Visit Puerto Princesa Underground River from Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) is a well known tourist spot by now. That’s why your visit will feel a bit like mass processing. Yet, the cave which you can visit on a boat on the river should not be missed. Beautiful rock formations and the quiet dripping of moisture from the ceiling will await you and create a magical experience. Hers is how to get to the Puerto Princesa Underground River from Puerto Princesa City.

How to get to Puerto Princesa Underground River from Puerto Princesa

You can take a trycicle from the city to San Joese bus terminal to Sabang. The bus terminal is about 4 km out of the city center. The trycicles should have a sign posted in the vehicle with the fees for certain distances and hence this trip should only cost you about 20 pesos. Then, you wait at the terminal until the next bus is leaving. The bus ride will take three to four hours. Vans are a bit quicker. Both cost 200 pesos.

Since the whole thing with the bus times was a bit unsure and we wanted to return to Puerto Princesa in the evening, we opted for a tour for 1700 Pesos per person including the environmental fee which would be good for a few days. The price included transport, a delicious lunch and of course the boat rides to the river.

Guided tour to PPUR

We were picked up by a van with a/c at 6.45 a.m. at our hotel (Matutina Pension). Unfortunately, we were the first people to get on. So, first, we spent an hour driving around and collecting the remaining passengers. At eight, we finally hit the road toward Sabang.

Two hours later, we stopped at a restaurant where we could buy snacks. I tried one of the fresh coconuts and the water was delicious.
Off we were again and at about eleven we finally arrived at the docking area. It was crowded with vendors of fruit juices. Otherwise, I didn’t see much of an infrastructure and therefore it’s probably not advisable to stay in Sabang.

Many people will try to sell you water proof phone cases and rain ponchos. I would recommend that you bring those things from home or really buy them there as you definitely will get wet.

Our guide then went to reserve us a slot on a boat and we had to wait in a waiting area. Unfortunately, we were there on a rainy day and our chances of a dry boat ride didn’t stand well. It didn’t matter anyway since in order to board the boat you have to wade through hip high water. When it’s choppy, I’d just wear my swim suit next time, instead of having to be in my wet clothes for the rest of the day.

Boat rides at PPUR

So, finally it was our turn to get on the boat. Half of our bodies were soaked by then. The boat ride to the entrance of the river lasts 15 minutes and is unspectacular. However, we got caught in a torrential downpour so that the small sun roof couldn’t protect us either. Now, everything was soaked. I should have put on my rain coat already…

Oh well, we got off at the beach to the entrance of PPUR. We were handed an audio guide which was available in the most spoken languages (yes, so touristy!). Then, we had to walk on a boardwalk through the jungle for about five minutes. We spotted a big monitor lizzard along the way.

After that, we reached the river with the entrance to the cave. We were handed a helmet and boarded a paddle boat. They fill them up with six people plus a driver. By now you should definitely wear a rain poncho as there are many bats in the cave and you can get sick from anything they drop on you.

The cave

The boat man will navigate your boat through the cave for 1.5 km. It goes on for much longer but not all is passable by boat and at some spots you’d have to do scuba diving. For us, the first 1.5 km were enough. I didn’t feel so comfortable in such a dark and enclosed space but it was nice to look at the stalactites and other pretty rock formations that had been carved by the river. The audioguide reminded us to stay quiet again and again and so we could also enjoy the sound of the water in the cave.
The whole ride was over after 45 minutes. If you think about all the trouble with the van ride and waiting in the waiting area it’s a bit much for such a short visit. I nevertheless liked the experience.

We returned the audioguide and then boarded the boat back to the pier again. This time we were allowed to exit over a swimming pier.

Rest of the tour

By now, it was two in the afternoon and we were starving. Luckily, the buffet lunch included a big variety of Philippino specialties and we could try everything we hadn’t eaten so far. So, that lunch was actually another highlight of the tour.

Then, we started the way back but instead of returning to PP we stopped at another caving place where you could climb through a cave (200 PHP) and then do a zipline (350 PHP). The whole thing took another hour. The view from the top across rice fields was nice but all in all we wouldn’t have needed this stop. I guess it depends on the van you get on and if you don’t want to have the stop at Ugong Rock you should let know your hotel or the place where you book the tour beforehand.

Somehow, out van seemed to have its own schedule as we also stopped at a souvenir mall next to the airport for about half an hour. The prices for dry bags etc. were the cheapest we found.
We finally got back to our hotel at 9 p.m. although we were supposed to be there at 4. That was just one of many times where things went the “Philippino way”.

Jungle Trail at PPUR

By the way, if it hasn’t rained and you are not on an official tour you could also hike the jungle trail from the docking area to the PPUR instead of taking the taxi boat. It is 1.5 km but will be very muddy and slippery if it rained.

What else to do in Puerto Princesa

Go island hopping

If you don’t go island hopping in El Nido, do the tour to the three islands here.  The Honda Bay tour will cost 1100 pesos and you will see beautiful stretches of sand and go snorkelling in a nice marine life. However, if you go to El Nido, you can experience all that up there as well.

Have a massage

There is a Thai massage place at the end of Rizal Avenue (toward the boardwalk) on the left side where we found the cheapest massage for 250 Php. It was a good one as well!

Eat Vietnamese

For 60 pesos we had the most delicious beef pho in the blue concrete shack in the middle of Rizal Avenue on the right side if you look toward the boardwalk.
If you don’t feel like Asian street food, you can walk to McDonalds, SM Mall or take a trycicle to the bigger Robinson Mall.

Otherwise there is not much to do in PP and therefore, we soon took a van to El Nido for 500 Pesos. That seems to be the normal rate and we couldn’t haggle it down.

What was the best cave you have visited? Let me know in a comment!