Getting to Underground River in Palawan

November 01, 2013

Labelled as one of the new seven wonders of the world, Palawan’s Underground River (UR) has become a popular attraction among tourists and backpackers from different parts of the world. The first time I went there, I was filled with awe. The second time I visited it, I still felt the same awe. The rock formations inside the quiet, dark cave seem creepy but absolutely phenomenal.

For safety and preservation purposes, the tourism department strictly ensures that all tourists visiting the spot are registered in their list. For this reason, you can’t just enter the cave without a permit from the UR Booking Office. It’s located along Rizal Avenue, just beside the popular Kinabuch pub. From the airport, you will see it on your left. It is open from Monday to Sunday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with a one-hour lunch break.

From Puerto Princesa, you still have to take a two-hour ride to Sabang, where the river is. Yes, it’s quite a long ride but the greenery along the way will keep you from boredom. For foreigners, it’s also a great way of partly being aware of how Filipinos live in the countryside. However, if you easily get motion sickness, it might be helpful to take some anti-emetics (or bring a plastic bag) because the zigzag road might cause nausea.

Here are four options for those who are planning to visit it.

Option 1: Travel Package

If you’re on a short vacation or if getting a permit is too troublesome for you, avail of a travel package. All hotels, inns and travel agencies in Puerto Princesa offer this, so getting one won’t be a problem for you. However, you have to contact them ahead of time so they can process your permit. They follow a standardized price and this includes the van transportation, hotel pick up, lunch, permit processing, environmental fee, ferry transportation and tourist guide. This is a no-sweat option; you just follow what the guide says. The price may be costly for some but if you were to ask me, it’s quite reasonable. After all, you are buying yourself some time and a lot of convenience.

Expenses (in Philippine peso)
  • Travel Agency Charge - 1,500.00

Option 2: Do-It-Yourself Plan

If you’re an adventurous traveler, you can always arrange your trip on your own, and mind you, it’s not that hard at all. When you arrive in Palawan, go to their booking office right away for your permit. You will find two queues there, one for the agency representatives and the other for the walk-in tourists. The pace for the latter is fast, so you don’t have to get up and line up as early as 6:00 a.m. like the reps. However, I highly recommend that you get the permit at least a day or two before your trip. The slots easily get filled in and you need to leave for Sabang as early as possible so you can get on time (the permit indicates when and what time you are entering the cave).

Expenses (in Philippine peso)
  • Permit – Adults: 175.00 for locals, 250.00 for foreigners; Minors: 100.00 for locals, 150.00 for foreigners.
  • Jeepney fare from Puerto Princesa to San Jose terminal – 15.00 x 2 = 30.00
  • Public van from San Jose to Sabang – 150.00 x 2 = 300.00 (Thanks Lakbay for this info.)
  • Environmental Fee – 40.00 per person
  • Ferry ride from Sabang to Underground River – 700.00 (This is good for six people, back and forth. If you’re on your own, look for a group of two to five members and ask them if you can join them. Use your charm!)
  • Lunch – Depends on your appetite and choice of food, but a hundred peso budget would do. There are restaurants or eateries at the ferry terminal, so you can have your lunch there. You can also take some food with you and eat at Sabang beach while enjoying the view.

Option 3: Van Rental

If you’re a group of at least six, another economical way is renting a van from Puerto Princesa to Sabang. The perk of this option is you don’t have to mind other people’s time. In the first and second options, you will be with other tourists, so you can’t just do things based on your own decisions. The van driver already knows how to get to the place, so you need not worry about it. He will guide you on what to do once you reach the ferry terminal. However, take note you still have to process your own permit.

Expenses (in Philippine peso)
  • Permit – See note in Option 2. 
  • Van rental – 3,500.00 (Executive van; 10 - 14 seaters; the more persons in your group, the lesser your share)
  • Environmental fee – 40.00 per person
  • Ferry ride from Sabang to Underground River – See note in Option 2.
  • Lunch – See note in Option 2.

Option 4: Motorcycle Rental

If you’re the daring type, rent a motorcycle and drive it to Sabang. I believe this is perfect for those who are brave enough to get lost or for photographers who want to take photos of the countryside. We could have done this if a group did not ask us to join them in their van. Motorcycles can be rented in Puerto Princesa; just ask your hotel staff for more information. It will probably take you three hours to get to Sabang.

Expenses (in Philippine peso)
  • Permit – See note in Option 2.
  • Motorcycle rental – About 500.00 (excluding gasoline)
  • Gasoline – About 4 liters or 250.00 (This is an estimate of a motorcyclist I've spoken to in Palawan)
  • Environmental fee – 40.00 per person
  • Ferry ride from Sabang to Underground River – See note in Option 2.
  • Lunch – See note in Option 2.
You may contact this person for Puerto Princesa travel packages and rental of vans and motorcycles. 

Annz Duran
Iconquer Philippines Travel Agency
09155808589 / 09463984106

Have a great time! 

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  1. Comments from the original post:

    Lakbay Diva said...
    wow. kaya ninyo mag motor ngadto? wehehehehe...
    October 15, 2012 at 9:13 PM

    Kikit said...
    dwin, pagkuha namo ug permit kay naa mi kauban nga walk-in tourist nga taga palawan, unya niingon sya nga mag tricycle ra daw sya. hehehe ingon pud si dan nga kaya ra daw to i-motor. tapos akong friend pud and her hubby went there on a motorcycle. so basin ug kaya ra. wehehehe :D
    October 15, 2012 at 11:13 PM

    Tabor said...
    this is so intriguing. I have visited your country once and didn't see nearly enough because I was tied to meetings. Next time!! Next time! You do a good job of showing the beauty and mystery. I think I must return.
    October 16, 2012 at 7:11 AM

    Kikit said...
    @ Tabor: Let me know if you're coming to my country. I can give you some tips. Perhaps I can show you around, as well.
    October 16, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    Chyrel Gomez said...
    I like option four better. We always rent a motorcycle when we travel. Thank you, Kit. I find this very informative. I'm still jealous with this trip, btw.
    October 17, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    Potato said...
    Super informative! I still feel sad i wasn't able to go last sept but Palawan isn't very far, i can maybe just shimmy over there in the near future and ill keep this post on my bookmarks til then! :D
    October 18, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    Ellen said...
    Will definitely take note! Great post! Blessings to you,Kit, and to your loved ones.
    October 18, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    Tim Smithson said...
    nice one.. awesome review!
    October 30, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    Faust said...
    i envy you youve been there i havent hehe i want to go there one of these days how about the budget?
    January 5, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    Kikit said...
    you mean for the entire stay in palawan? it actually depends on how long you'll be there, but i think 10k is enough for a three to four-day budget trip, excluding airfare.
    February 24, 2013 at 10:50 PM


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