Our time in Puerto Princesa was limited, as this was the last leg of our trip to the Philippines. We had one day in the city, then it was off to Sabang and the Underwater River Park. Puerto Princesa struck me as a smaller version of Manila-bustling and congested, but still friendly.
The airport is easy to navigate, and tricycles are parked outside ready to take you to your hotel. Some hotels do offer their own transportation, but we did not have reservations so we arranged for a trike to take us to a few hotels for 40PHP. We ended up choosing the Albon Pension. The room was clean and spacious and it was centrally located. No complaints here.
We only knew of a few things to do in Puerto Princesa, but we spent a wonderfully long and exhausting day exploring. The best thing to do in this city, especially if you’re short on time, is to just wander around. There isn’t much to see in Puerto Princesa proper, so just take some time to explore the city on foot.
1. Our Lady of Immaculate Conception: If you’re looking out of the window as you land in Puerto Princesa, chances are you will see this massive blue and white church towering over neighboring buildings. Although the church grounds have history dating back to 1872, the actual church wasn’t constructed until 1961. I have never seen a church like it; the colors are bright and it feels very spacious.
2. Plaza Cuartel: Right next to the blue and white church is a small, shady garden with statues and plenty of trees. It makes for a great place to read a book or rest up.
After seeing the above sights, we began our own walking tour of the city, during which we discovered beautiful neighborhoods and people.
The following day, bright and early, we departed for the Underground River Park, a without a doubt MUST see.
TRIP TO UNDERGROUND RIVER PARK
We booked a tour through one of the many agencies available in Puerto Princesa. The park is located in Sabang, about 50km north of Puerto Princesa. Most trips include transportation to and from the park, boat transfer, tour through part of the cave, and lunch. Some tour companies will try to charge extra for added activities, so be careful.
First, a little information about the underground river:
– It’s nominated as one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature, and rightfully so.
– It spans 8.2 km., making it the longest underground river in the world
– Large cave chambers make for a unique ecosystem that houses many insects and animals.
– The river flows directly into the South China Sea, which means that parts of it have an undercurrent due to fresh water sitting on top of salt water.
If you are not doing the tour, there are two ways to get to the river: a boat from Sabang Pier (weather permitting) or a hike through the monkey trails (2-3 hours depending on speed). Regardless, you will have to sign up for a boat number and there is often a long wait. We took that opportunity to explore the area and check out the monkey trail. Along the way we saw many giant monitor lizards, monkeys, insects, and birds. The greenery is amazing; the trees seem to be growing out of a swamp and there is an eerie stillness in the air.
About an hour later, we were able to board our boat for the 45 minute tour of the cave. The formations the cave were amazing, stalagmites and stalactites made for an interesting landscape, allowing the animation to run wild. Thousands of bats inhabit the cave, so watch your head or you might get some unwanted gifts from the top. Overall, the visit to the underground river park was extraordinary. No amount of words could do the scenery justice, and being able to enter such a massive, vast cave was definitely thrilling.