See the Stunning Puerto Princesa Underground River

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Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

Located deep below the island of Palawan, you can find the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. This is a Philippine national park that attracts over 300,000 people per year. It is exhilarating to go to one of the Philippines’ most well-known islands, and we highly recommend it. This destination is also one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

The Puerto Princesa Underground River was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO back in 1999. Now, it is widely known as the home of one of the world’s most beautiful cave systems. Visitors will find breathtaking limestone karst landscapes, natural beauty, preserved old-growth forests, and unique species of animals and plants.

Activities at Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park must be carefully planned and managed to avoid damaging the park’s natural values. Due to the park’s stunning location and status as a protected area, it’s important to take everything here seriously and respect the efforts of the workers.

Where is Puerto Princesa’s Underground River Located?

A map of The Palawan Island and location of Puerto Princesa Underground River National Park.

The St. Paul Mountains are located in the middle of Palawan’s western shore, and the river flows beneath them. Millions of years ago, water carved its way through the rock, forming the river system and a network of immense underground chambers and caves.

The length of the cave system, which is located beneath the mountains, is estimated to be over 24 kilometers. Tourists can access a more manageable section of the cave by entering around the point where the underground river emerges into the ocean.

A diverse ecosystem has developed in the river and caves over centuries to take advantage of the unique conditions below the earth.

Bats and swallows are the most likely cave dwellers you’ll encounter, although the caves are home to several indigenous species, such as enormous spiders, crabs, fish, and snakes.

Taking a Trip to Puerto Princesa

In Palawan, you should watch the National Park’s Underground River. Paddling through the night feels unearthly. It’s so quiet that you can only make out the echoed drops of water and the clicking of bats. You’ll be floating through stalactite-adorned rock temples as you make your way to the planet’s center.

A typical tour distance along the river is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). Only pre-arranged groups with the proper licenses can travel the entire 8.2 kilometers. To get further into the cave, guests must swim between the rock walls, as boats will no longer be able to pass that far.

Suppose you can get past your fear of caves and dark places. In that case, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular sights like waterfalls streaming through the cave walls, a Sirenia or manatee fossil that’s 20 million years old, and a narrow rock path that opens up into a big area covered in sparkling crystals.

The 20-minute boat ride across the sea, past towering limestone karsts, and the subsequent trek through the national park, home to monkeys swinging over the tree canopies and enormous monitor lizards slinking their way through the undergrowth, make the visit to the cave itself worthwhile.

A couple groups of people travel by kayak along the Puerto Princesa Underground River.

How to Get to the Underground River in Puerto Princesa

Sabang, a small settlement, is the starting point for the journey along the underground river. Sabang is roughly forty kilometers (twenty-four miles) north of Puerto Princesa, the island’s capital. Day trips from the capital or overnight accommodations in Sabang are both options. It boasts a beautiful beach and a mix of high-end resorts and budget-friendly beach bungalows.

A permission system is in place to keep people out of the river and its habitat. You can arrange for your permits and boat rental, but joining a trip is far more accessible. Booking in advance helps, due to strong demand and limited availability.

Suggested Activities for Your Visit

Lunch is typically included on day trips departing from Puerto Princesa. Shorter (and cheaper) tours can be arranged from Sabang. However, a separate permit may be required. Inquire about obtaining one at the wharf office.

A small word of caution, though: all participants must wear the provided helmets and life vests. Keep your eyes on the ground and your mouth closed since millions of bats live in the cave and frequently drop “gifts” (read: feces) from above.

Most trips contain an audio commentary explaining the river and caves in scientific detail. You can always take out your earbuds and let your imagination run wild if you get lost trying to identify the various forms.

A view of the beautiful natural lighting along the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River.

Places to Visit Near Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

1.     Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center

One of the top sites to visit in Puerto Princesa, the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center is a must for any animal lover.

Palawan Crocodile Farm is located here. It’s both a place for tourists to learn about crocodiles and a sanctuary for several different species. There are aviaries where you may watch many different kinds of birds and the crocodile farm.

A large group of crocodiles is shown here, found at the Palawan Wildlife and Rescue Center.

2.     Baker’s Hill

Baker’s Hill, located in Puerto Princesa, is a popular pasalubong shop. Pastries and cakes galore are on sale here, and they won’t disappoint.

Baker’s Hill is a must-see for Puerto Princesa visitors, and many leave with boxes of baked goods to share with friends and family back home.

Baker’s Hill, known as one of the most popular Puerto Princesa attractions, tends to show up on Instagram quite a lot. There is a good chance you’ve seen its little zoo and collection of life-size cartoon statues.

3.     Honda Bay

Puerto Princesa is more than simply an urban attraction; don’t rule out the possibility of enjoying an island vacation there. Honda Bay is home to several beautiful white sand beaches.

Tourists can see the variety of islands and how they differ by taking an island-hopping tour. Luli Island, Starfish Island, and Cowrie Island have some of the finest beaches in Puerto Princesa.

How Much Does it Cost?

We know, we know, traveling to all these remote caving destinations can get expensive quickly. But just look at that beach!

A stunning view of the palm trees and beach at Puerto Princesa.

It’s safe to say that a visit here is well worth the admission price. Costs per person often fall between 1,500 and 2,500 pesos ($75-125).

You can experience the Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour in a couple ways.

A buffet lunch and hotel transfers should be standard on all tours to underground rivers. There is also 150 ($7.50) peso environment fee, not included in the price listed above. If you want to be sure this is included in your trip price, ask your tour company before you head to the underground river.

Business hours are from 6:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Free admission is provided for children under the age of three on the majority of tours. Children 4–9 years old qualify for the discounted child rate, and children over 10 must pay the adult fee.

Service includes:

  • Air-conditioned van rides to and from your hotel in Puerto Princesa.
  • Professionally Qualified Tour Guide
  • Free-form meal
  • Rent and other fees
  • Hire a boat
  • Terminal fee
  • Cave entrance fee (permit)
  • License/device for producing sound
  • Wharfage assessment
  • Subterranean River Journey

Hotels to Stay in Puerto Princesa

When you make a trip to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (what a beautiful mouthful that is), we recommend you stay at one of these beautiful hotels and resorts. We’ve included some photos so you don’t have to take our word for it – the views are absolutely stunning.

Aziza Paradise Hotel

Distance: 0.6 miles (1 km)

Rating: 8.0/10 (700+ reviews)

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