Justly one of Palawan’s top attractions, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (aka Underground River; wwww.puerto-undergroundriver.com), protects a unique underwater river system that cuts through the limestone hills for 8.2km before emptying out into the South China Sea. The caves are completely natural and unlit, ranging from fairly low-lying passages to vast, stadium-like caverns. It’s also a refreshingly well-managed and untouched slice of Palawan, with visitor numbers restricted by a daily quota.

From Sabang, you’ll take a twenty-minute bangka to the next bay along, followed by a short 150m walk through the forest to the river – languid monitor lizards often congregate near the rangers’ hut, while macaque monkeys hang out in the trees, looking to grab any loose snacks – don’t feed them (or the lizards). If you are arranging independently you’ll need to show your permit before getting into the special pump boats that paddle into the caves. Your boatman acts as a guide, pointing out the various rock formations and wildlife inside (there are over 400,000 bats). Memorable features include “the Cathedral”, a vast chamber containing stalactites that resemble Mary, Jesus and friends, and a second 62-metre-high cavern that soars into the darkness. Visitors get to see just 1.5km of the cave (45min); you can travel up to 4.3km into the system, but you’ll need to arrange a special permit three days in advance from the park office in Puerto Princesa (11 National Hwy, just north of Rizal Ave t048/434-2509).

You can also hike to the caves via the Jungle Trail (5.3km) or Monkey Trail (5.2km) from Sabang, though this is steep and sometimes slippery, especially after rain.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Philippines features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Is Camiguin the most beautiful island you've never heard of?

Is Camiguin the most beautiful island you've never heard of?

The Philippines has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the last few years. From Typhoon Yolanda, the superstorm which left a band of destruction fro…

02 Oct 2017 • Mike MacEacheran insert_drive_file Article
Puerto Princesa Underground River: the Philippines' 8km-long subterranean wonder

Puerto Princesa Underground River: the Philippines' 8km-long subterranean wonder

Deep underground on the island of Palawan in the Philippines lies the Puerto Princesa River. Both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the ‘New 7 Wonders o…

10 Jan 2017 • Esme Fox insert_drive_file Article
The stunning Philippines in pictures

The stunning Philippines in pictures

Rough Guides writer Kiki Deere shares some of her best photographs of the Philippines from her latest trip to Southeast Asia.  Comprising 7107 islands, the …

18 Dec 2015 • Kiki Deere insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook