Banca boat, Palawan, Philippines
Banca boat, Palawan, Philippines by . Ray in Manila

Puerto Princesa Travel Guide

In a nutshell

A laid-back city set against a backdrop of tranquil nature and the warmest people, Puerto Princesa is more than just a gateway to Palawan's treasure trove of pristine beaches, limestone cliffs, and lush forests.

Why go to Puerto Princesa

White sand beaches and crystal clear water? Spelunking and canoeing? The most diverse marine ecosystem? A UNESCO listed site? Puerto Princesa has all these and more.

We can give a hundred and one reasons why this Palawan capital is worthy of that slot in your bucket list but, we'd rather be succinct about it and name just a few. Take that beach body you've been working so hard for on an island hopping tour in Honda Bay where you can snorkel and swim to your hearts content.

Fit and fab? Make your way to Sabang and conquer the famous limestone rock followed by the renowned underground river. Then before you call it a day, join a boat ride in the thick of the mangrove forest. If you want a more mystical experience, we recommend going on a firefly watching tour.

Big on history and culture? The city has a number of museums that is sure to spark your interest. There's the Palawan Heritage Center, Palawan Museum, and the Ethnographic Museum. If you can afford it, one of the best dive sites in the world awaits you approximately 12 hours away from the city – the UNESCO Heritage Site Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. And last but not the least, Puerto Princesa offers a gastronomic experience that's unlike any other.

When to go to Puerto Princesa

Palawan can be enjoyed all year round as it's rarely visited by typhoon. However, if you're not keen on experiencing rainy days, best to avoid going around the month of August. November to April is the dry season although the summer months can get quite hot and humid. Dolphin and whale watching season runs only from April to October.

Where to stay in Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise in terms of accommodation picks. No matter what kind of traveller you may be, you'll be spoilt for choice here.

We've done some traveling around the country and the lodgings here offer more bang for your buck. Backpackers won't have any problem finding a bed in a budget friendly and sociable hostel. Even digital nomads won't have to spend their free time hanging around cafes for free WiFi. If you're budget oriented, you can score a bed for as low as 250PHP. In Puerto Princesa, cheap doesn't mean a dingy accommodation in the seedy part of town. It means a clean and homey guesthouse with good-natured people.

If you're a foodie and plan to engage in some food crawling, you may stay along Rizal Street. Even luxury hotels which costs a fortune elsewhere won't set you back more than 6,000PHP per night.

Where to eat in Puerto Princesa

If you want fresh seafood and a chance to observe locals mingling and just having a good time, strode over to the City Baywalk at night. There are plenty of restaurants and kiosks offering a wide array of seafood, barbecue, chicken, and more. There's live entertainment too so you can grab a beer, sit back, and just take in the buzzing atmosphere.

Foodies would also likely find themselves more than once along Rizal street which is lined with food establishments. Kalui, famous for their reasonably priced sumptuous dishes and barefoot dining experience is located here. If you're already in the neighbourhood, might as well join the queue for Noki Nocs Savory House's extremely popular halo-halo. Locals also frequent chao long eateries for their Vietnamese noodles fix. Our local friend swear by Bonas and after a huge bowl of that spicy, full flavoured soup, we just have to agree.

Lastly, do not leave Puerto Princesa without trying crocodile sisig and tamilok or woodworm. You can find these exotic dishes everywhere from wet markets to restaurants.

How to get around Puerto princesa

During our stay in Puerto Princesa, we rarely had to take public transport since our guesthouse made transportation arrangements for us. The same is true for many hotels and pensions in the city. However, if your lodging does not offer the same service, fret not. It is fairly easy to get around.

Tricycles abound and are your best bet especially for short distance travels. They usually costs between from 10PHP to 30PHP but fare can hike up to 150PHP depending on how far you're going. Make sure to state your destination and ask how much it would cost. Haggling won't hurt too if you're up for it.

Jeepneys and MultiCabs also regularly ply the streets and fare usually ranges 13PHP to 25PHP. If you're a capable driver and wants the freedom of mobility, there are bikes for rent for as low as 300PHP for a day while motorbikes go for 600PHP to 1,000PHP depending on the unit.

How to get to and from Puerto Princesa

Flying from Metro Manila to Puerto Princesa only takes slightly more than an hour.

Cebu Pacific have daily flights with seats costing anywhere between 1,700PHP to 6,000PHP. Philippine Airlines similarly have several flights daily from 2,000PHP to 9,000PHP per pax. Air Asia usually offers the cheapest seats from approximately 1,500PHP to 2,000PHP.

The same airlines also fly in daily from Cebu and Davao which are less than 2 hours away. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific also operates daily flights to and from Busuanga but ticket prices are steeper at 3,500PHP to 9,000PHP one way.

2Go Ferry also departs Manila at 1:30pm for Puerto Princesa twice a week every Tuesday and Friday and heads back to Manila at midnight every Wednesday and Saturday. Travel time however can stretch to about 30 hours. They regularly run promos so check their website for updated rates.

Is Puerto Princesa a safe place to visit?

The people of Puerto Princesa are generally friendly however there have been isolated incidents of kidnapping in the region. It doesn't help that the US Embassy issued a warning against possible terrorist threat earlier this year (2017). While nothing bad came out of it, tourists are advised to stay away from the furthermost Southern part of Palawan.