Eager to meet giant crocodiles, buy sweets from a baker’s dreamland, and watch fireflies light up mangrove trees? Take the Puerto Princesa city tour!
Puerto Princesa is one of the cleanest and greenest cities in the Philippines. It’s primarily known to be the home of the Underground River, listed in the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
Yet behind the world-famous tourist destination in Puerto Princesa is a city with its own historical, social, natural, and gastronomic riches. To get to know the city more than the Underground River, you might want to try a Puerto Princesa City tour.
It’s one of the easiest and most doable tours in the city. You can bring big families, kids, and elderly on most of the attractions. You can also take only half a day to finish the entire thing before an afternoon flight. But if you’re staying the night, you might want to try Iwahig Firefly Watching as an add-on. Personally, though, I’d say firefly watching is a must!
Here’s a sneak peek at some of the pitstops of the Puerto Princesa City tour:
Puerto Princesa City Tour
As an introduction, your Puerto Princesa city tour will often take you to the heart of the city first. In the Philippines, this translates to where the cathedral and the park are located. You can learn more about the city’s history, geographical traits, and culture.
Plaza Cuartel. Just across the cathedral is Plaza Cuartel, where you can learn more about the history of the city for free. There are historical markers where the old cuartel wall still stands, which served as an artillery during wartimes.
Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral. It’s a beautiful cathedral that somewhat resembles Manila’s San Sebastian Church. Here you can take a quick look at how Catholicism in the Philippines is practiced by locals. You may even catch a wedding or look at the decorations on the stone walls.
City Baywalk. It’s not called (in Spanish) Princess of the Ports for no reason. The Puerto Princesa City Baywalk affords you of the view also similar to Manila’s Baywalk. It’s a great place for a peaceful stroll at the waterfront during day time, and experiencing the night market grills and bars by sundown.
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Palawan Rescue and Wildlife Center
Here you can be up close and personal with crocodiles as well as other species of animals endemic to the Philippines. Formerly known as the Crocodile Farm and Nature Park, it’s here you can find crocs of various ages and sizes. Peek into the cribs of snapping babies and gargantuan elderly crocodiles.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of zoos. But perhaps we can be assured that Palawan Rescue and Wildlife Center is cruelty-free, since it’s dedicated to crocodile conservation.
Aside from crocodiles, there are other animals to see such as various species of birds, snakes, and most notably, bearcats. Bearcats can only be found in the Philippines in Palawan. No doubt, kids will surely enjoy this part of the Puerto Princesa city tour.
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Picture your grandma’s dream place! Baker’s Hill is filled with delicious treats, sweets, and pastries located in an extravagantly decorated location.
It’s paradise for us who love to eat and take photos at the same time. Baker’s Hill has a bakeshop where you can find an assortment of goodies such as chocolate crinkles, bread, pizza, brownies, and their famous hopia. This is a good stop to buy pasalubong during the Puerto Princesa city tour.
In case you’re not a fan of consuming carbs, you can still enjoy the scenery filled with life-sized cartoon figures, the kids’ play areas, and the enormous decor of the oversized bakeshop-cum-park. It’s particularly festive around Christmastime!
This sprawling private property owned by a prominent family in Puerto Princesa reminds me of Baguio City. Lots of fresh air, some horses for riding, and a log cabin with veranda overlooking Honda Bay.
There are ziplining activities here too. But other than that, it’s mainly to breathe and enjoy the sights briefly. Around 15 minutes, to be exact. A maintenance fee of PHP 20 is required to enter the Mitra house. Inside there are family portraits and snack vendors. The zipline, Rancho Mitra’s main activity, is around PHP 500 and takes you to four stations. Again, great place to take kids or the elderly.
Iwahig Firefly Watching
Iwahig Firefly Watching, for me, was one of the most awesome tours in Puerto Princesa. Since I visited around Christmastime, seeing mangrove trees light up with fireflies just reminded me of some tropical celebration of the holidays. It’s also a great indication of a well-preserved ecosystem. Iwahig Firefly Watching isn’t part of the main Puerto Princesa city tour, but it’s a highly recommended one to take.
We traveled around nighttime to take the 45-minute drive to the site. It’s basically tucked away from the city lights and sounds. Upon arrival, the operators warned us that since it was December and therefore typhoon-weather, the wind can make the fireflies harder to see. They graciously offered a refund, but our group decided to push through. Best. choice. Evah.
Paddling across the linings of the protected mangrove areas in pitch black darkness was memorable for me. The mangroves lit up with fireflies, while the dark skies lit up with stars. In the Iwahig Firefly Watching, there will be no external lights and flash photography are not allowed.
We rowed in near-silence, punctuated by conversations with our boatman and gasps of awe. As our boatman flashed red lights on mangrove trees, the fireflies responded by lighting up. I could never find the words as to how magical it was. Though it was relatively “low visibility” season, we still found lots of fireflies. Thanks to our boatman who paddled us around 1 kilometer away from the jump-off point just to get richer views.
Things to know about the Puerto Princesa city tour
What to wear. This can be the most laid-back Puerto Princesa tour ever, so wear your most stylish casual clothes. A breezy tank top, shorts, and rubber shoes are perfect for the sunny weather. Best to sun-proof yourself too, by wearing sunscreen, caps, and sunglasses. For rainy weathers, add umbrella and a jacket to your arsenal.
What to bring. You shall be spending the day outdoors, so it might be helpful to bring fans and water bottles, although tour organizers typically provide the latter. Mosquito repellent is also a must especially in the Crocodile Farm. Face towels can help you with wiping out sweat and also possible dust and mud from the outdoors. Finally, don’t forget to bring cash to buy souvenirs and pasalubong.
Who you’ll see. The Puerto Princesa city tour guests are often characterized by kids and families. It’s mostly an educational, historical, and natural tour where you’re sure to get to know the city in a different way.
How long the Puerto Princesa city tour lasts. It can be done half day at approximately 4 hours. This can be your last trip before flying out of the city in the afternoon.
The city within a forest can be an accessible and “chill” travel fit for families with kids and elderly. Make the most out of your Puerto Princesa city tour and get to know it beyond the Underground River.