Our first stop in the Philippines was Puerto Princesa. We didn't have any special reason to go here other than it being the best flight that we could find from Taipei to Palawan (ie. shortest duration with a reasonable price, but.. it departed at 1:30am on New Years Day).
We took a post-redeye rest day to wander the town. Everything was closed on New Years day so it was a very quiet and slightly eerie introduction to the Philippines. A few restaurants were open so we discovered a popular Filipino dessert called Halo-Halo. Since the dessert is based around shaved ice, we imagined something similar to (flavourless) snow-cones and were quite skeptical at first.. but it turned out to be really delicious! We ended up trying it at 2 different places, Mang Inasal
and Noki Noc's
. We preferred the one at Noki Nocs because the ice was smoother / less chunky.
There isn't much to do in Puerto Princesa other than visit the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River UNESCO site, which is now one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. At 8.2km long, it’s one of the longest underground rivers in the world.
To get there, we took a 90+ minute car ride to Sabang, followed by a 30 minute motorboat ride to a beach near the cave. We then walked through the forest to an area where we were given helmets, audio guides, and assigned to a small rowboat.
The cave tour only goes in about 1.2km (of the 4.3 km that are navigable by boat). We spent about 35 mins inside the cave contemplating its wonder while listening to the audio guide. The audio guide was well done and helps ensure that tourists remain silent during the cave visit, to reduce disruption of the delicate structures and wildlife (ie. bats) that the cave is home to.
After the cave tour, we took a boat back to Sabang where we had a buffet lunch, and then drove back along the narrow winding road to Puerto Princesa.
Apparently, we lucked out with the tour because previous days had been cancelled due to bad weather and choppy waves. Overall, we enjoyed our day, but we did wonder if it was really worth it given that it took ~6 hours of transport+waiting time (there and back), just to see the cave for only about 30 mins.. 🤔