Oh man. We finally took a wrong turn in our travels – ending in up in Puerto Princesa was not the kind of ending to our vacation that we had hoped it would be. After spending a few (too many) days here myself, this little city has redeemed itself somewhat in my eyes, but when we first got here we both had the same reaction. WHAT THE F. AND WHERES THE BEACH?
I had come here in good faith, as an awesome tour company from Canada had highly recommended this destination, and I thought they could do no wrong. Truth is, Palawan is pretty awesome but we have totally ended up in the wrong part of it. El Nido is beautiful, Coron supposedly even better, and Puerto Princesa? not. Boo!
Let me back up here. When we got off the plane we were picked up by two perfectly lovely Filipinos who pointed out some “sights” to us on our way to the Guesthouse (which they call Pensions here for some reason). We arrived at our shabby little Lola Itang Guesthouse and soon figured out that our hosts knew NOTHING WHATSOEVER about what there was to do in Puerto Princesa. Is there a beach? “uhhhhhhh…” what can we do here? “uhhhhhh” how do we book a tour to the underground river? “uhhhhhh” no clue. at all. We were used to lovely guesthouse owners who could tell us about the surrounding area, but these guys, although perfectly lovely, were clueless. Also – it seemed like there was nothing to eat or really do around us so we had to settle for McDonald’s and call it a night. Also – it’s as if nobody in this town had ever seen a white person before – there are hardly any tourists, and we were quite the novelty in our shorts and tank tops apparently. Hmmm.
The next day we figured out how to get to the permit office for the underground river ourselves and found out about Honda Bay, which is a group of islands close by where you can sun and swim. After getting our permit we walked out of the government building and a guy approached us and asked us if we needed help arranging a tour to the underground river. After initially being wary of him, he actually turned out to be the nicest and most helpful person we had met so far, and we agreed to go with Marlon to his tour office to book a trip to the Underground River, which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
After arranging our trip, Marlon drove us in his sweet tricycle (a type of sidecar attached to motorcycles which serves as a local taxi service here) about thirty minutes to Honda Bay, where we rented our own boat to take us to Cowrie Island, a cute tiny island where we hung out all day drinking beers, eating lunch and getting massages while sunning ourselves. Bliss!!
That evening after finally finding a pizza place that looked ok to eat at, we went to bed early because there was NOTHING to do besides potentially hitting up a few local dive bars that looked sketchy at best.