One more white sandy beach surrounded by crystal clear waters certainly won't hurt! Certainly not me! Palawan, a piece of paradise.
Fresh from our last wondrous adventure at Samboan in Cebu, we were off again to our next adventure in Palawan! I was certainly determined to make the best out of our four week holiday in the Philippines. Tagging along were my husband and son. My husband who would normally be wary on venturing out of Cebu had entrusted me to spearhead the family to yet another journey. This time, it would be Palawan. This trip was a treat for us for two reasons: This year, my husband will be celebrating a milestone on his birthday. We had also just reached a milestone on our marriage. So that’s our excuse for splurging!
Decisions ... decisions
But where to go? El Nido or Puerto Princesa? From research and interviews (yes, I really did that), It had come to my attention that El Nido had the better views. It has the added bonus of the stunning limestone cliffs. It is however a bit more on the pricey side and also a bit farther.Flying to Puerto Princesa costs only about a third of the cost of flying straight to El Nido. Going to El Nido through Puerto Princesa will take about 5 hours by bus.
Puerto Princesa is home to the very famous Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (otherwise known as the Underground River). I had always wished to explore the Underground River, it being one of the 'New Seven Wonders of Nature'.
Or Puerto Princesa?
Now to decide between El Nido or Puerto Princesa. After considering all the pros and cons, the desire to see the world famous Underground River was what finally flipped the coin to Puerto Princesa for me.
Palawan here we come!
Puerto Princesa Airport
Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa
We have booked ourselves to this fairly new (only 4 years old) and highly rated hotel called Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa. A beautiful hotel and is only 15-20 minutes drive from the airport. As soon as we were collected from the airport, we were shown to our ‘pad’ called the Elite Ocean Front Suite. It had direct access to the pool which my husband loved and had an outside jacuzzi which my son dived into the moment we got settled in. Me, I’ve got no complaints. I just wished we had more time to explore the huge hotel. Our ‘room’ had a spacious living and dining area (with a mini kitchen to boot), a rain shower and a powder room. Did I mention it also had 2 LCD TV sets (46 and 40-inch)? Impressive though our accommodation was, if one is planning to be out a lot, it might not be too practical to stay in a very expensive hotel as a base.
We actually booked for two different accommodations during our stay. My husband wanted to have access to the pool so we booked a room with access to it for a few days and as staying in a water villa was on my bucket list, we will be moving to that too for our final night.
Yes it was my birthday and the staff were kind enough to give me balloons
Our pad had direct access to the pool
We booked for two tours on our stay at the hotel. First was a tour to the Underground River then the following day we will be on an island-hopping expedition. Can’t wait!
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
(also known as the Underground River)
After a 2 -hour drive from our hotel, we arrived at the port of Sabang. We took a motorised boat to take us to the river.
My first impression of Puerto Princesa was that it was very clean and naturally conserved. Located in a place called Sabang, the river is about 2 hours drive from our hotel. It is Puerto Princesa’s main tourist site. In 28 January 2012 (source: nature.new7wonders.com) the Underground River was confirmed as one the New Seven Wonders of Nature. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The river is about 8.2 km but only 4.3 km is navigable by boat.
As we went to where the river was, we were given helmets to wear and audio aides which gave us some insight as to its history and what to expect on our tour. The helmets were to protect us from any falling stalactites and of course as shield from the bats’ poop.
We donned helmets, life jackets and audio aides while heading to the Underground River
I have never seen a bat in my life but in the cave, I could see hundreds of them! We dare not cough, sneeze nor talk in case we disturbed them. Then of course there were some tourists in another canoe who talked like they were playing mahjong while taking selfies. Come on guys really? Selfies even in the dark?
Finally, our 45 minute tour inside the cave came to an end. We then head back to the port for our lunch.
Now that we had our first fix of nature, it was time to drive back to our hotel. We had a quick swim in the pool when we got back then had our meal. Had an early night ready for the following day’s island hopping venture.
First stop was a shop where we hired our aqua shoes and snorkels. We then head to the port for our boat which would take us to our first island.
Island number one was called Starfish Island for obvious reasons. The waters were crystal clear and the sand sparkled by the sun! With the hills and mountains surrounding the islands and the clear skies, one couldn’t be blamed if one felt like we were in some paradise! We got off by the sandbar and walked to the island.
Starfish Island and its Sandbar
Second stop was the nearby island of Luli. Named so from the Filipino word ‘Lulubog’ which means sink and ‘Lilitaw’ which means afloat. When it is high tide, the whole island seems to sink with only the buildings seen from afar. When it is low tide, then you can see the whole island. Its sand bar, just like Starfish Island, stretches as far as the eyes can see.
Last stop was the Cowrie Island. Here we stopped for the rest of the afternoon. We had our buffet lunch there too. It was all part of the package tour. My son went jet skiing (we had to pay for that), sometimes disappearing behind the neighbouring islands. My husband and I went swimming and snorkelling. It was indeed the best part of our island hopping experience when we get to relax on the beach and soak in the sun and stunning scenery. Nature at its very best!
Then it was time to head back to the port and to our van for the long drive back to our hotel. Can’t wait to see our water villa!
The Water Villa
Beautiful view of the sunrise as seen from our water villa
What can I say about the water villa? It offered us the best view of the sea and and the horizon! Purely stunning! Getting up before the crack of dawn to witness the sunrise by the villa's balcony was certainly priceless! I have never witnessed anything as stunningly beautiful as that! (at least for that moment, it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen!) I have witnessed nature at its best over and over again in this beautiful island of Palawan.
And yes there's a photo of our jacuzzi with bubbles overflowing from it. I recklessly emptied a whole bottle of bubble bath into it. When the stream of water came bubbling in, so did the whole tub with bubbles pouring out into our room and into the sea! Oooops!
That concludes my amazing experience in this stunning city of Puerto Princesa. Next on my travel blog list is El Nido but that may not be for a while yet.
If you ever wonder if there is paradise on earth, then book a flight to Palawan and see for yourself!
Even at dusk, the port is a sight to behold!