Travel doesn’t become adventure until you leave yourself behind; Marty Robin once said. I haven’t been everywhere but I believe that a trip to Puerto Princesa Underground River is an absolute must for travel enthusiasts who discern that life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

Everyone wanting to visit Asia in style must witness this subterranean wonder and go deep underground on Palawan Island in the Philippines where Puerto Princesa River lies. If you never knew, this is the world’s largest navigable underground river with distinguishing features representing a significant habitat for biodiversity conservation.

To know more about the Philippines 8-km long subterranean wonder, here’s everything you need to know about travelling around Puerto Princesa Underground River.  

Unterground River Welcome
Unterground River Welcome Sign

What On Earth Is An Underground River?

Just to quench your curiosity, you need to know exactly what this means. It’s nothing different from what you think of it. Underground River flows like the usual river you know; only that if flows very, very slowly. It has moving water underground. This underground water flows along a corridor following the steepest slope.

History of the Underground River

The Puerto Princesa Underground River is UNESCO World heritage site in Asia-Pacific which lies on the western coast of the Island of Palawan, 80 km north of the city centre of Puerto Princesa.

The river flows directly beneath the St Paul Mountain Range and channels its way through a series of enormous chambers and caverns millions of years ago.  Having the cavern system stretching 24 kilometers underneath the mountain range, the river finds its way through 8.2km of it. This river is one of the few that emerges directly into the sea with its brackish lower portion subjected to tidal influences. This fact in itself distinguishes the river as a momentous natural global phenomenon. Along the river are some of the most significant forests in Asia, distinctive wildlife and pristine natural beauty. 

Puerto Princesa Underground River’s caverns characterize extraordinary, eye-catching rock formations. Its magical caverns exhibit several spectacular large chambers some of which are approximately 120m wide and 60m high. The river is accessible to the general public to navigate around up to 4.5 km inland. The river cruise magnificent rock formations bestow an experience you can never find anywhere else in the world.

The river and the caves are significant habitat to a complex eco-system adapted to underground life such as certain types of animals, like fish, gigantic spiders, snakes, crabs and more. When you get there, expect to see lots of bats and sparrows.

Don’t Listen To What They Say… Go See.

It’s imperative to live life with no excuses and travel with no regrets. So, are you wanting to travel the world but scared to take the next step? It’s time to follow your dream or you may regret it forever. Get a unique holiday experience in the world’s most spectacular destination. This can only be a trip to Puerto Princesa Underground River.  But there’s no way to discover new oceans unless you’ve got the courage to lose sight of the shore.

So, are you adventurous? Go, fly, travel, explore, roam, discover, journey and adventure Palawan, Philippines Underground River.

Undergorund River Sabang Entry
Entry to the Underground River in Sabang

Geography of the Puerto Princesa subterranean River National Park

The geographical position of the Puerto Princesa Underground River and the surrounding protected area is worth noting if you’ve got to experience one of the most educative tours. The cave system of the Island of Palawan describes some very considerable issues of interest.  

Let’s talk about geography, but not too much of it anyway!

Puerto Princesa Underground River is a tropical area which we can look at from several points of views. Its closeness to the sea makes it a true estuary that creates unique conditions in geography. In fields such as biology, meteorology, hydrology and mineralogy, there’s always something to pick from this spectacular wonder of nature.

For how can we know Palawan without searching deep into its rich geography?

Palawan is a historical region covering an area of 12,000km2. It is located between 11050’ and 12020’ latitude N, and 117000’ and 120020’ Longitude E in the South-Western Region of Philippines Archipelago. This place is not far from Borneo.

Mountainous, narrow and elongated nature

The nature of the Island is basically mountainous, narrow and elongated. The island is divided into three tectonic sectors by the two important N-S depressions corresponding to lowlands. Along the depressions dividing the northern from the central sector is the St. Paul Dome karst ridge.

The unique underground system of the river has made Puerto Princesa subterranean River National Park a popular world heritage site since 1991. The underground river was first explored and recorded in 1930. This was witnessed by some writings on the walls of the outpouring in Rockpile.

In 1973, a Hungarian geologist called Balazs carried out the first sketch of the focal gallery of the cave. Later in 80’s, two expeditions from Australia navigated the entire branch and some side tributaries and this pushed the development of the river and the cave further. Since then, methodic research and some interesting explorations have been carried out and Puerto Princesa Underground River has been elected as one of the 7 wonders of the Nature.

The scenery of the area is a typical tropical karst characterized by irregular plateau, large depressions, cones, towers, pinnacles and large tunnels.

Subterranean hydrology

This underground river is a cave stream that stretches about 8 km and it collects water from a wide surface basin. It is diverts into the sea through large galleries overflowing with water.

How To Get to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

With all the geography, you might be wondering then how you can find your way to this must see attraction, right? The main access to this underground wonder is from the sea. When you get there, you’ll realize that on the side of the beach is some water stream carving a shallow canal through its rich coralline sand. It’s at this point where you stop and say, “Take memories only, leave only footprints; just as Chief Seattle would.

A few meters on your way upstream is when you reach the long awaited lagoon surrounded by calciferous cliff. Right at its foot is the portal which opens its way into the Subterranean River and this marks the peak of your trip.

Where adventure begins…

If you thought adventures is dangerous, dare routine. If you’ve been used to the trips to the park, beach life, hiking and canoeing, you’ve got to have the guts to tour Puerto Princesa Underground River. The experience will leave you speechless, and then turn you into a storyteller.  

Before you get there, this is how the journey is got to be. The main underground stream you encounter runs in large tunnels coupled with lateral minor diverting passages. At some point, you’ll discover some upper old relict galleries that join with the dynamic one through its hefty chambers.

It’s a magical experience to find out how the main resurgence of the Cabayugan River represented by this cave disappears into the limestone about 7km upstream.

Your journey through the caves doesn’t end here…

Discover more submarine

A few hundred metres further E, you’ll be surprised to hit upon another marine spring cave. The beauty of this cave is how it collects the water sinking in the closed basins arising along the east side of the karst. It’s called the Little Underground River.

When you look at the hydrologic setting of the area, you’ll come into a clear understanding of how things unfold here. If you’re keen enough, you’ll tell of at least two drainage systems; one drained by the Underground River and the other by the Little Underground River. Be observant and discover more submarine and other unknown springs.

As mentioned earlier, the entry of the Underground River on the Coast is at the Sea level. Up to about 6km of the cave is inside the mountain.

Let’s now talk about the navigable part of the underground river.

Experience on the navigable part of Puerto Princesa Underground River is fantastic. Tasting its salty water that lies under a thin sheet of fresh water is in itself mysterious. And just to mention, the sheet is only a few centimetres thick.

But is this the usual state of the water? Actually, this condition is only experienced during the dry season when there is no rain. Salty water gets cleared during overflow moments and slowly returns once the floods are gone.

The mixing of the fresh and the saline water is phenomenon and its effects on the caves cause meticulous processes of rock corrosion leading to the formation of water level notches. On its down streams, the mixing corrosion has been proved to produce typical forms of coastal caves characterized by lateral conduits, waterline notches and spongework.

Underground River Sabang
Wonderful view of the entry to the Underground River

How To Get There From Puerto Princesa?

You can choose one of the two options to get to Puerto Princesa Underground River from Puerto Princesa city. The first option is a road drive from Puerto Princesa city to Sabang port which takes you approximately 2 hours. From Sabang port, you take a 12-20 minutes boat ride. Before then, dive into real Palawan experience and enjoy memorable moments at the lovely beach coupled with luxury resorts and ample inexpensive beach huts for hitchhikers. Tours from Puerto Princesa includes transport to and fro, your permit, boat ride, tour guide and lunch. Don’t worry about safety. Life jackets and helmets are provided and must be worn during the trip through the Underground River.

To avoid inconveniences and enjoy a hassle free transaction, book your slots 2 weeks prior to your trip and ensure you confirm your slot the city local council. The second option is to take 1-2 hours jungle trail which starts in Sabang beach all the way to Puerto Princesa Underground River.

How To Get There From El Nido?

Underground River tour to Palawan, Philippines Puerto Princesa Underground River from El Nido is one of the most exciting trips. El Nido is all about the most beautiful lagoons and Islands, both big and small. All you do is to jump into a boat and sail from El Nido’s magical beaches. El Nido is a perfect place for scuba, snorkeling and diving through its clear waters and rich marine life.

The ride takes between 5-6 hours. The van will pick you at your hotel in El Nido town around 4.00-5.00 am in the morning and bring you to Sabang at around 11.00 am. Here, you’ll get your lunch buffet and take a boat to Puerto Princesa Underground River.

Flora and Fauna of the Puerto Princesa Underground River

Did I mention that the cave is one of the world’s prime and most significant underground ecosystems? Yes, the cave is a home the commonly observed species like trojana. Countless bats will leave you gazing at the sky. You’ll see for yourself thousands of swiftlets nets but don’t you get fearful. Bats won’t hurt you.  

Amazingly, it’s like the bats and salangane were once in a dialogue and agreed upon their timely entry and exit from the cave. With the growing number of bats and sparrows and the huge organic matter they bring, expect to find lots of animals like fishes, insects, snakes and other reptiles. The subterranean river is also a home to creatures like Thereupada, Amblypygius –tailess whip scorpion and Megalomorph spider among others.

Let’s get into real math’s here!

The faunal diversity of Puerto Princesa Underground River is moderate with over 254 terrestrial vertebrate species and over 165 species of birds. This represents 67% of the sum of bird’s species of Palawan. 5 of the world’s most threatened bird’s species like the Palawan peacock and the Philippine cockatoo inhibit the region.

Key mammal species reported to inhibit the park are bearcat, the Palawan porcupine and the long-tailed macaque. The record can’t be complete without giving report of the 8 species of bats inhibiting the cave.

19 species of reptiles

In the cave, expect to get sight of at least 19 species of reptiles, 8 of which species are endemic. Majority of these reptiles are large predators like the monitor lizard, the common reticulated python and the rare fresh water turtles.

The smallest group of vertebrates recorded to inhibit the cave is the amphibians where only 10 spices have been identified so far. The frequently encountered of these is the Philippine woodland frog.

Looking at the invertebrate fauna, trojana is the commonly observed insect. The list doesn’t end here. Megalomorph spider,amblypygius tailes whip scorpion and thereupoda also inhabit here.

The subterranean River is also home for a vast marine component. Hawksbill turtle and the green sea turtle which are both internationally endangered species are observed nesting in the white sand beaches. They feed in the sea grass beds. This is where the tropical eelgrass species like spotted sea cucumber, the horned star fish and cigar wrasse live.

Wait, how does the underground river reach the sea?

I’m sure there’s lots of geography here. But if you’ve been following closely how events unfold, you must have been left wondering how the water infiltrated all over the karst area flow to. That’s brilliant of you!

Before you get there and find out the real happenings, I can brief you just to slake your inquisitiveness.  

It’s a surprising fact knowing that the cave runs all along the north-west side of the famous St. Paul ridge. This implies that a larger part of the karsts surface lies right hand side of the cave. In spite of this, the Underground River has no reliable tributary from the right side. The reality of this can only be implicit by you going there to find out for yourself. Are you adventurous? Adventure may hurt you, but monotony will kill you. As you encounter Puerto Princesa Underground River, you’ll encounter the real you!

Activities – Things To Do At The Puerto Princesa Underground River

It always feels good to be lost in the right direction. No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until you experience a slice of heaven that extends beyond your imagination. I mean, going away from the obvious.  Puerto Princesa Underground River is always a good idea.

When touring this subterranean wonder for the first time or on a limited time, choosing where to go first and what to do can become really daunting. With so many places and so little time, you’ve got to be there anyway.

But before you get there, you’ve got to do a bucket list of amazing things to do in Puerto Palawan, Philippines Princesa Underground River.

How Long Is The Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour?

It takes you approximately 1 hour or less to tour the Underground River. To avoid last minute hassle, pre-book your place on the Subterranean River tour now.

Witness The Puerto Princesa Underground River

Join thousands of tourists who tour Puerto Princesa city every year to see Puerto Princesa Underground River – one of the 7 Wonders of Nature. So, this should be the first activity on your travel bucket list. If you don’t believe it until you see it, book your trip to Puerto Princesa Underground River now.  

Sabang Zipline
Enjoying the Zipline in Sabang

It’s got to be unbelievable paddling through the dark in your small boats with the boatman’s headlamp being your only light that guards your way. Think of those sharp swirls of swallows and the click of bats, not forgetting the echoing drip of water. The journey through the giant cavernous cathedrals gets more splendid as you find your way through mushroom-shaped rocks to the murky reaches of the underbelly of the cavern.  

And if you’ve got the guts, apply for special permit that allows you to go beyond the usual 4km and into an 8.2 km ride that goes far into the rare sights of the cave. The way is just too narrow that boats can’t get through and you’ve got to go swimming between the rock walls till you get to see what’s in the other side of your little world of adventure.  

Huh! Shut Your Mouth Up!

How can I forget to hark back and tell you to keep your mouth closed lest you receive some gifts from above? What? The thousands of bats soaring above are more often than not likely to drop their red faeces into your mouth is you gaze at the wonders with your mouth open.


If you like it, island hopping is got to be spectacular as you immerse yourself into real underwater paradise. It’s got to be an enormous experience hopping into the island and enjoying great moment as you come into terms with rare species of creatures. Take your moment and snorkel and get to know what this island is made of.

Iwahig Firefly Watching

Nightlife at Palawan is got to be unforgettable with a whole hour of a magical paddleboat tour. Firefly watching is a must see fascinating experience. When at Puerto Princess, how more can you enjoy magical sensation than to gaze at thousands of fireflies lit mangroves beneath the starlit heavens in Iwahig?

It is at Iwahig River where all these begin soon after enjoying great eateries at the restaurant as you ready for an experience that will leave you thunderstruck.

Best Eateries Ever

Your trip to Puerto Princesa Underground River cannot be complete without some stopovers at popular food joints and enjoy great eateries? Sarris Bario and Saigon Noodle House are some of the affordable, decent yet welcoming hubs for excellent fresh seafood, good coffee and yummier local and international cuisines.

Underground River Lunch Grilling Fish
Underground River Lunch Grilling Fish

International Awareness (New 7 Wonders of Nature)

Competition for the New 7 Wonders of Nature was not a joke. Winners of the contest were announced following a global poll. Puerto Princesa Underground River was shortlisted among the most spectacular sites in the world. The campaign began in 2007 with over 100 million votes cast where over 220 countries participated.

The winners in this global contest were;  

  • Amazon Rainforest and River
  • Halong Bay
  • Jeju Island
  • Iguaçu Falls
  • Puerto Princesa Underground River
  • Komodo Island
  • Table Mountain


When it comes to enjoying life away from home and of course enjoy a unique holiday experience, you need to agree with me that it is not the destination where you land but the memories you create along the way that matters. A trip to Puerto Princesa Underground River opens your eyes to the real voyage of discovery. It’s a travel experience that makes you modest as you find for yourself the space you occupy in the world.

Plan your trip to this secretive estuary which represents an exceptional krast environment where you join thousands of tourists who visit Palawan, Philippines Underground River every year. It’s absolutely unique features are extremely significant, making Puerto Princesa Underground River an absolute must for everyone.

What are you waiting for? Book your trip to Puerto Princesa Underground River now and begin an adventurous journey to the real slice of haven.