Explore Puerto Princesa and its many natural wonders. Discover its must-see tourist spots aside from the underground river by reading this article.
(Photo: String Fixer)
Puerto Princesa, located in the beautiful province of Palawan, is more than just a transit point to the world-famous El Nido. This sprawling provincial city nicknamed "The City in a Forest" is famous for its breathtaking views and covers a large area with a lot of natural, cultural, and historical sites that local and international visitors can explore. There are also several Puerto Princesa tours and activities you can enjoy in the city.
Its most famous attraction, the Puerto Princesa Underground River, is a marvel of nature and a national treasure. Traveler and nature enthusiasts won’t get enough of its beautiful limestone cliffs, turquoise waters, and majestic cave formations.
Beyond the underground river, the city also has islands and beaches where you can get the perfect tan, fascinating cultural and historical sites, and activities that will surely pump you up.
Here are some of the things you can do and sites that you should see in Puerto Princesa. You can use this list to serve as your guide in whipping up your itinerary.
1. Visit the Underground River of Palawan
(Photo: South East Asia backpacker)
A trip to Puerto Princesa isn’t complete without visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site and New7Wonders of Nature, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Sabang. This sprawling cave system, also known as the Puerto Princesa Underground River, is the province's main tourist attraction.
It features limestone karst formations, pristine forests, large stalactites and stalagmites, and an 8.2-kilometer-long underground river.
Apart from the underground river that stretches up to 8.2km, you can also hike up the park’s forests to spot wildlife. Its forests host a wide variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles, all peacefully thriving within the park grounds.
The best way to explore this natural wonder is by joining Puerto Princesa underground river tours where you will board motorized paddle boats.
You will be provided with a lifejacket, headgear, and an audio device where you can listen to a recorded instructional guide on the underground river. While cruising inside the underground river, you might also spot different species of bats, birds, and reptiles.
2. Go Island-Hopping in Honda Bay
(Photo : The Poor Traveler)
Beach lovers often skip Puerto Princesa in favor of El Nido and Coron, its more famous island destination neighbors.
Apart from the underground river experience, Puerto Princesa’s Honda Bay is blessed with white sand beaches and small islands rich in marine life, and you can visit the top attractions all in just one day with Honda Bay island-hopping adventures.
You will be visiting Cowrie Island, Luli Island, and Starfish Island, which are all great spots for swimming and snorkeling in island-hopping tours.
Cowrie Island is a popular stopover for buffet lunch served by the boatmen or tour guides. It has cabanas with a massage area overlooking a picturesque view of the ocean. You can even order beer or cocktail drinks at the bar while you soak up the sun.
Luli Island is a sandbar, and only appears during low tide. It's bordered by mangroves, features a lagoon where you can swim in, and a diving board where you can jump off into its turquoise waters. Meanwhile, Starfish Island is famous for having a significant population of different varieties of starfish.
3. Buy Treats at Baker’s Hill
(Photo: Backpack Adventure)
This Puerto Princesa city tour stop is a great foodie destination. As the name suggests, it sits on top of a hill and offers various baked goods. They are most known for their hopia (bean-filled, moon cake-like pastry) that comes in a variety of flavors, with ube (purple yam) as the bestseller.
You can munch on freshly baked hopia during the activity or buy boxes of them for pasalubong (food souvenirs). Aside from hopia, other must-try treats include their crinkles and cookies.
Baker's Hill also has a pizza kitchen and restaurant if you want a more filling meal aside from the hopia snacks. You can choose from pizza, pasta, dishes, sandwiches, and shakes. Palawan's exotic delicacy tamilok (woodworm) is also served in their restaurant if you're up for it!
Aside from the tasty baked goods, Baker's Hill also has a garden with fun statues, perfect for photos with kids and families. You might even spot peacocks here! At night, it's ideal for romantic strolls. Thanks to its location, Baker's Hill also has a view deck where you are treated to a panoramic view of Puerto Princesa.
4. Watch Fireflies in Iwahig River and Irawan River
Adventures do not end just because the sun has gone down. Beyond the underground river, islands, beaches, and city attractions, Puerto Princesa offers the unique experience of firefly watching.
Take a trip to Iwahig River (Temporarily closed but will reopen to the public soon) or Irawan River in Puerto Princesa after the sun sets, relax as the boat wades through the mangrove forest, and wait for the thousands of fireflies to make their appearance!
You will board paddle boats and cruise along the river lined with mangroves and trees where the fireflies live in abundance. To get the best firefly watching experience, flash photography is not allowed, so you don't disturb and scare away the fireflies.
You might also spot glowing plankton on the river and see constellations in the sky. It is an excellent activity if you want to unwind from the city life and enjoy the beauty of nature.
5. Go Spelunking or Ride a Zipline in Ugong Rock Adventures
Another natural attraction in Puerto Princesa is the majestic 75-foot high moss-covered limestone formation called Ugong Rock. The word "ugong" refers to the reverberating bell-like sound that's produced when you hit or pound on the walls.
Ugong Rock is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the underground river, and is usually a side tour to complement it.
The community-based sustainable tourism project, Ugong Rock Adventures, was created for travelers to explore the formation while making sure that ethical tourism practices are observed.
Here, you can try thrilling adventures like spelunking, zip line, rock climbing, zip biking, and base jumping. The activities will also give you a 360-degree view of the landscape.
The most popular activities are spelunking and zip lining. Spelunking will give you an up-close look and access to the interiors of the formation.
You'll be squeezing through the narrow cracks and caverns, climb ladders, and slip through holes. If trekking isn't your cup of tea, you can try the zip line activity where you'll do a 71-meter drop.
6. Visit the Crocodile Farm
(Photo: the adventure of adventuroj!)
The Palawan Rescue and Wildlife Conservation Centre, also known as the Crocodile Farm, is a research center for crocodiles and other endangered species in Palawan.
The eight-acre wildlife center houses hundreds of crocodiles and can accommodate up to 4000. Here you can learn more about the endangered creatures and get an up-close look at them.
A tour of the crocodile farm will let you see two endangered types of this creature which the center also aims to conserve: saltwater crocodiles and freshwater crocodiles.
You will also pay a visit to the crocodile skeleton exhibit, the hatchling house to see baby crocodiles that you can pet with supervision, and the swamp enclosure for adult crocodiles that you can also feed on a bridge.
Apart from the crocodiles, there is also a mini zoo and wildlife park that houses different species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and other animals found in Palawan and are allowed to roam freely. You can visit the crocodile farm by booking a Puerto Princesa city tour.
7. See the View from Mitra’s Ranch
This famous tourist spot in Puerto Princesa is also known as Rancho Sta. Monica, and is owned by former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ramon Mitra Jr. Similar to Baker's Hill, Mitra's Ranch offers a fantastic view of Puerto Princesa and Honda Bay because of its location on top of a hill. Mitra’s Ranch is often included in a Puerto Princesa city package and is located near Baker’s Hill and Crocodile Farm.
Mitra's Ranch started as a famous picnic grounds like Tagaytay’s. Today, it's known for being a family-friendly destination where you can go horseback riding, ride a 4-station zip line, or walk down a hanging bridge. If you're not up for these activities, you can relax in the view deck and take in the breathtaking sight from the Ranch.
8. Visit the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm
Looking for a unique experience in Palawan? Head over to the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, a correctional facility about 15 kilometers from the Puerto Princesa city center. It’s a prison, but it doesn’t look and feel like one, which is why it's often packaged with other tourist spots in a Puerto Princesa tour.
Here, you are invited to mingle with the prisoners, who, instead of being caged behind bars, get to roam around the farm. They do farming, choring, making various handcrafted souvenirs that travelers can buy, and even occasionally perform dance routines for tour groups.
Iwahig Prison observes a merit system where prisoners are provided with vocational activities like farming, fishing, and carpentry, to name a few while they serve time. They also get to choose which activities they want to take part in.
9. Immerse Yourself at a Butterfly Garden and Tribal Village
(Photo: Angel Macaraig)
If you love butterflies, beautiful gardens, and cultural immersions, make sure to include the Palawan Butterfly Ecological Garden and Tribal Village in your Puerto Princesa city adventure itinerary.
The first part of your tour here is in the butterfly garden where you can spot colorful butterflies and also learn more about them. Aside from the butterflies, you can find here rare insects and rescued endemic wildlife in Palawan as well, like the Palawan bearcat and the Palawan peacock-pheasant.
At the back part of the butterfly garden is where you'll find a human-made village where you can interact with the indigenous tribe, which is considered to be one of the oldest inhabitants of Palawan.
Here you can learn about their culture, and customs like their ancient language called the Palawan paleograph. How they hunt with poison blow darts and even hear their traditional music. You can also buy souvenirs here where they sell handicrafts that they made like baskets and mats.
10. Go on a Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour
(Photo: The Backpack Adventure)
There’s more to Puerto Princesa’s river attractions aside from the famous underground river trip. It is also blessed with lush mangrove forests that you can explore on a serene paddleboat tour. Mangrove forests are essential productive ecosystems.
They provide protection for shorelines, prevent erosion, and filter pollutants to maintain water quality and clarity. It is why Puerto Princesa is active in not just protecting these areas but also in spreading awareness about their conservation.
Local guides will help you navigate along the calm river located in Sabang as they tell you more about the century-old mangroves and their significant role in the environment. You might also spot wildlife living in the trees like snakes, monkeys, and lizards during the almost 1-hour paddleboat activity.
After the trip, you can also take part in a mangrove tree-planting activity. It will be an opportunity for you not just to experience nature but also help contribute to the protection and conservation of mangrove forests.
Plan your Puerto Princesa ahead of time, if you need itinerary assistance, contact El Nido Adventure Tour - Lagum Adventure.