The Puerto Princesa Underground River is one of the most famous and popular attractions in the Philippines. This day tour is the main reason people stop at Puerto Princesa before heading to other parts of Palawan, such as El Nido and Coron. Declared both as a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the new 7 wonders of nature, visiting this awe-inspiring cave system is something you will remember forever. This tour is included in all of our Puerto Princesa packages, as well as other interesting attractions in the area, such as Firefly watching and Honda Bay island hopping.
The Subterranean River national park lies amidst the jungles not far from Sabang beach, to the north of Puerto Princesa. It is an elaborate cave system, full of unique rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites. Since the river connects directly to the ocean, a one of a kind phenomenon, an extremely diverse ecosystem thrives inside. Unfortunately, since it’s very dark, you are most likely to only see bats. So, the main attraction is the huge caverns and halls resembling a massive cathedral, making this place one of the largest and most elaborate cave systems accessible to the general public.
The tour is highly regulated and operators and local tour guides adhere to the highest safety standards. All in all, booking the underground river tour is the perfect way to spend a day in Puerto Princesa.
The easiest way to visit the Underground river is by renting a van and going from Puerto Princesa. It’s 1.5 hours drive to Sabang, and you’ll be picked up from your hotel early in the morning. Since this tour is very popular, it’s better to get there early to avoid long waiting times. Even though booking a private van is possible, we strongly encourage taking this tour as part of a group. It doesn’t only make the experience cheaper, but also much more fun.
Another option is getting to Sabang beach the day before and spending the night there. You can then have a full day of exploring this area, which has a few other attractions as well. Sabang is mostly about nature – there are a few mountain hiking trails and the beach itself is quite nice. Since there are quite a few advantages to staying there instead of the city, this is something you can consider. Read our reviews of Daluyon and Sheridan, the two best resorts in Sabang, and it will give you a better idea if this a place you’d like to stay at.
Lastly, you can even visit this place directly from El Nido by renting a private van. This isn’t ideal as the van ride takes 5 hours, meaning you’ll have to leave El Nido around 4AM. Still, if you have an evening flight from Puerto Princesa, it’s certainly possible to spend half a day in the underground river before the van drops you off at the airport. Taking the opposite route however, is highly popular, as many tourists choose to continue directly to El Nido after completing their day tour. This means you’ll arrive El Nido around 8PM, and wouldn’t need to spend an extra night in Puerto Princesa.
The underground river tour itself is highly regulated and fairly schematic – there isn’t a lot of room for customization and special requests. You can scroll a bit further down to see the sample itinerary for the half day tour. Whether you choose to join a group or take a private tour, you’ll be picked up from your hotel and escorted by a local guide the whole time.
One thing which could be added upon request is a quick visit to Ugong rock in Sabang – where the Sabang zip line is located. The whole detour takes roughly an hour and costs 15 USD per person. If you are part of a group, they’ll only take you there if at least most of the group is interested in doing this attraction. The zip line is 800m long and offers a spectacular view of the whole area, so it is quite an exhilarating experience.
As for what you should bring with you, our advice is to pack light. Most chances are you won’t get wet, so there’s no need to wear a swimming suit, but bringing a towel is always a good idea. Wear comfortable shoes instead of flipflops, and bring sunscreen and water. While waiting at Sabang for the boat ride to the underground river, you’ll have plenty of shops around you – so you can easily find a place to buy water and snacks if you need to.
The national park is a protected ecological site, so please treat it with it respect. Avoid littering and do not touch anything, especially once inside the cave. Introducing bacteria and substances from the outside can severely damage the delicate ecosystem inside. While waiting in the jungle for the kayak to the cave, you’ll likely see macaque monkeys – do not provoke them and try to keep a safe distance as they can get aggressive when feeling threatened. In general, please make sure to always follow the safety instructions and keep constant attention to your guide throughout this trip.
|Underground River Tour Itinerary|
|07:30||Pickup from hotel|
|09:00||Arrival to Sabang pier|
|9:30 – 10:00||Boat ride to the national park|
|10:00 – 11:00||Safety briefing and waiting for kayak|
|11:00 - 11:45||Underground river tour|
|11:45 – 12:15||Going back to Sabang|
|12:30 - 13:30||Complimentary lunch buffet|
|13:30 - 14:30||Sabang beach zip line (optional)|
|16:30||Estimated time of return|
Most people who visit Palawan prefer to spend as much time as possible at El Nido and Coron. These 2 locations are simply much more beautiful and special than Puerto Princesa. That said, Puerto Princesa still has its own special charm and of course the underground river is something you would not want to miss. Moreover, flights to Puerto Princesa are cheaper and much easier to find.
For those reasons, we believe the ideal plan for anyone visiting Palawan is to fly to Puerto Princesa and spend a single night there. Then, take the day tour to the underground caves in the morning, before continuing to El Nido directly from there. This is especially recommended for larger groups and families, since renting the private van would become cheaper.
If you prefer to stay an extra night or 2 in Puerto Princesa, that’s of course fine as well. There are plenty of fun attractions and tours both in the city area and near Sabang beach as well. These parts of Palawan are great, especially for families with small children, and you can easily spend a couple of days touring this place. In any case, the underground river is the pinnacle of our Puerto Princesa tour packages, which can all be booked as a standalone service or as part of a larger Palawan tour package.