Honda Bay is a cluster of beautiful islands and islets in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The islands here have fine white sand beaches, and cobalt blue waters.
I really recommend that anyone going to Puerto Princesa to visit this place at least once. This is a serene and photogenic place! 🙂
To explore the islets/islands of this bay, one should rent a boat (which is usually provided by the city tourism office) for a price of 1500.00 (depends on the boat size) So basically, this trip is an island hopping adventure 🙂
There are 3 main islands/islets in this bay, namely Pandan Island, Starfish Island and the Snake Island. Although there are more islands in this bay, only the 3 mentioned is open to public. They are named as such because of the existence of Pandan and Starfish in those islands while the snake island is named that way because of it’s long and winding characteristic similar to a snake.
In my visit last April, I was not able to visit the Snake island because it is undergoing beautification However, this would not hamper me in giving and presenting to you the other two beautiful islands of Honda Bay, but first let me tell you the process on how the entire trip came about.
WHEN TO GO HERE?
The Philippines is a sunny place throughout the year however, due to climate change, strong typhoons or heavy rains visits the country a lot more often… The Philippines has only 2 seasons, wet and dry. Dry or summer months starts from March to June or July while wet season starts by August til December. The wet season is where a lot of low pressure areas are formed, However, I can say that it is a game of luck, or a gamble if you want to visit the Philippines during the wet season, since just because it’s called wet season it would rain the whole time… there are only days that it would rain while the rest is sunny…
However, for foreigners who will visit the Philippines (especially for those in the far most corner of earth) I think you need to plan your visit during the summer months, so you will be sure that no rain would ruin your vacation.
HOW TO GET HERE:
Honda Bay is about 20-45 minutes drive from the city center. The mode of transportation from the city center towards Honda Bay Port is by land, you can rent either a tricycle or a van. I opted to rent a tricycle for P500.00 or $11USD. The road is well paved/cemented, so going here by tricycle isn’t a problem. If you decided to rent a van, it will cost at around P1,500-2000.00 (this is the price that was given to us by the van driver we hired going to the underground river). We left the city center at round 6:45 am and arrived in the port at around 7:15.
HOW TO GET A PERMIT:
Upon arriving in the port, you will notice that people are lining up, that line is where you will pay for the boat rental, environmental fee, and where you can get your permit. Unlike the underground river, there is no need to get a prior permit before heading there, so it easier to tour than the latter.
There are 4 simple steps in getting your permit and paying for the fees and these are:
First, you need to line up for the lane stating no.1 and where you will fill up a form and state how many passengers or tourists that are coming with you, you also need to put up their names, you should also know if what type of boat you are going to use, whether it is a 6passenger boat (which is the smallest) which costs P1200.00 while there are 10-12 passenger capacity boats which costs at around P1400-1800.00…
the 2nd step is where you will get your permit and pay for the boat rental fee and in exchange, you will receive the name and number of your boat.
The 3rd step is again filling up a particular form and paying for the environmental fee. The 4th step is waiting for your name to be called and VOILA, you are good to go.
However! before you go anywhere else, you need to buy water, food or rent a snorkeling gear. Food and Water is expensive on the island itself, and it is advisable if you bring them with you at the start of the journey, so if anytime you feel thirsty you have a water/drink with you. But, I suggest that you go grocery shopping while you are still in the metro, since it is cheaper there than buying in the port itself.
As for the snorkeling gear, Part of your itinerary is to visit a snorkeling site with lots of fishes and various corals! Moreover in Pandan and Starfish island, you can snorkel and feed the fishes which is quite interesting because the fishes swarm around you if you give bits and pieces of tasty bread.
Click here to see my other posts for puerto princesa, palawan.
I heard a lot about the underground river in Palawan ever since I was a little kid, and to all honesty, I’m not a bit excited to go to the underground river since I always thought of it as a mere cave and that nothing is special about it, especially since I’ve been to a cave before (Hoyophoyopan Cave in Albay). But, there is something deep in my heart that tells me that the place is a a beautiful place with scenic views and will surely make me realize that Philippines is amazing! Moreover, it’s been crowned as part of the new 7 wonders of nature, so my curiosity had reached another level, from all these hype–tourism campaign, ads etc made me rethought things out.. so in the end I decided to go to Puerto Princesa.
The Underground River is 2 hours away from the city center, so it is quite a travel going there, but the only thing I will tell you is that the ride itself is an amazing one. You will be greeted by limestone mountains, by tall trees and amazing greenness– you will indeed feel that you are in a forest, so the city’s tagline being a CITY IN A FOREST– is not a bluff!
After that 2 hour van ride, you should go directly to the tourism office (near the port) to pay for the environmental fee which is (P40) and to ask them to check your entry permit. upon checking your id and permit they will lead you to a tent area near the port where you will wait and pay for your boat which costs (P700.00 with a capacity of 6 persons). Or if they told you to come back after a few hours, I suggest you go strolling in the nearby Sabang beach (a 3 minute walk from the port) and you can eat your lunch/breakfast or even dinner there.
The boat ride going to the underground river is as smooth as silk (so no problem at all) and what I loved the most was the amazing scenery while traveling towards the underground river.
The skyscraper tall limestone mountains are so amazing that it made a tear (or may I say tears) came out of my eye. I’m definitely crying, and tears just kept flowing. I maybe overreacting, but I’ve never seen such a beautiful sight. I feel that I’m not inside my own country– I always tell myself before that Philippines has nothing to offer (that is why I always satisfy my travel cravings in other countries and not in my own beautiful country). A travel in my own land, looking at its beauty, is definitely a different and worthwhile experience!
Moreover,the limestone mountains are really tall making those I’ve seen in Caramoan as a miniature version of what I saw during my palawan trip. The view is just breathtaking!
And lemme tell you that what you see in pictures here are not even a pinch of everything you will see in Puerto Princesa. The place is just a wonderful place. Nothing beats this, I really love it.
There are also hidden coves with white sand beach that is sandwiched with beautiful and tall limestone mountains. The beach somehow waves at you and invites you to visit and swim to its pristine waters–if only the boat can stop there, I will definitely plunge to the waters of that beautiful secret cove
The boat ride is almost 30 minutes, but you will definitely enjoy that ride because of what you will see. It’s a scenic ride and I loved it!
You will disembark on a white and fine sand beach while on your right you can see a majestic and tall limestone which seems to be protecting the island from big waves and such.
And after you walked to the white sand beach you will then enter the forest where big trees surround the area. There you can find huts. You can rest while you wait for your turn to enter the underground river, and it is also where you will show again your permit to the officer-in-charge of the city tourism office. After showing your permit he will then put a number in the upper corner of your papers/receipts which means that you will be queuing again to finally enter the underground river–which is the last leg of your journey.
The officer then told us to enjoy the scenery before going to the opening of the cave. We then headed north east and found a ranger house and of course the well known and photogenic monitor lizard.
What’s funny is that I saw it walking across the path that we should be taking. Then I started shouting “Lizard! Lizard! Lizard” and the people in my group started looking up and they said “Saan? Saan?” “Where? Where?” and my hand is pointing towards the ground and they are still asking where! and then I said “bayawak!” “Monitor lizard” and they said “Ahhh!” This might not be funny for others but for us its funny! ako na ang corny! haha
We are actually lucky to see one because the officer said that these lizards already went away.
Then, after satisfying are “kodak” or camera moments with the monitor lizard we went directly to the waiting area where you can see the underground river opening. The place is indeed amazing.
I then roamed around the area and found a big tree lying in the sand. It might be struck by lighting or was made that way due to a storm or maybe its just cannot support its weight that’s why it fell.
I then saw the place where the saltwater and the water from the river meets. It’s an amazing sight.
The beach has fine white sand which makes you wanna swim in the blue and crystal clear waters, however there is a sign that says no swimming, marine preservation 😦
The waiting time before you enter the infamous cave will take you almost 2 hours, so you need to stand and wait in the shady area for about an hour or two.
There are two (2) kinds of boats being used in the underground river tour, the other one is a 6-7 person capacity while the other one is 10 seater capacity. Sometimes, if you are traveling alone or by two’s or if you wanna go ahead than your own group, you can volunteer yourself and join other groups, even though your schedule is later.
You will be equipped with lifevest and helmets — but I should tell you, especially if your tour is on the late afternoon– you should get ready for the smell of these yucky things–It smells of sweat and bat shit 🙂
After waiting, we then entered the underground river– sorry, no pics, my dslr cannot take pictures of pitch black darkness… my picture is until here. Let me just narrate you my experience and what I saw in the place.
And let me say that the tour guide/boatman in the cave, named Kenneth, made our journey in that long and winding tour a very funny and enjoyable trip, although he didn’t explain a lot of historical or factual things about the cave, he just stated different rock formations such as angels, mushroom, jellyfish, sexy woman, vegetables, the Three Kings, Mama Mary, Jesus and many more. The formations with a help of your imagination will make you really amazed on how the hands of nature molded such amazing formations.
What made me very amazed was the cathedral. The tall high ceiling which is really tall that even the beam of the flash light cannot reach. By that time I’m really asking myself on how nature made it to look that way.
The karst is 11 km long, averages 3-5 km wide and covers an area of around 35 sq. /km. It is estimated to be between 16 – 20 million years old (puerto-undergroundriver.com)
The underground river tour only lasted for 45 minutes. We toured the 1 km out of the 8.2 kilometer long Puerto Princesa Underground River. Since the other 7.2 you need a special permit to gain entry. But as a whole it consists of 24km cave with 8.2 km of which has underground section of the river (Wikipedia).
The underground river is called as St. Paul’s subterranean river national park since it is located in the Saint Paul Mountain Range (which include The three main peaks are Cleopatra’s Needle (1,500m), Mt. St. Paul (1,028m) and Mt. Bloomfield (870m) puerto-undergroundriver.com) all are located on the northern part of Puerto Princesa.
And also according to wikipedia, “the area also represents a habitat for biodiversity conservation. The site contains a full mountain-to-the-sea ecosystem and has some of the most important forests in Asia. It was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site on December 4, 1999” (Wikipedia).
After that time, we are all tired, took pictures, claimed our pictures from the photo booth which the tourism office took for us–which is definitely overpriced for P550.00 for the big one and P250 or P350 for the small one.
After that we saw a bunch of monkeys seemingly waving us their goodbyes.and then we sailed towards the sabang port while the beautiful sun also says goodbye.
We ended the whole journey at around 8pm, and traversed again the limestone mountains which we learned that beneath those is where the underground river is located.
HOW TO GET HERE:
1. Riding a lexus van in Puerto Princesa city center if you wanted to commute for a fare of P250-500.00
2. Hire a van if your are a group for P3500.00
3. Hire a tricycle (some of the tourist uses tricycle to get here, but take note that it will take a lot of time)
For a group of 6, we decided to hire a van. We used the services of Kuya Boy. I will post his number here as soon as I get a copy of such from my mom’s office mate.
TIPS WHEN YOU VISIT THE PPUR:
1. Travel in group and you will save a lot. The van and boat rentals will be able to carry at most 6 passengers. If you are 6 using the boat and van you will be able to save much since you will divide the expenses among your colleagues.
2. You need to bring ID’s for verification in the Sabang Tourism office. Moreover, there is discount for the elderly and minor for the entrance fees, so the minor and elderly just needs to present Id’s (school i.d. or senior citizen’s card).
3. Wear comfortable clothing, and bring extra clothes as you want to change your clothes after using the smelly lifejackets that you are required to wear for your underground river tour (maybe the life jackets smells bad because we are one of the last few who had our tour in the UG. And also you can have a dip in Sabang Beach. Click here to see my post about Sabang Beach.
4. Have your permits ready for your underground river visit. Make sure to book in advance (about 2-3 months) before your travel date especially if you wanna travel during the summer months (March to May) since those times are the peak season.
5. Book in an early time so that the smell of the life jackets won’t affect you.
6. Visit the place during the summer months since during this time typhoons or low pressure areas are rarely seen. since if you chanced upon a stormy day during your visit, for sure the underground river tour you booked will be cancelled.
7. You can also hike through the monkey trail towards the underground river or you can just hire a boat. Hiking will be for almost 2 hours but there was said to be a magnificent view. If I’ll go back there, I will try this
WHAT TO SEE NEARBY:
1. If you wanna stay in Sabang Beach there are various accommodations nearby that offers competitive pricing. Click here to see my post about Sabang Beach.
2. You can also visit the Mangroves nearby where they offer a mangrove river tour. Unfortunately we weren’t able to experience this since we are too captivated by Sabang Beach
3. A few kilometers away is a cave
HOW TO GET A PERMIT:
I suggest you call these numbers. I was not the one to book this trip. That’s why I didn’t know the procedure:
Anyway, here is the contact details.
1. Other blogs states that permits can be gathered in the Sabang Port Office, as of April 2012, the Sabang Port Office does not issue permits anymore, walk-ins are not allowed. Permits are only available in the main office in Rizal Avenue.
2. Other blogs also states that when you stay overnight in Sabang you can get a permit without the hustle, before this is practiced/allowed but as of April 2012, it was changed and only in the main office in Rizal Avenue you can get the permit.
3. The only thing you will pay here is the boat ride and the environmental fee. There are discounts given to senior citizens and minor students.
Puerto Princesa is indeed a place blessed by God with natural wonders. From the newly awarded (7 wonders of nature) Underground River, to beautiful fine white sand beaches to scenic limestone mountains.
Everything in Puerto Princesa is beautiful, scenic, indescribable. With a lot of different animals that are rarely seen in other places in the Philippines (like birds that are only seen in Palawan, squirrel–yes, squirrel–not found in Legazpi city nor Manila, monitor lizards, eagles, crocodiles, and other animals.
Puerto Princesa’s tagline being a city in a forest is not a joke nor it is bluff, it is indeed a city within a forest. The city is surrounded with lush greeneries and beautiful landscape. It has also a vast territory, compared to other cities in the Philippines. You won’t be able to tour the city in one day, unlike my hometown, Legazpi City where your 30 minutes of riding the tricycle will be enough, but here a day won’t suffice.
I went to Puerto Princesa last April 18, 2012 to April 21, 2012. I went to the Underground River, Honda Bay, and toured the city itself. It was a wild 4 days in my life, seeing those beautiful landscape made my heart flutter with delight. The only thing I said is “ANG GANDA! (So Beautiful).
I admit that living in Manila (center of the Philippines) made me a city girl where tall buildings, wide roads and night bars are my usual delight, but as I stepped into Palawan (no, as I looked in my window during my flight) I can totally say that Puerto princesa captured my heart.
I want you to join me as I tell you the story how this wonderful city captivated the heart of a city girl like me.