We recently had our Puerto Princesa family trip and we stayed at Best Western Plus The Ivywall Hotel for 4 days and 3 nights. If you're planning to visit Puerto Princesa soon and you're wondering where to go, where to eat, and what to do in Puerto Princesa, read until the end of this article.
Places to Visit in Puerto Princesa
Many people are aware that the Underground River is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, that's why tourists flock to the area. Going to Underground River requires permit and slot reservation especially during peak season. Since I don't want to experience all the hassle, we've got our Underground River tour from Sole Adventours. They offer affordable tour packages that are much cheaper compared when you'll do a DIY trip. The tour includes roundtrip hotel transfers so transportation is no longer a problem. Travel time from Puerto Princesa proper to Sabang is around 1 hour and 30 minutes. It will be longer than that if you're just going to commute.
Upon arriving at the port, you'll be given a number for the motorized boat. Wait for your number to be called and you're all set. Boat transfer is around 15 to 20 minutes going to the main jump-off point of Underground River. From there, you have to walk a short distance, just 3-5 minutes, going to another boat. This time, it's a paddle type. That is where you will ride going to the Underground River. By the way, you have to pay PhP 85 for the audio device that will serve as your guide while inside the cave.
The boatman will point out to different formations inside the cave using a bright headlamp. Their actions are synchronized to the voice in the audio device that explains everything that you can see there. They do that style to prevent noise because the cave is sensitive. The tour inside the cave is around 45 minutes.
Ugong Rock Advetures
Ugong Rock is located in Brgy. Tagabinet, not too far from Underground River. I think, it's about 15 to 20 minutes by private transportation. You can make it a sidetrip after your Underground River tour. Ugong Rock Adventures is a community-based tourism in partnership with ABS-CBN Foundation. Ugong Rock Adventures start with trekking then caving. Once on the top, you may take a zipline (either sitting or superman position) going down, or trek back through the cave.
It's an exciting activity and our little one is too excited especially when he saw the zipline on the television during the briefing. Unfortunately, the safety officer didn't allow him because he's only 4 years old. They said it's dangerous especially in the cave. As per their new policy, only 7 years old and above can take the Ugong Rock Adventures. Even though we told them that we can handle our son safely and he's not afraid of heights (because he has climbed many mountains and had his zipline experience in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato), still they didn't allow him.
For your reference, Ugong Rock Adventures caving cost PhP 200 per person; the zipline in sitting position is PhP 250; zipline in superman position is PhP 350.
Honda Bay Island Hopping
Who wouldn't love to be sun-kissed? For beach lovers, Honda Bay is your haven! There are 4 islands to visit - Starfish Island, Luli Island, Cowrie Island, and Pandan Island. The famous Snake Island is no longer open to public since it has been bought by a private individual.
As of this writing, entrance fees for the islands are as follows:
- Starfish Island - PhP 50 per head
- Luli Island - PhP 60 per head
- Cowrie Island - PhP 75 per head
- Pandan Island - PhP 800
As you can see, Pandan Island is too expensive so we took that off from our list. I don't know why it's too expensive compared to other islands. Aside from the entrance fees, you also need to pay an environmental fee of PhP 40 per person. The boat costs PhP 1500. If you don't have snorkeling gear, you may rent for PhP 150 each. Also, don't forget to buy a bread for fish feeding.
Our first destination is the Starfish Island. It is the farthest of the three. When we go down the boat, we were surprised by many starfish! My husband jokingly said, "they are the welcoming committee". We started our snorkeling and fish feeding activity there. It is advised to have aqua shoes to avoid getting cuts from corals. While we were getting farther from the boat, I noticed that there are little to no starfish on other areas of the island. I thought that maybe they just put the starfish there on purpose because they are swamped in just one place - to where the boats are docked.
Luli Island got its name from the Tagalog term "Lulubog, Lilitaw", meaning sink and appear respectively. Luli Island's sandbar isn't visible during high tide. Compared to Starfish Island, there aren't too many fish in Luli Island. You can still do snorkeling there if you want, but most tourists are just having fun swimming. There is also a diving board for those who fancy jumping from high area down to the water. Luli Island has a finer sand than Starfish Island so you can unleash your creativity building figures from the sand. Don't forget to have a photo-op at the readily built sand castle.
This is where we enjoyed the most. Cowrie Island has the finest sand of the three islands we visited. Aside from swimming, there are many activities that you can do in Cowrie Island. This includes banana boat ride, flying fish, and jet ski. We availed the banana boat ride which costs PhP 300 per person for 15 minutes. I know it's quite expensive but it's worth it because my baby enjoyed so much! He couldn't contain his happiness that he want to try the flying fish as well but we don't have any more extra budget. The group must be minimum of 5 pax to avail the banana boat. Otherwise, you have to pay PhP 1500. Since we're just 3, we waited for other people who want to ride the banana boat. Fortunately, there's a couple who joined us.
During our Puerto Princesa tour last 2014, we didn't enjoy Mitra's Ranch too much. We only had picture taking outside Mitra's house. This time, it is so much fun that our son is with us. You can go inside the house, do horseback riding, and try their zipline. I don't know what's there to see inside Mitra's house - we didn't go there. Since our son wasn't allowed to have the zipline at Ugong Rock Adventures, he's so happy to know that there's a zipline at Mitra's Ranch. His first zipline experience was a superman position and a tandem with me. This time around, he did it without a tandem and it's a sitting position. Mitra's Ranch zipline costs PhP 500 per person - but there are 4 stations, so I guess it's worth it. Our baby enjoyed his second zipline experience and four times at that.
The first station has the highest impact and the longest among the four. On the third and fourth station, you have to take the stairs up the tower and it's tiring. It's more challenging than the zipline itself. Using camera while on the zipline is prohibited because you need your two hands to hold the handle bar. Not doing so will keep off the balance. For more adrenaline rush, you can do the upside-down zipline position. Don't worry because the harness will keep you safe.
Baker's Hill is one of the most popular destinations in Puerto Princesa because of their delicious hopia and other pastries. My favorite here is their hopiang baboy and hopiang ube. You can choose whether in pork oil or vegetable oil. There is also a restaurant and other food kiosks inside Baker's Hill. During our 2014 Puerto Princesa trip, we roam around Baker's Hill. But this time, we just bought hopia for pasalubong and left the place because we still have to go for our Honda Bay Island Hopping.
Crocodile Farm is around half an hour away from Puerto Princesa City proper. Registration fee is PhP 40 per person for 13 years old and above; PhP 30 for senior citizens; PhP 20 for 7 to 12 years old; 6 years old and below are free of charge. There is a 30-minute interval for guests entering the Crocodile Farm. The first tour is at 8:30am, next is 9:00am and so on until 4:00pm.
The skeleton and skin of the previous record holder of the largest crocodile before Lolong was preserved there. They have a guide explaining everything about the crocodiles. After you get out from the crocodile area, there is a photo-op holding a small crocodile and they will ask you if you want a printed copy.
They also have other animals inside their mini forest like Palawan bearcat, porcupine, parrot, mynah, hornbill, snakes, and many more. There are signages and map on the area so you won't get lost.
Iwahig Firefly Watching
If you still have energy to go out at night, you may go to Iwahig for firefly watching. We only have a DIY trip because tours from agency are quite expensive, around PhP 1,000 to PhP 1300 per person. We hired a tricycle which costs Php 700 back and forth and another PhP 600 for the boat. That's a total of PhP 1300 for the 3 of us! We saved more than half.
Firefly watching starts at 7:00pm and lasts until there are visitors or 11:00pm. During peak season, they said there are visitors until 1:00am. The boat can only accommodate 3 persons at a time, so if you are 4 or 5 in the group, you have to get another boat. Aside from firefly watching, star gazing is also part of the trip while on the paddle boat. The boatman uses a laser to point constellations, visible planet and stars. I was amazed because I only expect firefly watching but there's a cherry on top. We were blessed with a good weather so the river is calm and the sky is clear.
Ka Lui Restaurant
It's not really a tourist destination but Ka Lui is a popular and most recommended restaurant in Puerto Princesa. The first time we went there was a Sunday and unfortunately, they were closed. Ka Lui Restaurant is only open from Monday to Saturday despite their high demand. They have a lot of reservations so walk-ins may wait a long time especially during peak season.
They don't allow footwear inside Ka Lui so you have to leave your shoes or slippers at the entrance and enter barefoot. Don't worry because there are baskets and cabinets for your footwear. They have a floor sitting arrangement but it often gets reserved. The food is delicious especially their rolled fish in coconut milk. There's also an art gallery inside the restaurant which reminds me of Tam-awan Village in Baguio.
Overall, Puerto Princesa, Palawan has so much to offer for people visiting the area. There are other places that we haven't visited yet because of tight schedule like Irawan Eco Adventure, Palawan Butterfly Eco Garden and Tribal Village, Kuyba Almoneca, and many more. We'll surely visit those places the next time we book a promo fare.