Puerto Princesa City, the capital of the province of Palawan, is more than three times larger than the whole Metro Manila region. At a whopping 920 square miles worth of land that stretches all the way from the West Philippine Sea on one side to the Sulu Sea on the other, there is so much to do in the City in the Forest, and oh-so little time.
The only city on Palawan Island is a destination you can’t miss when in the Philippines’ Last Frontier. Before you book your flight to the Puerto Princesa International Airport, here are some things about the city you probably don’t know that will help you make your trip to Palawan a memorable one:
It’s Over 200 Years Old!
When anyone thinks about the province of Palawan, images of pristine beaches and limestone cliffs are the first things that come to mind. What most tourists don’t know is that Palawan is full of history, and at the center of it all is its capital city of Puerto Princesa.
Puerto Princesa City has been around for over 200 years, and you can see it in its historic downtown area. If you want to check out the remnants the Spaniards, Americans, Japanese, and even the Vietnamese, have left in this city, here are some spots you simply cannot miss:
- The Immaculate Conception Church and Plaza Cuartel
As a result of more than 300 years of Spanish colonization, the Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country. In order to further their exploration, the Spaniards of hundreds of years ago built chapels on the new lands they discovered. Around these chapels, they built cities.
The Immaculate Conception Church is where it all began for the City of Puerto Princesa. The first-ever Catholic mass was held here over two hundred years ago. This is where the local people gather. Across the street are two parks that were built in honor of some prominent figures in the Philippines’ history. To its left are a seminary that still operates up to this day and the ruins that hold one of the darker parts of Palawan’s history.
Plaza Cuartel is the site of what is known as the Palawan Massacre. During the height of World War II, Japanese soldiers burned more than 100 people alive in this very spot. Today, the gate now stands as a reminder of all of the horrible effects of war.
Palawan Provincial Capitol Complex
In the middle of Puerto Princesa City is the seat of the entire province of Palawan. The Provincial Capitol Complex is a sight to behold both day and night. The big dome structure of its main building is awe-inspiring, and there are gorgeous fountains and gardens here and there that add color and life to its regal stone.
Not all of the Provincial Capitol Complex is open to the public, but the ones that are offer a unique experience to visitors from all over the world. Learn about Palawan’s past and present in this area. Marvel at the collections they have on display. The gardens of the Provincial Capitol Complex is also one of the best spots to watch the locals of Puerto Princesa City go about their day.
Puerto Princesa’s Vietnamese Village, Viet Ville
Filipino people are known for their impeccable hospitality. That’s just how things are. In Palawan, perhaps the best example of this is the village which was once a refugee camp for Vietnamese nationals during the war.
Only a few decades ago, embattled Vietnamese nationals and their families found a home in Puerto Princesa City’s Barangay Santa Lourdes. As the times have changed, the only thing that remains of it now is the restaurant Viet Ville.
Although the Vietnamese refugees of the war did not stay for long, their presence can still be felt in the city. Wander around Puerto Princesa City, and you are sure to find dozens of eateries that boast “chao long.” It’s a special kind of pho that can only be found in Palawan, and is best served in this very restaurant.
It’s a Vacationer’s Dream
As we’ve said, Puerto Princesa is a resort town. Palawan Island itself is nothing less than a paradise. With all of the sights to see, the things to do, and the places to go on this island, you will need a warm and homey accommodation to host you throughout the duration of your stay here.
Thankfully, there is a good supply of hotels and resorts to do just that. Here are the best of the best and the places we recommend for you to stay in when looking to explore Puerto Princesa City and the province of Palawan:
Binga Beach Resort
You booked a flight all the way to Palawan to get away from the tiringly ordinary life you lead back at home. You owe it to yourself to commit to really have the best vacation ever. Trust us, that is one thing you can only achieve if you book a stay at the Binga Beach Resort.
Located on its own stretch of sand on the northern shores of San Vicente Town, Binga Beach is a haven for nature lovers and vacationers who know what they want and are going to get it. There will be no other tourists on the beach when you are here. The beach and the mountains and the sun and the stars will all be yours.
If you want to go further north and check out the famed El Nido from Binga Beach, all it will take is a van ride away. If you want to see what it really is we’re talking about in this guide to Puerto Princesa City, same thing.
Hue Hotels and Resorts Puerto Princesa
If you want to go around the city by yourself, Hue Hotels and Resorts Puerto Princesa will be a good place to stay in. This modern hotel is located right beside Robinsons Place Palawan. It is on the highway itself. A trip to anywhere in the city will just be a taxi, jeepney, or tricycle ride away.
Aside from this resort’s enviable location, Hue also has the honor of having the city’s most breathtaking infinity pool. It is a great place to clock in some laps before opting to dive into deeper, more natural waters once you go out of the city.
Microtel by Wyndham Puerto Princesa
If you want to stay within the city, but can’t take the heat, opt to check-in at the Microtel by Wyndham Puerto Princesa. This resort is still within the downtown Puerto Princesa City limits but is far enough from it all that you will actually get to run away from it all while on vacation.
While Hue has its very own infinity pool, Microtel has a swimming pool and its own beach. Practice kayaking in the waters near this resort. Don’t go too far, though! There is still so much to see.
It’s a Paradise for Foodies
Speaking of restaurants, good food is not often associated with the province of Palawan. Not with all of the nature activities and sights-to-see on the island. If you were thinking the same thing, prepare to be proven wrong.
With the rise of tourism in recent years, Puerto Princesa City has quickly become a resort town. There are hotels on virtually every corner of the city, and there are restaurants right beside these hotels.
Even before this once-quiet town became every tourist’s dream destination, there were already tried and tested establishments that the locals have pledged their allegiance to. Here are some of them:
Ka Inato San Manuel
Filipinos love their chicken. The Negrenses of Negros Island loves it so much that they whipped up the famous chicken inasal. Palaweños and their love of chicken, on the other hand, gave birth to the dish called chicken inato.
The original and best-tasting chicken inato on the island can be found nowhere else than the Ka Inato restaurant. Ready yourself for a Filipino feast when you’re here. They regularly offer buffet breakfasts and holds live performances every so often.
Dozens of branches of Ka Inato and variations of their cooking may have popped up, but nothing will beat the original restaurant located along the National Highway at Puerto Princesa City’s Barangay San Manuel.
Badjao Seafront Restaurant
When you are on an island as gorgeous as Palawan, you might as well eat at a restaurant that gives justice to both the island’s natural beauty and its abundance of seafood.
Badjao Seafood Restaurant is one of the most popular dining destinations in the city. It sits in the midst of a lush mangrove forest and offers the absolute best seafood delicacies around.
We kid you not, a single bite of freshly cooked shrimps or fish served at the Badjao Seafood Restaurant feels like a roundtrip boat ticket to all the waters that surround the island. The stunning view when you eat here is just a bonus.
You will never want to go down once you’re up this hill. Baker’s Hill is famous in Puerto Princesa City for their hopia, a uniquely Filipino pastry with Chinese origins. In recent years, though, people have begun to stay here for more than just the food.
A few years ago, Baker’s Hill was transformed into a park with lots of quirky lawn ornaments and brightly-colored flower bushes. With its prime location on top of the hill and its perennially cool temperatures, this is where the locals crowd to whenever they want to escape.
Thus, the baker has since expanded to other treats. Baker’s Hill’s brick-oven pizza is a must-try as well. If you are looking for a more refined but still within-the-budget dining experience, you can’t go wrong with Baker’s Hill.
It’s an Animal Lover’s City
Palawan is the place to be one with nature. Whether it’s through diving down to the deep blue sea, climbing up cliffs and mountains, or getting up close and personal with different kinds of wildlife creatures.
Dizzy yourself with the bevy of animal interaction activities available in Puerto Princesa City. There are a lot. Here are a few:
Not far from Baker’s Hill is Mitra’s Ranch, a private property owned by one of the richest men in Palawan. He built his dream vacation home on a hill, filled it with all of his favorite things, and then opened it to the public.
As the name suggests, there are tons of horses on this ranch. They also have a lot of green grass to play in. Hop on one of them and live out your telenovela horseback-riding fantasies at Mitra’s Ranch.
Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center
When it comes to its wildlife population, Palawan is unlike the rest of the Philippines. There are dozens of animals that are endemic to this island alone. Hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, butterflies, and fish live on Palawan island. That is at least a hundred species each kind of animal.
There is no wonder a place like the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center had to be built. How else would a few groups of people care for all of that fauna? To the locals, this place is known simply as the Crocodile Farm.
What was once just a breeding ground for crocodiles—thus, a literal farm—is now a full-blown research center. Visitors here can see crocodiles, snakes, and many other animals up close, and learn about them as well. There are diagrams and exhibits set up in English for both local and international visitors alike. If you are looking to snap a picture of our scaly friends, you will not be disappointed by the number of photo opportunities one can have in this place.
Firefly Watching at the Iwahig River
Keep your cameras for this one. We are telling you right now: nothing can capture the beauty you will experience when you choose to do this trip. And so, sit back, relax, and just enjoy.
A little outside of the city center, and not too far from the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, stands the Iwahig River. This is a body of water that is confused as to whether or not it should be part of the ocean or its own stream. Hence, there are hundreds of mangrove trees that line its banks. At night, its nooks and crannies are lit by hundreds and hundreds of fireflies.
Get as close as possible to these river creatures without disturbing the calm of their environment. River cruises here often include a romantic dinner treat after an hour or so of gliding through the water.
It is a Truly Modern City
Puerto Princesa City is classified as a first-class highly urbanized city. This is because of the number of people who live in it, and the amount of revenue these people bring in. It is as bustling as a city can get in the Philippines, and these establishments are a few reasons why:
SM City Puerto Princesa
Not too long ago, there was only one formal grocery store in Puerto Princesa City. Buildings were never more than five stories high, and, for a time, there was only one functioning elevator in this city of more than a quarter of a million people.
That was the case around fifteen years ago. Now, Puerto Princesa City has its very own SM supermall, and it is one of the sleekest complexes the development giant has allowed to spring forth from the ground.
Filipinos love their malls, and you will love this one, too. Its strategic location in downtown Puerto Princesa has made everything a hundred times more convenient for the many different kinds of mallgoers in this city. What’s great about SM City Puerto Princesa is how much it embraces the land it is standing on. Inside, you will find not only local and international stores but also truly Palawan enterprises such as McCoy’s Pizza House and Divine Sweets Bakery and Cafe.
Robinsons Place Palawan
Years before the SMDC Corporation had even acquired the land SM City Puerto Princesa stands on, Robinsons Place Palawan was already there. It walked so that a mall like SM City Puerto Princesa could run.
A little farther from the city center of Puerto Princesa is the first real shopping mall complex that was ever built on the island. Robinsons Palawan is located in Barangay San Pedro, to the north of the city, and along the National Highway.
Not to be outdone by its newer counterpart, Robinsons Palawan also has it all. It has cinemas, a food court, a department store, and a grocery store. Outside, there are hotels for budget travelers and the more luxurious ones. You will not miss when you are at Robinsons Place Palawan.
It’s a City That’s Alive
There was a time people in Puerto Princesa City did not dare to go out once the sun went down. Once the cathedral’s bells rang across the city, that was it. It was time to go home.
Nowadays, with the many nightlife options open downtown, it’s hard to stay inside. Here are the evening destinations that locals and visitors of the city flock to for a fun night out:
There is only one craft beer brewery on the island of Palawan, and it is aptly called the Palaweño Brewery. This beer-drinking destination carries the local Ayahay brand of beer. The grains are homegrown, the bottles themselves handcrafted, and the entire product labors of love.
When the sun is still out, the Palaweño Brewery offers tours of their microbrewery to visitors. When it goes down, the tap is turned on and stays that way until 9:00 PM.
Take it slow when you go out for a pregame. Located beside many other bars on the lively Manalo Extension Road, the Palaweño Brewery is the perfect first stop for any night out of drinking.
Kinabuch Grill & Bar
This place is one of those local Puerto Princesa City staples. Its notoriety is almost on the same level as Ka Inato, it’s just open until 1 o’clock in the morning and has an alcohol menu that serves more than mere bottles of beer.
Expect the usual Palaweño fare when at Kinabuch’s. There are seafood dishes galore and even crocodile sisig. If you want to die an early death, but live a life well-lived, order one of Kinabuch’s crispy pata. It’s a heart attack of flavor on a plate!
Nurse your bottles to the music of local bands when here. Kinabuch often invites local artists to perform for their customers on weekend nights starting Friday.
This is where the magic happens. Tiki RestoBar may have been around for years, but it is still the place to be for a real night out.
This unassuming bar sits pretty near the Provincial Capitol Complex during the day. At night, it transforms. The lights turn blue, and the music starts to play. It will not stop until the unholy hour of 2.
As a veteran in the all-new nightlife game of Puerto Princesa, you will be delighted to find that the prices at Tiki RestoBar remain as affordable as they were on the day they first opened. Drink to your hearts’ content without feeling a dent in your wallet. Go on, you deserve it!
There is so much to see and do in Puerto Princesa City, and we just told you about the places and sights that are mainly local favorites and are not usually on a traveler’s itinerary. There are still diving spots, islands and underground rivers that are waiting to be uncovered.
Going around the province of Palawan’s capital city—and Palawan itself—will be a breeze as long as you have your own set of wheels and a local to guide you on your way. Everything is within driving distance and never too far away from one another, after all.
Break-in your walking shoes and your cameras by exploring Puerto Princesa City. Now, you know a lot more about it than any regular tourist would.