Table of Contents
- 0.1 Destination: Puerto Princesa, Palawan
- 0.2 Palawan, the #1 island in the world in 2015
- 0.3 Puerto Princesa City
- 1 1 – One Man’s Worm is Another Man’s Oyster
- 2 2 – Playing Indiana Jones
- 3 3 – The Sand and the Sea
- 4 Where to eat:
Destination: Puerto Princesa, Palawan
At a luncheon Brenda and I were attending in Manila, we were asked as to where our next destination would be. I answered Palawan. This answer was followed by a bunch of “oohs” and “aahs” from the people at our table. The following question was, where in Palawan would we be visiting. In which I answered, Puerto Princesa. The “oohs” and “aahs” turned into inquisitive looks and slightly funny facial expressions. Concerned, I asked if we had made the wrong decision. Unanimously, the answer was that they had never been, but highly recommend the islands of Coron and El Nido.
Palawan, the #1 island in the world in 2015
Conde Nast Traveler named Palawan the #1 island in the world in 2015. Palawan is actually made up of a series of islands, two of which, are the islands of Coron and El Nido. These two islands have played a large role as to why Palawan got its ranking. Puerto Princesa, though the main hub, takes back seat to these two. Many travelers to Palawan bypass it altogether and use it as just a transfer station to get to the other islands.
Puerto Princesa City
When we got out of the airport in Puerto Princesa City, I started to think that maybe there was a reason for most people wanting to bypass the place. The place simply lacked charm. Looking out the window on our way to the hotel, almost immediately I was thinking of Plan B, and how to break our reservations and head over to either Coron or El Nido. I decided to stay the course and do my best to explore Puerto Princesa, and in doing so, experienced a Palawan that many decide to miss.
Here are 3 reasons not to miss Puerto Princesa with your family:
1 – One Man’s Worm is Another Man’s Oyster
Puerto Princesa is by no means diverse when it comes to food. What I mean by this, is that there aren’t many cuisines outside of Filipino available. However, the restaurants in Puerto Princesa do their Filipino Food very well, and within the cuisine, well versed. There’s a litany of dishes that I can go through, but I want to concentrate on two that are ubiquitous in Puerto Princesa, and that I have not found anywhere before and after, and they are “crocodile sisig” and “tamilok”.
I have had crocodile dishes in the past, but often they were prepared simply battered and fried. At Kinabuchs, a restaurant we frequented, prepared the dish “sisig” style. Sisig is usually prepared with pork belly and other parts of the pig, such as the ear, and usually bits of offal to boot. Seasoning often used are soy sauce, ginger, onion, garlic powder and chili flakes. It is usually served on a sizzling platter and is often best eaten when drinking beer. It’s hearty and not very good for you, but it’s hard to resist when you smell the aroma as it hits the table. When prepared with crocodile meat, the dish becomes leaner, and a bit healthier, but the heartiness is not lost. Like the original pork rendition, it’s hard to resist and pairs great with beer. Definitely worth ordering, even if just for health reasons.
Then we had to eat The Tamilok (woodworm)!
My cousin Wendell and his girlfriend, April joined us on our trip and flew in from Hong Kong. The night of their arrival we took them to Kinabuchs for dinner. By the time they arrived, we had already been in Puerto Princesa for a week, and throughout I have been able to avoid trying their famous Tamilok. There is an abundance of mangrove trees in Palawan, and in them are woodworm. Tamilok is woodworm! It is served raw and is slurped down as you would an oyster. With my cousin having come all the way in from Hong Kong and wanting to give it a try, I had to acquiesce. I love oysters, and oysters they are not, but with a little squeeze of calamansi juice and tabasco, they’re not too bad.
2 – Playing Indiana Jones
Our first full day had started off cloudy, and early at that, as the van that pick us up for our first activity and tour arrived at 7 a.m. Two hours later, we arrived at a port where we took a boat across a strait that led us to a beach. Beyond the beach was a small forested area, where we saw monitor lizards the size of dogs just walking about. Beyond that, was the Subterranean River, a UNESCO Heritage site, where on smaller flat bottom boats we were rowed through a river hidden under a cave that stretched for miles.
Bats in the caves
Akin to a gondolier in Venice, our rower, if that’s what you even call them, kept us entertained with a series of jokes and also by enhancing our imagination by pointing out stalactites and stalagmites, that resembled fruit, vegetables, animals, sea creatures and the ever popular Buddha and the Holy Family. It was dark in the cave so we were further told to keep our mouths closed when looking up as there were thousands of bats that inhabited the cave and it’s quite easy to get batshit in your mouth.
On the small area where the flat-bottomed boats docked, there were monkeys swinging and snakes slithering on tree branches, which further authenticated the “expedition”. We were made aware of keeping an eye on the monkeys as they enjoy taking people’s possessions. Apparently, they find hundreds of cell phones yearly around the area, that were pickpocketed and destroyed by the monkeys.
[Tweet “This was followed by a trip to Ugong Rock, yet another cave.”]
This was followed by a trip to Ugong Rock, yet another cave. This part of our outdoor adventure was a bit more active than the last as the rains were torrential toward the end of the day. We went spelunking throughout the inner part and outer parts of the large rock formation. The rock slippery, the ground somewhat flooded, and trying to see through the large pellets of rain was difficult. The three of us couldn’t have been any happier.
Spelunking before reaching the top to zip line.
Upon reaching the top, we had the option of climbing back down or zip lining down. If zip lining is the choice, which it was for us, there was a choice of a seated position or a superman position. We chose superman, in which the starting position was at a higher point than that of the seated. I actually have a fear of heights, but with daughter and wife laughing at me in front of everyone, either because they knew I was scared or because the harness belt barely went around my stomach, I channeled my inner Indiana Jones and dove right off. I was followed by Bailey and then Brenda, who just moments before, laughed at my fright, screamed all the way down. It was a fantastic day. I can’t imagine anyone would ever want to miss out on that.
3 – The Sand and the Sea
We were in need of sun, white sand and clear waters. A boat ride half an hour out on the Sulu Sea is the small island of Pandan. This island is a perfect setting for anyone that may want to live the rest of their life out as a castaway, albeit impossible to be secluded here. One can walk the circumference of the island within minutes, that’s how small it is. It is extremely charming, with it’s well-placed palm trees and thatched huts where vendors set up for the day, selling their catch of the day, the young coconut they picked, and the beer they keep on ice.
But we came here for the snorkeling, and it did not disappoint. We had a great guide named, Dong, who knew exactly where to take us out for the best viewing. Dong made us feel safe as he pulled a floatation device with him for anyone that may get out of breath. He was also quite the camera guy, making sure to take our GoPro to crevices only he was able to get into as to capture the best footage. On land, he was also quite adept with the camera, taking crafty little photos (as shown below). It was here off the shore of Pandan Island, that Bailey, who has waited all her life, finally found Nemo.
Another half hour out into the Sulu sea from Pandan Island lies Cowrie Island. Unlike Pandan, Cowrie was a little wilder in nature both literally and figuratively. There was more plant life, the beach was rocky, and the atmosphere a little less timid as music played loudly out of the only bar on the island. The atmosphere had a bit more energy and it made for a nice place to unwind over a drink. Brenda took the afternoon walking around the island to take pictures, Bailey got herself a henna tattoo. and I sat down at the bar and made some friends over a few San Miguel Lights.
Dos Palmas Island
Yet another half hour from Cowrie is the Private Resort, Dos Palmas. It’s here that we spent four days with family and friends to really get a feel for the resort life that Palawan has become famous for. The resort has been recovering from its torrid past these past 10 years (Google it) and thankfully they seem to be recovering and doing a great job moving forward.
Large and comfortable rooms
The rooms on the island were large and comfortable. There is an agreeable restaurant and bar with fantastic servers and bartenders. There were two swimming pools which we swam in daily, and two pool tables we played on all night. There was also table tennis and darts to pass the time. The island offered activities, such as snorkeling and kayaking.
The snorkeling here was the best we had ever experienced. Brenda was hooked and went out as often as she could. There was a spa for anyone that wanted to treat themselves, and tennis and basketball court for those who wanted to push themselves.
What we enjoyed most as a family was the bikes that were scattered throughout the island for us to use whenever and wherever we wanted. It may not have been the very exclusive Amanpulo in El Nido, but we felt like we got a taste of it in some way by staying at Dos Palmas.
If ever I am asked for advice as where to go in Palawan, I can confidently tell them to spend some time in Puerto Princesa before moving onward and enjoy what so many people tend to overlook.
Brenda’s Short Travel Guide to Puerto Princesa, Palawan
We flew Philippine Airline from Manila to Puerto Princesa. It was about $200 round trip for all 3 of us. The flight was about 1 ½ hours. Beware though of luggage fees, you’re only allowed to have 10 kilos per person. If you need to pay for more kilos, make sure to call Philippines Airline ahead of time so you don’t get charged at least 10 times more.
Where to Stay:
Paboreal Boutique Hotel in Puerto Princesa
The address: Blessed Rd. – Abueg Rd. Brgy. Bancao Puerto Princesa
It was such a beautiful and clean hotel and the perfect spot to wind down after a very active day. The rooms were very big and maybe my favorite feature is the shower, the toilet and the sink are all separated into their own rooms. We stayed in room 1, which was 2,950 pesos a night. (roughly $56 USD) There was a queen bed and a single for Bailey, perfect for the 3 of us. Including breakfast. Their staff were all great and super helpful.
This hotel can arrange all the tours for you while you are there.
We stayed at a villa with 2 queen beds. Villa #D07 It was very clean, comfortable and it was $400 including breakfast for 3 nights. We stayed there during a weekday so it may be more for weekends. The Sunday we were there, there were 100 people on the island. On Monday and Tuesday, it was down to 40 guests in the whole island. Click on to our Palawan post to get more pictures.
Where to eat:
Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa, Palawan – we went there twice and all the dishes were very good. This is where we had our Tamilok (woodworm) and crocodile sisig.
369 Rizal Avenue Puerto Princesa City Palawan
( Opens Daily Save Sundays Lunch 11-2pm; Dinner 6:00-10:30pm )
– You may call our Landline: (048) 433 2580
– +63 928 753 9621
– firstname.lastname@example.org, or
– Ask your hotel front desk to call us.
The fish was so fresh and all the seafood cooked to perfection. This is a beautiful restaurant that asks you to take off your shoes so make sure your feet are ready to be bare. Also, it’s a very busy restaurant, make sure to have your concierge make reservations.
Along Rizal Avenue are many local fruits stands, make sure to stop there and purchase some local fruits like mangosteen and rambutan.