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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Puerto Princesa Palawan, Philippines - Cost friendly Vacation Place

Reading the title one might wonder, why do we always write about summer vacations?  Even with the hard pressed times,  we still need to de-stress ourselves from all the pressure we go through, whatever they may be.  Be it at work, at home, with your love ones, relationships, it comes in different sort of forms.  So I decided to do my first blog on a vacation place that had been constantly stored in my mind ready for this blog.

That place is Puerto Princesa - Palawan.  Yes, it's not El Nido of Palawan nor other famous resorts associated when we say Palawan but the capital city itself which is Puerto Princesa, has not only a lot to offer but is cost friendly for people on the budget and on the go.

I might not have all the details already because this happened almost a half year ago, before I decided to do this blog, but I have vivid memories of the places we went through.

Here are some of the questions that you might probably be asking by now.

What hotel did you stay?
It's Asturias Hotel.  And no I'm not promoting this hotel, I'm just stating a fact.  As a matter of fact, it's not a five star hotel.  And our experience there wasn't a 100 percent pleasant experience, but neither was it unpleasant.  It's the person witnessing that moment and feeling that moment who can tell how pleasant or unpleasant the experience is.  So it might be neutral for me, it might be pleasant and wonderful for others and it might be not for some.  But one thing I can advice though is research the hotel that has the best to offer and then decide.  But for some who has no patience to do the research themselves (like me =) ), I let others do the research.  Like in this case, that's how we came up to stay here.

What are the amenities of the hotel?
Truthfully,  I wasn't able to explore and find out all their amenities because of time constrains.  We have a day to day iterinary which was pre-made by the hotel itself.  And it occupied our time early in the morning until wee hours in the night.  But the visible amenity that you won't be able to ignore is the swimming pool.  And its the only one we were able to utilize at most.  They have a cafe that serves our breakfast buffet every morning.  And a souvenir shop for the 'pasalubong' to family and friends.  Also they have a restaurant named "Pecados Restaurant" if you don't have the time to find restaurant outside the hotel.

What were the places you were able to visit?

1st Day -   A half day city tour with a tour guide:

2nd Day
      -  At the dock, waiting for our "Foso" ( a bigger banka and faster in terms of speed) to send us to our destination.
      -  Arriving in an island where the underground river is, we trek the path to reach the said spot.  Lo and behold,  a long line of people were waiting for their turn to enjoy this unique experience.  TIP:  When the tour guide tells you the call time, be prompt and early or you'll be able to have the unpleasant experience of waiting until noon for your turn.
      -  Underground river, is literaly what the word means.  It is a cave in the water.  So when its high tide, the cave is covered with water, but when its low tide that's when you can explore the inside of the cave.
      -  Underground river is measured to be 8.2km long.  It is easily navigated up to 4.3km and is reputed to be the longest navigatable underground river in the world.
      -  When our turn came, with our helmet and life jacket on, we rode our banka inside the dark cave.  I'm never a fan of still darkness.  It was kind of spooky and eery at first specially when you and your friends are surrounded with nothing but water.  Imagine how it feels.  But conquering my fears I began to appreciate the wonder that the Underground River is. Nevertheless, the voice of the guide is a reasurring thing that there's someone there with you that's familiar with the place.
      -  Upon entering the cave, we were welcomed by the rock formations forming just outside the cave.  Inside, stalagmite and stalactite were some of the formations seen.  Formations and images like dragons, mushrooms, "puso ng saging", and others were seen.
      -  This is definitely one of the experience you ought to try.  A must try!!!

  • Firefly watching at Palawan's Iwahig River
      -  We went firefly watching among the varieties of mangroves of Palawan on a banka in groups of three (3).
      -  The pitch black night helps us see the fireflies better.  The mangroves of
Palawan were once almost totally extinct becauce of illegal cutting.  During those times there were no fireflies to watch.  Our tour guide informed us that the more mangroves the more fireflies there are and it is also a good indication that the seawater is clean and clear.
      -  Importance of mangroves are that they act to purify the water from wastes and pollutants, and in doing so, it is essential to life's ecosystem.  Fireflies thrive in clear unpolluted areas.  Therefore, abundance in mangroves equates to abundance in fireflies.  Thus, clean atmosphere and surroundings.
      -  An amazing thing also are the planktons in the river.  This is also a sign that the water is clean.  Planktons are food for the fishes, they are an important part of the food chain.  As I assume most of us know the cartoon movie - Cinderella?  After dancing with the prince at the ball, Cinderella was with the prince walking along the palace's park.  The part where Cinderella touched the water at the fountain and the water has this glistening and sparkling effect.  The planktons are like that.  They sparkle when you touch the water.  Just like magic!
      -  The deligence of the common citizens of Palawan to restore the mangroves back to its original glory paid off and with it comes many advantages.  Also, with this we are lucky enough to experience this part of nature.
      WARNING:  The pitch black of the night is a must to experience the fascinating sight the fireflies give.  But it is also not for the faint hearted.  The pitch black darkness makes you think thoughts of bad people lurking around the mangroves.  It's not a good feeling.  Bravery is definitely called for.  But once you get through it, you'll be glad that you are one of the few who learned about the importance of mangroves in our life.  An extraordinary experience.

3rd Day
            Related link:  Whale watching

      Tips before embarking with the dolphin watching tour:
  1. Bring a camera and a video.  Bring extra batteries.  If you can, an extra camera will be excellent in case your camera incidentally breaks down.  Crucial moments comes only once that's why its good to be prepared.  After all its a 4-5 hours tour with a licensed tour guide.
  2. Bring a camera that is protected from the sea water because the salt of the sea can easily destroy your camera.  This is from experience.  Luckily we have two (2) cameras.
  3. While taking a video of the school of dolphins, its practical to sit on the side ledge of the banka or in this case "foso", with the railings of course so you have support.  Standing, you will not be able to control your hands, thus "a dizzy looking video".  Not to say the least that your hands gets numb of tiredness in doing so.
  4. Sit on the side ledge of the banka while taking photos.  Dolphins move fast, it takes only seconds to take your lucky shot.
  5. Bringing a friend or family along comes really in handy.  One can take photos and the other can take videos.  That way you can have the best of both.
  6. If you plan to bring a kid along, it's best that there's a person looking after him or her specially if its a toddler.  Usually they have a hard time sitting in one place with all the excitement.  But if your kid is responsible enough not to teeter along the edges of the boat, then I think you'll be just fine.  If not, there's always another way, sit and enjoy the moment together with your kid and let your memory and the moment take it all in.  The bonding will forever be cherished.
  7. The best of the dolphins and the lot of them can be seen father and deeper into the sea.  So if you are brave at heart, you might want explore farther and catch not only glimpses of varieties of dolphin but if your lucky enough some of these dolphins might just swim beside your "foso".  Definitely extraordinary and exhilarating!
  8. Lastly, but very important.  It also helps to have the fastest "foso" in town.  Check with your hotel if you can book it in advance, but if not, play by luck.  If by any chance you are riding the "foso" named "RITCHELL" then you're definitely in luck!

  • Hunda Bay Island Hopping Tour
          The islands includes:
  1. Snake Island
  2. Pandan Island
  3. Star Fish Island 
      Tips before embarking with the island hopping tour:          
  1. Be ready for a swimming affair with the wonderful islands of Palawan.  Put on your best swimsuits.  Bring sunblock and goggles.  For those who are swimmers and divers and who loves an adventure with the underwater nature, bring along diver's goggles and diver's fins and also underwater camera for those once in a lifetime shots.
  2. What if you don't have diver's goggles or fins nor those underwater cameras?  well, there's a store that rents these items for you to enjoy.  REMEMBER:  Rent these items before the island hopping trip.  The store is along the Hunda Bay.  Because there are no rentals of these items on the islands themselves,  so before you regret anything decide if you want to rent or not.  The camera rental, if I'm not mistaken in worth P600.00.  The goggles and fins maybe along that amount also.  It's quiet a bit expensive I might say, but when your a swimmer you'll not regret renting it.  NOTE:  Their underwater cameras don't take clear pictures so its up to you to bring your own or just gamble with it.  Afterall, they're still memories only in hazy form. =)
  3. If you feel its quiet expensive, you can share the goggle and fins with your friends.  But I find it a bit inconvinient specially when your guide is pointing to all the wonders under the sea and then your companion wants to take his or her turn already.  Also the fins protect your feet from the sharp stones and sea urchins.  So be careful and listen to your guide well.  Also bring anticeptic and lots and lots of band aids incase of emergency cuts. 
  4. But if your the seashell collecting type, there's room for this kind of hobby.  You'll find lots of interesting shells along the island.
  5. The "foso" ride maybe a bit bumpy at times due to change in weather.  If nature is against you, heavy rain might come your way.  So you may not be able to visit all 3 islands.  At times 2 islands is all you can visit.  Bringing a waterproof bag would come in handy,  but your ordinary beach bag will do just fine.  Just bring towels or a large cloth to cover you along the way, for it gets a bit rough at times.
  6. At the end of the day, the experience is something you'll talk about for quiet sometime. =)

  • Pasalubongs
      The one thing we cannot leave without are the "pasalubongs" or the gift giveaways for our love ones.  There are lots to buy.  Among the pasalubongs you might like to consider:
  1. Palawan shirts for kids and adults are everywhere
  2. Native products like cashew, cashew butter and other delicasies
  3. Cashew wine - this one is a one of a kind pasalubong.  If you want your pasalubong to be unique.  This might be the answer to your worries. =)  Though haven't tried it but you might agree with me its quiet unique.  And not all pasalubong stores have it, so if you find one, buy it already.  If not,  the airport has this but in limited stock.  You can play by luck.

  • How much is the trip package worth?
      Approximately, the package is worth around P10,000.00 per person.  We were in a group of 12 people.  This includes the hotel stay with breakfast, city tour, underground river, firefly watching, dolphin watching tour and island hopping tour. Tickets not yet included, this depends on the choice of your airline.
      A bit pricey?  You might wonder why at the beginning of my topic, I mentioned that its cost-friendly, the reason why I mentioned that is because you can choose the activities you want at the price much comfortable to you.  These whole package is just giving you an overview and giving you options on what activities best suits you.
      Whatever activity you choose, the important thing is to go on this trip with a positive heart and a positive view.  Which equates to a positive and happy outcome.  Which in turn gives you a lasting and happy memory.
      Hope you will enjoy the island as much as we did!  Happy trip to whoever plans to take one. =)


  1. Hi! My boyfriend and I are planning on going to Palawan, and so I came across your blog in doing my research. Do you still have the contact information of your tour guide so we can get the exact same activities? Prices might have already changed. I hope it didnt jump up too much.

    Appreciate your help! And your blog of course :) Its very informative.

  2. Hello, thank you very much for reading my blog. When I first did my blog, it was with exactly the purpose as this, to inform travelers with insights of the activities that they will or would like to do. Bec. that's how I would like to know about something. =) I'm glad this blog did serve its purpose.

    As I wrote in my blog, we stayed at Asturias Hotel. They did the iterenary for us.

    Asturias Hotel's address: Km. 3 South National Highway, Tiniguiban Heights, Puerto Princesa City Palawan

    Tel# (048)434-3851 (ask to connect to marketing)
    Fax# (048)433-9744, (048)434-3750

    or you can email them first to save on long distance calls and maybe you'd like to surf their website also.


    I hope that you find these informations useful. I'm not so sure about the price though if they're still the same. But try negotiating with them and choose only the best activities. If there's anything more that you might want to know just don't hesitate to drop a note.

    Thanks. =)

  3. Sounds good! Thanks again :) Im excited!

  4. I hope it will be as fun and as memorable as we experienced it!

    Enjoy your vacation! =)