Top Things to Do in Puerto Princesa, Philippines

Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan | © Mendhak / Flickr
Photo of Katrina Escalona
9 August 2018

Many tourists hurry past the city of Puerto Princesa en route to the province’s more popular beach destinations of Coron and El Nido. Little do they know, Palawan’s capital has some great, underrated sights and spots of its own. Our guide will lead you right to them. Here are the best things to do and see in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

Go island hopping in Honda Bay

Explore the islands of Honda Bay and spend a whole day enjoying the sand and sea. Just about a 20-minute drive north of the city center, travellers can board a small boat and head to the islands of Cowrie, Starfish, Luli, and Pandan. Cowrie Island is the nearest, so is very popular among the locals. Starfish Island is well-known for its great population of (you guessed it) starfish. And Luli Island is a beautiful sandbar named because it sinks (lulubog is the Tagalog word for sink) during high tide, and it rises (lilitaw) during low tide. Then there’s Pandan, a perfect place for the afternoon. Enjoy a lunch of grilled seafood and spend the rest of the day snorkelling and being swarmed by fish, or sunbathing on the island’s powdery white sand.

Pandan Island, Honda Bay | © Mendhak / Flickr

Food-trip like a local

While the little city of Puerto Princesa might not have the overwhelming number of restaurants Metro Manila has, it does have a few fantastic ones. Eat like a local and drop by their favorite food stops in the city. Perhaps the most famous to tourists (and for good reason) is KaLui. Unfortunately for meat-lovers, this restaurant doesn’t serve meat. But they do serve what is among the most deliciously prepared seafood and vegetable dishes in town. Call in advance to make a reservation because they get full on the daily.

Then there’s Haim Chicken, patronized by locals for their lip-smacking, juicy grilled chicken. Don’t leave Puerto Princesa without trying this one. And for dinner, dine with the locals at Kinabuch’s Grill and Bar and order their famous Kanin ni ’04 and beef salpicao. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, try out the local delicacy tamilok (shipworm) or some crocodile sisig.

Grilled Tuna at Kalui Restaurant | © Carrie Kellenberger / Flickr

Hike to Olangoan Falls

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Olangoan Falls, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan | © Katrina Escalona
Quite the hidden gem, Olangoan Falls sits in Barangay Binduyan, about a 45-minute drive from Puerto’s city center. Then it’s a half-hour hike from the highway to the waterfalls themselves. Its a fairly easy trek with a few steep ascents and some river crossings, until the beautiful Olangoan Waterfalls. As it is still quite unknown to foreign travellers, expect to only be sharing the site with locals (or nobody at all) during your visit. Enjoy this sweet escape while it still remains a secret.

Go beer tasting at the province's only craft brewery

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Founders Ayah Javier and Malu Lauengco in the taproom with friends | © Palaweño Brewery
Palawan is known as a place to enjoy the great outdoors — snorkelling in the sea, lying on the beach, hiking in the mountains. But if all you want is some down time to lay back and enjoy a nice conversation over some delicious, cold brew, then head to Palaweño Brewery. Known to be the only women-run brewery in the country, this microbrewery offers a tour of its operations (every step of their beer-making process is done manually and on-site), a beer-tasting menu, and passionately crafted beers infused with local ingredients and the flavors of Palawan. Drop by their tap room for this refreshing Puerto Princesa experience.

Visit the Underground River

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Puerto Princesa Underground River | © Paweesit / Flickr
The Puerto Princesa Underground River has become one of the most famous tourist destinations in the city since its recognition as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012. From the city center, it’s about an 80-kilometer drive north to the town of Sabang. From there, one can either take a boat or hike to the entrance of the Underground River. A tour of the river is done aboard a small paddle boat that takes visitors into the cave of impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations.

Go ziplining and spelunking in Ugong Rock

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View from Ugong Rock, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan | © Katrina Escalona
Before heading back into the city from the Underground River, a worthy stop is 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 opt to descend the same way, the more exhilarating choice is to zipline your way down. This way, you also get more time to embrace that gorgeous view.

Watch the sunset from Nagtabon View Deck

One of the best places in Puerto to catch the sunset is about a half hour drive from the city center. On a late afternoon, head north from the center with your favorite road trip playlist to accompany the scenic drive. Nagtabon Beach is a great spot to hang out, but drive uphill instead of heading down towards the beach and stop at the Nagtabon View Deck. From there, enjoy a stunning view of the cove of Nagtabon and the sun slowly lowering into the sea.

Sunset from Nagtabon View Deck | © Katrina Escalona

Watch fireflies twinkle along the Iwahig River

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Fireflies in the night | © John Flannery / Flickr
To cap off a day in Puerto Princesa in the most enchanting way, visit the Iwahig River. A tour here will take you on a small paddle boat down the river lined by mangroves, in which fireflies rest. In the dark, still night, all you will hear is the hushed voice of your guide and the paddle in the water, and all you will see is the plankton glowing beneath the river’s surface and the thousands of fireflies lighting the mangroves.

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