Palawan has been on many “best island” lists in the last few years and Puerto Princesa is the capital of the province, major gateway and has the largest airport. From here, you have access to many beaches on the island, the underground river national park or the Tubbataha Reef, one of the best dive destination in the world!
Why you should go: If Manila is just too huge and crowded for you, Puerto Princesa is a much smaller, less dense and quieter city. Things move at an island pace, people are even friendlier and it’ll be easy to navigate. If you are planning to visit the Tubbataha National Park, your dive boat will leave from the port in Puerto Princesa. If you have the Underground River on your itinerary, it’s about 2-3h driver from here. And if you want to see famous El Nido on a budget, a van can take you there in 5-6 hours – non stop flights to El Nido from Manila are a lot quicker, but more expensive! While Puerto Princesa is mostly a commercial and government hub for people to pass through, it’s worth a stop-over in the city to get an idea of life in the Philippine provinces!
Getting to Puerto Princesa is easy and inexpensive – Philippine Airlines and low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific each have several daily flights to the city and fares are low.
I recommend to arrange transport from the airport to Puerto Princesa with your hotel for a smooth transfer- there is no formal taxi line at the airport, so you’ll have to negotiate with local tricycles or vans. The ride to the port or your hotel is less than 30 minutes.
Where to stay in Puerto Princesa: If you are planning a stop over in the city, I’d recommend to stay in the area between the port, airport and downtown for easy access. The Best Western Ivywall Puerto Princesa is a modern, upscale choice. If you want a beach hotel in town, the Princesa Garden is right on a nice, sandy beach. There are also a number of small, independent guest houses and hotels available. I
Where to eat in Puerto Princesa: There are a number of small restaurants along Rizal Avenue. Artisans just across from the Best Western came recommended and the food was great! Next door is a funky bar with live music to close out your evening! For dining on a budget, the typical chain restaurants and food stands can be found along the road and in the new malls – YMMV!
What to do: If you want to check out local life, take a stroll through town along Rizal Avenue. You can start your walk at NCCC mall, the first one in the province with the first escalator! Nearby are the Palawan Museum and Palawan Heritage Center for some insights into local history. The Cathedral is down the road near the port.
For a more modern (but very typical) shopping experience there are a new SM Mall and Robinson Mall as well.
If you are “on your way through” but just have to have some beach time, there are a few smaller beaches near town, you can find a description of them here!