Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Puerto Princesa, Philippines
Puerto Princesa is a city located in the middle of the western provincial island of Palawan, Philippines. It is bound to the east by the Sulu Sea, to the west by the South China Sea, to the north by the municipalities of San Vicente and Roxas, and to the south by the municipality of Aborlan. It is approximately 306 nautical miles (about 567 kilometres) from the Philippine capital of Manila, approximately 205 nautical miles (about 380 kilometres) from Panay Island, and approximately 250 nautical miles (about 460 kilometres) from Zamboanga City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. With an area of approximately 919 square miles (about 2,381 square kilometres), Puerto Princesa City is the second-largest geographically after Davao City, and location of the Philippines's Western Command headquarters. Although the least-densely-populated city in the Philippines, Puerto Princesa is the provincial seat of government for Palawan. The city is one of 38 independent cities within the Philippines not controlled by the province in which it is geographically located, and is therefore an independent area located within Palawan. Sixty-six urban and rural districts, or barangays (formerly known as 'barrios'), are spread throughout the Philippines.
Spanish colonisers founded the settlement of Puerto Princesa City in 1872. They levelled a steeply-sloped hill and built a settlement with a chapel, municipal building and school. Today, that section is occupied by the Catholic Cathedral, P.C. Barracks and Rizal Park. The first mass celebrated in Puerto Princesa took place at a site where a marker now stands. In May 1872, the Port of Puerto Princesa became the centre of Spanish Naval Operations. By 1883, the settlement had flourished into a town of twelve roads, a hospital and well-built port. In 1894, Puerto Princesa was recognised by government authorities as one of the country's most beautiful towns by virtue of the orderly distribution of streets, buildings and houses, as well as the cleanliness of the community. In 1911, the New American Administration made Puerto Princesa the seat of the Palawan Provincial Government. In 1951, the barrios of Tinitian, Caramay, Rizal, Del Pilar, Malcampo, Tumarbong, Taradungan, Ilian, and Capayas were combined to form the town of Roxas. In 1955, the sitios of Materingen, Tandayag, Nasedoc, and Panlawagan were separated from the barrio of Maroyogon, and elevated into a barrio. In 1956, the sitios of Calagbenguen, Tarabanan, Bendoyan, Talabigan, Tagbuan, and Langogan consolidated to form the barrio of Concepcion. In 1957, the barrio of Tapul was renamed 'Salvacion', then converted into a city in 1970. Since its foundation, Puerto Princesa has been the centre of activities in Palawan, provincial seat of public administration, and heart of trade, commerce, service and industry. Today, this beautiful, verdant city is also home to many wonderful beach resorts and seafood restaurants.
Although Puerto Princesa is supported by the agriculture, mari-culture, livestock, poultry, fishery, and forestry industries, it's easy to see why the city is among the cleanest, greenest and most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines. Puerto Princesa's Subterranean River, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the world's longest underground river. It runs five miles (8.2 kilometres) beneath a national park and mountain range, and through the St. Paul Underground River Cave. Puerto Princesa Bay, a major entry point to the city, is ideal for bay and mangrove cruises. The nearby Honda Bay Islands, easily-accessible via boat, offer endless snorkelling, sunbathing and swimming opportunities. Pristine, powdery, white-sand beaches can be found in almost all islands, islets, coves and bays in Palawan Province, providing a scenic contrast to the green canopies and emerald or blue waters. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a vast UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a unique example of an atoll reef, with a very high density of marine species. Limestone and marble cliffs and peaks, including Cleopatra's Needle and majestic Mount Thumbpeak feature lush, dense forests teeming with beautiful waterfalls and rivers, rich and diverse flora and fauna, and spectacular panoramic vistas overlooking the city, islands and sea.
Puerto Princesa and its environs offers ample opportunities to explore the people, legacy and traditions of Palawan and the Philippines. The Tabon Cave Complex, an important archaeological site, is home to the remains of the oldest homo-sapiens in Southeast Asia. The Palawan Heritage Centre preserves and promotes the rich cultural heritage of the province through interactive displays, maps, photos and artefacts. The Palawan Museum is another repository of Palawan relics and artefacts, including those from Tabon Cave. You can also explore the unique history of Puerto Princesa at the Batak Cultural Village, one of Palawan's oldest and the smallest of three major indigenous groups.
Puerto Princesa is renowned for its stunning natural topography, lush tropical foliage, idyllic islands, coves and bays, inviting white-sand beaches, and crystal-clear waters, all of which offer a superb selection of picturesque and delightful sightseeing venues for outdoor enthusiasts. Land-based excursions include exhilarating zip-line rides at Ugong Rock and the Central Park Station, navigating the spectacular Subterranean River, spelunking in the Tabon Cave Complex, observing the reptiles and wildlife at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre, and bird-watching, mountain-trekking and exploring Puerto Princesa's limestone and marble cliffs, Cleopatra's Needle and Mount Thumbpeak. Scenic and memorable water-based excursions include bathing in the deep pools of the lovely Salakot Waterfalls, and exploring the vast lagoons and coral islands of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a marine and bird sanctuary. Boating, sailing, fishing, kayaking, snorkelling, diving, and swimming also abound in the bays of Puerto Princesa and Ulugan, and nearby Honda Bay Islands.
Due to its compact size, Puerto Princesa can be easily explored in just a single day.
Going Ashore in Puerto Princesa
The ship is scheduled to dock at the Puerto Princesa Pier. Puerto Princesa's town centre can be reached via a 0.6-mile (one-kilometre) tricycle-ride, or 5-10-minute walk on-foot. Covered tricycles are available at the pier, but are not metered. Please make sure to establish a price before starting any journey. Complimentary shuttle bus service to a convenient location in town is offered in the morning and afternoon.
Puerto Princesa features a wealth of shopping opportunities, including local favourites such as dried fish, cashew nuts, artwork, handicrafts, woodcarvings, exotic wooden furniture and décor, pearls and pearl products, native goods, jewellery, clothing, accessories, t-shirts, keychains, colourful, hand-woven cloth, rugs, baskets and placemats, rattan, wicker, reed and bamboo furnishings, and other pasalubong's, or souvenirs. Popular local stores include: Baker's Hill for cashew nuts, pastries, hopias and souvenirs; Asiano Arts and Crafts for handmade artwork, handicrafts and other souvenirs made primarily from local organic materials, such as seeds, animal bones, exotic wood, driftwood, roots, etc.; El Nido Art Boutique for clothing, accessories, printed shirts, swimwear, sundries, travel necessities such as sunblock, insect repellent and toiletries, European and seafood dishes, organic vegetables, and fruit shakes; Kaingud Arts and Crafts for handmade artwork, handicrafts, jewellery and other souvenirs made from stone, shell, blade of grass, roots, exotic wood, and beads; Palawan Handicrafts for gift items, home wares, gift items and souvenirs; Tiangge-Tiangge for a variety of beautiful pearl necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, along with colourful beaded accessories; Kamarikutan Gallery for paintings, sketches and shirts, along with cashew nougat, yema and other sweets; Robinsons Place Mall for branded stores and consumer goods, food, handicrafts, clothing, shoes, accessories, along with beauty salons, a food court and cinema; and numerous souvenir shops in-and-around town. Most shops are open daily from 8-10 a.m. to 6-9 p.m. The local currency is the Philippine Peso.
Puerto Princesa is renowned for its Filipino, Chinese, Spanish, Malay, Vietnamese, European, Swiss, German, Italian, English, American, and international cuisine. Filipino cuisine usually features rice as the main dish, which is served along with meat, seafood or fish cooked in a stew of vegetables. Seafood is the central component of Palawan cuisine, and constitutes the main course in most restaurants. Local specialities include: mechado, or beef or pork in tomato gravy; lechón, or roasted pig; crispy pata, or deep-fried pig's foot; kaldereta, or goat meat in tomato stew; sinigang na hipon, or sour soup with shrimp; chicken inasal, or grilled chicken; bagoong, or fermented shrimp paste; laing, or dried taro leaves with coconut milk; monggo with tuyo, or mung beans with salted fish; lato, or seaweed salad; pinakbet, or mixed vegetables; adobong kangkong, or sautéed water spinach; ginataang kalabasa, or pumpkin in coconut milk; and ginataang langka, or jackfruit in coconut milk. Popular Filipino desserts include flan; turon, or bananas in spring roll wrappers fried in sugar; bibingka, or rice cakes in a variety of flavours and textures; ube, or purple yam; fruit salad; and halo-halo, a refreshing ice-based dessert combining sweet palm fruit, shredded coconut, jackfruit, mung beans, purple yam, corn, coconut gelatin, and pounded dry rice.
Popular local restaurants in-and-around Puerto Princesa include: Kinabuch's Bar and Grill; Viet Ville; Bavaria Pizza; Ka Lui; La Terrasse; Café Ole; A&A Seafood Palace; Sidelines Teashop and Bar; Ima's Vegetarian; Marber's Beer Garden; Haim Chicken Inato; White Fence Country Café; Captain's Ribs; Gypsy's Lair Art Café; Hibiscus Pizzeria; Deep Forest; Ima's Gulay Bar; Ka Inato; Badjao Seafront; Diver's Dream; Bona's Chaolong; Divine Sweets; Heavenly Desserts; TomTom Club; Rusticana; McCoy's; Rene's Saigon; Mang Inasal; IToy's Coffee Haus; K'na Boyet Sa Baywok; Balinsasayaw; Café Loreto; Celestial's Restaurant & Café; and Tokyo Gyoza. Popular hotels for dining include the Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort, Princesa Garden Hotel, Aziza Paradise Hotel, RAQ Pensionne, and Hotel Centro, among others.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
Puerto Princesa's most renowned destination, the Subterranean River is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Presumed to be the world's longest navigable underground river, the five-mile (8.2-kilometre) Subterranean River winds its way underneath a mountain range and through the St. Paul Underground River Cave, then flows into the South China Sea. The journey through the cave system alone is approximately 15 miles (24 kilometres) in length. At the mouth of the cave, a clear lagoon is framed by ancient trees growing right to the water's edge. Monkeys, large monitor lizards and squirrels find their niche on the beach near the cave. The entire area where the Underground River is located is actually a national park, and a model of biodiversity. More than 800 plant species, including almost 300 trees, 195 bird species, 30 mammals, 19 reptiles, and eight bat species call this premier ecotourism destination home. In addition to navigating this unique river, visitors here can also enjoy bird-watching, mountain-trekking, and exploring the deeper part of the forest.
Puerto Princesa Bay
Puerto Princesa Bay is a major entry point to the city Puerto Princesa, and the first impression seen by visitors to the island. The site is ideal for bay and mangrove cruising and kayaking. Puerto Princesa Bay is also major port of call for smaller ships and boats going to Sulu Sea destinations, such as the Cuyo islands and Tubbataha Reef, a diver's paradise. Many bayside resorts offer accommodations and dining facilities with panoramic views of the bay, along with water-based sports activities. Tricycles within the city proper can transport visitors to the bay area and port, which is ideal for a sunrise stroll and splendid views of the bay. The annual celebration of Layagan, a boat-sailing contest and festival that commences from San Rafael off Honda Bay, culminates in the bay area.
Palawan Heritage Centre
The Palawan Heritage Centre is located at the Provincial Legislative Building along Fernandez Street, in the heart of the city of Puerto Princesa. This educational, highly-informative and interactive museum, designed and operated by the provincial government, preserves and promotes the rich cultural heritage of the province. Artefacts dating back 300 years, old photos, life-sized dioramas and interactive modules such as holograms, computerized touch screens, information kiosks, maps, and learning stations outline Palawan's history, and explain contemporary economic and environmental challenges.
Batak Cultural Village
Explore the unique heritage of Puerto Princesa at the Batak Cultural Village. It is a model of the communities where the Batak mountain people, one of Palawan's oldest and the smallest of three major indigenous groups, live. The village has a gallery and shop where Batak handicrafts are sold.
Ugong Rock is a large outcropping in the middle of a rice field on the right side of the road heading towards Sabang. A maze of passageways honeycomb through this limestone formation, and are ideal for exploring. Ropes and walkways make it easier for visitors to traverse them. Eventually, you wind your way to the top and emerge at the shelter to rest and take in the exquisite panoramic view. Zip-line cables are attached at the top and support by pulleys, enabling visitors to experience a delightfully scenic ride to the landing platform on the other side of the rice fields.
Sabang X Zipline
One of Sabang's greatest attractions, the Sabang X Zipline begins at the Central Park Station, which is accessible via a short, 10-minute trek through the beach and monkey trail leading up to it. This fun-filled and exciting, 2,625-foot (800-metre) ride is highlighted by breath-taking panoramic views of the mountain and open sea.
Located 93 miles (150 kilometres) southeast of Puerto Princesa City, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a protected area of the Philippines located in the middle of the Sulu Sea. The marine and bird sanctuary consists of two huge atolls, the North and South atolls, and the smaller Jessie Beazley Reef. Together, they span 239,800 acres (97,030 hectares). This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species; the North Islet serves as a nesting site for birds and marine turtles. The site is an excellent example of a pristine coral reef, with a spectacular 328-foot (100-metre) perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons and two coral islands. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to 600 fish species, 360 coral species, 11 shark species, 13 dolphin and whale species, and 100 bird species.
Honda Bay Islands
Located off the mid-eastern coast of Puerto Princesa City, the Honda Bay Islands are easily-accessible via boat. You can go island-hopping, and take your pick from dozens of white-sand beaches. Dive sites abound here, as the entire area is studded with patches of coral and sand. Submerged reefs with small reef and aquarium fish may also be found close to the surface, and down to approximately 79 feet (about 24 metres). Among the best-known dive sites here are Pandan Island, which has good reefs near small drop-offs, along with Arreceffi Island and Panglima Reef, where coral boulders and grey reef sharks are found. Snake Island has a sandbar that slithers on the surface of the sea, much like the reptile bearing its name. It is a popular destination for snorkelling, swimming and sunbathing, and can be reached in an hour by pump-boat. Bat Island, only 20 minutes away from St. Lourdes Wharf, is literally teeming with bats that make their way out at sundown to look for food in the mainland.
Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm
Established by the Americans in 1904 to supply food to other prisons all over the country, Iwahig has since become synonymous to finely handcrafted bags and other souvenir items. In this prison without walls, inmates tend vast farms instead of idly spending time behind bars.
A haven for hikers, majestic Mount Thumbpeak features beautiful rivers and lush, dense forests teeming with rich and diverse flora and fauna, orchids, plants, bonsai trees, and more. The summit offers spectacular panoramic views of nearby mountains, the west coast of the mountain, entire city of Puerto Princesa, and the Iwahig River. At night, the trail is lit by abundant fireflies. Since Mount Thumbpeak is part of a protected area, a permit and guide are required.
Puerto Princesa offers a superb selection of picturesque and delightful sightseeing venues for outdoor enthusiasts. Land-based excursions include exhilarating zip-line rides at Ugong Rock and the Central Park Station, navigating the spectacular Subterranean River, spelunking in the Tabon Cave Complex, observing the reptiles and wildlife at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre, and bird-watching, mountain-trekking and exploring Puerto Princesa's limestone and marble cliffs, Cleopatra's Needle and Mount Thumbpeak. Scenic and memorable water-based excursions include bathing in the deep pools of the lovely Salakot Waterfalls, and exploring the vast lagoons and coral islands of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a marine and bird sanctuary. Boating, sailing, fishing, kayaking, snorkelling, diving, and swimming also abound in the bays of Puerto Princesa and Ulugan, and nearby Honda Bay Islands.
Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Shore Concierge Office on board the ship.