13 Amazing Activities For A Puerto Princesa Itinerary: Visiting Palawan With Kids
What’s a memorable way to experience the Philippines? How about a trip to the island of Palawan with kids and visiting the city of Puerto Princesa! A Puerto Princesa itinerary is the perfect way to pack in cultural immersion and adventure into your trip to the Philippines.
We visited the Philippines in January and February 2020, after a quick trip exploring all the budget-friendly things to do in Singapore.
Now I want to share with you all the fun things we did in Puerto Princesa city, and help you get ideas for your own trip to Palawan with kids. Take a read through all of the activities we did, as you get ready for your own Puerto Princesa itinerary.
This post was updated on March 11, 2023.
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Spending time in Palawan with kids and creating a fun Puerto Princesa itinerary
If you know us, you know that we prefer being a slow travel family, where we spend at least a month at a time in a destination. But during our time in the Philippines, we ended up traveling quite fast, as we were traveling with my in-laws.
Our time in the Philippines was packed with visits to new cities every few days. In the two months we were there, we spent time on the Island of Luzon visiting Manila, the city of Olongapo in Subic Bay, and the province of Cavite. We also visited the Romblon Islands. And of course we enjoyed an activity-packed Puerto Princesa itinerary while visiting the island of Palawan with kids.
Fortunately, we were able to squeeze in a couple of weeks in the city of Puerto Princesa. We spent our two weeks in Palawan with kids discovering the many Puerto Princesa tourist spots in the city. And our family enjoyed slowing down our pace for a bit, if only for a couple of weeks.
Why Puerto Princesa is a tourist spot for families
Palawan isn’t often a common spot for tourists to the Philippines. Most guidebooks, like the Lonely Planet Philippines guide book, often recommend that travelers visit the popular island of Boracay.
Or these guidebooks will recommend islands like Cebu or Davao. And even when tourists do visit Palawan, most will skip Puerto Princesa altogether and go directly to El Nido in the northern part of the island.
However, travelers miss out when they skip visiting Puerto Princesa. Located in the central part of Palawan, Puerto Princesa is an under-rated gem. The city has beautiful nature surrounding it and makes a great addition to any Philippines itinerary. There is also history and culture in Puerto Princesa, which is great for those wanting to understand the Philippines on a deeper level. And there are a few options for booking accommodations in Puerto Princesa, including hotels and Airbnb.
We stayed at an Airbnb while we were there. But if you’re looking for something comfortable and close to the city center, check out these highly rated hotels in Puerto Princesa for your family:
How to responsibly visit the tourist spots in Puerto Princesa Palawan
Over-tourism is a concern within the travel industry. That’s why it’s important to explore destinations besides the common tourist spots. While Puerto Princesa is far from being a remote destination, it’s certainly a less frequented destination compared to other island destinations in the Philippines.
Travelers to Puerto Princesa can practice traveling responsibly in these simple ways:
Distribute your tourism dollars to local businesses
By visiting a place like Puerto Princesa you’re helping to distribute your tourism dollars more equitably throughout the Philippines! This is a great way to practice sustainable and responsible tourism. And you’re making your vacation more enjoyable by going somewhere that isn’t packed with tourists.
Other ways to travel responsibly while in Puerto Princesa is by supporting locally-owned (and if possible, women-owned) businesses, not buying products made from endangered animals, reuse items as much as possible, and trying to practice plastic-free travel.
Learn about the culture of the Philippines and Puerto Princesa
Take time to experience what everyday life is like in Puerto Princesa during your trip. This city has a population of around 255,000 people. Most people in the city work in the tourism industry, due to the city’s close proximity to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, also known as the Underground River.
Before you come to the Philippines, get some books to help you prepare for experiencing Filipino culture. If you’re curious about Filipino food, we love the cookbook, 7000 Islands: A Food Portrait of the Philippines by Yasmin Newman.
You can also read these books about Filipino culture with your kids, to get them prepared for your trip to the Philippines:
Here’s a great book to learn some phrases in Tagalog, the Philippines’ national language:
Read these posts to learn more about how to travel responsibly with your kids.
How to get to Palawan with kids
The island of Palawan is located in the western part of the Philippines. It’s directly west of the islands of Panay and Negros. And it’s located southwest of the island of Luzon, where the city of Manila is located. Palawan is accessible by plane or by ferry boat.
Getting to Puerto Princesa by airplane
The only airport in the city is Puerto Princesa International Airport. This makes flying a convenient option if you’re planning a Puerto Princesa itinerary with your kids.
Airlines like Air Asia and Cebu Pacific Air fly into Puerto Princesa from domestic destinations. Only one or two international destinations service the Puerto Princesa airport (from Hong Kong, Seoul, and Taipei).
How to get to Puerto Princesa by ferry
f you have a bit more time (and are feeling adventurous!), you can opt to take a ferry into Puerto Princesa from Manila. The Manila Puerto Princesa ferry travel time takes about 24 hours. The company I recommend is 2Go Travel. While we didn’t do the Manila Puerto Princesa ferry ride, we did take the 2Go Travel ferry from Manila to the Romblon Islands. The ferry is very clean and well maintained.
Tourist class tickets for the Manila Puerto Princesa ferry vary in price, depending on the day and time. But they can cost around PHP 2,200 (roughly $40 USD) per person. The ticket includes a bunk in the main galley for sleeping. Alternatively, you can opt for a private cabin, which is around PHP 2,800 (roughly $56 USD).
Getting around to explore the Puerto Princesa tourist spots
Once in Puerto Princesa, you have a few options for getting around. Taxis in Puerto Princesa are only available at the airport. Otherwise, your transportation options are tricycles (motor scooters with a covered sidecar) or jeepneys (public buses in the Philippines).
The tricycles in Puerto Princesa can fit up to five passengers: four people in the sidecar, and one person on the scooter behind the driver. The cost ranges between PHP 60 to PHP 200 (roughly $1.20 to $4 USD), depending on the distance.
One thing to note, there is a citywide tricycle ban on the National Highway, which means tricycles are not allowed to drive on the National Highway. They were not enforcing the ban when we were there, but it looks like the police will start cracking down on the ban and issuing tickets to tricycles. You can still catch tricycles around the city center.
Ready for a change? Take the first step to living a life of full time travel.
Taking a jeepney
Jeepneys are a more affordable option for getting to and from the spots on your Puerto Princesa itinerary. The main routes go along the National Highway, Rizal Avenue, and Malvar Street. Major stops are written on the outside of the jeepney, so get acquainted with the locations of major stops. That way, you’ll know which jeepney to get on. If in doubt, you can always ask the jeepney driver before getting onboard.
Costs of a jeepney ride range from PHP 15 to PHP 20 (roughly $0.30 to $0.40 USD) per person, depending on the distance. You pay the driver when you get on the jeepney. To get off the jeepney, just inform the driver when your stop approaches.
13 great ideas for a family-friendly Puerto Princesa itinerary
Our time in Puerto Princesa was packed with activities. We didn’t just visit the tourist spots in Puerto Princesa Palawan, either. Besides going snorkeling, we learned about history, experienced local culture, and even visited a UNESCO world heritage site!
Below is a Puerto Princesa itinerary that families can follow when visiting the city. It’s good for kids of all ages. Families with young kids can spend more time at the parks. And families with older kids can dive deeper into snorkeling and adventure activities, or spend more time at the museums.
1. Check out the Puerto Princesa tourist spots at Honda Bay
Honda Bay is located about thirty to forty-five minutes away from Puerto Princesa. The bay used to be popular for fishing. But now many of the fishermen have converted their boats into tour boats, taking tourists to the various islands scattered around the bay. If you’re into snorkeling, you can book Honda Bay island hopping tours for snorkeling. It’s one of the best places to visit in Puerto Princesa Palawan.
There are many companies in Puerto Princesa that offer these full day tours for your itinerary in Puerto Princesa. Our tour took us to Cowrie Island and Lilu Island, as well as a snorkeling spot just off the coast. Cost of the tours range between PHP 1,800 to PHP 2,200 per person, depending on the company you choose. Our tour included van transport, boat transport, and a buffet lunch. We rented snorkel gear separately.
If you want to pre-book a Palawan tourist spots Puerto Princesa tour in Honda Bay, you can do it here through Viator:
2. Browse local produce and goods at the San Jose New Market
If you want to get a real glimpse into local life, spend a morning at a market. San Jose New Market, located in the San Jose neighborhood of northern Puerto Princesa, is a bustling hub of commerce.
San Jose New Market is clean and organized well. Market vendors sell fresh fish, as well as chicken and pork. There are also fruit and vegetable vendors selling local produce, as well as pantry staples such as eggs, rice, and oil.
Culturally immersive activities like this can be a great way to sneak in learning into your itinerary for Puerto Princesa. A visit to San Jose New Market can offer a great worldschooling lesson for your kids (anyone up for a social studies lesson?).
3. Stroll through Chinatown and the Old Public Market
After visiting the New Market, head into town and visit the Old Public Market. Located in the heart of Puerto Princesa, next to the Chinatown neighborhood, the Old Public Market is also a hub of activity.
Besides the usual produce and meat vendors, you’ll also find street carts selling grilled meat, steamed peanuts, and balut, a Filipino delicacy of steamed duck embryo. There are a few restaurants in nearby Chinatown, but most are a bit run down.
4. Support Puerto Princess’s deaf community with dinner at Ka Inato
If you’re looking for a dinner option, head over to Ka Inato. There are two locations of Ka Inato, one on Rizal Avenue, and one further north in San Jose, along the National Highway. This restaurant serves local seafood dishes, as well as grilled meats. The food is very tasty, and fairly inexpensive. It’s a great way to sample Puerto Princesa Filipino cuisine!
One of the things we loved about Ka Inato, though, is that many of the servers are deaf. We liked the restaurant because the deaf employees weren’t just relegated to busboy positions, they were actually interacting with diners.
There are signs around the restaurant showing how to say phrases such as “thank you” and “all finished” in American Sign Language. We enjoyed being able to practice our ASL, and also supporting the deaf community in Puerto Princesa.
5. Incorporate history into your Puerto Princesa itinerary
Part of traveling to a place is learning about its history. Palawan’s history spans from pre-colonial cultures, to World War II, and beyond. In your Puerto Princesa itinerary, build in some history-centered activities into your Puerto Princesa itinerary, and learn about significant moments of Palawan’s past.
Take a walk through the nearby Immaculate Conception Cathedral, built in the 1800’s. It’s open to the public, as long as there isn’t a service happening.
Also known as the Puerto Princesa Cathedral, this cathedral was built in 1872 and was near the site of the Palawan Massacre in 1944. This was an event that happened during World War II where around 150 American soldiers were burned by the Japanese forces.
6. Take a visit to the World War II Museum during your Puerto Princesa itinerary
The country of the Philippines played a pivotal role in World War II. In fact, it was the primary setting for the Pacific War, when Allied forces fought against the Japanese. Both the United States and Japan set up naval and air force bases throughout the Philippines.
The World War II Museum gives a good overview of the role of the Philippines in World War II. While the Philippines did not yet have a formal army at the time of World War II, they did have guerilla forces who fought bravely against the Japanese. The museum honors these fighters. There are also rooms showcasing artifacts from the different countries who fought in World War II, including the United States, Japan, Germany, and Australia.
At the time of our visit, admission to the World War II Museum is PHP 30 (roughly $0.60 USD) for adults. Children aged 10 and under are free. The museum is open 8 am to 12 pm, and 1 pm to 5 pm everyday.
7. Learn about local culture and history at Palawan Museum
To get a lesson in local culture and history, head to the Palawan Museum. It’s located in central Puerto Princesa, just behind Mendoza Park. This small museum has displays about the indigenous groups found on the island of Palawan. You can see how their language is written, the tools they use, and which parts of the island they inhabit.
The Palawan Museum is open Mondays to Saturdays from 8:30 am to 12 pm, and 1:30 pm to 5 pm. Admission to the museum for non-Filipino nationals was PHP 60 (roughly $1.20 USD) for adults and PHP 10 (roughly $0.20 USD) for kids when we were there. Nationals pay PHP 50 (roughly $1) per person.
8. Pay homage to the victims of the Palawan Massacre at Plaza Cuartel
Near the Palawan Museum is Plaza Cuartel. This space was a former World War II garrison for the Japanese. It was also the site of the Palawan Massacre, where 150 American POW were burned alive by the Japanese, leaving only 11 survivors. There are displays describing the massacre, so that visitors can learn about this dark part of Palawan history.
Plaza Cuartel is set up like a public park, with greenery and benches for sitting. There are tricycles on display for picture taking (for a nominal fee), and a beautiful view of the bay. There is no set admission fee for entering the park, but there is a donation box at the entrance. Plaza Cuartel is open Mondays through Fridays from 8 am to 5 pm. It’s a good place to spend down time during your Puerto Princesa itinerary.
9. Check out the Puerto Princesa things to do at Baywalk
After a visit to Plaza Cuartel, head to Baywalk, a stretch of boardwalk along the bay. This is a popular spot for locals to spend an evening. Make sure to go just before sunset, when it’s not so hot, and when the “magic hour” lighting makes it perfect for picture taking.
Seafood restaurants line Baywalk. You can take your pick of grilled squid, grilled fish, and even grilled crocodile, which is a Palawan specialty.
There are also two places where you can rent bicycles (they’re rather old, but still usable for the most part). The cost ranges between PHP 20 to PHP 75 (roughly $0.40 USD to $1.50 USD) per hour, depending on the size and type of bicycle. We enjoyed renting bikes for our family, and spending an afternoon riding up and down Baywalk. It’s a great way to end a day!
10. Visit Baker’s Hill, one of the most unique Puerto Princesa tourist spots
Don’t forget to venture out to the outskirts of Puerto Princesa. The city is quite spread out, and there are a few attractions worth visiting outside of the city center. The next two spots I recommend are about twenty minutes north of the city center. Expect to pay between PHP 80 to PHP 150 ($1.60 USD to $3 USD) for a tricycle, depending on the distance and your negotiation skills.
If you’re into kitschy attractions, head to Baker’s Hill in northern Puerto Princesa. It’s a bakery, restaurant, playground, and art installation combined into one (although the art part is where the kitsch comes in). There are sculptures and artificial trees made with recycled materials. And a colorful playground for the kids to play.
Baker’s Hill is free to enter, but you’re not allowed to bring outside food or drinks. There’s a bakery onsite, where you can buy treats. There is also a restaurant for eating lunch, as well as kiosks and cafes serving small snacks and drinks.
11. Experience local culture at the Butterfly Garden and Tribal Village
After a morning and lunch at Baker’s Hill, continue your Puerto Princesa itinerary with a visit to the Palawan Butterfly Garden and Tribal Village. This privately owned attraction has many species of butterflies flying within an enclosed garden. There are also other bugs and small reptiles on display, including stick bugs, scorpions, and leopard geckos.
The highlight of the attraction, though, is the tribal village. As part of entrance to the Palawan Butterfly Garden and Tribal Village is a demonstration from members of a local Palawan tribe. We saw traditional musical instruments, traditional weapons, and learned some aspects of their day to day life.
Proceeds from the entrance fee go towards supporting the Palawan tribe. Members of the tribe, who normally live in the highlands of Palawan, take turns living at the Palawan Butterfly Garden and Tribal Village. They stay for about a month, and then are replaced by a new group of tribe members.
Entrance to the Palawan Butterfly Garden and Tribal Village is PHP 50 (roughly $1 USD) for adults and PHP 35 (roughly $.70 USD) for kids. The attraction is open every day from 8 am to 5 pm.
12. Play at Stellar Grounds
A great place to spend an afternoon, after exploring Puerto Princesa things to do, is Stellar Grounds, located on Rizal Avenue. Stellar Grounds is an open air food market with over five restaurants, as well as a few souvenir shops. Cuisines range from traditional Filipino seafood to Mediterranean.
The area at Stellar Grounds is decorated with trees, shrubs, lights, comfortable seating areas, and photo spots. There is also a trampoline and play structure for kids to play. They also host open mic nights later in the evening.
13. Take a Puerto Princesa Underground River tour
No Puerto Princesa trip is complete without visiting one of the most famous Puerto Princesa tourist spots: the Underground River. An 8 km long subterranean river near the town of Sabang, the river is home to bats and sparrows, as well as stunning rock formations. It’s also a UNESCO world heritage site.
Families can visit the Underground River on their own, but it’s easier to go on a tour. Our tour picked us up at our Airbnb and took us to Sabang, where we took a ferry to the Underground River. There, we rode a rowboat through a small portion of the Underground River.
Underground River tour prices may vary depending on time of year and tour company. Tours include transport, a guide, and a buffet lunch. An environmental fee of around PHP 150 (roughly $3 USD) per person is also required.
To pre-book an Underground River tour, check out these options:
Check out these posts to explore more destinations to visit in the Philippines with kids.
Other ideas for Puerto Princesa things to do!
This city tour Puerto Princesa itinerary is just the beginning of your explorations into Puerto Princesa and the island of Palawan. There were a few Puerto Princesa things to do that we didn’t get a chance to experience while we were there.
The Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center is a government-managed wildlife rescue area located 10 km north of Puerto Princesa. The center has around 1450 crocodiles (which is why it’s also known as the Crocodile Farm) and 245 other kinds of wildlife.
Other popular Puerto Princesa tourist spots include Mitra’s Ranch, as well as swimming at Nagtabon Beach, firefly watching in the mangroves, and snorkeling at Sabang. You can also supplement your Puerto Princesa itinerary with a trip to El Nido, some four or five hours away.
If your time in Puerto Princesa is limited, book one of these tours, which takes you to the highlights of this Puerto Princesa itinerary:
Or for a more off-the-beaten-path cultural experience, take this excursion to a nearby Batak village:
A family-friendly Puerto Princesa itinerary
Whatever you choose to do in Puerto Princesa, there are plenty of fun and family-friendly options to choose from. We loved our time in Puerto Princesa, and hope to return some day. It’s a wonderful low key destination, perfect for a multi-day retreat from the hectic pace of life.
Have you done Puerto Princesa travel or visited Palawan with kids? What was on your Puerto Princesa itinerary? Share it with me in the comments!
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