Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park has been classified by the UNESCO as one of the 7 new wonders of nature. By all accounts, this geological formation is truly extraordinary… If you are traveling to this part of Palawan, it is definitely a destination to visit… Here are our best tips to make the most of your Underground River Tour.
How To Get To Puerto Princesa Underground River?
The Underground River is located in the Puerto Princesa Underground River National Park, next to Sabang town. Most visitors arrive there by vans from Puerto Princesa City, about 70 kilometers and 1.5 hours away.
If you take the tour with a travel agency, all the paperwork will have been done for you. However, if you want to organize it yourself, the administrative procedures start at the Coliseum in Puerto Princesa City and continue in Sabang. Obtaining the different permits, paying the entry fees and ecotaxes is quite an hassle… Booking a tour package (public or private) will save you time and headaches.
Once in Sabang, most people reach the Underground River National Park by bangka (the traditional Filipino boat). You’ll just have to wait for the boat at the Sabang pier, which can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. Your next destination is Saint Paul beach. You will reach it after about 20 minutes of sailing.
Once you set foot on this beautiful beach, you will already have arrived in the national park. Here you will discover the rainforest and its inhabitants, starting with monkeys and monitor lizards. As your tour guide will tell you, be careful with the monkeys as they have a habit of stealing their food and all sorts 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 through the rainforest takes about 2 hours. Be aware that some of the mosquitoes in this forest transmit malaria. Be sure to use mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeved clothing, especially if you do this hike in the morning.
What To Expect Of Your Tour?
The arrival at Saint Paul Beach is only the beginning. You will then have to wait your turn to enter the subterranean river. The boats that navigate the river are managed by the Puerto Princesa municipal authorities. They are the ones who assign a boat to each group of tourists.
Depending on whether or not there are many visitors on that day, the waiting time can range from a few minutes to a few hours (well, except if you take a private tour – more on that below). Fortunately, the beach where you will wait is splendid. It is an opportunity to admire the beauty of the wildlife that surrounds you.
When it’s your turn, you’ll board a shared boat that can accommodate up to 8 passengers. You will then enter the underground river… and discover inside a world of stalagmites, stalagtites, and their cave fauna.
There is something magical about this visit… It takes about 45 minutes for the tour that most visitors take, which goes up to 1.5 kilometers deep inside the underground river. An audio device can be rented to listen to a commentary on the formation, discovery and exploration of the site. It is included in most tour packages.
After your tour, it will be time to return to Sabang, which you can do either with a bangka or by walking through the forest. Your van will be waiting for you in Sabang, where you can go to your next stop (see “additional activities” and “combining tours and transportation” below) or return to your hotel.
Taking The Long Underground River Tour
It’s almost a secret… But there is a way to take a much longer tour in the underground river than most people do. All public tours are a mile long. But the river, which is 8.5 km long, can easily be navigated up to 4.3 km.
If you take the long tour, you will spend about 3 hours in the subterranean river. It’s a bit more expensive but well worth it. First of all, you won’t have to wait your turn to enter the cave. Since the boat you rent is private, it can leave as soon as you get there. Second, the boat will be reserved for your group (up to 8 people). Third, you will experience the river without the crowds, which is quite impressive and really great.
If you want to book this long tour, you can do it directly here. Just select the “private tour” option when you use Tikigo search filters. Only the organizers offering this type of experience will be displayed. You can then 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’s a quick rundown of things you might want to bring for your underground river tour:
- Flip-flops or water shoes: Since you will be riding on at least one boat during your trip, be sure to bring shoes that can get wet.
- Dry bag: In order to protect your important documents, phone or electronic gadgets, it is advisable to have at least one small dry bag or plastic pocket.
- Hat: To enter the underground river, you will need to wear a helmet. Having a hat under it can make the experience more comfortable. Plus, the weather is so nice in the Philippines that a hat is welcome anyway (along with sunglasses and sunscreen)!
- Earplugs: The boats going from Sabang to Saint Paul Beach are very noisy. If you’re careful with your ears, you’ll probably want to bring earplugs.
- If you are doing the Jungle Trail trek: Mosquito repellent, long-sleeved pants and shirt, hiking boots.
On the way back to your hotel, or sometimes before you go on a tour, your tour operator may include additional activities. Here are some of the more popular ones:
- Ugong Rock: There are two things you can do at Ugong Rock. The first is to climb the rock itself. The second is to use the zipline to get down. The climb is free but the zipline costs a few hundred pesos. You can do it in the normal position or in the “superman” position.
- Hundred Caves: This locally managed caving adventure is an interesting stop on the way to Sabang. It will take you to explore many caves, in 3 separate circuits ranging from 45 minutes to 3 hours. Be aware that you will need to be in good physical shape to enjoy this activity.
- Buenavista View Deck: Located on the road between Salvacion Junction and Sabang, this observation bridge offers a splendid panorama of the islands facing Sabang.
Combining The Tour With A Van Transfer
As you may know, traveling between Puerto Princesa and other popular destinations in Palawan can take some time. That’s why some tour operators offer to combine a van transfer with the Underground River Tour. This way, you avoid wasting a day on transportation alone.
These tours can be public (group-open) or private (for your group only). Public tours are usually offered to and from El Nido. In this case, your guide will drop you off at Salvacion Junction where you will have to wait for a public van to pick you up. The waiting time will depend on when the next available van arrives. It can take up to a few hours.
If you opt for a private tour, you will have more options and can decide to start your tour just about anywhere on the mainland of Palawan. You also won’t have to wait for the public van, as it will take you directly to where you need to go after your tour.
Booking Your Underground River Tour With Tikigo
To get all these options and easily arrange the perfect tour for you, you can search for available tours on Tikigo. Just click here to see the different tours offered by tour operators in Palawan: Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour.
With the search filters available on the page linked above, you’ll be able to narrow down your search. Whether you want to book a public tour, a private tour, or 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 set up at your convenience.