Looking for an itinerary for Palawan including Puerto Princesa and El Nido? This post is for YOU!
This covers the Underground River Tour, island hopping in El Nido, and just chillin’ in Puerto Princesa city.
On the first day of this five day Palawan itinerary, go straight to the Puerto Princesa Underground River office (PPUR office) which is only about half a kilometer from the airport. You can walk if you want to save money, tricycles would ask you for a lot for such a short distance. If they agree for a local rate, say P8, go for it. Otherwise, the walk is leisurely, there are a lot of trees and it is not that hot even at noon. That is, if you do not have that much baggage to carry around
At the PPUR office, book a tour for your fourth day. This would serve as your highlight of your Palawan trip.
There are several tour agents outside the booking office, you may negotiate with them if you want a more convenient way to do the underground river tour. It may cost from P1,200-P1,400. It includes transportation from your accommodations to the Sabang (jump-off point to the Underground River tour), and back, as well as lunch.
But if you want to save as much as 60%, here is a Do-It-Yourself way. At the booking office, just follow the steps on how to apply for a permit as shown in the image above. You will have to pay P175/head, that is just the permit to enter the river by the way, there are fees still that lies ahead. Details are in the fourth day.
Look for a place to stay in Puerto Princesa as you will be back in the city around midnight of your third day from El Nido. The cheapest place I found was Duchess Inn which only costs P250. It has very basic amenities and has shared restrooms.
In the afternoon, catch a bus going to El Nido at the San Jose terminal. Going to the terminal from downtown Puerto Princesa may cost you P13 via jeep, and 20 minutes travel time. I recommend the Roro bus than the public utility bus (PUB) or the van; it is more spacious and comfortable for the 6-7 hours trip. It is cheaper than the van, and way better than the PUB. Try to catch their 2 PM or 6 PM trips to El Nido, those are the aircon trips. The 4 PM trip is non-aircon. For the full details of the transportation to El Nido, click this >link<.
If you get on the 4 PM roro bus, you will arrive in El Nido around 11 PM. It makes stops though, so do not worry if you have an active bladder. It will stop for dinnertime, too.
By the time you arrive at El Nido, you should have contacted the place you are going to stay at. One of the cheapest place is at Tay Miloy’s Inn, owned by Rodrigo Caranog (I will give his phone number if you email diva <at> lakbaydiva <dhot> com), A tricycle can bring you there for about P20.
Places to stay at El Nido usually can arrange the island hopping adventures for you. Or you can have a short-walk to the bay where the boats are. Tour A costs P700/head, but there is an additional P200 for the environmental fee. That environmental fee is good for about 10 days activity in El Nido, though. The island hopping tour includes the boat, life-vests, lunch, and a whole day marveling at the beauty of El Nido.
Island Hopping Tour C! This costs P900/head as its destinations are the farthest. Check out before heading to your island hopping as most accommodations have a check-out time of 12 noon. Just try to negotiate if you could leave your bags for pickup late in the afternoon.
The most recommended tours are Tours A and C, though it does not mean that Tours B and D are less beautiful. If you have more time, it is best to have all these four different tours, actually!
You will be done by at most 4 PM, so you can catch the 6PM roro bus back to Puerto Princesa. You will arrive at San Jose terminal by around midnight. There are usually no more jeeps going back to Puerto Princesa proper, so you will be forced to ride a tricycle that might cost P50-P70/head to the place you will be staying.
If you arranged for an agency tour to PPUR, all you need to do is wait to be picked up and do the PPUR tour.
If you opted for a more adventurous DIY way, here is how to do it.
By 7 AM you should have been heading to San Jose terminal as there is a 7:30 AM van going to Sabang. There are jeepneys and buses going there too, but the van is more value-for-money. It is faster to arrive there, as well as you will be comfortable. For more details about the schedules to Sabang, click >here<.
Upon arrival at Sabang port, you have to line-up and pay P40 for environmental fee inside the small building. Then you have to line-up again for a banka transpo which may hold up to 8-10 people. The boat costs P700 so look for other people as early as in the van on the way to Sabang. When in the underground river, you will have to line up for the last time for priority in going inside. This time, there is no more shedding of money.
As the tour finishes about 45 minutes, you will head back to Sabang port where you can just chill and eat lunch before heading back to Puerto Princesa. There are all-you-can-eat buffet for P200 in almost all the restaurants there, but they also serve per order meal.
You should try the tamilok! It costs P100, but if you are there then you must spend on it! Vendors usually just approach eating customers, they sit and watch outside the open-air restaurants’ perimeter.
It looks like a worm, but in truth, it is a type of oyster, and it does taste like oyster! All you need to do is take one, dip into the vinegar, and dunk it to your mouth! It was featured as one of the yuckiest food and a challenge for participants in a TV Survivor series.
In the afternoon, you could hang out in Puerto Princesa’s baywalk. It is a long stretch of a park where locals and tourists stroll, just chillin’. Stalls sell food to eat, as well as beer to drink. It is a great place to hang-out!
There are firefly tours at night that start off from the baywalk, but you need to book a day ahead. It is a bit pricey, despite including a heavy dinner. It costs P1000. If you are a sucker of fireflies or haven’t seen one yet, then you could shell out that money as there are hundreds of thousands there that makes the mangrove trees flicker like Christmas trees.
It is time to relax and just chill. You can go around the city on your own visiting museums, the Japanese garrison ruins, crocodile farms, among others. But I would prefer just waiting for my flight at the airport.
If for some reason you cannot book an island hopping tour in El Nido, try going to Nacpan beach by renting a motorbike for P500-600. Just make sure it is the dry season, for in the wet season, the roads are muddy and difficult to cross. You will end up like me in my Nacpan beach adventure. There are also miscellaneous activities like climbing the Taraw cliffs if you are a hiker or mountain-climber, not advisable for beginners as the route is difficult and the terrain sharp.
Also, I really feel the underground river tour is a bit overrated. It is expensive and too much of a hassle. I would prefer a whole day Honda Bay tour instead.
If you have additional questions, I would love to hear from you! Message me!