Puerto Princesa, officially the City of Puerto Princesa, and often referred to as Puerto Princesa City is a coastal city on the well-known Palawan Island in the western Philippines. It's the port of entry for a vast number of tourists visiting the Palawan Province and also a base for many tourist boat trips through the massive and impressive limestone caves and underground river of the biodiverse Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. There are also numerous dive sites all around Puerto Princesa Bay, which are home to long-nosed dolphins, turtles and rays. Puerto Princesa is the least densely populated city in the Philippines and has also been acclaimed as the cleanest and greenest city in the Philippines. Even though it is a well-established city, the outskirts of the city remain very rural and you can easily escape the chaos of the city in just a few minutes. There are plenty of options for great value for money and comfortable accommodation as well as a variety of food options to suit all budgets. For this reason, even though not a beach destination in itself, Puerto Princesa can be a good base for some great day trips.
PUERTO PRINCESA TRAVEL TIPS
If you’re travelling during peak season or holidays, it is best to book your accommodations in advance. We recommend checking sites like Booking.com or Agoda. We've also had great success using Airbnb - especially for longer stays it was really convenient to have a bit more space. We had a great stay at the Purple Fountain Inn where we found not only great value but thoroughly professional and friendly staff.
AirAsia, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific all have daily flights from Manila, Cebu and Clark Angeles to Puerto Princesa. Cebu Pacific also operates flights to and from Puerto Princesa to Iloilo.
The airport is practically in the city centre so you can catch a tricycle on the main road for a fare of PHP 50 per tricycle but you'll be hard-pressed to find any using the officially posted tariffs. If you're a bit further afield you will have to spend PHP100-150. From the bus terminal expect to be quoted higher prices but you should also be able to get a ride for PHP100 if you bargain.
Ironically you will almost always get a better price by booking transfers online with Klook or GetYourGuide - not only do you avoid the hassle of haggling with drivers, you are comfortable in the knowledge that you will be picked up as booked.
We recommend using BookAway or 12Go website to view bus, train and boat schedules online ahead of time. Skyscanner.com or Kiwi.com are handy tools for finding great flight deals.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
Both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, the Underground River is possibly the most famous tourist destination in Palawan. Although about a 2-hour drive outside of the City of Puerto Princesa, most people visit the Underground River through an organised tour from Puerto Princesa. The tour inside the cave itself is only around 45 minutes long, covering only the first 1.5 km of the cave, while the remaining 6km is off-limits to tourists. If you’re are lucky enough, you might even spot a rare Palawan peacock-pheasant that is only found on the island of Palawan and also present in the official seal of Puerto Princesa.
This zip-line is fairly close to the Underground River and is often included with the adventure package of the Underground River Tour. This is also a good way to kill some time if you have to wait for the underground river tour. It’s best to check beforehand if they are operational, as operations are weather dependent.
Ugong Rock Adventures
In the same vicinity to the Underground River, you will also find the Ugong Rock cave complex. Supposedly, the hollow rock formations make a gong-like sound when tapped which gives the caves their name. After a 20 minute hike all the way up, you get to fly through the air down a 300m long zipline from the top. This adventure park is located north of Puerto Princesa and on the same road to the way to the Underground River.
Honda Bay Island Hopping
Almost every town in Palawan has its island hopping tours and Puerto Princesa is no exception! You can visit Honda Bay either by joining an organised Island Hopping Tour from Puerto Princesa or you can rent a private boat to take you to the many beautiful sandy beaches in the area such as Cowrie, Starfish, Luli and Pandan Beach. Depending on how much time you have, you can either spend half a day or the whole day lazing and snorkelling around the islands.
Kamia Bay Inflatable Park
About an hour away from Puerto Princesa City, Kamia Bay Resort claims to have one of the biggest water adventure parks in the whole of Asia! A fun place for both kids and those who are still children at heart! If you’re feeling a little more grown-up (but not too responsible), then you can rent a jet ski for some fun.
One of the biggest rivers in Puerto Princesa, the Iwahig River offers a one of a kind experience which lets guests experience the beauty of nature in a dark and quiet part of the river for firefly watching. The tour takes place at night in a small portion of the river where you ride a paddle-boat as you are taken through a dark and peaceful part of the mangroves.
Puerto Princesa City Tour
This is a great way to learn more about the history of the city. You can either spend a full day or half-day visiting some of these various historical sites: World War II Museum, Heritage Museum, PPC Cathedral, City Baywalk, Rizal Park, Plaza Cuartel, Binuatan Creations, Mitra’s Ranch & Bakers Hill and even the Palawan Rescue and Wildlife Center (Crocodile Farm). Of course, you can also visit these places DIY style, but a knowledgeable guide will always add to the experience and there are some great value tours available. Most tricycle drivers will also happily double as tour guides for the day.
Visit The Prison Town Of Iwahig Prison
The Iwahig Prison is a very interesting example of a penal colony where instead of placing prisoners behind bars, they are free to roam around in a vast area with fields, shelters, ponds and natural surroundings as they go about ordinary daily activities with their families. Located just outside of the City of Puerto Princesa, this is a less touristy but interesting place to visit.
Sample Craft Beer At Palaweño Brewery
Palaweño Brewery, which was established in 2013, is one of the first local craft brewers in the country and is the country’s first female-led craft brewery. Their craft beers are named “Ayahay” which means relaxed, and which captures the laid-back style of the island perfectly.
Puerto Princesa Baywalk
This is the perfect place to watch scenic sunsets and try some local Palaweño and Filipino dishes at the food park.