport good thing I was seated by the window. Our flight was in the morning so we still had time to rest and have our lunch before we were fetched by our tour guide for the city tour in the afternoon.
First destination was the Plaza Cuartel which is the restored ruins of the old garrison where the Japanese burned 143 American soldiers during the World War II, and the Immaculate Conception Church just beside it. We had a short stop at the one-stop shop thereafter to buy pasalubongs for family and friends.
Next destination was the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center. There, we had a short tour of the place and got to see Mac-Mac, the biggest crocodile in PWRCC. At the end of the tour, we also got to carry a live crocodile and took pictures as souvenirs. (reptiles creep me out but what the heck.) Roamed around the facility for a short time and bought some crocodile sisig and tapa (P170 & P120/pack) to bring home.
Last stop, off to Mitra’s Ranch and Baker’s Hill. At Mitra’s Ranch you can have a bird’s eye view of the islets and the sea. Here you can also go on horseback rides and a zipline. We just took pictures here though. Baker’s Hill boasts its beautiful gardens, playground for the children to enjoy, a viewing deck and there are also numerous character statues to take photos with. Of course, while there we tasted their delicious hopias. (Two thumbs up for the hopias!) There are also other baked goods sold at the shop like crinkles.
Day 2: Underground River Tour
Since the day that we were supposed to go to the Underground River a cruise ship arrived so they were the priority to tour there, we decided to go to Ugong Rock first which is an optional tour. I personally enjoyed this part of the tour which included trekking, caving, spelunking and the 21-second zipline at the end.
After our buffet lunch, we headed to the Subterranean River National Park by boat. The one thing I didn’t like about this tour was that due to the number of tourists who visit, sometimes I could hardly hear what the tour guide was saying since there would be a lot of boats guides speaking at the same time explaining different things. But nonetheless, it was still a beautiful place deserving of the title New 7 Wonders of Nature.
We were headed back to our service van when we noticed the zipline over the sea and since our companions have taken the optional mangrove tour, we decided to do the zipline while waiting for them. Sabang X Zipine is 800 meters long and 150 feet above sea level. To go to the starting point, you have to hike for a few minutes but it’s all worth it once you’ve reached the top and been released to the zipline. The view is just awesome! Ask your tour guide since it’s an optional tour. It’s quite expensive though (as well as the souvenir picture P250) but for me, the experience was worth it.
Day 3: Honda Bay Island Hopping (Pandan Island & Cowrie Island)
Our tour guide gave us the option whether to go to Starfish and Luli Island or Pandan Island then Cowrie Island. Our group chose Pandan Island since according to him, it’s almost the same with Starfish and Luli Island if not better. We stopped in the middle of our trip at a rental shop for our snorkeling gear and they also rent out aqua shoes, rash guards, underwater camera gear etc.
Before going to Pandan Island, we had a detour at an area best to do snorkeling and check out the coral reefs. No worries for those who can’t swim since a, you have a life vest and b, the boat men are there to assist you. Since I’m not really a good swimmer, I had one of the boat men assist me and it was like a mini tour too of the coral reefs and I saw Nemo (clown fish), two of them. haha!
In Pandan Island, the first thing we did was fish feeding. This was so fun since I didn’t expect to see so many fishes there even though the water was only at my waist level. (I’m an average height Pinay if you’re wondering) Our kind guide again accompanied us to the deeper parts where we could feed more fishes and check out the coral reefs, too. I did not dare ask how deep the water was and I just hung on to the salbabida (live preserver) put my snorkeling gear on and just went on fish feeding and appreciating the beauty in front of my eyes. Here you can use the kayaks for free for 15 minutes and there’s also a jet ski that could be rented for P1,500 for 15 minutes as well (I’m not sure about the duration).
Off to the next island. Since the boat ride takes roughly around 30-40 minutes, this is the best time to get to know your ‘boatmates.’ Finally, we had our buffet lunch at Cowrie Island and some R&R time. By the way, ask your boat man to do some camera tricks, I’m sure you’ll enjoy doing it and love the results. Trust the tour guides and boat men with your camera, they’re already expert photographers in my opinion. hehe. 🙂
Day 4: Free Time
We spent most of the morning at our accommodation resting though for this day and just waited until our flight back to Manila so nothing much. 😛
We stayed at Hibiscus Garden Inn which is a 5-10 minutes drive from the airport. It’s quite a peaceful and relaxing place with lots of restaurants nearby. Our room was spacious (we were a group of three) and staff was very accommodating.
Although some hotels/inns offer transportation services which I think would be expensive, I suggest using the “Taxicle.” Taxicles (tricycles) in Puerto Princesa are spacious and accommodate up to 4 or even 5 passengers. The price range varies from P30- P50.
Where to eat recommendations
Baywalk Park. Turo-turo style with different selection of local dishes mostly seafood and inihaw (grilled) food.
Noki Noks. Best halo-halo tasted and they also have big serving for their other dishes. The price is just right.
KaLui Restaurant. You go in barefooted. Beautiful interior design and ambiance. Reasonable price too. Remember to make a reservation ahead of time since it’s usually jam-packed.
Kinabuch’s. Although we were not able to eat here, this was recommended by our tour guide. They have tamilok!
** Don’t forget to try tamilok, it’s a famous Palawan delicacy, a wood worm which tastes like oyster. I did try it just for the experience. lol**
Budget and Expenses
- Airfare via AirAsia (Manila- Puerto Princesa vis-a-vis) : P 2,275.33
- Accommodation (4D3N): P2,300.00
- City Tour: P 200.00
- Underground River Tour: P1,540.00
- Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour: P1,340.00
- Ugong Rock Trekking/Spelunking+Zipline (optional): P200.00 +P250.00
- Souvenir Picture: P100.00
- Souvenir at Underground River: P180.00
- Sabang X Zipline: P550.00
- Souvenir Picture: P250.00
- Snorkeling gear rental: P150.00
- Aqua shoes (which I did not use): P150.00
- Viewing at Coral Reefs and environmental fees: P50.00 +P40.00
- Pasalubongs: P,1000.00 (more or less)
- Food: P1,000.00 (more or less)
Total expense approximation: P11,575.33
We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us. -Anon.