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Puerto Princesa - Underground River Tour

View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.


Breakfast at the Hibiscus Garden Inn in Puerto Princesa has to be pre-ordered the night before, and I chose Hash Browns, Ham, and Egg.


Buenavista Viewpoint

On our way to Subang this morning, we stop at a popular viewing deck with vistas over the Philippine Sea, where I send up the drone to get a better view.


Andrew, our local guide, comes over to tell me not to fly too close to the Naval Ship moored off the coast, as they may try to shoot the drone down.


David checks to see what the time is, but finds his watch behaving very strangely.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park


The wharf here at Subang is very touristy, with lots of salesmen and women milling around selling shell jewellery, drinks, dry bags etc.


Andrew goes to check us in, and comes back to ask if we are willing to share our boat with a Filipino couple. As we have booked and paid for a private trip throughout, I am not at all impressed by this, and emphatically, but politely decline.

We step onto a small boat, carefully negotiating our way under the beam to sit down, something I don’t find easy with my arthritis. With the three of us and the camera equipment, it would have been very crowded with another couple on board, so I am very glad I said no to Andrew's question.




The journey to the start of the underground tour takes around 20 minutes, and on arrival, we descend from the boat via a ladder and step knee-deep into the water.


After a short walk through the forest, where there are several boards explaining about the underground river, as well as cheeky monkeys hanging around hoping for some snacks from tourists, we reach the entrance to the cave.


Donning life jackets, helmets, audio guides, and head torches, we board outrigger canoes, known as bangkos, to take us into the depths of the mountain.

The beginning of the cave – called Daylight Hole – is very impressive. It starts with a 60 m high, 100 m wide entrance hall, which becomes narrower only after 200 m.

The audio guide explains how the cave was formed, and the shapes and names of the various rock formations we see.


Both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, this is the world’s longest navigable underground river, which extends for a total of 24km beneath the mountains. Tourists, however, are only shown the first four km or so.


The river flows directly underneath the St Paul Mountain Range, and the cave system was created millions of years ago as water channeled its way through the rock creating a series of vast chambers and caverns.


There are some incredible rock formations, created through the millennia, and the boatman, known as a bangkero, shines his torch on them in time to the information on the audio guide.


It's an otherworldly experience as we paddle through the dark. We are advised to keep our mouths shut as we look up into the ceiling of these cavernous passages, as there are numerous bats inside this, the belly of the mountain.

Also water dripping from the ceiling

In one of the caverns, we switch the lights off and are treated to complete and utter darkness. I can’t even see the outline of my hand, which I am holding three inches from my face.


One of the river's distinguishing features is that it emerges directly into the sea.


Having walked through the forest back to the other side of the promontory, the boats are waiting to take us back to Sabang Wharf. I sit on the front of the boat on this journey, leaning against the mast, getting sprayed with water by the rough sea. I love it!


At Sabang, we walk from the wharf to a buffet restaurant, and soon after we enter, it starts to rain heavily.

We are amongst the first at the buffet

Food from the buffet, including lumpia (similar to spring rolls), which I love, and noodles, chop suey, and vegetables

On the two-hour journey back to Puerto Princesa, we travel through what I can only describe as a tropical storm. I have rarely seen rain like it, plus thunder and lightning. We consider ourselves very lucky that it was dry for the boat trips and the walks through the forest. When we reach Puerto Princesa the roads are bone dry with no sign of rain.




We both treat ourselves to the daily special, which is Bacon Creamy Pasta with onions, garlic, and peas.


For dessert, I have banana flambé, while David chooses Crepe with banana.

Banana flambé

Crepe with banana


The cocktail list here at Hibiscus Garen Inn, is not only extensive, but also very reasonably priced, so it would seem rude not to partake.

Secret Sunset: rum, homemade coconut rum, Blue Curacao, pineapple, and passion fruit juice

Mango Margarita

Basil Bano: vodka, Triple Sec, basil syrup, guyabano juice, lemon

Palaweño Cocktail (Rum, Orange, Pineapple and Passion Fruit Juice, Grenadine)

We both absolutely love everything about this place: the room, the grounds, the restaurant, the cocktail list (!), the staff, the food…

The pool at night

The restaurant

Just as last night, we take a Kahlua back to the room, with the staff rushing to cover it (not us) with an umbrella from the rain for the short walk between the restaurant and the covered walkway leading to the room. We sit in the private courtyard to enjoy the nightcap before going to bed.

David enjoying the Kahlua in the courtyard

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this incredible private trip.


Posted by Grete Howard 09:52 Archived in Philippines Tagged monkeys philippines s unesco cocktails outrigger rock_formations canoe bats buffet sabang puerto_princesa bangko underground_river drone stalactites drone_photography dronography lumpia hibiscus_garden_inn buenavisa_viewdeck philippine_sea subterranean_river subterranean_river_national_par puerto_princesa_subterranean_ri broken_watch sabang_wharf boat_trp life_jacket new_seven_wonders_of_the_world st_pauls_mountain audio_guide

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What a day, those caves look really worth the visit. Loving the pictures. My friend visited the Philippes last year as well on a private tour and I recognize it from there as well ... it is a pretty impressive cave!

by Ils1976

Another fantastic day! The underground river trip looks amazing and your hotel continues to impress. I like the look/sound of the Basil Bano :)

by ToonSarah

The caves were really impressive Ils, well worth a visit. ♥

I am sure you'd love the Philippines, Sarah, I think it is your kind of place. ♥

by Grete Howard

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