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Palawan on the southwestern area of the Philippine archipelago has repeatedly been dubbed the ‘World’s Best Island’ because of the stunning beaches, marine life, and landscapes of El Nido and Coron on its northern tip. So most travellers skip the island’s capital, Puerto Princesa City, and head straight for the north. But look a little deeper you’ll find it has its own little treasures. Here’s a guide to experiencing Palawan’s capital on your next stop-over.
If you have the luxury of an actual complete day in the city, start it early and serenely by joining Bahay Kalipay’s morning yoga session. This detox and yoga house is usually a retreat destination for individuals who want to practice yoga, spiritual cleansing and the raw food lifestyle. However, they also open their doors to the general public for those who want to either drop in on their classes or enjoy the relaxing massages and body scrubs they offer as well. Call in beforehand to confirm the day’s schedule.
Also, the city is relatively small. So commute like a local by skipping a taxi and opting for the local ‘tricycles’ instead. Simply tell the driver the destination, just as you would in a cab, but save the extra pesos by making the more economical transport choice.
After taking some time to freshen up after the morning stretch, drop by the Palawan Heritage Center for a quick cultural stop. The quaint museum houses artefacts, artwork by local artists, and interactive installations that make the cultural learning experience fun. Palawan has such a rich history and the museum’s in-house guides gladly and proudly tell visitors all about it. Charging an admission fee of only PH₱50 (US$1), this experience a worthwhile bargain.
Legislative Building, Capitol Complex, Fernandez Street, Puerto Princesa (Only open on weekdays), +63 48 434 7524
For those in need of caffeine to power through their mornings, a cozy café sits right down the street from the capitol complex. Eightynine Café is quickly becoming a local favorite for their creatively crafted brews and their quirky, glittery coolers. Make a pit-stop here and fuel up in preparation for the full day ahead.
420 Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, +63 956 629 4599
Leave the predictable key chain and t-shirt souvenirs to the rushing tourists and head for genuine, locally crafted products instead. Stop at Asiano (also on the same street as Eightynine Cafe) for beautiful wood carvings, paintings, jewellery, and other intricate handicrafts. And for beautiful, hand-woven textiles created by trained and empowered women from the more rural areas of the island, head to the Rurungan sa Tubod showroom where they sell bags and clothes stylishly made of these traditional textiles.
Should the heat and all the moving about become draining by this time, head next-door to Kusina ni Tito Ernie’s for a tall, cold glass of their famous tamarind juice and you’ll be well on your way.
Asiano: Rizal Avenue, Dagumboy Village, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, +63 929 740 9628 / +63 915 260 5204
Rurungan sa Tubod: The Rurungan Compound, Abanico Road, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, +63 917 851 4081
Kusina ni Tito Ernie: Abanico Road, Brgy. San Pedro, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan (Closed Tuesdays), +63 917 553 2728
A longtime Puerto favorite is Kalui Restaurant. Though no meat is served here, their ingenious ways of tastily cooking up seafood and vegetables will make even the biggest meat lover leave with a happy palate. The vibe and ambience of the restaurant is completely ‘Palawan’, from taking off footwear on entering to the colourful local artworks that line its walls. It’s always best to call in a reservation as it constantly gets filled up.
369 Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa, Puerto Princesa, Palawan (Closed Sundays), +63 48 433 2580
For the afternoon, pack a beach bag and do as the locals do on their free time — make your way to the sea. Not too far from the city is Nagtabon Beach. Rent a scooter or a motorbike and head north on the highway. Getting there is pretty straightforward, with the help of signs and a few tips from the locals, and it takes a little less than an hour. An alternative is hiring a tricycle and agreeing with the driver on a price for a roundtrip. On weekdays especially, the beach is peaceful and quiet, save for some locals who might’ve seen the waves fit for surf that day. Spend the afternoon relaxing on the sand and enjoying the warm water.
The evening can go one of two ways, depending on your preference. The first option is to spend it overlooking Nagtabon Beach, watching the sun slowly set into the sea in a spot aptly called ‘Nagtaview’, and then afterwards heading to a fantastic microbrewery for a tasting of delicious local brews. And the second option is to head back towards the city and then drive south to Iwahig for an enchanting firefly watching tour down the Iwahig River. Either way, both experiences are great ways to spend an evening.
Palaweño Brewery: 82 Manalo Street near corner of H. Mendoza Street, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan (Closed Sundays), +63 48 434 0709
Again, there are two dinner stops that make for a perfect way to cap off the night. There’s K’na Boyet and Kinabuch’s. Both serve wonderful Filipino food and both offer interesting delicacies for visitors to try. K’na Boyet is located at one end of the city Baywalk, where customers get to pick out the fresh seafood and meat they want cooked. A must-try at this food stop is their sizzling crocodile sisig. While Kinabuch’s is a bar and grill that’s both a local and a visitor’s favourite.
Locals love their salpicao (a beef dish cooked in soy sauce) and their kanin ni 04 (fried rice). For visiting tourists, don’t miss the experience of trying tamilok, a wood worm found within the trunks of mangroves, which closely resembles the taste of oysters. Both K’na Boyet and Kinabuch’s also turn into relaxed drinking places well into the night, so order a bucket and complete your Puerto Princesa escapade with an ice cold beer and a toast to a good day in the city.
K’na Boyet: Baywalk, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
Kinabuch’s: 369, Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, +63 48 434 5194