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Visiting the Underground River can be done either on your own or with a guided tour. Day trips from the city of Puerto Princesa last approximately 8 to 11 hours, so don’t plan on doing multiple excursions that day. You will most likely get wet, as it’s required to enter the water at least ankle-deep to get into 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. 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, which is from January to April. Reason being, tours can be canceled due to rain or harsh weather conditions. If you’re planning on visiting during peak travel season, December to May, it’s best to book a tour well in advance 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 opt to 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 decided 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.
Please Note: You can’t go directly to Sabang without first securing a permit. You’ll first need to head to the Underground River Booking office located at the City Coliseum in Puerto Princesa. Once there, you’ll be asked to present identification and pay the eco fee before obtaining your day permit.
Dustin and I booked a tour with El Nido Paradise Tours, and we could not recommend it enough. After doing extensive research on the “DIY” method, we realized the cost of either is quite similar. You might save a couple of dollars by doing the Underground River tour yourself (literally only about 10 bucks), but you’ll have to add in the extra hassle and stress of managing this expedition on your own. I’ll let you decide which method is best for you.
Because we booked a guided tour, we feel like the day went by smoothly! The van ride to Sabang was rocky, far 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 also come incredible, mountainous views of the island!
The majority of the morning was spent waiting around 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 we took the guiding tour, checking in and getting assigned numbers were all taken care of by our tour guide.
Once at the Underground River, we were provided with complimentary audio guides to be able to listen 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, there 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, while turning in our life vests, we saw two monkeys hanging out in the trees above us. They seemed rather curious as to what we were all doing, but they keep their distance, and we did the same.
Once back at the main entrance, we indulged in a delicious buffet-style lunch that was 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 damages the rock.
The actual river tour lasts about an hour and takes you a little over half a mile into the cave. The majority 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!
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