El Nido and Coron instantly comes to mind when we talk about Palawan which made the province more famous earning “The Best Island in the World” distinction from various travel magazines and websites. Puerto Princesa City, the provincial capital, also has its awesome destinations to offer to all types of travelers. Aside from the famed Puerto Princesa Underground River which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, the city also offers breathtaking islands and snorkeling spots, heart-pumping adventures like spelunking, zip lines and water activities, unique river cruises, heritage and historical tours and food crawl.
To reach Puerto Princesa, you must take a flight for almost an hour from Manila which will land at the newly constructed state-of-the-art Puerto Princesa International Airport. But to decongest Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila, Clark International Airport in Pampanga is now being developed as a secondary hub of operations. This will also be a better alternative for travelers coming from North and Central Luzon as the travel time will significantly be minimized. The flag carrier Philippine Airlines flies thrice weekly from Clark to Puerto Princesa City. Here are the commuting options to reach Clark International Airport:
Hop on any North Luzon-bound bus in Cubao, Pasay, Manila or Caloocan that will pass by Dau Terminal. Shuttle service to Clark International Airport is available near the terminal and will cost you Php 100. Alternatively, from Dau Bus Terminal, walk towards KFC, cross the street and take an 8 peso-jeepney ride to Clark Main Gate. Take the airport shuttle at the Clark International Airport lounge. Fare to the airport is Php 50.
From North Luzon
Hop on any bus going to Manila and alight at Dau Bus Terminal. Shuttle service to Clark International Airport is available near the terminal and will cost you Php 100. Alternatively, from Dau Bus Terminal, walk towards KFC, cross the street and take an 8 peso-jeepney ride to Clark Main Gate. Take the airport shuttle at the Clark International Airport lounge. Fare to the airport is Php 50.
From Downtown Angeles City or City of San Fernando
Take a jeepney with “Clark Main Gate” or “Main Gate” signage. Take the airport shuttle at the Clark International Airport lounge. Fare to the airport is Php 50.
Tricycles and jeepneys are the main means of public transportation in the city. The tricycles are interesting as they are wider than the ones we usually see in Manila. Vans and buses are available if you are going to other towns.
While Tagalog/Filipino is widely used in Puerto Princesa, Cuyonon is their native language which may be remembered as the language used in the critically-acclaimed movie Ploning. Thanks to Faye Navarra and Wayne Venturillo for the Cuyonon translation.
|Good morning||Magandang umaga||Mayad nga temprano|
|Good day||Magandang araw||Mayad nga adlaw|
|Good evening||Magandang gabi||Mayad nga gabi|
|How much?||Magkano?||Tag Pira?|
|How to go to…?||Paano pumuntang…?||Pasamuro ag pakon…?|
|Where is the…?||Nasaan ang…?||Sadin ang…?|
|I like you||Gusto kita||Aliagan ta kaw|
|I love you||Mahal kita||Inggegegma ta-kaw|
WHAT TO DO
Island Hopping and Snorkeling
To those who would want to experience the islands and beaches of Palawan but do not have enough time to visit El Nido, Balabac or San Vicente, a day tour at Honda Bay is your best option which is around 45 minutes north of the city proper.
Ugong Rock Adventure Park offers various activities for the adventure-seekers including zip line and sky bike. But for you to experience the adrenaline rush from these rides, you have to climb your way up to the jump off point and do spelunking. Those who are into water activities need not worry as Cowrie Island offers Jet Ski, fly fish and kayak.
Puerto Princesa City’s culture and heritage is as rich as its natural wonders. Go back in time as early as the Tabon Man and explore the city’s unique and colorful history through its various museums. Know more about the province’s tribes which are still existing up to now.
Experience various river cruises when visiting this city. Discover a whole new world on the Puerto Princesa Underground River Cruise and let your imagination work on different rock formations. Be closer to nature as you go though the Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour. Know what differentiates a male from a female mangrove and if you are lucky, you’ll see snakes sleeping in mangrove branches. Lastly, be enchanted by the magical Iwahig Firefly River Cruise and be awe by the magnitude of these bioluminescent creatures. But also be sure to pay attention to your boatman’s firefly, constellation and mangrove trivia.
Even in festivities, the City of Puerto Princesa never runs out of what it can offer. Love Affair with Nature is celebrated every 14th of February marked by planting of mangroves in coastal communities. The city’s founding anniversary is commemorated every 4th of March though the Balayong Festival named after their version of a cherry blossom tree. Kamarikutan Pagdiwata Arts Festival is held every full moon of April. Baragatan sa Palawan is held every 3rd week of June, the foundation of the civil government of Palawan, a convergence of its people and celebration of their culture. They also have Feast of the Forest, Seafood Festival and Karagatan Festival. For more information, check the city’s official website http://puertoprincesa.ph/.
Try the freshest seafood of the province cooked in various ways – kinilaw, tinola or sinugba. Also not to be missed are local delicacies like tamilok or wood worm usually soaked in vinegar and eaten raw, and the crocodile sisig which as they say taste like, you got it – chicken.
WHAT TO SEE
PUERTO PRINCESA UNDERGROUND RIVER
The Puerto Princesa Underground River is part of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a protected area located at St. Paul Mountain Range, west coast of the island. PPUR is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has also been declared as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature provisionally in 2011 and officially in 2012. To reach the national park, you need to take a 15-minute boat ride from Sabang which is about two hours from the city proper.
UGONG ROCK ADVENTURES
Ugong Rock is said to be submerged underwater millions of years ago. Natural markers are shown by the tour guides on various water levels it used to be submerged. It got its name from the sound it creates when the cave walls are being tapped – umuugong or ugong. The park offers various activities for the adventure-seekers including zip line and sky bike. But for you to experience the adrenaline rush from these rides, you have to climb your way up to the jump off point and do spelunking. But it’s all worth it as you will be rewarded with a spectacular view at the top.
KARST MOUNTAIN ELEPHANT CAVE
This picturesque spot with limestone cliff in the background is one of the stops of the reality show The Amazing Race Philippines and Ukraine. Make a stop here also and have your photo taken before going to the underground river.
Buenavista Viewdeck is usually one of the quick stops before heading to Puerto Princesa Underground River which gives a panoramic view of Ulugan Bay. Alternatively, this may also be your last stop before going back to the city proper perfect for sunset viewing.
MANGROVE PADDLE BOAT TOUR
This is one of the unique river tours in Sabang. Paddle your way through the mangrove forest and get to know more about the mangroves through the information provided by your boatman. If you are lucky, you’ll see wildlife like snakes sleeping in mangrove branches and monkeys looking over you.
Pambato Reef is a marine sanctuary where concentration of coral reefs, clams and various fishes may be found. Pambato, which means bet, is Puerto Princesa’s offering for snorkeling and underwater exploration.
LuLi Island is one of the most anticipated stops of the Honda Bay Tour. Aside from the pristine water and creamy white sand, this is where trick shots are usually taken. There is also a sand bar which automatically captures the hearts of its visitors. Luli Island is a combination of Filipino words lulubog which means to sink and lilitaw which means to appear, which basically describes what happens to the island if depending on the tide.
Cowrie Island, still in Honda Bay, is where tourists usually take their lunch, buffet style. After taking a rest after lunch, you may try various water activities in the island like jet ski, fly fish or kayaking. Or walk around the island and enjoy the tropical vibe.
IWAHIG PRISON AND PENAL FARM
Commonly referred to as Iwahig Penal Colony, this correctional facility also offers various vocational courses to inmates. They also create various products for sale which serves as their income generating activity. This institution was established during the American occupation which is evident in the architecture of the main building.
IWAHIG FIREFLY WATCHING TOUR
The cruise along Iwahig River while witnessing thousands of fireflies is one of my personal favorites. This activity will not only leave you enchanted but more informed as well on the life cycle and behavior of fireflies provided by your boatmen. On a clear night, you will also have the chance to see few constellations and planets.
Plaza Cuartel was a garrison of Spaniards, taken over by the Americans, and eventually by the Japanese during the Second World War. This is also where a tragic event happened when about 150 American soldiers were burned to death by the Japanese soldiers. A few survived who swam their way out to Iwahig.
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CATHEDRAL
Just across the street from Cuartel Plaza is Puerto Princesa’s Cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception.
Located on top of a hill, Baker’s Hill started as a bakeshop known for their hopia but eventually developed the compound into a theme park which also has a snack bar, restaurant, view deck and souvenir shop.
Owned by the family of the late Senator Ramon Mitra, Mitra’s Ranch sits on top of a hill and offers an astounding view of Honda Bay. Aside from the family’s memorabilia in the farm house, you may also try horseback riding and zip line.
PALAWAN PROVINCIAL CAPITOL
Aside from being the seat of the provincial government, the Palawan Capitol Complex is the usual venue for the province’s events like festivals and trade exhibits.
PALAWAN HERITAGE CENTER
Located in the capitol complex, Palawan Heritage Center houses exhibits on Palawan’s indigenous ethnolinguistic groups, various tools, musical instruments, accessories and replica of the famed Manunggul Jar and skull of the Tabon Man. It also has a visual arts section whose art pieces were created by the budding artists of the province.
Palawan Museum is located in the old Puerto Princesa City Hall. Noted exhibits are the way of living of Palawan’s ethnolinguistic groups, Tagbanwa script which is a form of writing similar to Baybayin, and replica of the Manunggul Jar which is an ancient secondary burial place.
PALAWAN SPECIAL BATTALION WORLD WAR II MEMORIAL MUSEUM
Know more about the Second World War through the exhibits and memorabilia in the Palawan Special Battalion WWII Memorial Museum. May may also have your photo taken in a WWII jeep in a soldier uniform which are available for photo ops. The collection is owned by Higinio “Buddy” C. Mendoza, son of the Palawan Hero Dr. Higinio A. Mendoza Sr.
Binuatan Creations take pride in the export quality products weaved using tikog and amumuting grass. Table runners, placemats, bags, wallets, notebook covers, card holders, coin purse, curtains and mats are just some of the products available in their showroom. The actual weaving happens also in the compound which you may also try.
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY BAYWALK
Walk along the city Baywalk on an afternoon while waiting for the stunning sunset. After sunset, you may have your dinner in food stalls just across the street offering seafood.
WHERE TO EAT
KA LUI RESTAURANT
If you both love food and art, then Kalui is the perfect place for you. It is mostly made of bamboo including the flooring. You are required to take off your foot wear before entering the dining area where it is surrounded by wonderful works of art. And the food is not just delicious but served in the most appetizing way. Ka Lui is definitely a place you should not miss when visiting Puerto Princesa City located along Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa City.
KINABUCH’S BAR & GRILL
Kinabuch’s, owned by the Russian-American Buch who married a filipina, is also one of the more famous restaurants in the city. Some of their specialty include Crispy Pata, Crocodile Sisig and the exotic Tamilok. Kinabuch’s is located along Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa City.
BADJAO SEAFRONT RESTAURANT
Located on stilts sitting on the sea, Badjao Seafront Restaurant offers a unique dining experience which takes pride in its fresh seafood, tropical fruit shakes, its friendly staff and of course an awe-inspiring view. Before reaching the dining hall, you have to cross a wooden bridge beside a mangrove forest.
Ka Inato’s specialty is Chicken Inato, a variety of the more popular Inasal of Bacolod but on the sweeter side. What makes this place more interesting is that some of the staff they hire are hearing impaired, you’ll even see sign language gesture guides in the premises should you be interested to interact with them.
BONA’S CHAOLONG HOUSE
Have a taste of Vietnam with Bona’s Chaolong House and Vietnamese Restaurant which is very popular to locals because of their very affordable Vietnamese food. We tried Beef Stew and Banh Mi during our visit. This is located at Manalo Extension, Puerto Princesa City.
WHERE TO STAY
AQUARI TRAVELER’S SUITES
Aquari Traveler’s Suite is strategically located in the heart of the city, few minutes away from tourist attractions. Rooms are affordable, breakfast is also included. It is located at Junction 1, National Highway, Brgy. San Miguel, Puerto Princesa City. Check their Facebook page for more details.
PANJA RESORT PALAWAN
Situated on top of a hill, Panja Resort Palawan promises an unforgettable stay in Puerto Princesa with their exquisite rooms, infinity pool, a restaurant offering Asian fusion and international cuisine, and a rooftop bar with a 360 degree-view of the city. They are located at Bay Vista Road,Puerto Princesa City. Check their website panjaresortpalawan.com for inquiries and more details.
WHAT TO BRING HOME
Never leave the City of Puerto Princesa without buying pasalubong for your loved ones back home, which greatly helps our local entrepreneurs. Pasalubong items may be bought in stalls near attractions like the Puerto Princesa Underground River in Sabang, Buenavista View Deck, Honda Bay Tour jump off point, Baker’s Hill, Iwahig Penal Colony Souvenir Shop, LRC 908 Market Mall and the public market where you can buy dried fish and cashew nuts at a cheaper price. Here are some of your take home treat options:
1. Dried Fish & Squid
2. Cashew Nuts
3. Souvenir (t-shirt, key chain, ref magnet, etc.)
4. Home Décor and handicrafts
5. Binuatan Products (bags, wallets, placemats, table runner, etc.)
6. Locally-made chocolate bars with cashew nuts
7. Accessories made of pearls
Here is a 4D3N suggested itinerary for your Puerto Princesa City Tour:
Day 1: CITY TOUR
1. Immaculate Conception Cathedral
2. Plaza Cuartel
3. Palawan Museum
4. Palawan Provincial Capitol
5. Palawan Heritage Center
6. Special Battalion World War II Memorial Museum
7. Binuatan Creations
8. Mitra Ranch
9. Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm
10. Iwahig Firefly Watching River Cruise
Day 2: PUERTO PRINCESA UNDERGROUND RIVER TOUR
1. Karst Mountain Elephant Cave
2. Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour
3. Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour
4. Ugong Rock
5. Buenavista View Deck
Day 3: HONDA BAY TOUR
1. Pambato Reef
2. Luli Island
3. Cowrie Island
4. Starfish Island
5. Puerto Princesa City Baywalk
Day 4: PASALUBONG SHOPPING
1. Baker’s Hill
2. Pasalubong Center
3. Public Market
WHERE IS PALAWAN IN THE PHILIPPINES
Philippine map by Eugene Alvin Villar (seav) – English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=767366
The City of Puerto Princesa, and the Province of Palawan as a whole has long been popular not just in the Philippines but in other parts of the world as well because of its pristine beaches, colorful underwater world and picturesque islands. But aside from these, the city also gives more focus now in promoting its rich heritage and vibrant culture. It also attracts more businesses to invest in the city due to its strategic location and resiliency to natural calamities. It has earned its reputation as one of the cleanest, if not the cleanest, cities in the country. Most of all, the warmth of its people who welcomes its visitors in open arms, which truly represents the heart of Puerto Princesa City.
Special thanks to Philippine Airlines and the Puerto Princesa City Local Government for making this trip possible. Check their website at www.philippineairlines.com for promos and updates.