Aptly called “A City in the Forest”, due to this City’s attractions that have a lot to do with its world-class natural wonders and the commitment of the people in it to the environment.
Puerto Princesa City, located at the World’s Most Beautiful Island Palawan, has been named as the “cleanest and greenest city” and has also been recognized globally for its environmental excellence.
At present, Puerto Princesa serves as the main gateway to the island of Palawan. Just like any other city, Puerto Princesa has hotels, resorts, restaurants, inns and other comforts. Puerto Princesa also serves as a venue for many conferences and meetings and has satisfying adventures in any trip and tour. Aside from that, structures, establishments, and other activities in this city is perfect for family holidays and for exploration of cultural treasures.
Legend has it that the name “Puerto Princesa” was coined because of a princess-like maiden who in the early day is said to have roamed around the place on certain nights of the year.
Others, on the other hand, attribute the name of the city to its geographical advantages as a seaport that is naturally protected throughout the year and is endowed with a depth that can accommodate any size of shipping.
In the past, Spanish colonizers saw Puerto Princesa as a royal refuge for sea vessels which made historical accounts attribute the name as a tribute to Princess Eulalia, daughter of Queen Isabella II of Spain.
The urban center of Puerto Princesa offers some historic sites such as Plaza Cuartel and Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
Plaza Cuartel, a historical place left with the restored ruins of an old garrison where Japanese soldiers burned 143 American soldiers who have become prisoners of war inside a tunnel and until now, the area serves as a grim reminder of World War II atrocities, only ten soldiers were able to survive to tell the tale of what happened inside that tunnel.
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral built in 1872, is a unique angular-structured edifice.
Plaza Cuartel and the Cathedral are located less than a kilometer away are Mendoza Park and Palawan National Museum. The museum features vital ethnological artifacts from the Tabon Cave complex, one of the archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.
Years later, waves of various migrants from other provinces in the Philippines and even from other countries have turned Puerto Princesa into a melting pot of varying cultures. Among the original inhabitants are the Cuyunons who possess rich legacy of folklore and traditions. Aside from them, Bataks and Tagbanuas were also one of those who first set foot on the promising island of Palawan.
These groups of people who have unique cultures, traditions and practices served as the foundation of the rich culture visible in the city during festivities and other events where their rich native culture and arts are being exhibited.
Each group of people has their own distinct dialects but they can also speak the native tongue which is the Filipino language. Until now, there are still some members of the Bataks and Tagbanuas who practice their traditional rituals and would sometimes let tourists have a live presentation of their culture.
The best time to visit Puerto Princesa is during its many festivals where you can witness colorful Street Dances and Parades with magnificent floats. Some of them are Baragatan sa Palawan Festival which celebrated the foundation of Palawan’s civil government; the City Fiesta that commemorates the Immaculate Conception of Mary; and the Balayong Festival that is usually being celebrated on the month of March when the pinkish flowers of the Balayong or Palawan Cherry start to bloom.
One of the strangest things that someone could do in Puerto Princesa is visiting the Iwahig Penal Farm, a penal colony in the city where inmates live, work, and roam freely, and despite the almost non-existent security measures in the area, attempted escapes are surprisingly rare which is probably due to the fact that the prisoners are allowed to live with their families. Those who lack qualifications are given the opportunity to specialize in one field including agriculture, fishing, making handicrafts, and carpentry. Visiting the Iwahig prison will definitely be a good experience.
Baker’s Hill is another Puerto Princesa City landmark to discover. With various structures, floras, and faunas, this landmark became popular to both tourists and the locals of the city.
Baker’s Hill has a playground for kids and benches for parents who are looking after their kids and for those who just feel like relaxing. It also has a restaurant and a bakery where guests could buy their food in case they get hungry while looking at the landscapes and a view of the Honda Bay. There are also statues that entertain the eyes of guests and would usually be subjects for picture takings.
The Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center also known as the Crocodile Farm is also another major landmark in the city. Hundreds of crocodiles are housed in this wildlife reserve, right from the newly hatched ones up to the full-grown giant’s people usually see on TV and in zoos. Aside from crocodiles, the center also gives shelter to other animals including some that are already considered “endemic” in the island of Palawan.
The northeast area of Puerto Princesa is perfect for relaxing on non-touristy beaches and trekking nature trails towards waterfalls.
Olangoan Waterfalls is a delightful watering hole with a 5cm Clift jump. it can be reached by 45 minutes of trekking, crossing streams, and a bit of bouldering. Further east off the coast, two worthwhile destinations are Panglima Reef, a diving and snorkeling site featuring schools of surgeonfish, fusiliers, and small barracuda; and Babuyan Twin Sandbars, where one can best experience Paraw sailing and sunset watching. The twin sandbars shift in a shape depending on the waves and are surrounded by coral gardens and schools of fish, great for snorkeling.
Other activities worth experiencing in this area include immersing in the rich culture of the Batak tribe , spelunking in Taraw Cave, and going a river cruise down Maoyon River which stops over at the immense and heavily trunked Dao Tree.
A 25km drive from city proper, the remarkable Nagtabon Beach is 800 meters long and 15 meters wide, with captivating panoramic views of mountains. About half-hour drive away from Nagtabon, is Napsan Beach, a white sand retreat with huge bedrock and picturesque sunset.
Three other charming beaches along the southwest coast are Tagkawayan Beach, Talaudyong Beach, and Simpocan Beach. Serving as a backdrop in this area are the mountaineering destinations Mt. Thumbpeak and Mt. Beaufort, both featuring biodiverse forests and amazing views.
Other activities worth considering include trekking the 28km Palawan Ecological Adventure trail and dipping in the pools of Tagkurring waterfalls and Salakot Waterfalls.
Must See Attractions
Puerto Princesa’s Underground River
Every year, thousands of tourists are drawn to the northwest mainly to boat down sunless Puerto Princesa Underground River, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
Part of a half- submerged cave system, the underground river spans a staggering 8km, with scenic views of limestone formations, cavernous chambers, and wild animals.
It is the second-longest navigable underground river in the world and is declared on of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
After the Underground River tour, one of the Puerto Princesa’s most popular tours is Island-hopping in HONDA BAY. The tour takes off from a charming, palm-fringed coast in the east, and includes visits to several islets with lovely white beaches such as Starfish Island, Cowrie Island and Luli Island.
Classic Puerto Princesa Tour Options:
- Day Trip Underground River: the most popular excursion in Puerto Princesa. The Underground River is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
- Day Trip Honda Bay: Go island hopping and explore some of the tropical islands scattered in the bay such as Luli Island, Cowrie Island and Starfish Island.
- Puerto Princesa City tour: a perfect introduction to Puerto Princesa’s highlights and the best way to start your vacation in Palawan Island.