Puerto Princesa is the capital city of the province of Palawan and the westernmost city of the Philippines. It is the least densely populated city in the country.
Bound to the east by the Sulu Sea and to the west by the South China Sea, this tourist city offers a lot of beaches and seafood restaurants. It is also cheaper to fly to Puerto Princesa if you are visiting El Nido and it can be a good side trip.
So here’s our list of best things to do in Puerto Princesa, which is not restricted to beach bumming and seafood bingeing.
14 Things to Do in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines
1. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
This UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New7Wonders of Nature is also called the ‘Puerto Princesa Underground River.’ It’s a mountainous national park known for its 8.2-km long underground river and caves with boat tours. The astonishing 300 million years of formation and continuously forming is a must- experience.
The pungent smell from the bats may turn you off if you are sensitive, but you get used to it as you get immersed in this astonishing beauty of nature. An audio program provides historical and technical information about the Underground River as you go. Fees: Visitor’s Entry Permit (VEP) General Entrance costs 100 PHP for local tourists and 150 PHP for foreigners.
Cave entrance fee is 175 PHP for locals and 250 PHP for foreigners. There is also an environmental fee of 40 PHP per pax. The boat to Underground River from Sabang Wharf (and vice-versa) is good for 6 persons at 1,100 PHP. Transportation to and from Sabang Wharf is about 145 PHP (locals) and 210 PHP (foreigners).
The compulsory audio device costs an additional 85 PHP. The tour lasts for about 20 minutes. Tourists are only allowed to visit 1.4km of the total river, but do ask about longer tour for extra 2000 pesos.
2. Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour
45 minutes north of the city proper, take a boat and go island-hopping at Honda Bay and visit stunning islands with white-sand beaches. See the beauty of corals and marine life as dive sites abound the Honda Bay. Every island at the bay has different thrills to offer but Starfish Island, Cowrie Island and Luli Island are great for swimming and snorkeling. Pandan Island is private and can be visited by guests on private tours only. Do note the additional entrance fee of 900 PHP.
As the name suggests, Starfish Island is teeming with starfish or sea stars. Luli Island, short for “Lulubog-Lilitaw”—Tagalog words for “sink and rise”—does just that; sink and rise. During high tide the island disappears and reappears at low tide. Cowrie Island is named after the sea snail called ‘cowrie.’ It has a Pavillion, cabanas and thatched-roof spa huts, all overlooking the sea. Pandan Island, the private island with just one small resort, has the finest and whitest sands of all these, and lush tropical forest to boot. It offers astonishing views of the Honda Bay.
Explore these islands and make your Puerto Princesa vacation extra-wonderful! The tour takes about 6 hours at 1,700 PHP fee per pax. Inclusions are the air-con van transfer from your hotel to Honda Bay, motorized boat transfer to the islands, buffet lunch with drinks, entrance fees to islands, life vest and water safety equipment, and licensed tour guide.
Note that these rates are subject to 5% service charge and 12% value-added tax. Not included in the tour are the environmental fee of 150 PHP per pax, snorkeling gear (but this can be rented from stalls at the drop-off point), and entrance fee to Pandan Island for private tours at 900 PHP per pax upon arrival.
3. Swim at Palawan’s Biggest and Longest Pool
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Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa, located near Sabang Beach in Brgy. Cabayugan takes pride in having Palawan’s biggest and longest pool that stretches up to 340 feet.
There is a pool bar in the middle where you can sit and relax while on the water. The view is beautiful at any time—day or night. Accommodation rates to Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa range from 4,700 PHP to 6,000 PHP.
4. Nagtabon Beach
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Nagtabon Beach is the best beach in Puerto Princesa not everyone has heard of. This is more of a sanctuary than a tourist attraction. If you’re looking for a less ‘touristy’ place, then this is for you. Swim, sunbathe, snorkel in summer and surf during the rainy season—or simply unwind.
To get there, take a bus going north and hop off at Bacungan Elementary School, then grab a tricycle to take you to the beach. You may also rent a private van or a motorbike.
5. Ugong Rock Spelunking and Rappeling
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Pump up your adrenaline in Ugong Rock with thrilling adventures like spelunking, rappeling through the picturesque cave. Puerto Princesa’s Ugong Rock is a gigantic moss-covered limestone formation that offers panoramic views of the mountains and the surrounding rice field at the peak.
From your guide, you will learn information about the cave and how to explore it properly. Be wowed by the untouched mineral deposits in the cave and bring out the devil in you as you descend on a single-rider zipline with a 71-meter drop.
Note that this activity is not for children 5 years old and below. Participants must note weigh more than 250 lbs. to join. The adventure package rate is around 3,300 PHP per pax.
6. Climb Thumb’s Peak Mountain
Thumb’s Peak, formerly known as Mt. Pulgar, is a majestic mountain that takes 7 hours to climb so the best itinerary we recommend is overnight camping.
The place showcases beautiful rivers, thick forest with rich varieties of flora and fauna—and of course, a stunning 360-view of nearby mountains, west coast of the island, the whole city of Puerto Princesa and the Iwahig River down the other side.
See different varieties of Nepenthes (pitcher plants) crawling under bonsai trees on the summit and various other plants still unnamed and unidentified by scientists. Get amazed by the moon and the stars through the leaves as you enjoy watching the nighttime forest canopy.
Experience a fantastic firefly-lit evening like no other! Note that this is a protected area, so you must secure a permit ahead of time. This can be arranged by your contact guide. And of course, take a local guide with you.
7. Dinner at the Floating Restaurant and Firefly Watching in Iwahig
Ride a paddleboat at night on the Iwahig River, with lots of fireflies and stars—and bio- luminescent planktons, too! Buffet dinner at the floating restaurant after the boat trip.
This is an amazing experience, a must when you’re in Puerto Princesa. Tour on a full moon and dry weather to get the best experience. You may book a boat at your hotel—or on the streets! You can book practically anywhere in the city proper.
8. Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (Crocodile Farm)
The Crocodile Farm is located in Bgy. Irawan, a 25-minute jeepney or tricycle ride you can take along Malvar Street. You may also hire a private vehicle to go there.
This is an old-school park and breeding facility for the two endangered species found in the Philippines including the endemic Philippine Crocodile.
You can also find Nicobar pigeons, talking mynah birds, Palawan bearcat, and other animals in a mini-zoo. There are also souvenir shops in the area. The entrance fee is 40 PHP per pax for adults and 10 PHP for children.
9. Palawan Butterfly Ecological Garden and Tribal Village
Located in Brgy. Sta. Monica, you can visit the butterfly garden to broaden your appreciation and knowledge of butterflies. The place houses not only a wide range of butterfly species but also other interesting and rare insects like the stag beetles and stick insects.
Scorpions, geckos, millepedes, Palawan bearcats, Philippine saltwater crocodiles and Palawan peacock pheasants can also be found here.
In the back part of the garden, there is a man-made village dedicated to one of the oldest indigenous people of Palawan—the Palawan. Tourists will learn about this tribe’s ancient language, traditional music and tribal ways of hunting animals in the forest.
The locals sell baskets, mats and other woodworks at a souvenir shop nearby. The entrance fee is 200 PHP per pax. The fare from the city proper is 15 PHP on a multicab with a Sta. Monica-Pajara route.
10. Handloom Weaving at Binuatan Creations
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Near the Butterfly Garden is the Binuatan Creations, where you can learn about one of the oldest and most highly-esteemed traditions in Palawan: handloom weaving.
Here local craftsmen will show you how to manually loom indigenous fibers such as abaca, tikog and vetiver grass that will form continuous rolls of mats. You can also try out weaving yourself using the foot-treadle floor loom.
Next to the workshop is a souvenir shop that sells handwoven purses and handbags, laptop bags, bookmarks, slippers, sleeping mats, and various others. Also sold here are civet coffee, rice coffee, and turmeric tea.
11. Mitra’s Ranch and Baker’s Hill in Sta. Monica Heights
Mitra’s Ranch, the farm owned by the family of the late Philippine Senator Ramon Mitra, sits on a picturesque hilltop.
This is a popular tourist destination that offers sweeping views of the City of Puerto Princesa from the gorgeous view deck. You can also try their zipline at 300 PHP for a ride.
Nearby is another favorite spot—a theme park called Baker’s Hill. Baker’s Hill has gained fame among the tourists and the locals alike for the baked goods they sell at very reasonable prices. The place started out as a small bakery and later expanded to become a theme park as it is now, plus a mini zoo inside.
At Baker’s Hill, they offer all sorts of goodies from brownie cakes to hopia and cashew nuts. You can also dine at any of the restaurants in Baker’s Kitchen Food Park. Entrance fee to Mitra’s Ranch is free but to get to Mitra’s house you will have to pay a 20-PHP maintenance fee per pax. Entrance to Baker’s Hill is free.
12. Immaculate Conception Cathedral
Strategically located along Rizal Avenue in Brgy. Liwanag, this historical landmark is a wonder of architecture—and more if you’re Catholic. It used to be a small church during the Spanish era and was developed into a cathedral in 1961.
Impressive not just on the outside, the interior is clean and tastefully decorated with stained glass windows as well. It is absolutely worth a shortstop—or maybe attend the mass for Catholic visitors. All pedicab drivers in Puerto Princesa have licensed tour guides so don’t hesitate to hire one to take you to the cathedral.
Non-Catholic tourists should note that this is a place of worship and be mindful of the proper respect the place deserves.
13. Plaza Cuartel
Along Taft Street, just across the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, is another historical tourist destination—the Plaza Cuartel. This is an outdoor park and the site of a military fort where more or less 150 American POWs were burned by the Japanese on the evening of December 14, 1944. The place looks just like another park you’ve been to with trees, concrete pavements, and benches, but it’s another story when you enter the gate.
You will be greeted by the garrison and tunnels that are witness to the said massacre. In the park, tourists will see the artwork made by one of the only 11 US soldiers who made it out alive from the cuartel. Plaza Cuartel is open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM. No entrance free.
14. Puerto Princesa City Baywalk Park
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This is well-known is a long stretch of promenade lined with palm trees right beside the bay. This is where locals and tourists can witness beautiful sunsets while riding a bicycle (available for rent at 75 PHP per hour), jogging around the pathways or simply walking around. Nice leisurely stroll with a view.
There are seahorse-shaped waiting sheds and the sea wall to sit on and observe the sailboats parked nearby or just enjoy the sunset and the fresh sea breeze. In the evening, the place transforms into a haven for drinking sprees and sumptuous dinners.
To get to the Baywalk, take a tricycle at 8 to 10 PHP per passenger. It is walking distance, however, if you’re staying in the city center.