Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park has been classified by the Unesco as one of the 7 New Wonders of Nature. And, by popular opinion, this place truly is a place of wonders… If you’re traveling in this part of Palawan, it definitely is a destination to visit. In order to help you do that, we’ll share here our best tips to enjoy your tour in the Underground River.

How To Get To Puerto Princesa Underground River?

The underground river itself is located in Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, next to the town of Sabang. Most visitors arrive there in vans coming from Puerto Princesa City, about 70 kilometers and 1h30 away.

If you are touring with a travel agency, all the administrative and paper requirements will have been taken care of. If you want to self-organize it, just know that the paper process starts in the Coliseum of Puerto Princesa City and continues in Sabang. Obtaining the different permits and settling the entrance fees and eco-taxes is quite an hassle… Booking a tour package (public or private) will save you quite some time and headaches.

Once arrived in Sabang, most people will proceed to the Subterranean River National Park on a bangka (the traditional filipino boat). You’ll simply have to wait for the boat in Sabang’s pier, for a period that can be anywhere between a few minutes and one hour. Your next destination is Saint Paul Beach. You will reach it after around 20 minutes of sailing.

Saint Paul Beach - Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Tourists arriving on Saint Paul Beach, in Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Once you’ll set foot on this beautiful beach, you’ll be in the National Park already. There, you’ll discover the tropical forest and its inhabitants, starting with the monkeys and monitor lizards. As your tour guide will inform you, you should be careful about the monkeys as they have the habit of stealing their food and all kind of shiny or plastic objects.

Note that you can also go from Sabang Beach to Saint Paul Beach by following the “Jungle Trail”. This hike going through the tropical forest takes around 2 hours to complete. Be aware that some mosquitos in this forest are infected with malaria. Be sure to use mosquito repellent and preferably wear long sleeves, especially if you do the hike in the morning.

What To Expect Of Your Tour?

Arriving to Saint Paul Beach is only the start. You’ll then have to wait for your turn to enter the subterranean river. The boats going onto the river are managed by Puerto Princesa municipal authorities and they will be the ones to assign a boat to each group of tourists coming in.

Saint Paul Beach in Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Depending on whether there are a lot of visitors or not on that day, the waiting time can be anywhere between a few minutes and a couple of hours. Fortunately, the beach where you’ll have to wait is splendid. It’s a chance to witness the beauty of the wildlife around you.

When your turn will come, you’ll step in a shared boat which can accommodate up to 8 passengers. You’ll then proceed to enter the subterranean river… and will discover inside a world of stalagmites, stalagtites, and subterranean cave fauna.

There’s something magical to this visit… It will last around 45 minutes for the ride that most visitors do, which goes as deep as 1.5 kilometers inside the underground river. An audio device can be rented to listen to a commentary about the formation, the discovery and exploration of the site. It’s included with most tour packages to visit the Underground River.

The entrance of the subterranean river in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

After your tour, it will be time to go back to Sabang, which you can do either with a bangka, or by walking through the forest. Your van will be waiting in Sabang, where you’ll be able to go to your next stop (see the “additional activities” and “combining tours and transportation” below) or back to your hotel.

Doing The Long Underground River Tour

This is almost a secret… But there’s a way to do a much longer tour inside the subterranean river than what most people do. All the public tours go for the 1.5 km tour. But the river, which is 8.5 kilometers long, can be easily navigated up to 4.3 kms.

If you do the long tour, it will spend around 3 hours in the subterranean river. It’s fairly more expensive but it provides you with are several advantages. First, you won’t have to wait for your turn. Since the boat you’ll rent will be a private one, it can go as soon as you’re there. Second, the boat will be for your group only (up to 8 persons). Third, you’ll experience the river without the crowds, which is quite impressive and really awesome.

Inside the Underground River, Puerto Princesa

Inside the Underground River © Jimaggro / CC BY-SA 4.0

If you’d like to book this long tour, you can do it directly here. Simply select the “private tour” option while you’re using Tikigo search filters. It will only show the organizers offering that kind of experience. Then you can see if they advertise this “long tour” option and you can even contact them directly by sending them a message.

What To Bring For Your Subterranean River Tour?

Here is a quick list of the things you might want to bring for your underground river tour:

  • Flip flops or water shoes: As you’ll have to go on at least one boat during your tour, be sure to bring shoes that can get wet.
  • Dry bag: In order to protect your important documents, phone or electronic gadgets, it’s advisable to have at least a small dry bag or plastic pocket.
  • Hat: To enter the underground river, you’ll have to wear an helmet. Having a cap under that can make it a more comfortable experience. Plus, it’s so sunny in the Philippines, a hat is welcome anyway (as well as sunglasses and sunscreen)!
  • Ear plugs: The boats going from Sabang to Saint Paul Beach are very loud. If you care about your ears, you’ll probably want to carry some ear plugs with you.
  • If you do the Jungle Trail trek: Mosquito repellent, long sleeves trousers and shirt, hiking boots.

Additional Activities

On the way back to your hotel, or sometimes before going on the tour, your tour organizer can include additional activities. Among these ones, some of the most popular are the following:

  • Ugong Rock: There are two things you can do in Ugong Rock. The first one is climbing the rock itself. The second is to use the zipline to get down. The hike is free but the zipline costs a few hundred pesos. You can do it in the normal position or in the “superman” position.
  • Hundred CavesThis locally managed caving adventure makes an interesting stop along the way to Sabang. It will bring you to explore many caves, in 3 separate tours going from 45 minutes to 3 hours. Be aware that you’ll need to be physically fit to enjoy this activity.
  • Buenavista View Deck: Located on the road between Salvacion Junction and Sabang, this view deck offers a splendid panorama of the islands facing Sabang.

The View Deck on the way to Sabang, Puerto Princesa-palawan

Combining The Tour With A Van Transfer

As you may know, traveling between Puerto Princesa and other popular destinations in Palawan may take a while. That’s the reason why some organizers offer to combine a van transfer with the Underground River tour. That way, you avoid loosing one day in transportation alone.

These tours are offered either as public or private ones. The public tours are usually available going to/from El Nido. When going on such a tour, you will be dropped off at Salvacion Junction where you’ll have to wait for a public van to pick you up. This waiting time will depend on the next available van passing by.

If you choose a private tour, you can have more options and decide to start your tour from about anywhere on Palawan’s mainland. You also won’t have to wait for the public van, as it will bring you directly where you need to be after your tour.

TikigoBooking Your Subterranean River Tour With Tikigo

To get all these options and easily organize the perfect tour for you, you can search the tours available on Tikigo. Simply click here to find the different tour packages offered by tour organizers in Palawan: Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour.

With the search filters available on the page linked above, you’ll be able to refine your search. Whether you want to book a public tour, a private tour, or to combine it with a van transfer to El Nido… simply pick the right filters to see all the options available! You can even contact the organizer directly to make sure everything will be fine-tuned to your liking.

Explore Palawan and plan your tours and activities online with Tikigo, starting with a visit to the wonderful Subterranean River National Park of Puerto Princesa!