Suppose you are planning to visit Palawan, or you’re coming from another part of the Philippines. In that case, you should never miss seeing one of the most breathtaking sceneries that you can only witness in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
Puerto Princesa is Palawan’s capital city, acclaimed as one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines and blessed with countless natural wonders and disciplined people. This capital is considered to be the cleanest and greenest city in the Philippines.
Puerto Princesa is said to be the largest province in terms of land area. There are 66 barangays and populated with approximately 292,286 people, according to the 2020 census. Puerto Princesa has been classified as a Highly Urbanized City in MIMAROPA. It is also the least densely populated city in the Philippines. Puerto Princesa Palawan is the westernmost city in the Philippines.
The name came from several origins. Because of its geographical area, which can accommodate any shipping vessel size, it became a seaport. The other part is more interesting. The locals say to have seen a princess-like maiden roaming around the place on certain nights of the year. Hence they called the place Puerto Princesa.
Historically, Spain originally named it after the daughter of Isabella II of Spain, Princess Asuncion. But because of the said princess’s untimely death, the queen changed the name to Puerto de la Princesa. Eventually, it was shortened to Puerto Princesa.
Puerto Princesa is a vacationist city with many beach resorts and seafood restaurants. As mentioned, it is the cleanest and greenest city in the Philippines and has also been acclaimed several times as the “Eco-Tourism Center of the Philippines.” In recent years, Puerto Princesa has seen an increase in investors bringing their business, with that many hotels and resorts developed in the process.
You can travel to Puerto Princesa by air through the Puerto Princesa International Airport and by sea through the Port of Puerto Princesa. Traveling to places will be a cinch as many different transportation modes can be found to go around the city.
There are so dozens of things to see and countless places to visit in this tropical paradise. It can be quite challenging to plan your next adventure with your friends and family. But have no fear! Here is a listing of the best things to do and places to visit in the city of Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
PUERTO PRINCESA UNDERGROUND RIVER
One of the city’s pride is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (is also called Puerto Princesa Underground River), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The 8.2-kilometer (about 5 miles) river is said to be the longest navigable underground river in the world. The cave system alone is 24 kilometers (about 15 miles) long. In 2010, environmentalists and geologists discovered that the underground river has a second floor, finding small waterfalls inside the cave.
Entering the cave, you can expect to see rock formations called stalactites and stalagmites. While inside, you can find more rock formations and bats. You might even see giant bats. Explorers found marvelous things inside the underground river, which are not part of the regular tourist route, including deep water hole in the river, more river channels, another deep cave, and different marine creatures. Deeper areas of the underground river remain unexplored and are almost impossible to explore due to oxygen deprivation.
This wonder is in the Saint Paul Mountain Range on the western coast of the island. You’ll also see the St. Paul Bay to the north of the river and the Babuyan River to the east. The entrance to the Underground River is in Sabang, a small town approximately 80 kilometers from the city proper. You will need to go to the San Jose Terminal. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can ride a jeepney; otherwise, there are vans to Sabang, which is 2 to 3 hours away.
HONDA BAY ISLAND HOPPING
Another popular activity in Puerto Princesa is going on an island-hopping tour around the famous Honda bay. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Puerto Princesa and is well known for its white-sand beaches, beautiful landscapes, sceneries, coral reefs, and home to abundant marine life.
You might take a jeepney or a tricycle ride from your hotel accommodation to Sta. Lourdes Wharf. Traveling will take about 30 minutes each way from most hotels in Puerto Princesa Proper. Upon arriving in the area, you have to register and pay for fees and pick your island. If you are unfamiliar to which island to choose, here is a brief description of these fantastic islands:
Starfish Island, a.k.a. “Tabuan Island,” is one of the most visited islands. Home to various sizes and colored starfishes, locals and foreign tourists enjoy being able to see them all in one place. This small island is also a sandbar with few cottages available for picnicking hoppers and a nice place to relax and unwind.
Cowrie Island is the nearest island to Honda Bay. Its name is derived from a shell, a brightly-shelled mollusk, as the island itself is shaped like a cowrie. It has a breathtaking stretch of white sandy beach and clear blue waters. It is another must-visit, perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
Luli Island! The name comes from two words, “lulubog-lilitaw,” which translated to is “sinking and appearing or surfacing” in English. This island disappears during high tide and reappears during low tide. It’s best to visit during low tide so you can witness the golden sandbar that almost forms a perfect circle.
Pandan Island is known for it’s vast and beautiful coral reef not far from the shore. It is the best place to go snorkeling and diving. Note that this island is not part of the usual day tours because a private corporation recently acquired it. But if you are a coral reef lover, this is the place you must undoubtedly visit.
Pambato Reef is the place to go if you’re traveling on a budget and wanted to go snorkeling. It is in the middle of the bay, where the shallow sections are approximately 10 feet from the coral reefs. It would only take a 15-minute boat ride from the harbor to get to this marine sanctuary. Rafts floating above the reef marks the location where tourists may get off and freely snorkel or dive around the reef.
Bat Island is a sanctuary and home for thousands of giant fruit bats. The island is full of mangrove trees where the bats “hang-out.” During the late afternoon, you may witness thousands of bats on the horizon flying to the main island in search of food. It’s also a nice place to snorkel and discover the marine life in the area.
Snake Island though not infested with snakes, is shaped like a snake. It is mostly made up of a white sandbar that stretches up to 2 kilometers long. The corals were near to the shore, so many corals were damaged. A rehabilitation last 2010 started, and this has increased the marine life. Now it has one of the wealthiest concentrations of marine life. It’s perfectly splendid to do some snorkeling in its waters.
Arreceffi Island is an island exclusively owned by the Dos Palmas Island Resorts. You can do several different activities, such as kayaking, snorkeling, fishing, and scuba diving. And be sure not to miss a diving spot, a magnificent sea garden, Helen’s Garden. Arreceffi Island is the only island that offers overnight accommodation, and it is the second-largest island in the bay. Day tours are available, but a time on this island is exclusive to those who are also customers of the Dos Palmas Island Resorts.
There are other small islands and sandbars you can visit. Some of these are Adobo Island, Kabayo-Kabayo Sandbar, Henry’s Reef, Isla-Putting Buhangin, Isla Barlas, Isla Bugias, Bush Island, Domingo Soledad Sandbar.
One thing for sure is that the calm water and sandy bottoms beat any hotel pools!
IWAHIG RIVER FIREFLY WATCHING
The Iwahig River firefly watching is an exhilarating experience! The beauty of this natural wonder along the river at night is unique. The river is a 45-minute drive from the town proper of Puerto Princesa. There will be a waiting area where you have to register. The staff will provide life vests before you hop on a paddleboat. Your boatman will paddle along the Sicsican and Iwahig River and be ready to be captivated by thousands of Philippine fireflies illuminating like Christmas lights in various mangrove trees located alongside the riverbank. You can also enjoy dinner at the Iwahig Firefly Restaurant, the Ka Inato Restaurant, or the District Seven Restaurant.
KAMIA BAY INFLATABLE PARK
Just 30 to 45 minutes away from Puerto Princesa City is Kamia Bay Island Adventure in Binusalian Bay at Barangay Luzviminda. This inflatable park is the biggest aqua-adventure playground in Asia. It is a giant inflatable trampoline park that floats just off the shore of the beach. The challenging obstacle consists of oversized trampolines, a human launcher, a 40 feet tall slide, and various floating obstacle courses. It offers eco-tours, kayak escapades, a lunch buffet, and other organic food options. Entrance to Kamia Bay Resort is free, and you will only have to pay for the activities and other amenities in the resort.
Sabang is a tiny village in Puerto Princesa Palawan. The famous underground river can be through the Sabang Pier, or you can go on a forest trek to the underground river entrance via Monkey Trail. Still, the Sabang beach itself is a paradise, and there is various accommodation that offers overnight stays in which you can enjoy the activities around Sabang. If you want to relax, it gets pretty quiet when day tours are gone.
Since Puerto Princesa is active in spreading awareness about their conservation, their century-old mangroves are a sight to behold. Local guides will help you navigate the calm river located in Sabang as they tell you more about the mangroves’ significant role in the environment. You will also spot wildlife living around like reptiles and monkeys. After the tour, you can also join in on a mangrove tree planting activity.
There are other activities that you can do in Sabang. You can try zip lining above the pure blue ocean or ride an ATV around the Sabang beach. You can also get an overnight organic farm stay and a tour around the area. Explore the Elephant Cave and Lion Cave, play basketball with locals, visit local waterfalls, and have a massage on the beach.
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY TOUR
Puerto Princesa has a lot of stories to tell when you visit its historical sites.
Here are the most popular sites:
Located along Baranggay Liwanag is a small park with a great history. A famous park with a harsh past, Plaza Cuartel in Puerto Princesa, was a Spanish garrison taken over by the Americans and later by Japanese forces during World War II. It might look like an ordinary park with concrete pavements and beautiful landscapes and decorations, but once you know its history, you will never look at it the same way again.
Plaza Cuartel is the site of the Palawan Massacre during World War II. Inside is a tunnel where the Japanese army imprisoned and kept many people, including American prisoners of war. But on the 14th of December 1944, the Japanese decided to burn them alive. Many perished, but eleven American prisoners were able to survive and escape the mass execution.
The Plaza Cuartel commemorates both the survivors and the fallen servicemen during the time of war. You will find a memorial statue in the middle of the park that lists down the fallen soldiers’ names and the 11 survivors.
Immaculate Conception Parish Church or Cathedral Church
Located along Rizal Avenue in Baranggay Liwanag across the historic Plaza Cuartel, it is one of the city’s popular tourist destinations. The historic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish has been known as the hub of a spiritual haven for locals and Puerto Princesa City visitors.
The cathedral was built in the late part of the 1800s during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. Also known to some as the Puerto Princesa Cathedral. It was only a small church, but through the years, it was renovated into a cathedral and was constantly repainted by the local government to ensure its preservation. Most package tours include visiting this cathedral. It is also accessible because it is situated in the middle of the city. It will be worth visiting the Immaculate Concepcion Parish Church because it is one of the grandest and most breathtaking Roman Catholic edifices in the town and the whole of Palawan.
Puerto Princesa Baywalk
While most of the most enjoyable things to do in Puerto Princesa are outside the main city, there are still plenty of city activities. This adventure happens in the City Baywalk, for there is nothing better than an evening stroll down the bay-walk with the fresh breeze brushing up against your skin.
The Puerto Princesa Baywalk is a long stretch of promenade and a well-paved walkway just right beside the bay. It is the city’s version of the Manila Bay. Here you can also enjoy the sweet air and the beautiful view of the seaside. It is located 5 minutes away from Plaza Cuartel.
There are food stalls, street vendors, and shops that are open around lunchtime to 11 o’clock in the evening. So, if you catch a hungry stomach, you’ll find inexpensive food in between your walks. There are also restaurants that offer grilled seafood, some specialty meat, and other delicacies.
At the end of the park are lined up bicycles of different choices. These bicycles are for rent in the late afternoon when the breeze is more relaxing. These bikes are to be used in the park vicinity only. The rental fees are only minimal but are still depending on the size and type of bike rented.
Most locals and tourists recommend this place to hang out around sunset up to the late evening, for this is a place where you can collect the best photographs. Most city visitors find it more fun to dine here than being confined in a hotel’s restaurant or even those popular fancy dining establishments in the city. The visit to this Baywalk Park is usually included in most city tours of Puerto Princesa.
Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC)
Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC), an 8-acre land, is formerly known as Crocodile Farming Institute (Crocodile Farm and Nature Park) that opened in 1987 is only about 30 minutes outside Puerto Princesa downtown. The conservation center has since extended its operations to cover the protection and preservation of endangered species and other animals.
This destination is a favorite tourist attraction and a research center for conservation and further studies of Palawan’s endangered species, including crocodiles. The crocodiles remain the main attraction, and visitors can see both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles at all stages of the life cycle.
There is also a 4-hectare nature reserve where visitors can explore. Inside, you can find a mini-forest that visitors can hike, a mini-zoo (a small wildlife park) at the back of the facility. The mini-zoo houses several species of mammals, reptiles, and birds that roam the grounds freely. One of the structures is a ‘hospital’ for sick and disabled rescued crocodiles.
The trip will include a tour guide who will explain the different types of species found in the area. You can also take a picture of some of the crocodiles during the tour. You can also find a mini shop around the facility where you can buy souvenirs to take home for remembrance.
The late Senator Ramon Mitra and his family own this piece of land. Mitra’s Ranch is situated on the Sta Monica Heights, which offers a remarkable city view. Locals call it Rancho Sta. Monica or Rancho ni Mitra. Mitra’s Ranch is an extraordinary getaway that will give you a different commune with nature. While visiting, you can experience farm life with a serene and relaxing view of the green fields, cows, and horses.
For people who love meditation or just relaxation in general, this is a place to visit in Puerto Princesa—located in the hilly terrain of Santa Monica. Here you’ll witness the beautiful view of the mountains, the sky, the sea, and the city all in one view! Here, you will find yourself enjoying the beauty of the scenery and the freshness of the air.
You can also visit The Mitras’ mansion. For a small fee, take pictures and see the beauty of the estate. There are also other activities, including horseback riding, zipline, trampoline, and walking on the skywalk, a giant swing (that is more like a mini bungee jump). You can also enjoy a picnic with your friends and family.
Mitra’s Ranch is about 15-20 minutes from the town, and you can ride a jeepney, a tricycle, or a private car. It’s also included in most of the day tour packages.
Found on a top of a hill where several bakers work together to offer the best deliciously baked goodies for tourists and visitors. The owner started with only a simple bakeshop. As a way of giving back to the people, the owner decided to transform their land into a theme park with many different landscapes that are free for all to come and see.
The place includes playgrounds with different cartoon character statues. Inside, you can also find a mini-zoo and visit the famous peacocks and other colorful birds. The area also has a spot for couples, as you will see many romantic decorative pieces. Also, it is renowned for its “pasalubong stop” with its freshly-baked, delicious local delicacies. You can choose from their famous hopia, crinkles, and cashew candy, and many more that you can nibble on or take home as a treat or “pasalubong.”
There is no place like Baker’s Hill with its delicious goodies and beautiful park and garden to enjoy. If you want an experience of Puerto Princesa’s best delicacies, Baker’s Hill is just 3 minutes away from Mitra’s Ranch!
Butterfly Eco Garden and Tribal Village
Another part of the Puerto Princesa City Tour route is the Palawan Butterfly Eco-Garden and Tribal Village, formerly known as the Butterfly Garden. It is one of the most popular and most frequented tourist destinations in the city.
Half of the land is a lovely garden where you can see different species and fluttering butterflies. Another half is set up to interact with the members of the Palawan tribe who sell crafts, conduct exhibitions, and play instruments.
As its name suggests, this ecological garden supports environmental awareness by showcasing various butterflies, other insects, and some other endemic and endangered species like the Palawan bearcat. A tour guide will help you understand and appreciate more the species found in the garden.
The tribal village’s purpose is to give the guests a cultural background of the indigenous people called “Palaw’an.” An interactive, informative, and cultural tour awaits you here in their Tribal Village. You will get to know the indigenous people more, and they will show you their very own musical instruments, hunting tools, and more.
They would demonstrate how they use their hunting tools and obtain meat that is safe for consumption (no animal is harmed during the demonstrations). They also have their version of musical instruments that sound like the guitar and violin, that they play along with singing their native songs. Also included in the exhibition is how to start a fire using two stones.
The tribe also has its own alphabet and dialect, and if you want to communicate with the villagers, you can ask the guide (who is usually a villager) to translate and interpret things for you. The villagers would stay to trade their goods and would go back to their houses in the mountains when done. But some villagers now have settled for good in the city.
Explore Palawan Museums
Various museums can be found around Puerto Princesa, and one of them is the Palawan Museum that is devoted to exhibiting Palawan’s cultural heritage. It is one of the best places to learn about archaeological findings related to the Tabon Man. He is the oldest bones of a human found in the Philippines.
Another is the Palawan Special Battalion World War II Memorial Museum built in memory of Dr. Higinio Mendoza, a local hero who sparked the first guerilla warfare against Japanese forces. Inside the museum, you will see various war memorabilia like uniforms and artillery, honoring the brave men who fought during the war.
The Palawan Heritage Center is an interactive museum with a hologram of a Tagbanua girl greeting the visitors and giving them a warm welcome to learn more about her home province. The museum has an outline of Palawan’s history and explains the contemporary economic and environmental challenges.
These museums can only be found at the heart of the Puerto Princesa city proper.
There you have it! These are only some of the many places you can visit and things you can do here in Puerto Princesa! You will never regret visiting this beautiful place. This place is truly a paradise.
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