Travel Guide: The Underground River in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

In Philippines, Travel Guides
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From the crystal-clear turquoise waters to the jaw-dropping rock formation, it’s no surprise Palawan is climbing its way up to fame that equals other world’s famous islands, such as Santorini, Maldives and French Polynesia.

Palawan is the Philippine’s answer to paradise.” – Planetware

…one of the world’s wonders of nature.” – Travel + Leisure

The Underground River

Travel + Leisure hailed Palawan as the “World’s Best Island”  in 2013 and in 2016 according to the votes given by avid readers. In 2015, it was also number one on the list of Condé Nast Traveler’s “Best Islands in the World: Readers’ Choice Awards 2015”.

From the crystal-clear turquoise waters to the jaw-dropping rock formation, it’s no surprise Palawan is climbing its way up to fame that equals other world’s famous islands, such as Santorini, Maldives and French Polynesia.

While El Nido and Coron are the most-sought places in this Philippines island, I will share to you another beautiful spot that deserves worldwide recognition (although it’s already familiar to some), the Underground River.

The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, most commonly known as the Underground River, was considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and voted as one of the New7Wonders of Nature in 2012. I personally think this is how the island, in general, started to be really popular not only to the eyes of Filipinos but also to other people from different countries. The number of both local and international tourists visiting this park a day had doubled, if not, tripled.

Tres Marias Islands

the Tres Marias Islands

What to expect when visiting the Underground River?

The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is geologically a cave that stretches more than 15 miles (24 km) long. It also contains water from the Cabayugan River; hence, called as the Underground River.

If you are into nature (like I do), you should be able to appreciate the formation of stalactites and stalagmites inside the cave.

My family and I went here in 2012, and it was amazing. The road trip alone is enjoyable as you can see nothing but rice fields, green luscious mountains and maybe a carabao (a local water buffalo). Be sure to have a quick stop for a view of the magnificent Tres Marias Islands. Besides, it takes about 2 hours ride from Puerto Princesa to Sabang. I’m pretty sure you need some break for bathroom and to stretch your legs.

 

Upon reaching Sabang, you need to pay for the visitor’s/entrance fee and hop on a motorized pump boat to head to the cave. This takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

Well, here’s a bonus – you get to enjoy these amazing postcard views TWICE, during your boat ride from Sabang to the Underground River and going back. The 30 to 45-minute ride won’t be that bad after all!

 

 

Welcome to the Underground River!

Puerto Princesa Underground River

the mouth of the Underground River

Be sure to read the guidelines. It’s important to know the dos and don’ts. It’s for your own safety, trust me.

park guidelines

 

After wearing a life-jacket and a helmet, get into your assigned park-operated paddleboat to begin the 1-hour tour of the Underground River.

Are you ready to enter the cave?

entering the cave

Once inside the cave, you see different rock formations, usually you see stalactites. Watch out the bats, though. They are noisy and literally “pee” over you.

 

You can spend extra time enjoying the breathtaking view of the docking area. It’s best to do the photoshoots after your tour (before heading back to Sabang) since you’re given a specific time to tour inside the cave.

 

Whether you like it or not, there’s an official photographer who’s going to capture a few photos. You can optionally buy your photos from the booth.

photographer

There are also monkeys and monitor lizards, otherwise known as Palawan water monitors. It’s not advisable to touch them or go very close to them, but you can take photos with them. Most important to keep in mind is NEVER feed the animals.

 

You may also want to try the zipline after the cave tour. We didn’t try this as it’s not part of our tour. How I wish I did!

Sabang X Zipline
+63 48 723 3401

zipline rope

 


 

How to get there?

1. Plan the Trip

You must make sure to have scheduled a day tour 3 to 7 days before the desired date of your trip. You can directly book at the Local Tourism Office (see City Coliseum below) or contact a travel agency for assistance.

pumpboat

a pumpboat

Entrance fee per person:
$3.5 to $5.5 (PhP 150 to 250) for Filipinos
$5.5 to $7.5 250-350 for international tourists

Boat Rental:
around $15 or PhP700 (good for 6 people)

City Coliseum
Right Wing, City Coliseum, San Pedro, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines
Telephone: (+63) 48-4344211
Telefax: (+63) 48-4332983
Email: puertoturismo@yahoo.com

If you book through a travel agency, prepare at least $43 or PhP 2,000 per head, which include van transportation from hotel to Puerto Princesa and vice versa, tour with a guide and buffet lunch. It cost more if you include a hotel accommodation.

Take note: there’s a limit of visitors per day. The earlier you book the better.

 

2. Book Flights

Whether you are traveling from the Philippines or somewhere else, you need to book a flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa. Flights for this trip are available on a daily basis, so there’s no problem getting there any time of the day. It takes about an hour to get to Puerto Princesa airport.

Check and compare flights from these airlines:
*Cebu Pacific Air
*Philippine Airline (PAL)
Air Asia

*domestic airlines

 

What’s the best time to visit?

The Philippines has only two seasons: dry and wet seasons. The best time to visit the Underground River is during the dry season, which is from January to April. However, you may also consider visiting in November or December.

 

What to pack?

While you might not forget a camera, the most important is mask. You don’t want to smell the urine and waste of bats. You may also opt for a raincoat since bats just pee everywhere (sorry but that’s a reality).

Essential to bring:
light/summer clothes
a pair of sunglasse
hat
nose and mouth mask
medicines/vaccines
flashlight
map/tour guide booklet
binocular {optional)
camera
Philippine peso money

* Check out more photos from this gallery:

 

Hope you had fun reading! If you did, share this!

 

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