The Underground River in Sabang, Palawan, is not a UNESCO world heritage site for nothing, it’s one of the Philippines’ most beautiful landmarks. A trip to Palawan is not complete without visiting this impressive limestone karst cave. The cave is flooded with water emerging directly into the sea and part of the river is subject to tidal influences. The river is part of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. The park has a rich “mountain-to-sea” eco-system and is surrounded by cliffs and a lush forest. The scenery is breathtaking and the underground river is a unique sight. This guide will detail how to organize your DIY Underground River Tour.
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DIY Underground River Tour – How to get to Sabang
Many agencies offer the tour from Puerto Princesa (around 2k per person), but it’s also really easy to go on your own and plan a DIY Underground River tour. The best would be to spend the night in Sabang. This way you can either be the first in the morning or the last in the evening. You’ll avoid the crowds and won’t have to wait forever for your turn. The first trip is at 8 am and the last one around 4 pm.
You can also organize your DIY Underground River tour as a day-trip from Puerto Princesa.
Getting to Sabang from Puerto Princesa is pretty easy, there are regular vans and buses going, starting at 7 am. Just go to the bus terminal near the new market, you can easily take a jeepney. It’s much better to take the bus because the vans tend to charge you more if you’re a foreigner and you’ll end up paying double.
If you are coming from the other way, there are regular vans doing the Port-Barton/Sabang route. From El Nido, just take any bus/van going to Puerto Princesa, get down at Salvacion and wait for a van to pass.
Once in Sabang, you just have to show up at the pier, pay the fees and wait for a boat to take you. They usually group you with other people.
Getting your Underground River permit
You’ll need to arrange a permit, at least a day in advance, 2 is better. There’s a limited number of visitors allowed each day and the agencies take a good chunk of it. You can arrange it at the city coliseum in Puerto Princesa. They open at 8 am, you just need to show your ID, they’ll issue the permit and you’ll pay later, before the tour. You can also have it arranged in Sabang, but you’ll probably have to pay a small fee because you’ll need to go through an agency.
Underground River price
The price for the underground river is around 1000 pesos per person, if you have been to Honda Bay already you won’t have to pay the environmental fee again, just show the receipt. When you pay for the boat ask to share it to reduce the cost, they will take care of it for you.
DIY Underground River tour – What to expect
Once you paid for your tickets, you’ll sign up for the boat and wait for your turn. You will first take a boat to the next beach where the river ends and then you’ll have to take another boat inside the cave. You might have to wait for a while at the beach, as there is a limited number of boats going inside the cave.
If it’s crowed count at least 3 hours, with the ride inside the cave only lasting 45 minutes. You’ll get an audio-guide included in the price explaining everything about the caves and the formations you’ll see. You are not allowed to talk inside to protect the animals living there and the boat driver will just use his light to show you the interesting formations.
The cave is really amazing, only 1.5 kilometers is open to the public but it’s much deeper than that. Some parts are at least 50 meters high, and the ceiling is full of bats. You might also see water snakes. The formations are impressive and some of the rocks are truly beautiful. Even if it’s crowded it’s a great experience.
Related articles to help you plan your trip to Palawan:
- Taytay – Discovering Palawan without the crowds
- Best things to do in Port Barton – Island hopping, snorkeling, and farniente
- Honda Bay DIY travel guide
- More destinations in the Philippines
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