I traveled solo during my first visit to the Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan. I did it on a do-it-yourself (DIY) itinerary and to save on costs, walked the 5-kilometer jungle trail to the cave’s mouth.
It was one of those early moments when I got to experience how it is to “backpack” my way to exotic places in the Philippines.
I would still love to do the jungle trail over again but on my revisit to Palawan, me and my travel buddies took the more convenient package tour option.
I traveled to the same destination but the experience couldn’t be more different.
Puerto Princesa Airport to Sabang
I arrived in Puerto Princesa a day earlier than my travel buddies. Took a tricycle (P20 fare) from Banwa Art House to the airport. I was the one who welcomed them to Puerto Princesa :)
I met these guys during a trip to Calaguas, Camarines Norte last summer. I thoroughly enjoyed our trip because they made me feel welcome even though I was a stranger. We shared the same love for travel, which made for a great instant connection.
Our reunion was marked by the unfortunate incident of two people in our group not able to go on with the trip. They arrived at the airport in Manila too late to catch their flight to Puerto Princesa. It made the trip a bit rough for our designated trip planner because downpayment for our transportation and accommodations were already accounted for.
We left Puerto Princesa Airport at around 10:30am and arrived at Sabang Beach an hour and 30 minutes later.
Arrival in Sabang Beach
We were famished when we arrived in Sabang Beach and headed straight to the buffet lunch at the beachfront. Sabang Beach gets really crowded during lunch time because of the hordes of tourists visiting the Underground River everyday.
This is a big contrast to evenings at Sabang Beach. Considerably less people actually spend the night there.
Most people go on day tours from Puerto Princesa. This tour is priced at around P1,500-P1,800 per person (inc. of lunch, fees, and transport).
We traveled in December and was lucky enough to be blessed by sunny weather and clear skies.
Had some time to roam around after lunch. The place is more popular now that the Puerto Princesa Underground River has been distinguished on the provisional list of New7Wonders of Nature.
Boat Ride from Sabang Beach to the Underground River
Follow the link to view the expenses when doing a PP Underground River DIY trip.
Because we were on a packaged tour, everything was already taken cared of. We only needed to hop on the boat.
Sabang Ferry Terminal. Each pumpboat had a maximum capacity of 6 persons. We had to split our group into two.
Awesome views of the National Park. There is more to this area than just the Underground River! I still want to come back to see its deep forests and waterfalls
The other pumpboat
Beautiful limestone formations
Arrival at the beach near the cave’s mouth
A short walk along the trail is needed to reach the receiving area for the underground river.
Underground River Tour
I’ve read blog posts about the long queue for the Underground River Tour. Fortunately, we didn’t wait too long for our turn since there wasn’t a horribly huge crowd during our visit.
This time, I was prepared with an external flash (Nikon SB-700) to get better shots inside the cave.
It was hard to get the focus right because of the dim lighting. The boat was constantly moving and I missed some good shots because my camera was struggling to autofocus.
I finally figured out it was best to switch to manual focus. My trick was to use the autofocus first, then switch to manual once the camera gets the focus right.
Our tour guide gave us the same speech that I listened to on my first visit. The tour guide is also the paddler and in-boat comedian.
Pretty much all who’ve visited the underground river are familiar with the scripted comedic “material” they have. It was definitely more fun now that I had company who were enjoying the jokes (mostly because of how corny they were). At least now, the tour guide’s jokes were met by laughter and not by the awkward lull echoes of the cave and camera shutter clicks (when I was doing the tour alone).
End of the tour
Rained outside after exiting the cave
Loved the low branches at the beach
Group photo with the Travel Mates. Thanks to Bogs for taking the picture. The girl in the center maintains a blog full of beautiful photos at Not Your Ordinary Angel.
Boat Ride Back to Sabang Beach
We got to witness the beautiful “after-the-rain” look of the mountains on our way back to Sabang Beach
Sabang to El Nido
We continued our journey to El Nido. The van ride from Sabang to El Nido took 5-hours.
Arrival in El Nido
We spent the first two nights at Hadefe’s Cottages. It was already dark when we arrived in El Nido. Too dark to see a view of El Nido’s off shore islands.
I’ve visited this area during my sunset walk at Calaan Beach.
It was the first time, however, for most in our travel group. I was excited to see how the others would react to be welcomed by the sight of El Nido’s breathtaking seascapes come daylight.
Underground River and El Nido Package Tour
We hired a travel agency to arrange a customized package tour for our 5D/4N trip to Puerto Princesa Underground River and El Nido.
I paid a total of P4,905 inclusive of:
- Airconditioned van transport from Puerto Princesa Airport to Sabang Beach
- Boat transfers and entrance fees / permits to the Puerto Princesa Underground River (inclusive of buffet lunch at Sabang Beach)
- Van transport from Sabang Beach to El Nido
- 4 nights stay in El Nido (2 nights each in Hadefe’s Cottages and Rico’s Cottages)
- 3 whole days worth of tours in El Nido (inclusive of picnic lunch at the beach)
- Day 1: Island hopping tour A + B combination
- Day 2: Island hopping tour C + D combination
- Day 3: Nacpan and Calintang Beach (mainland El Nido) tour
There were 9 of us in the travel group.
The others paid P5K+ because on our 5th day, they took the van transport back to the airport and a city tour of Puerto Princesa while I stayed put in El Nido for a few more nights .
I didn’t get a hold of the contact numbers or the name of the travel agency we took.
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