Top Things to Do in Puerto Princesa, Philippines

Starfish Island in Honda Bay is an idyllic place to enjoy some sun, sand and sea
Starfish Island in Honda Bay is an idyllic place to enjoy some sun, sand and sea | © Aldar Darmaev / Alamy Stock Photo
Katrina Escalona

This coastal city on Palawan Island may not be the most famous resort in the Philippines, but don’t underestimate it. From island hopping to boat trips through the Underground River and treks to waterfalls, the watery landscape of Puerto Princesa provides a true sense of discovery.

1. Go island hopping in Honda Bay

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Aerial view of Honda Bay, Philippines
© Tatiana Kornylyeva / Alamy Stock Photo

Explore the islands of Honda Bay and spend a whole day enjoying the sand and sea. From a spot a 20-minute drive north of the city centre, boat trips head out to the islands of Cowrie, Starfish, Luli and Pandan. Luli Island is a beautiful sandbar that’s so named because it sinks (lulubog being the Tagalog word for sink) during high tide, and rises (lilitaw) during low tide. During its disappearing act you will still be able to find food and cocktail stands – on stilts.

2. Hike to Olangoan Falls

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© Katrina Escalona
Olangoan Falls are in Binduyan, a 45-minute drive from the city centre and then a half-hour hike from the highway to the waterfalls. This fairly easy trek is all part of the fun, with a few steep ascents and some river crossings, and is amply rewarded by the sight of the beautiful falls at the end. This quiet spot forms a cooling swimming hole (and a 5m or 16ft cliff jump, for the brave). The falls are slightly off the tourist trail, so enjoy this escape while it’s still a secret.

3. Go beer tasting at the only craft brewery in the province

Craft Ale Bar, Beer

Sometimes, holidays are simply about sitting back with an ice-cold beer. Pull up a seat in the taproom of Palaweño Brewery, the only women-run brewery in the country. If you’re intrigued to know more, it offers a tour of its operations (every step of the beer making process is done manually and on site), a beer tasting menu and passionately crafted beers infused with local ingredients. Try Honey Kölsch, a German-style beer made with Palawan honey.

4. Visit the Underground River

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Underground River in Puerto Princessa.
© Roland Nagy / Alamy Stock Photo
The Puerto Princesa Underground River has become one of the most famous destinations in the region since being voted one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012. From the centre, it’s about an 80km (50mi) drive north to the town of Sabang, from where you can either take a boat or hike to the entrance of the Underground River. Tours are aboard paddle boats that enter vast caves of impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations, hidden 24km (15mi) beneath the St Paul Mountain Range.

5. Go zip lining and spelunking in Ugong Rock

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© Katrina Escalona
Before heading back to the city from the Underground River, stop at Ugong Rock. Put on your active gear and get ready to climb up, squeezing through narrow passages along the way. It’s a quick yet exciting hike, with a rewarding view waiting at the top. While you can descend the same way, the more exhilarating choice is to zip line your way back down.

6. Watch the sunset from Nagtabon View Deck

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Nagtabon Beach
© ALEXEY KORNYLYEV / Alamy Stock Photo

One of the best places in Puerto Princesa to catch the sunset is about a half-hour drive from the city centre. On a late afternoon, head north towards Nagtabon Beach but drive uphill instead and stop at the Nagtabon View Deck. From there, you’ll want to linger and watch the view over the cove of Nagtabon as the sun casts its glow over the sea and disappears behind the horizon.

7. Watch fireflies twinkle along the Iwahig River

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To finish a day in Puerto Princesa in the most enchanting way, take a tour on the Iwahig River. A small paddle boat will cruise among the mangroves, in firefly territory. In the dark, all you will hear is the hushed voice of your guide and the paddle in the water, and all you’ll see is the plankton glowing beneath the surface of the river and the thousands of fireflies lighting up the mangroves.

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