Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan, is one of my favorite cities in the world and probably the local city I loved the most. It is one of the largest cities in the Philippines based on land area. Yet, it is brimming with countless natural wonders, topped with good food, outstanding cleanliness, and friendly, disciplined people. The best part, the tourism industry here is so organized that exploring is never a problem even if it’s your first time to set foot on this unique paradise.
How to Get to Puerto Princesa
Puerto Princesa is a major tourist destination in the Philippines. Thus, all major airlines — Cebu Pacific, PAL Express, Seair/Tiger Airways, and Zest Air — have direct flights here from Manila. Here are the airlines that fly to Puerto Princesa and from where:
- Cebu Pacific Air – Manila, Cebu, Davao, and Iloilo
- PAL Express – Manila, Cebu, Clark, and Busuanga
- Seair/Tiger Airways Philippines – Manila
- Zest Airways – Manila, Cebu
The airport is also within the city proper and most hotels and attractions are just a tricycle ride away.
Where to Stay in Puerto Princesa: Hotels and Inns
The biggest concentration of accommodations in Puerto Princesa is in the city center. Unless you want to spend the night on an island, then I strongly recommend staying in the city proper so you could also experience the sedated urban vibe. This will expose you to the many restaurants, bars, and shops that the city can offer.
Here are some of the budget hotels and inns that I have already had the pleasure of staying at.
- Casa Linda. A small family hotel at the heart of Puerto Princesa, Casa Linda’s building and its furniture are built in bamboo and wood. It really has a homey atmosphere. Located along Trinidad Road near Rizal Ave, it is within walking distance of the restaurant lane which includes Kinabuch’s and Ka Lui.
P900 per night for a double room
048-433-2606 or 048-433-2309
- The Legend Hotel. They used to have a budget option called PADS but it seems like they have stopped it and put it under the Legend banner, too. It looks like the PADS rooms were converted into their so-called Flats and Solo rooms. The rooms are small but cozy and sleek.
P2100 per night for a double room (with free breakfast)
- Marianne Home Inn. Another homey place to stay in the city proper, it is popular to backpackers. They have family, double, and single rooms. They also have a superior room that can accommodate up to 7 people for only P3500.
P1,500 for a double room. P395 per extra bed.
I’ll be updating the list above as soon as I try more.
Where to Eat in Puerto Princesa: Restaurants
Rizal Avenue in the city center is flanked with a number of must-try restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisines ranging from American favorites to Pinoy delicacies. Here are three establishments whose tables I have sat at.
- Ka Lui. Arguably the most famous in the city, Ka Lui offers Pinoy seafood specialties. They also give a complimentary fruit salad served on a halved coconut. You need to have prior reservation to secure a seat. Book in advance.
Address: Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa
Suggested budget: P250 per pax
- Kinabuch’s. An open-air bar and grill type. This is where you should head for if you want beer to go with your dinner. And in case you miss sampling the notorious tamilok, a mollusk best eaten raw, this is the place for that last chance to try it!
Address: Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa
Suggested budget: P200 per pax
- Balinsasayaw Restaurant. An unassuming restaurant offering cheap to mid-range Pinoy dishes. The place has this island vibe, thanks to the nipa and bamboo huts! A value meal costs P79 and a drink P49.
Suggested Budget: P130 per pax
There are more. You’ll find them all lined up along Rizal Avenue. You might also want to try those barbeque stalls along the road and have some isaw!
What to Do in Puerto Princesa: Tours
Most hotels and travel agencies offer arranged tours. While they are convenient, many of them are easy to do on your own, which will bring down the cost dramatically. Below are the most popular tours in Puerto Princesa.
- Honda Bay Tour. Travel agencies and hotels usually offer this tour for P1,100 per person. Pull a do-it-yourself and you’ll end up saving a lot especially if you’re part of a group. Take a trike to Lourdes Wharf and ask the driver to pick you up hours later. Roundtrip costs from P300 to P500. At the wharf, you can rent a boat for P1,100 to P1,300 depending on the size of the boat and the size of your group. The boatman will take you to at least 3 islands. You can easily split the cost among yourselves.
- Underground River Tour. This tour will take you on a two-hour drive to Sabang Beach, which is the takeoff point to the Subterranean River. Arranged tours cost P1300 to P1600 per person inclusive of a buffet lunch and round trip land and boat transfers. I suggest arranging with a tour operator for this one if you don’t want to go through the hassle of doing the paperwork and securing a vehicle to Sabang Beach and back.
- Puerto Princesa City Tour. A half-day tour that will show you around some attractions within the city. The itinerary usually includes Butterfly Garden, Mitra’s Ranch, Plaza Cuartel, Crocodile Farm, and Bakers’ Hill. Tour operators’ price tag on this tour is at P600 per person but you can hire a tricycle instead for P600 per tricycle, which can accommodate up to 4 peeps.
- Iwahig Firefly Watching Tour. A night of watching fireflies and the stars. A small boat will take you deeper into the mangrove forest in pitch darkness and the boatman will help you spot these incandescent creatures and identify the constellations above. Pre-arranged tours cost P1500 per person. Do it yourself and you’ll end up paying P600 for a boat that can accommodate up to 4 people (including the boatman).
If you have more days, I strongly suggest going even further north to Port Barton or San Vicente. Or even El Nido!
Places to Visit in Puerto Princesa: Attractions
Here is a short list of places I have visited in Puerto Princesa. Give the photo a click to take you to a more detailed chronicling of my experience at each stop!
Ready to fly to Puerto Princesa now? Not quite. It’s time to build an itinerary. If you’re gunning for only a weekend trip, you’re in luck. Below is my suggested itinerary for a 3D/2N getaway.
Day 1: ARRIVAL, HONDAY BAY TOUR
08:00 am: Arrival, check in at the hotel
10:00 am: Honda Bay Tour
03:00 pm: Rest, freshen up
06:00 pm: Early dinner at Ka Lui
07:30 pm: Iwahig Firefly Watching Tour
12:00 am: Sleep
Day 2: UNDERGROUND RIVER
06:00 am – Wake up, quick breakfast at hotel
07:00 am – Underground River Tour
12:00 nn – Lunch at Sabang Beach
04:00 pm – Back in city proper
07:00 pm – Dinner and inuman at Kinabuch’s
10:00 pm – SLEEP
Day 3: CITY TOUR
06:00 am – Wake up, quick breakfast
07:00 am – Half-day city tour
12:00 nn – Lunch at Balinsasayaw Grill
02:30 pm – Fly back to Manila
Needless to say, please make the necessary adjustments to match your flight schedule. Again, if you have more time, I strongly recommend paying San Vicente, Port Barton, or El Nido a visit, too.
To give you an idea on how much you might be spending on your trip, here’s the breakdown of my expenses during my last visit to Puerto Princesa. I can’t promise you that you will be spending as much. This is just to give you an idea.
- P900 – Accommodations (Casa Linda, P900/night for a room for two)
- P375 – Honda Bay Tour (P100 for trike fee and P275 for boat rental)
- P1300 - Subterranean River Tour (inclusive of transpo and buffer lunch)
- P300 – City Tour (P600 per tricycle, 2 people per trike)
- P1100 – Total food expenses (incuding Ka Lui and Kinabuchs dinner)
- P500 – Pasalubong (Baker’s Hill)
- P200 – Tips to drivers and other things
- P250 – Terminal fees
- Php 4,925 – TOTAL EXPENSES
If you can avail of a cheaper fare, do so. Also, you can still bring the cost lower if there will be more of you in the trip. We were a group of 4. Say, if there were 6 in the group, it could have been A LOT cheaper.