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Underground River Puerto Princesa Palawan- DIY guide

As they say only in the darkness you can see the stars, well inside the darkness of the subterranean river in Puerto Princesa we saw tons of bats and some kickass rock formations. This was undoubtedly a journey to the centre of the Earth kind of an experience. The cave is super huge, the biggest I have ever seen in my life and the best thing about this cave is you don’t have to walk even a step, one of the worlds longest underground rivers help you sail across in peace.
Underground river entrance
What took millions of years to form takes a couple of hours to see. The rock formations in the cave are so real, it seemed like someone has actually taken efforts to make this happen. The entire experience is crafted really well by the tourism authority of Palawan. They have balanced the herds of tourists at a reasonable price and help boost the livelihood for the locals in a very nice manner.

Why plan your own tour?

The do it yourself (DIY) methodology works perfect for this trip, helps you save money and customize your options.

The underground river tour was the only reason for us to visit Palawan in the first place. We stayed at the Best Western The Ivyhall hotel in Puerto Princessa from where we began our journey to the underground river.

When we checked the rates of this tour with our hotel a private tour would cost us 2150 PHP per person plus an additional 5000 PHP for a private vehicle for 8 Adults, thus bringing the total cost to 2775 PHP per person. (I always fail to understand why hotels quote such steep prices for tours when they can make a better turnover by offering a reasonable price)

Booking a Private Vehicle from Puerto Princesa to Sabang

Nevertheless, we decided to customise our own trip to this UNESCO world heritage site, which is also included in the new Seven Wonders of the World.

We contacted the driver who dropped us from the Puerto Princessa airport to the hotel and made a deal with him for 2500 PHP return trip to Sabang, he also agreed to help us with the permit for the trip. The driver was really kind and one of the best people I came across in the Philippines.

Permit for Underground River

Booking office for Underground River

We left our hotel around 8 am in the morning and headed straight to the City Coliseum where you get the permit. There were two counters one for tour agents and other for walk-ins; we were first in the lot so once we took the token we were immediately at counter. We presented our passports and got the payment voucher immediately. Despite being a heavy tourist season during the period of Chinese New year we still got the permits on the same day of our tour.

Enroute to Sabang

We proceeded to Sabang after getting the permit, the route to Sabang was pleasant with lots of greenery and beautiful views of the Sabang River. Our driver made a stop at a place which offered a beautiful panorama view of the Sabang river, There was a small shop here which would sell local items and consumables, there was a provision of restrooms as well at this stop. After this stop we headed straight to the Sabang Pier from where you board the boats to the Underground River.

Waiting at the Underground River Terminal

Pier at Underground River
There was a long waiting of about an hour before our turn came at the Pier, we presented our Permit and paid the fees for the Boat and the environmental tax. Once they stamped the receipts it took another 15-20 minutes before our token for the boat was called. Waiting at the pier is no big deal as you enjoy the beautiful views and interact with the locals selling you merchandise and food. There are lots of street shops as well where they offer food, juices, merchandise, fresh coconut water etc. I also tried a local drink called Tuba, local wine made at a coconut stall managed by an old lady, which was fresh and refreshing with a strange taste of course. I was surprised to know that she would at an old age would also climb the trees herself and collect coconuts and tuba everyday for the last 30 plus years. Her stall was the last one on the right side of the pier.

So once a boat was allotted to us we headed to the docking area. Once inside the boat you have to wear a life jacket, the views from the boat are amazing but the noise, which the boat engine makes, is equally annoying. If you have an infant or child along make sure you have some cotton buds or earmuffs in place.

Underground River

The boat drops you to a beach from where you walk towards the point where you board a raft for the underground river. It is a five-minute walk followed by another 20-30 minutes of wait before you are allotted a raft. There are people with charts waiting over there and you have to declare your arrival to them, they will help you with another token number for the raft. While you wait for the raft avoid interacting with the monkeys around, they would steal you from your assets.
Waiting area near underground river

Bob the builder helmets and audio guides are provided to you at this point. Once you board a raft the audio guide and the guide on your raft are both in sync with each other, you will learn a lot about the river, its significance and identify different rock formations, the best part of the cave is towards the end where there is pin drop silence and a huge area which looks like a cathedral. I wont give more spoilers but would rather prefer you enjoy the experience on your own.

Once you get out from the caves you will always want to go back again, especially the part where the guide says, for tourists we allow only this much area but the river does go another few kilometres ahead and you need a special permit and willingness to spend more for the same, thus lets keep this part for another day!
We headed back to the point where our numbered boat had left us, and enjoyed the way back while some of the boat riders who had anchored their boats were waiting for our boat inorder to reach the shore.
While embarking or disembarking the boat you have to place your foot in water so make sure you are dressed accordingly.

The Maths Per person:

Permit per person: 500 PHP
Audio guide: 85 PHP
Private vehicle to Sabang: 300 PHP (We were 8 adults in a 13 seat private vehicle, so this may vary for you)
Environment tax and boat ride: 150 PHP
Total: 1,035 PHP


So we saved more than 1700 PHP per person on this tour.

Key things to remember at the Underground River Puerto Princesa Palawan:

  1. Kids less than 3 years of age are allowed free, you can take a child of any age at your responsibility
  2. Always keep the helmet on, you have surprise droppings from the Bats in the caves
  3. Tip your guide for the efforts to row you, entertain you and bring you back to safety form the caves
  4. Dress appropriately as you need to step in to the water to get on and off from the boats
  5. Don’t have anything to do with the word plastic when you go there, the monkeys simply love goods wrapped in plastic.
  6. Enjoy this once in a lifetime experience to the fullest!

We had a happy trip back to the Best Western in Puerto Princessa with a feeling of content that the trip to the Underground River was absolutely worth it.

If you have any queries or suggestions please leave a comment below, you can also email me on

Please follow me on Instagram @vegyatri for more updates.


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