Sunday, April 29, 2012

Puerto Princesa Underground River

A giant stalagmite at the
Puerto Princesa Underground
River in Palawan.
UPDATE MAY 16, 2016

As of January 2016 to avoid noise inside the cave and pursuant to City Ordinance No. 647 the park now requires guest to use the Audio Device. Any guest who will get a Permit is subject for Php85.00 payment for the said device.

Environmental Fee is also being implemented at the park. Php40.00 shall be collected upon registration at the Sabang Information Office.
I'm told that there is a a 20 to 30 minute wait once you get to the river cove.

You wait for the boat to take you to the underground river cove, then you walk a short trail and wait again for your boat. Time waiting around could be as much as 45 minutes at each stop.

Palawan Underground River

Puerto Princesa Underground River, in Palawan, Philippines has become one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, driving tourists here at an unprecedented rate! It is allegedly one of the longest navigable underground rivers in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It's so popular that one has to book several months in advance!  If you plan on going at peak season then book a month ahead of time.

Make sure to bring a valid ID with you when you purchase your permit. If you book through an agent, they will require the full name and age of everyone in your group.

If you go with a Guided Tour Group, it is an all day event. They will pick you up at your hotel and lunch will be provided before or after the tour, depending on the time your tour begins. They will also let you know what other things there are to do once you get to Sabang, such as a mangrove tour, zip line and many mountain trails to go on. If you go on any of these trails, be sure to bring lots of mosquito repellent!  They are working on an online booking system which is supposed to be operational by Sept. 2012.

Photo by Diana J. Limjoco. Taken inside
the Puerto Princesa Underground River
It is approximately an hour and a half in a van or car to the PPUR from Puerto Princesa city center. The last kilometer or so is still unpaved, hence a bit rugged in the rainy season.

The last few kilometers are the prettiest with tall native trees lining the road. Limestone hills in the background behind rices paddies as you get closer to Sabang town.

When you get there you will report to the Tourism office (or your guide will) then board a motorized pump boat to the Underground River cove. You will  pass many beautiful limestone cliffs along the way. The waters are a deep blue and light green close to shore and easy on the eyes.  That boat ride is only about 15 minutes long. They supply life vests on board. .

Click to enlarge any photo.
You then land in a cove with a large limestone cliff and from there, it is a short walk to the next cove through indigenous trees. Along the way you might be lucky enough to see one of huge monitor lizards, locally called "bayawak", whose residence it is. You will be registered again at the smaller cove where you can actually see the entrance to the river. There's usually a bunch of monkeys that hang out there looking for handouts. You will then board a small paddle boat and a boatman who will do his best to amuse, entertain and educate you to the treasures of the PPUR.  The waters outside the cave are usually a beautiful turquoise blue.  The entire tour inside the river cave takes 45 minutes.

One person will be assigned to hold the very large flashlight and will be directed where to point it by the canoe (banca) guide. Just when you begin to focus on one great stalactite or stalagmite, he will be on to the next one. Digital cameras have a hard time focusing in the dark cave with only the flashlight as light source.

It's dank and humid in the cave and there are bats and starlings flitting about. The guide explains you can't swim in there because the water is brackish, which is to say, the fresh water mixed with the sea water. I'm a little on the claustrophobic side but the cave ceiling is high enough that I didn't feel boxed in.

Once you get back to Sabang, there are other things to do such as the Zip Line, Mangrove tour, souvenir shopping, mountain trail hiking etc.

There are a couple of high end hotels such as the Daluyon Resort, which is very native and cozy with a huge swimming pool and restaurant, or the Sheridan Resort and Spa which is a modern hotel with an even larger pool, restaurant and other amenities. There are also many Inns for the budget traveler as well, should you decide to stay. They recently opened a new resort called Rengel Resort. It has a combination of native with modern touches and a beautiful infinity pool.

One of the many natural mineral sculptures inside the Puerto Princesa Underground River.
Sabang beach was pretty and very clean when we have gone. Sometimes we go there just for the day and visit the different restaurants and hotels. The hotels will let you swim in their pools, I think, if you consume 250.00php per person for a meal. Anyway, we used to swim at Daluyon Resort pool.

If you decide to swim at the beach BE WARNED, that the Sabang beach waters have a very strong undertow at different seasons, do not let small children play alone in the waters. The undertow has taken full grown men and drowned them.  I hate to sound like a downer, but it's best to be safe and happy.  We have swam there many times over the years without incident, but I turned my back for 2 seconds and our toddler was being scooted out to sea by the waters so fast it made my head spin, and she was just sitting on the shore like me!
The boat ride to the PPUR has many limestone cliffs along the shoreline.
Daluyon Resort sent this carabao cart after us when we arrived during rainy season in July of 2009, because the road to the resort was too muddy to  go by car or van. It was such a pleasant surprise and a delightful ride.

Updated May 2016

Tour Tickets can be purchased from certified Tourist Agencies and directly from the Underground River Office at the City Coliseum. Going to Sabang and staying at a Hotel there, will NOT insure you a ticket.

Park Rates and Entrance Fee - 

Hours of Operation at the Underground River Booking office at the City Coliseum are:

Monday through Friday - 8 am to 4 pm with no lunch break.

Saturday and Sunday - 8 - 11 Am  Closed for Lunch - then 1 PM to 4 PM

The Motorized Boats going to the Underground River also adjusted their rental prices: 2016
6 Passenger boat per trip: Php 1,100
7 Passenger boat per trip: Php 1,255
8 Passenger boat per trip: Php 1,425

and for those who would like to do the Jungle Trail, there's an Entrance Fee of Php 200.00 per person and it includes a Community Trail Guide.

Underground River Tour Rates
● PHP 1800 / Adult (7 years old and above)
● PHP 1000 / Child (3 years old to 7)
● FREE for Children below 3 years old
For groups above 12 please contact us directly thru

Tour Inclusions

● Airconditioned van
● Boat transportation
● Pick up and drop at accommodation within City Proper
● Service of a licensed tour guide
● All Entrance Fee’s & Terminal Fee’s
● Buffet lunch

Tours for the Underground River can be suspended and Visitor Entry Permits cancelled any day due to meteorological conditions. The affected visitor may opt to rebook for the tour or seek a refund of amount paid for the VEP. In such case, Management shall waive all rebooking fees or refund surcharges.

Boat to Underground River Beach - P700.00 for 6 persons -round trip (if not purchased as a tour package)

Van Rental from the City Proper
P 3,500.00 - two way (average van rental price) This is a private hire. You can go and come back at your own pace.

Packaged tours P 1,800 per person. Best Deal
Includes van- round trip, Underground River tour and permits, boat ride, lunch and other things depending on the tour operator. You will be with other random persons and this is a full day tour. Most of the reputable hotels have tour packages.

There are many tour agencies on Rizal Avenue near the airport as well.

Here is a list of the Airline Schedules To Puerto Princesa at the PPUR alternate official website.

List of Accredited Tourist Agencies with addresses and Emails

List of Accommodations by Inns, Pensions and Hotels

You arrive at this cove and walk to the next smaller cove, where you will be taken by paddle boat inside the watery caves of the Puerto Princesa Underground River.

Amazing Photos of the Puerto Princesa Underground river by La Venta Org

This is the part of the cave not open to the general public as it's more difficult to access and also to preserve it, Taken by La Venta Org.

Photo by La Venta It, Org.
Photo by La Venta It, Org.

Photo by La Venta It, Org.

Photo by La Venta It, Org.

Photo by La Venta It, Org.

Photo by La Venta It, Org.

Photo by La Venta It, Org.

Here is another blog about the PP underground river:

Yet another blog about acquiring a permit to enter the PPUR