Unearthing Palawan’s Underground River

Nestled in the Saint Paul Mountain Range of Puerto Princesa island is the Underground River, reputed to be the longest navigable underground river and now a finalist in the new 7 Wonders of the World. Hearing about this nomination piqued my interest. Pictures I googled proved insufficient to my growing fascination and I just knew I had to see it for myself. Armed with my camera and adventurous spirit, I booked a flight to Puerto Princesa which is around an hour flight from Manila.

Arriving in the city, I was welcomed by the Barakatan festivities – a showdown of Palawan’s diverse culture and sumptuous delicacies. I arrived late in the afternoon so I decided to do a city tour instead. I didn’t want to waste a single minute so we rented a motorbike, grabbed a map and navigated our way around the city. We stopped by the Cathedral, Baker’s Hill, Mitra Ranch, Iwahig Penal Colony and the Iwahig River where we did firefly watching and stargazing.

The Historical Plaza Cuartel of WWII Plaza Cuartel Gate Mitra Ranch Zipline

We woke up early the next day and travelled to Sabang beach where you can swim, snorkel and do the mangrove river paddle tour. After our buffet lunch, we relaxed by the beach and enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we wait for our turn to ride the boat going to the cave entrance.

Sabang beach picture perfect

The 15-minute boat ride was a feast for the eyes where one will see the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park’s amazing limestone mountain landscape. The park boasts of the richest tree flora in Asia and eight of thirteen forest formations. We also followed the monkey trail where we made friends with monitor lizards and long-tailed macaques.

the 15-minute boat ride offers magnificent views of nearby islands amazing limestone formations – perfect for rock climbing getting friendly with one of the resident monitor lizards

After another 30 minutes, it was finally our turn to enter the Palawan underground river aboard a paddle boat. Words nor pictures aren’t enough to describe the surreal feeling one will experience upon entering the cave. It was like being in another planet. The river stretches eight kilometres where stalagmite and stalactite formations as well as huge domed amphitheatres will surely enchant you at every turn. And though we didn’t have the chance to explore the cave barefoot, the visual adventure was more than enough compensation.

the cave opening

bats hanging from the cave ceiling

this is just one of the rock formations you will see inside the Palawan underground river

I only stayed for three days so I had to pass for the other activities such as jungle treks, rugged climbs (Mt. Cleopatra at 1593 km was really tempting) and waterfall and river journeys.

Published in Climbing & Caving, Philippines, Sightseeing

Share this article and leave your comments below

Meet the Author

I am a freelance writer, project manager and social media marketing expert. My motto is - have internet, will travel! I blog at www.karissajavier.com and www.outsourceunit.com


  1. EJ Juen Jr

    Hi Karissa, you have some nice pictures here. The monitor lizard looks like a small gator and good thing it’s safe. Thanks for adding something in my “to do list” because I’m already booked there this August. Stay safe.

  2. Karissa

    Hi Edwin! Thanks for the comment. I was scared of the lizard, it looked like a little dinosaur to me! Haha. If you’re staying for long, you may also want to go to El Nido and Coron. And don’t forget to try tamiloc if you’re a fan of exotic dishes.

  3. Elmer Cruz

    Great shots Karissa! You made me feel like I was there. It’s a pity I didn’t have time to visit the site when I was in Palawan last year. But your pictures have definitely convinced me to go. When you go back to Palawan check out The Gypsy’s Lair Art Cafe in Mercado de San Miguel, Palawan City. Check out my post and pictures of this art cafe in my next post. Cheers

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.