A Day Tour to Puerto Princesa Underground River: The New 7 Wonders of the World
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Third day into our honeymoon and we couldn’t wait to discover many more of Palawan’s treasures. Early in the morning, we said goodbye to the city life and embarked on our journey to Puerto Princesa Underground River (or the Subterranean River National Park) – a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the new 7 wonders of nature since 2012.
Located on the west coast of the Palawan island, the prestigious heritage park is about 1.5 hours drive (79 km) from the city of Puerto Princesa.
After a series of winding twists, hairpins, and plunging drops, we eventually arrived at the opposite side of the island and were ready to explore the longest navigable underground river in the world!
At the Sabang Boat Terminal, we waited for our local guide to make arrangements for our entrance to the underground river (including getting an entry permit, paying environmental fee, calling for a boat…etc). Even though there is a limited quota permits issued each day, the pier could be quite busy given that it is the only entry point to the underground river.
The pier is essentially a small village, with a beach and numerous hawker stalls nearby where visitors could chill out and kill time.
We finally hopped onto a boat and cruised along the scenic coastline. After a 20-min boat ride, we found ourselves in front of the world-famous subterranean river.
The underground river is actually a part of the national park, which features a stunning limestone karst landscape with a complex cave system, mangrove forests, lowland evergreen tropical rainforests, and freshwater swamps. The park is also home to about 800 plant and 224 animal species. Don’t be alert if you encounter monkeys, large monitor lizards, and squirrels while you make your way through the natural beauty!
Large crowd was spotted at the waiting area, where tourists sat and waited while their guide fought for the boat queue. (Yes, you heard me right. There is another boat trip to head inside the underground river!).
When it was almost our turn, we wandered through the forest, which then led us to a small clear lagoon, marking the entrance to the underground river.
Each boat could carry 8-10 persons including a boatman, who paddled us into the cave and provided a commentary of the sights.
Before the tour, we were instructed to put on safety gears including a life jacket and helmet. Also, a passenger must take on the role as a lightman to sit at the front and guide us through the cave. The only requirement being a basic understanding of the English language (since the boatman can only converse in English).
Since no one on our canoe could speak English, Kev ‘volunteered’ to take on this important task!
‘You can expect to see hundreds of bats’, said the boatman. ‘But don’t open your mouth as you look up. The bat poop would sometimes drop like a shower rain inside the cave!’ he forewarned us.
The 8.2 km long Cabayugan River winds through major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and ends its journey at an outlet into St. Paul’s Bay in the South China Sea. The tour inside the underground river takes about 45 mins and only covers the first 1.5 km. The deeper parts of the cave are subject to tidal influence and are only reserved for scientific studies.
Even then, it was well worth a visit. The soaring cave chambers and crystal rock formations were magnificent. The humorous boatman made the tour extremely enjoyable by pointing us to strange rock formations and the images they represent (eg., mushroom, corn, banana, Virgin Mary, the dragon…etc.). Here’s where you can let your imagination go wild!
Flash photography is permitted inside the cave, but I was afraid the sudden brightness might scare off the creatures. If you wonder what lies underground that makes this place truly a treasure, the video below will ease your curiosity.
Lunch at Sabang Village
Returning back to the Sabang Boat Terminal, you could find various vendors in the village, selling local beverages and snacks. Fried banana (‘banana cue‘), sweet potato (‘kamote cue‘), and banana springroll (‘turon‘) seem to be popular street food. Fresh fruit shake can be a healthy choice to quench your thirst!
If you prefer dining at a proper restaurant, Gusto Grill and Resto is a decent choice. Located just 5 mins away from the pier, the restaurant offers Asian style buffet for hungry diners!
Stay at Daluyon Resort
We spent a night at the Daluyon Resort, which is an ideal accommodation given its close proximity to the pristine Sabang beach, plus it is only 10 mins away from the Sabang Boat Terminal!
The beach resort is a top choice for honeymooners, equipped with 27 cabanas, all of which has a magnificent view facing the ocean and quick access to the beachfront. With a limited number of rooms, the hotel provides the utmost privacy for the guests, making it a secluded vacation oasis.
I had absolutely fell in love with the traditional Filipino style rooms, furnished with beautiful wooden floors and private veranda!
Snorkeling in the ocean or taking a dip inside the pool – it’s entirely up to you!
For adventure seekers, a wealth of activities are made available to you, including jungle trekking, zipline, paddleboarding, and mountain biking. If you simply want to relax, stroll down the Sabang Beach and you’ll find massage huts just mins away! Hearing the soothing soundscape of waves and enjoying the ocean breeze must be the most wonderful thing in the world!
We ended the day with a romantic candlelit dinner at the resort restaurant. The 3-course Filipino-style dinner was a perfect way to call it a night!
About Daluyon Beach & Mountain Resort
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Looks like a lovely adventure…tempting pics
Thank you, Lydia. It is quite spectacular!
What a lovely time you’re having on your honeymoon. That underground river looks fascinating! 🙂
Thanks! We were so glad to be able to visit such a natural treasure 😉
What an incredible experience! The limestone and rock formations are wonderful and the caves look absolutely fascinating. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos and experience!
Thanks, Brooke! It was stunning and we’re really glad to visit one of the 7 wonders and world heritage 🙂
Your post and pictures really made me fall in love with Puerto Princesa Underground River. What a spectacular place to visit! Those coves look so beautiful. Thanks for joining us for #TheWeeklyPostcard.
Thanks, Anda! It was a truly phenomenal experience for us too!
Thanks for the tour of the underwater river. What a cool adventure!
I guess the head gear also serves as protection from bat poop!
It’s interesting that English is the language spoken on the tour.
That’s a good point, Marcia!
I loved the cave tour! When we had our photo taken by that sign, there was a huge monitor lizard just hanging out. He seemed friendly….
Haha, Corinne, that must be an interesting experience 😛 We also saw a monitor lizard when we arrived at the Daluyon Resort. They are everything!
Wow, I’ve never heard of this underground river, but it sounds pretty magical. The fruit stalls are so colorful – I’m just dreaming of warm weather as I deal with a snow storm. Your photos are fabulous!
Thanks! I miss the tropical weather as well – not having to bundle up in layers of clothing is both a relief and freedom that I miss dearly 😛
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Wow! I would love to do this! I love caves and underground treasures. The village looks fun to explore, too. It was so nice of your husband to translate for all the non-English speakers. Maybe he should consider a future as a tour guide!
This underground river sounds so interesting! I’m not a big fan of caves, but I always seemed to get convinced to visit them and then I see so many interesting rock formations and creatures inside. I also love the sound of a massage on the Sabang beach while staying at Daluyon resort.
What an amazing adventure. It reminds me of Barton Creek Cave in Belize but with a Filipino flair. I love caving and boating, put the two together and I’m on that trip. This is really cool.
The underground river experience must be surreal! And you definitely had a wonderful honeymoon in Philippines from the look of it.
That lunch looks delicious! Do you know where the Spanish names for the cities came from? Your pictures are gorgeous, putting Palawan on my list!
Sounds like a fun day. I have never heard of an underground river, that’s pretty cool!
Ohh I’d love to do this! I love bats (but definitely not bat poop so that was a good tip!) Also, now all I can think of is Ace Ventura haha.
WAITTT this looks incredible! I’m going to the Phillippines in Nov and must add this to the list. That water looks to die forrrrr! The village also looks fun!
So did you guys get pooped on by any bats? 😛 I’m surprised they allowed flash photography. I feel like places in SE Asia in general can put in more effort in preserving mother nature.
Wow, an underground river — how cool! Although I’m kind of scared of bats, haha. I love that you were conscious of the creatures inside and decided not to use flash photography. Your photos are gorgeous!!
Thank you for taking us into the cave in the video! I love caves, and the idea of canoeing on a river through a cave is great. Beautiful place! It looks like the two of you had a lot of fun in Puerto Princesa — the resort is lovely.
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