Welcome to Puerto Princesa Underground River!
While I was planning our week-long trip to Palawan (Coron, El Nido & Puerto Princesa), I was kind of hesitant if we should include the famous Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) tour in our itinerary. Even though it’s now considered as one of the New7Wonders of Nature, I read a lot of “not-so-okay” reviews about it. But with the hype the media is portraying, I can’t hide my curiosity and wanted to see it for myself … with less expectation.
So yeah I dragged my friends and we went for it. I want to share my personal experience to give you an overview of how the PPUR tour works and to keep you away from the wrong choices that I made during our time. 😑
Get a PPUR Tour Package but settle with P1500/pax ONLY (incl. environmental fee)
My initial computation for DIY PPUR Tour is Php 1297/pax.
- Entrance fee (500 PHP)*
- Environmental fee (150 PHP)*
- Audio Guide (85 PHP)* – 1 single-ear headset that will be yours after
- Boat (187 PHP)*
- Bus (125 PHP): 1-way bus going to Puerto Princesa City (we’re coming from El Nido going straight to Sabang where our transpo budget is separate)
- Buffet Lunch (250 PHP): regular food at Gusto Grill
I told myself, “Okay! This can be done”. However, as I further check the process, I was devastated when I learned the part that you have to secure a permit first in PPUR office at the City Coliseum in Puerto Princesa City a day before your tour. But we’re coming from El Nido and would like to go straight to Sabang and stay there for a night so the next morning we won’t have to wake up early for the real tour. We only have like less than 24 hours to execute this activity and certainly, I don’t have time to go to the City Coliseum to get our permits. What a bummer!
I have no choice. Fortunately, I got a deal from the hostel (that we are going to stay in Puerto Princesa City after the tour) that costs only P1500 per pax. The package includes all mandatory fees, back & forth transpo from Puerto Princesa City and Sabang and buffet lunch. Nearly the same with my DIY computation except for the back and forth transpo. But at least the air-conditioned van is exclusive to our group and we can decide when to go. So I think Php 1500 is a good deal. 🙃
Start PPUR Tour early, as much as possible
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park will open its doors for curious visitors starting 8 o’clock in the morning. Even if it’s low season (like the time we went last June), it is still crowded and annoying. Unfortunately, our tour guide arrived 2 hours late from the agreed time. Our plan to take a dip at Sabang Beach after the tour never happened. Grr We just went straight to Gusto Grill after the tour for lunch and finished around 1 in the afternoon. We were so late for check out! Good thing, the receptionist from the hostel was not strict.
So please if you are getting a PPUR tour package, don’t hesitate to warn them to cancel the tour if they arrive late. The owner of the hostel we’re staying was furious that we were picked up late by our guide. She confirmed to us that these incidents are common with travel agencies offering PPUR tour. Don’t allow them to mess up your vacation like I did. 😓
Spend a night in Sabang if you can 😊
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The small village of Sabang is the gateway to Puerto Princesa Underground River. It’s around 2 hours travel from Puerto Princesa City. There’s no need but I highly recommend spending a night here. Sabang beach is pretty nice actually. We stayed in the “famous” Cafe Sabang hostel but I didn’t like the actual place though. Never fall for nice-reviews-online again. Also, it’s the only available hostel I found online that can accommodate 13 pax so. Their facilities were super basic for survival. I knew that air-condition was nowhere available on this place but when we found out that they also don’t have electric fan in all of their rooms, I was so mad at myself for my poor choice of accommodation. They don’t even have an electric outlet for charging your gadgets inside the rooms. Just a single bed with one pillow, a blanket and a classic mosquito net. I mean, I have no problem with those but we’re on vacation and suppose to relax, not suffer from poverty. 🙄
There are other hostels nearby that are still cheap but with better facilities.
The cave inside stinks SO BAD it might give you a headache. I SWEAR TO GOD. 😷
I can’t emphasize that enough and this is not an exaggeration. I’ve been to a few caves before and bat poops are normal but inside PPUR? It’s too much to handle. Everything inside the Underground River is staying true to its roots including the bat poops. No signs of alternation for the sake of tourism. Everything is carefully preserved. Bring a mask or handkerchief at least.
Put on insect repellent please. Always.
Mosquitoes are everywhere in the area. But don’t worry as insect repellent like Off lotion are available in the local stores.
It’s OK to bring your camera or your phone inside
One of the things I regret T_T I left my cellphone and only brought my GoPro during the tour. I thought that we’re going to ride a regular kayak (just like the pictures I saw on the internet in which I don’t trust the balance) to navigate the river but we rode a small but spacious “bangka”. Still, bring waterproof protection for your gadgets because there are small drops of water mixed with bat poops falling from above so. Flash photography is not prohibited so grab the opportunity. Unlike me. Shame 😞
Bring a flashlight if you can 🔦
I recommend bringing your own flashlight if you can. Our boat only has one source of light which was held by our tour guide at the back. The view inside was so dependent on him and I didn’t like it. There were instances that I want to check the rock formation again but I can’t because I don’t have my own light. It’s so frustrating 😭
Bring some cash for the souvenir photo 🙂
Even if PPUR itself doesn’t guarantee a “Wow!” factor to its visitors, it’s still a UNESCO World Heritage. It is still part of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and that is something that you can brag to your friends. Hence, the souvenir photo is important. 😁
For someone ordinary human being like me, I find its existence somewhat amazing but physically, it’s not that appealing. Yes, there were some interesting rock formations but that was it. Perhaps, if you’re a geologist or a fan of environmental science and the like, I’m pretty sure you’ll appreciate the entire ecosystem living inside.
Still, it’s a once in a lifetime experience ✌️
If you’re willing to spend that much effort, you can check this nice blog for DIY guide to visiting Puerto Princesa Underground River: http://www.cheekypassports.com/2017/03/23/diy-guide-visiting-puerto-princesa-underground-river/