If all you have is a weekend to spare in Puerto Princesa, you’ll be glad to know that that should be ample time to be charmed by the city without the feeling of overstaying. Here’s a guide to help you make the most out of a two-day stay in the Palawan capital.
Venture down the usually bustling street of Valencia early in the day, and you’ll come across locals who have just done their morning produce shopping at the palengke (wet market) nearby. A quiet escape sits unassumingly on the otherwise busy street, the perfect place for your morning coffee, perhaps at Cafe Olé. This bakeshop-cafe specializes in breads and offers a surprisingly wide array of baked goods. So you can choose to have a flaky croissant with your coffee, a deliciously warm bibingka (Filipino rice cake), or even a heartier breakfast plate from their menu.
Walk some 15 minutes or take a tricycle to the City Baywalk where you can either enjoy a nice morning stroll or (for the more active traveller) sneak in a morning jog. Take in the fresh sea breeze and the beautiful views of mountains in the distance and it almost makes you forget you’re in the middle of a city.
Because the following day has more physically demanding activities in store, one might appreciate a more slowed down, leisurely first day. Head to the city’s lovely artisanal shops and browse through their proudly homegrown products. Maybe even take home an item or two to commemorate your trip and bring back a piece of the city with you. Stop by Asiano Arts and Crafts for some beautifully handcrafted pieces — from furniture and home decor to trinkets and jewelry — that showcase the impressive craftsmanship of the locals who produce them.
If you’re looking to shop fashion, a visit to the Rurungan sa Tubod showroom is a must. Fall in love with their colorful racks of stunning handwoven pieces and appreciate the difference between such products of artistry and those of the commercial fashion industry that society has grown accustomed to. You’ll even be allowed a closer look at the craft because right next door is the weaving center; the weavers who will gladly demonstrate the mesmerizing process of how the textiles are made.
Savor a delicious seafood and vegetable lunch (no meat dish will be found on the menu) at the famous KaLui Restaurant. This place has been a longtime favorite of both locals and visitors, so call in advance and make a reservation to be guaranteed a table. Leave your shoes at the door, feel at home within its inviting interiors, and relish the day’s fresh catch cooked in the tastiest of ways. Order yourself a nice, fresh fruit shake as well — they serve some of the best in town.
Spend the afternoon the Palaweño way and hit the beach. A popular local spot, especially among surfers and barkadas (groups of friends) who want to enjoy cold beers by the sea, is Nagtabon beach. It’s about a 40-minute drive north from the city center, and a scenic one at that. Pack some snacks and a few beers and indulge in a slow afternoon of sun-soaking and sea-lounging.
Before driving back to the city center from Nagtabon late into the afternoon, first make a detour up to nearby Nagtabon View Deck where you’ll be treated to a gorgeous view of the Nagtabon cove below and an even more breathtaking view of the sun setting in the horizon.
Upon reaching town, still sticky from the sea and likely all red and sunburnt, refresh yourself with some cold locally crafted brews at the Palaweño Brewery. This microbrewery blends the flavors of Palawan and inspiration from brews all over the world to bottle up or serve at their tap room in the city. Proudly local, Ayahay beers are created manually and on site, from brewing to bottling and labelling. Drop by their tap room before dinner and you might just chance upon founders Ayah Javier and Malu Lauengco, who are always up for a friendly chat. And to show just how hands-on the team is with its brews, they’ll gladly give a mini-tour of the brewery upon request.
After casual conversation over cold beer, join the locals for dinner at a long-time favorite restaurant, Kinabuch’s Grill and Bar. Despite its many, many years in the business, Kinabuch’s has mastered the art of consistency when it comes to serving quality food — a trait appreciated by the city locals. Anything on the menu is a guaranteed good choice, but for the more adventurous foodies, don’t miss out on trying the tamilok (shipworm) and crocodile sisig.
Start your day early with some breakfast and an adorably crafted cup of coffee at Eightynine Cafe. Despite being one of the newer coffee shops in the city, Eightynine has quickly allured locals with its quaint and cozy ambience and quirky drinks. You’ll find your regular cup of joe garnished with amusing foam art, cotton candy slowly melting above a hot cup of Irish coffee, and glittery coolers that sparkle upon stirring.
After fuelling up, you’ll be ready to kickstart an active morning. Pack some swim wear, a change of clothes, sturdy footwear, some water and snacks for a quick hike up to Olangoan Waterfalls. Arrange some transportation with your hotel or rent a motorbike to take yourself up to Barangay Binduyan, around kilometer 72 of the city’s North Road. After about a 40-minute drive, simply park roadside and it’s a comfortable half-hour hike to get to the waterfalls. Enjoy the morning swimming in the falls’ cool basin and allow its little fishes to ticklishly nibble at your feet.
Read a book, laze around, and relax amidst the beautiful company of nature. And when you feel like you’ve regained the energy, trek down and drive back toward the city center, but slow down once you’re around kilometer 53.5. From here, follow the signs that lead to the hideaway that is Love and Peace, a one-with-nature resort nestled within the jungles of barangay Maoyon.
The sweet spot is nestled alongside the Maoyon river, above which the resort has set up a wooden platform for lounging and a rustic bar shack. The resort’s staff is pleasant and accommodating, and they allow day visits to non-resort guests so long as something is ordered from their menu. So have a peaceful lunch on floor cushions overlooking the river. Spend the rest of the afternoon sipping cocktails, swimming, tubing, and kayaking down the calm waters.
After a relaxing afternoon, return to town and freshen up at the hotel as you please before taking off again to catch one of the most beautiful sights the city has to offer.
For a magical evening treat, head south of the city center to the Iwahig River for an enchanting firefly-watching tour. Here, a guide takes you aboard a small paddle boat and then slowly down the river where surrounding mangroves resemble Christmas trees thanks to the whimsical bugs residing within them.
And finally, for a late dinner, return to the city baywalk which lights up and takes on a completely different vibe at night. Head over to the popular K’na Boyet‘s food stall and have a nice outdoor dinner of freshly grilled seafood and meats of your choice. You’ll find yourself in the company of locals capping off the night with a few cold ones and a cool sea breeze — a wonderful way to end your last day in the city.