I am a full-time traveling registered nurse, fitness enthusiast, and nutrition expert. Every morning I wake up intending to bring awareness of the importance of health and spiritual wellness, especially to the traveling community. At Messy Bun Traveler, we promote travel that allows the traveler to either kick-start, maintain, or enhance a healthy lifestyle. So whether you're someone who travels for business, travels for pleasure, or new to travel and looking for health advice while on the road, this blog is for you!
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The Underground River in Palawan is one of the coolest experiences I had while island-hopping in the Philippines.
The Puerto Princesa Underground River is located on the island of Palawan, Philippines, and as of 1999, has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage Seven Wonders of Nature list.
The island of Palawan is, in itself, a beautiful tropical paradise. It’s home to the world’s most picturesque beaches and contains a plethora of biodiversity.
But there’s a reason Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is one of the most visited places on the island. This river, found underground, flows through a limestone cave system before emptying into the South China Sea.
While only a portion of the river, approximately 4.3 km, is accessible to tourists, it is a marvelous sight to behold.
The Underground River, situated within Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan, is an easy day trip from Puerto Princesa.
Visiting the Underground River can be done on your own or with a guided tour. Day trips from Puerto Princesa last approximately 8 to 11 hours, so don’t plan to do multiple excursions that day.
The Puerto Princesa Underground River isn’t actually in Puerto Princesa itself. The nearest town to the Puerto Princesa Underground River is Sabang which is located 90 minutes away from Puerto Princesa. If you plan on visiting the river without a tour, you’ll have to arrange your own transportation to Sabang.
You will most likely get wet, as entering the water at least ankle-deep is required to enter the boats.
Dry Bag. If you plan on bringing any belongings you don’t want to get wet; it’s best to keep your stuff safe in a dry bag.
Waterproof phone case. You’ll be able to take pictures while keeping your phone dry.
GoPro Camera. The perfect waterproof camera and video recorder!
Water shoes. You will have to get your feet wet to enter the boats. I wore my water shoes and highly recommend them!
Sunscreen. Protect your skin from the hot Philippines sun!
Reusable water bottle. Stay hydrated!
Insect repellent. Mosquitos and other small-biting bugs are everywhere. Make sure to protect yourself by wearing and reapplying insect repellent.
The best time of year to visit the Underground River is during the country’s dry season, from January to April.
The reason is tours can be canceled due to rain or harsh weather conditions. If you’re planning on visiting during peak travel season, December to May, booking a tour well in advance is best to assure yourself a spot.
The Underground River in Palawan is about an hour and a half drive from Puerto Princesa city center.
You can book a guided tour, in which case you’ll have arranged pick-up and drop-off at your accommodation, or you can go solo.
If you decide not to take a tour, several public buses are running from the San Jose bus terminal to Sabang. (Subang is the starting point of the Underground River tour).
You can also hire a driver or cab driver, but the price of doing so is comparable to just booking a guided tour.
If you’re coming straight from the Puerto Princesa Airport, you will need to head to the San Jose Terminal and hire a driver to take you to Sabang. This is a 2 to 3-hour drive.
I booked a tour with El Nido Paradise Tours and could not recommend it enough.
After extensive research on the “DIY” method, I realized either cost is quite similar.
You might save a couple of dollars by doing the Underground River tour (literally only about 10 bucks), but you’ll have to add in the extra hassle and stress of managing this expedition independently. Of course, you decide which method is best for you.
Because I booked a guided tour, the day went by rather smoothly! The van ride to Sabang was rocky, a fair warning to anyone that tends to get car sick!
We stopped in two locations on the way up to Sabang, one was at a cute little souvenir shop with incredible, mountainous views of the island!
Most of the morning was spent waiting for our boat to take us to the cave entrance. If you do decide to do this excursion yourself, I recommend getting there early, as the boats operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Because I took the guiding tour, our tour guide took care of checking in and getting assigned numbers.
Once at the Underground River, we were provided complimentary audio guides to listen to during the tour through the cave.
The views were absolutely breathtaking! The limestone rocks throughout the cave are impressive and formed into all sorts of shapes and sizes. There was even a display that strongly resembled Jesus and the Last Super! The mere size of the cave itself was impressive as well.
Within the Underground River are thousands of bats flying around and hanging from the ceilings. These bats are harmless and actually quite cute!
At the end of the tour, we saw two monkeys hanging out in the trees above us while turning in our life vests. They seemed rather curious as to what we were all doing, but they kept their distance, and we did the same.
Once back at the main entrance, we indulged in a delicious buffet-style lunch provided as part of the tour package. Overall, it was a great trip!
Do not touch the limestone, as the natural oils on our fingers forever damage the rock.
The actual river tour lasts about an hour and takes you a little over half a mile into the cave. Most of the 8 to 11-hour day is spent driving to Sabang and waiting on available boats.
Be mindful of the monkeys in the area, as they’ve been known to steal your belongings!
I am a full-time traveling registered nurse, fitness enthusiast, and plant-based nutrition expert. Every morning I wake up intending to bring awareness of the importance of health and spiritual wellness, especially to the traveling community. This blog is designed to bring you travel and health advice while sprinkling in some fun life stories.
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