Underground River Tour: A Do-It-Yourself Guide

Underground River Tour: A Do-It-Yourself Guide

The Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) is considered one of the most fascinating underground rivers in the world.

This Philippine landmark is globally known alongside other amazing underground rivers such as the huge Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave in Austria and the glowing Blue Grotto in Italy.

The Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave in Austria and the glowing Blue Grotto in Italy
The PPUR is one of the world’s most impressive (and longest!) underground rivers. Photo courtesy of La Venta.

It is no wonder that PPUR has reached the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

The Underground River is located in the sprawling Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in the village of Sabang. This is about 80km away, or a two-hour drive, from Puerto Princesa’s city center.

To get there, you would need to secure a permit at the PPUR Booking Office at least one day before your tour and travel by tricycle, van (or bus/jeepney), and two boats to the Underground River and then back.

On the other hand, the fastest way to get to the Underground River is to book a package tour preferably at least three days before your preferred tour date.

We recommend you secure your slots ahead of time as the tours can get fully booked.

A package tour to the Underground River includes:
• Permit to go inside the Underground River
• Pick-up and drop-off at your hotel in the city center
• Van transfer from the city center to the National Park and back
• Van transfers to side trips within the National Park (optional)
• Two boat transfers from Sabang Port to the Underground River
• Accredited tour guide
• Underground River audio device guide
• Eat-all-you-can buffet lunch

You can also opt to rent a private van going to Sabang if you just want to relax on the beach and then do the Underground River Tour on some other day. However, if you wish to go to Sabang by public transport and visit the Underground River on your own, here’s how:

1. Secure your visitor’s permit

Secure your permit (P500 per head) at the Puerto Princesa Underground River Booking Office at least a day before your planned tour. Personal appearance and one valid ID are required to get a permit. The Booking Office is located in the City Coliseum (see map) in the city center. Operating hours is between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm everyday.

2. Go to San Jose Terminal

On the day of your tour, take a tricycle to San Jose Terminal (see map) in the city center. This costs around P80 per person or P150 per tricycle, depending on the distance. Most hotels are 20 minutes away from this public transport terminal. Try to get the earliest trip possible to Sabang (see transport schedule in #3) because the line to the Underground River is crazy long!

3. Get on a van, jeepney, or bus to Sabang, Puerto Princesa

Once at San Jose Terminal, you can get on a van, jeepney, or bus bound for Sabang, Puerto Princesa. Travel time is indicated in the schedule below, between 2 to 2.5 hours. This does not include the waiting time as some need to fill up the seats before leaving. Here are the schedules of vans, buses, and jeeps to Sabang:

This has been updated and verified on March 2019.

D’Christ bus and jeepney from Puerto Princesa city proper to Sabang.

Scheduled Trips from Puerto Princesa city proper to PPUR Sabang
7:20 am D’Christ Jeepney, 2.5 hrs, P125/person
7:30 am Lexus Van, 2 hrs, P140/local, P200/foreigner
8:30 am Lexus Van, 2 hrs, P140/local, P200/foreigner
10:30 am Lexus Van, 2 hrs, P140/local, P200/foreigner
11:00 am D’Christ Non-AC Bus, 2.5 hrs, P125/person
12:00 pm Sabang Jeepney, 2.5 hrs, P125/person
1:30 pm Lexus Van, 2 hrs, P140/local, P200/foreigner
3:30 pm Lexus Van, 2 hrs, P140/local, P200/foreigner
5:30 pm Lexus Van, 2 hrs, P140/local, P200/foreigner

There’s also an Eduardo Bus that plies the City Proper-Sabang route but it has no fixed schedule.

Scheduled Trips from PPUR Sabang to Puerto Princesa city proper
7:00 am D’Christ Jeepney, 2.5 hrs, P125/person
7:30 am Lexus Van, 2 hrs, P140/local, P200/foreigner
8:30 am Lexus Van, 2 hrs, P140/local, P200/foreigner
10:00 am D’Christ Jeepney, 2.5 hrs, P125/person
12:00 pm D’Christ Jeepney, 2.5 hrs, P125/person
1:00 pm Lexus Van, 2 hrs, P140/local, P200/foreigner
2:00 pm Lexus Van, 2 hrs, P140/local, P200/foreigner
3:00 pm D’Christ Non-AC Bus, 2.5 hrs, P125/person
4:30 pm Lexus Van, 2 hrs, P140/local, P200/foreigner
6:00 pm Lexus Van, 2 hrs, P140/local, P200/foreigner

Lexus is the only the van transport company that go to Sabang and back.

Should you take a van, it’s advisable to book your roundtrip ticket to Sabang instead of just one-way.

4. Secure your boat transfers and pay the other fees

Once you arrive in Sabang, just walk to the Dispatch Area in Sabang Port and show your permit. From here you can also secure your boat transfers (P185 per person, round trip) and environmental fee (P150 per person). You can also get an optional audio device guide (P85 per person) for the boat tour down the PPUR.

You may pay your fees at the Dispatch Area in Sabang Port.

After paying, just wait in line to get on the boat to the entrance of the Underground River.

Passenger boat to the entrance of the Underground River.

The first boat ride is motorized and takes about 20 minutes.

5. Take the paddle boat into the Underground River

Boat parking site at the PPUR.

At the entrance of the PPUR, you’ll take a two-minute walk through a forest and then reach another sandy shore to line up for the second boat.

You’ll take a short walk from here to the parking of the second boat.
Finally, you’ll board a paddle boat to go into the Underground River.

This one is a non-motorized paddle boat that goes into the cave and back. You’ll wear a vest, helmet, and put on your (optional) audio device tour guide.

At the mouth of the Underground River.

The whole Underground River paddleboat tour takes about 45 minutes.

Here’s the last scene you’ll see of broad daylight. Enjoy!

Tips when visiting the Puerto Princesa Underground River

Photo courtesy of La Venta Geographical Exploration. See more photos here.

• Remember to secure your permit at the PPUR Booking Office (see #1). The National Park has a “no permit, no tour” policy.
• Go to Sabang as early as possible to be the first in line at the Underground River.
• If you’re coming late, you may want to skip the long lines by doing the Underground River tour in the afternoon instead, at around 1:00 pm.
• Wear light clothing and water shoes or flip flops. Your feet can get wet during the boat transfer.
• Bring sunblock, water, small towel, and an extra pair of clothes. You may want to swim in Sabang Beach before or after your PPUR tour. This is located next to Sabang Port.
• There are several things to do in the National Park that you might want to try.
• Don’t forget to bring your camera.

Should you wish to skip the stress and hassle of arranging your own tour, you can always consider booking an Underground River Package Tour with us. Booking with us is affordable, secure, and stress-free!

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