I Recommend a Visit to the Underground River of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

Have you ever visited an underground river? You have? Well, you are lucky. I am lucky too for having been able to visit one just very recently.

More importantly, the underground river I visited is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only that, after years of search and voting, it is now officially one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Yipee!!! Isn’t that exciting?

So come and join me as I take you to a tour of this underground river in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines


A Bit of Background First

The Underground River is found in Palawan, one of the 7,000+ islands of the Philippines. The capital of Palawan is the city of Puerto Princesa and this is about an hour by plane from Manila.

There are several flights by different airlines, daily to the island. There are also several hotels in the island, so there is no problem looking for accommodation. There are even resorts beside the beach near the underground river.

A view of Puerto Princesa from "my" view deck
A view of Puerto Princesa from "my" view deck
"My" view deck on top of a hill
"My" view deck on top of a hill

Road Trip First

To go to the underground river, you have to take a road trip from the city proper to the town of Sabang.

You can easily arrange this road trip with the local office of the Department of Tourism. This is about a 2 -3 hour trip depending on how fast you drive.

Except for a short stretch of gravel road, the long road from the city to Sabang is well paved.

There are two stops along the way where you can view several parts of Puerto Princesa from view decks.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that one of the view decks is named after me. No, not “Jill of alltrades” but my real name! Hahaha! Imagine that! If you come for a tour then you will discover what my real name is.

Sabang port
Sabang port
Loading/unloading site at Sabang port
Loading/unloading site at Sabang port

The Gateway to the Underground River

The gateway to the underground river is the town of Sabang.

A ferry from the Sabang port will take you to the small island where the underground river is located. You have to line up for the ferry or your tour guide can do it for you and will just call you when you are ready to board. The same ferry will also take you back from the underground river to Sabang port, so you have to remember your boat number.

By the way, Sabang also has another point of interest – a “paddle along the mangrove” tour. This is also another interesting tour and I have written another hub about it here, I-Recommend-a-Mangrove-Paddle-Tour-in-Puerto-Princesa.

The Underground River, At Last!

It is just a few minutes ferry boat ride from Sabang port to the underground river. As I said earlier, you have to remember your boat number because the same boat will take you back to the port.

From the beach where you disembark, you have to walk a short trail to where the underground river is. There are many monkeys and old trees in this short trail. So if you are a nature lover, you will see many species of plants and some animals along the way.

Your guide will also warn you not to carry plastic bags with you because the monkeys are fond of snatching brightly colored plastic bags from unsuspecting tourists.

Mother monkey with a baby
Mother monkey with a baby

A guide told us that the monkeys got used to being fed by people who used to come to this site before it was declared a World Heritage Site. Thus, they (the monkeys) always think that you are carrying food if you have a plastic bag with you. Feeding the monkeys is no longer allowed in this park.

By the way, the mountain that covers the underground river is called St. Paul’s Mountain Range. Thus, the park is also known as St. Paul’s Subterranean River National Park or St. Paul’s Underground River. This mountain is made up mainly of limestone.

Entrance to the underground river
Entrance to the underground river
Inside the dome-like structure covering the underground river
Inside the dome-like structure covering the underground river

A Journey into the Dark

Only a few paddle boats at a time are allowed to navigate the underground river. So you have to wait for your turn at the boarding/dropping off point.

Each boat is assigned a boatman and a battery (car battery) operated beam light is given to a passenger so you can move the light around as the boatman paddles along.

There was a hush and a slight eerie effect when we finally entered the mouth of the cave.  Except for the light coming from our boat and other boats ahead or behind us, the whole site is totally dark.  Droplets of water oozing from the mountain above would fall on us at certain points.

Sometimes we would all be alone at some points and it felt like a journey into the unknown. At other points, we would meet some other boats coming from another part of the cavernous river.

A paddle-boat with tourists like us navigating the underground river
A paddle-boat with tourists like us navigating the underground river
Stalactites and stalagmites abound around the underground river
Stalactites and stalagmites abound around the underground river

Our boatman however knows all the nooks and crannies of the underground river and would direct the one holding the light to light up the oddly-shaped stalactites and stalagmites that surround the river.

To lighten up the eerie effect of the dark, our boatman would point out some “religious” formations, “fruits and vegetables” section and even some sexy figures created by the stalactites and stalagmites.

Sometimes, bats would fly around when our light would beam over their hiding places. We would laugh nervously when the bats flew too close to us.

All too soon however, we saw the light coming from the entrance of the cave and our tour of the river ended. Our 45-minute trip was over.

I wanted to tell our boatman to make a turn around because I wanted to stay longer inside, but of course it was not possible. Sigh!

Paddle boat with tourists emerging from the cave and underground river
Paddle boat with tourists emerging from the cave and underground river

Back to the Light

There is a continuous stream of tourists in this park. Several of them (tourists) were waiting for their turn to journey into the dark so each tour cannot exceed the 45-min allotted time.

I was told that this site is especially busy from February – June. These are the months that are “dry”. It’s rather hard to navigate the place during the rainy months. Water will probably be dripping from all over the cave.

St.Paul Mountain as seen from the beach going to the Underground River
St.Paul Mountain as seen from the beach going to the Underground River

More about the Underground River

According to tourist information about the park, the whole navigable underground river is about 8.2 kilometers long. However, the tour covered only half (about 4.3 km) of this because some parts are too narrow for the boat to pass through.

Our guide told us that if you really want to navigate the whole river, you will have to disembark from the boat at certain points and just follow the rest of the river by foot. The boat can then meet you at another point. This is not part of the regular tour however.

The river and its tributaries wind through a deep cave before it flows directly out into the South China Sea.

For the more adventurous and nature lover among you, a trek through a jungle will also bring you to the mouth of the river and cave. Then you can join the river tour and go back through your jungle trek again. The jungle trek will allow you to observe wildlife and hear the sounds of nature along the way.

Website for Voting for the New 7 Wonders of the World
Website for Voting for the New 7 Wonders of the World

The New Seven Wonders of the World

The Underground River of Puerto Princesa, Palawan is now officially among the New 7 Wonders of Nature in the World!

The official announcement is here! http://nature.n7w.com/

More by this Author


Comments 48 comments

Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

I can see why you recommend this, Jill! It looks exotic! Great hub!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Ann - thanks for being the first here.

You are right, exotic is the word for it. It is really a different world in that river underneath the cave.


talitz2550 profile image

talitz2550 6 years ago from Thailand

Wowww!!! Really awesome...why do I need to go to Trang or Krabi of Thailand...we have our own. Nice hub Jill. Congrats!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

You are absolutely right! We have our own wonders here in the Philippines.

Now that I am into photography, I'm planning to visit more places here and capture their beauty and soul.

Thank you for your heartwarming comment talitz!


Treasure Isle profile image

Treasure Isle 6 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

thanx for the info, great hub - you really put a lot of work into it!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Treasure Isle - You are welcome. My pleasure really!

Thanks very much for your inspiring comment!


Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 6 years ago from Canada's 'California'

What a great piece jill - I thoroughly enjoyed my 'trip up river' with you, and am looking forward to more of your photos and commentary. I don't think I will ever be fortunate enough to travel there on my own, so I appreciate visiting through you :D

Thanks for the wonderful vacation!


lin 6 years ago

"Religious" anad "sexy" stalactite and stalagmite formations in an underground cave named after"St" Paul (not san Paulo o Pablo) What an ecletic1 and curious mix!which makes it more interesting with bats hovering over adding to the excitement.Definitely a WONDER..thanks for the informative hub and beautiful portrayal of an RP tourist spot.The photos? awesome!More power.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago

What an awesome adventure--navigating the underground river with your boatman and a bunch of nervous tourists. I'll be to scared of bats flying over me, too. Your pictures help us to visualize the place and since they are so spectacular, this is the next best thing to visiting the place myself. Rated it up.


coffeesnob 6 years ago

Jill

I felt I was floating the underground wriver with you. Thanks for the journey....


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Enelle _ I'm happy that you enjoyed the trip. It's so nice there and I wish I could go back someday.

Well, who knows, maybe you might get to visit someday. Anyway, I enjoy writing about my adventures and am happy that you enjoyed traveling with me.

All the best!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi lin - thanks for dropping by.

Yes, a curious mix indeed! The sacred and the profane. Hahaha. That's why it was so exciting letting your imagination run free in that underground river.

Thanks very much for your wonderful comment!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi anglnwu - nice to see you my friend.

Well, the bats were not flying all the time. They would only fly around when they were disturbed by our light accidentally beaming on their hiding places.

I'm happy that you are able to join me in the journey through my pictures.

Thanks very much for rating up! I really appreciate it.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Coffeesnob - thanks for dropping by my friend.

I'm sure you would have enjoyed the journey if you were with me. It's an entirely different world out there. You would really have felt entering the dark and coming out into the light. That's why I was reminded of the experience when I was reading your hub on coming into the light.

You are most welcome. It's my pleasure.

God bless!


coffeesnob 6 years ago

Jill,

Once time I went caving with my brother-in-law and kids and cousins after we walked to the back of the cave and he asked us to all turn out our lights. It was so dark you couldn't see your hands in front of you. Then we talked about our life with Jesus and how He brought us out of darkness and into His glorious light. It drives the point home when you see how dark it is in the cave,


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England

jill, another of your fantastic informative hubs with excellent photographs. The time you must have spent producing this hub has certainly paid off for you. Really enjoyed sharing this with you.


milynch43 profile image

milynch43 6 years ago from Philippines

Great Hub. Thanks for the guided tour. Palawan is high on my list of places to see here. There are so many it's hard to choose sometimes.


Mimi 6 years ago

What a great hub!!!!It is very informative and a wonderful way of attracting tourism.The pictures are phenominal! Fortunately,I have seen and visited the place in one of my trips back home last 2003.We might go back there again come 2011 with the kano's.Our Country has lot's of beautiful places everywhere,Davao,Bohol,Vigan...etc.....i have a ton of collections and I am so proud to show these around.Keep up with your interesting hubs.....


angcorics 6 years ago

What a picturesque hub this sure is! I have not visited Palawan, but in time, I'll bring my entire family over there, and see this beautiful particular Modern Day 7 Wonders of the World. Meanwhile, thank you for this beautiful hub!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Coffeesnob - wow! that must have been quite and experience!Very powerful!

Thank you very much for sharing.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello D.A.L. - thank you very much. Your kind words warm my heart.

I'm happy that you enjoyed this hub. I enjoyed writing it too.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi milynch - thanks for the visit and wonderful comment.

Yes, you should put the underground river on top of your list. It's really a different kind of experience. I recommend going to Boracay too. I have two hubs about this place if you are interested.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Mimi - it's nice to see you here!

That's great! It's a beautiful place, isn't it? I'd like to go back too if given another chance.

Yes, there are more places to visit and I wish I could take pictures of them now that I am into photography. I just don't like traveling alone, so I have to wait for other people's free time.

See you again soon.

Thanks for visiting and leaving a wonderful comment.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello angcorics - it's nice to see you again!

You should really visit Palawan with your family. There are many spots to visit there. Of course, the underground river is the one you should not miss. It really belongs to the New 7 Wonders of the World.

You are most welcome. My pleasure really!


GeneralHowitzer profile image

GeneralHowitzer 6 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

Great Hub Jill, very resourceful just few days I voted for this in the internet. Glad you highlighted one of our great nature wonder... - GeneralHowitzer


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi GeneralHowitzer - thank you very much for your kind words.

That's great! We should ask other friends to vote too.

Hope to see you around again.


Cris A profile image

Cris A 6 years ago from Manila, Philippines

Now I'm torn between Batanes and Palawan (it's hard to decide when you have to decide!)- I'm planning to travel last quarter of this year when things are cheaper. Oh don't mind my griping! Anyway...

Thanks for highlighting one of the world's natural wonders! With our country's natural beauty it's hard not to be proud to be Pinoy, right :D


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Cris - I understand how you feel. I've long wanted to visit Batanes too. Our photography club actually made plans to go to Batanes this summer. Unfortunately, our plans did not push through. I am still hopeful though.

Yes, we indeed have so many places to visit here. I'd really love to visit all of them someday.

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a wonderful comment.


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

Great hub, and wonderful pictures. It's always a pleasure to read your articles. :)


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi hypnodude - great to see you here!

Thanks very much for dropping by and leaving a wonderful comment!

God bless!


samboiam profile image

samboiam 6 years ago from Texas

What a beautiful place. I would love to visit there some day. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello samboiam - thank you very much for dropping by.

Yes, do try to visit it. It is quite a experience paddling in a river that is under a cave. I'm sure you will love it.

You are welcome. My pleasure really.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

I remember being in a boat going through an underground river with my parents here in America although I don't think it was nearly as long as your riverboat ride. Your pictures and descriptions were wonderful. Felt as though I could hear the dripping water and occasional flight of a bat skimming the air. Thanks for this virtual tour and can't wait to read more of your travel adventures in the Philippines.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Peggy - It's good to see you here.

Paddling along an underground river is quite an experience, right?

Thank you very much for your wonderful comment. I'll be coming up with my mangrove adventure soon.

See you around.

God bless!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

What a beautiful place! I had not heard about this before. Thank you for the education. I greatly enjoyed the photographs AND your fine writing.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi James - It's nice to see you!

Thank you very much for the wonderful comment. I am happy that you learned something from this hub.

All the best!


freelancewriterva profile image

freelancewriterva 6 years ago

Great pictures


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi freelancewriterva - Thank you very much!

Hope to see you around again!


suny51 profile image

suny51 6 years ago

thats- a great place to visit,and the way you have presented it makes it greater,but have you ever got baskets for boats as well as alternate of umbrellas,sitting arrangements etc,No?come and see -hogenekkal-falls in my hubs.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello suny51 - great to see you again!

Thank you very much!

Baskets for boats? That I've got to see. I'm going over to your hub after I post this.

See you around!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

Wow! What a beautiful place. I would love to visit and see all the sights including the underground river. You live in a beautiful place.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello earnest - nice to see you again!

Thank you very much for your wonderful comment!

Yes, it would really be good if you can visit. Nothing beats experiencing the place first hand. Each country has its own special places. Australia has many beautiful places too.

Thanks again for dropping by.

God bless!


esllr profile image

esllr 6 years ago

Thank you for the virtual ride in the underground river through your eyes. What a wonderful exciting 45 minute and 3 minutes for me! Even the bats were great!:)

Thank You!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello esllr - Thank you very much for your wonderful comment. I'm happy that you enjoyed the virtual tour. I hope you can actually visit someday.

Thanks for dropping by. See you around.

All the best!


john carlo 4 years ago

that is very nice


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 4 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello John Carlo,

Thanks very much for your visit and lovely comment!

God bless!


Maiko Mangubat profile image

Maiko Mangubat 2 years ago from Mandaue City

It is allow to take pictures inside the cave ?


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 2 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Maiko,

Sorry for the late reply. I only visited HP now after a long time. Anyway, re your question - Yes, you can take photos inside the cave. However, the light is not very good, so you should have a camera that takes good photos in very dim light.

Thanks for dropping by!

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