At the beginning of October is China’s national holiday which left me with 5 days off from work. As I haven’t really traveled a whole lot since moving to China, I knew that I needed to go somewhere.
About two weeks before the holiday rolled around, a friend and I decided we should go to the Philippines. Flights were a bit on the expensive side, but we eventually found flights to Puerto Princesa that fit within our budget — so we booked our tickets and prepared for our trip!
Our flights left early from Hong Kong on September 30th, so after staying the night in one of the mansion hotels, we headed to the airport and made our way to the Philippines. In the Manila airport I was pleasantly surprised to find a Cinnamon to snack at before heading to Puerto Princesa.
Our flights were a bit bumpy, so the cabin service wasn’t as extensive – but we flew with PAL and they definitely treated us well.
Upon arrival at PPS, I realized this was by far the smallest airport I’ve ever flown into. They only have four gates, and you have to physically walk to your plane. After we picked up our bag, we found our trike and made our way to our hostel.
I had been extremely excited to be staying in a private hut on the beach, but was extremely let down by the hostel. It was *near* the water, but I’d hardly call it a beach. It wasn’t particularly clean, and everyone was smoking cigarettes. The bathrooms and showers were outside and it was just a bit of an overall disappointment.
So we opted to spend the additional $10 a night and stay at a nice hotel downtown. Once we found our location, we were happy. They offered free breakfast and we’re fairly central to everything within the city. By the time we got to our hotel it was late, so we wandered to the big new mall for dinner and ate at a delicious Japanese restaurant.
The next day was an early one as we decided to do a island hopping tour of Honda Bay. We had breakfast and took off in a van with a few other people to start our journey.
We went to three islands in Honda Bay — Starfish Island, Luli island, and Cowrie island.
On starfish island, there were no starfish that we saw. We did get to snorkel with some fish, drink from a coconut, and Rodrigo even took out his drone to get some beautiful pictures.
On LuLi island we got some deliciously fruity and boozy drinks, did some more snorkeling, found some crazy giant starfish, and played with the drone a bit more.
The last island we visited was Cowrie island, where we had a lovely lunch, and continued to snorkel and swim around.
On our next day in Puerto Princesa, we were tired and sunburnt. We spent most of the day napping and just relaxing at the hotel.
That night though we did take a trip to go firefly watching. It was a bit of a stormy night, but no rain. We took a little canoe and we’re paddled down the river by our guide learning about fireflies and the island of Palawan. It was so peaceful and relaxing. Truly one of the nicest parts of our trip.
On our fourth day in the Philippines we opted for a tour of the famous underground river. Our van left early in the morning again, picked up a few other people, and we made our way on the two-hour drive towards the beach.
Unfortunately on this day, the river was very crowded, so we wouldn’t be able to go in until the afternoon. So instead of waiting around, we got to check out Ugong Rock.
Here we got to literally climb up to the top of this rock through the caves, and then Zipline back to the bottom. My fear of heights definitely made this more interesting, but it was such a cool time!
It’s also interesting to note that everyone who worked here was part of a work program and are locals in the small village nearby to help sustain their local economy!
Afterwards, we made our way to the beach and took off for the underground river! The underground river in Puerto Princesa is the longest underground river that you can navigate in the world. The caves are incredible. It’s definitely a can’t miss site when staying in Puerto Princesa.
On our final full day in Puerto Princesa we opted to take a tour to go swimming with the whale sharks. We boarded a boat early that morning and headed on a two-hour ride to Honda Bay. We spent the day looking for and swimming with whale sharks. We were quickly able to find some and were able to swim several times with these gentle giants. They are magnificent and beautiful creatures, and it was a really cool experience.
The water in Honda bay was kind of terrifying. The name “Honda bay” literally comes from the Spanish name of the area literally meaning “deep water”. The water was so clear you could see so much swim below you, but eventually, it just faded into a deep blue color. We’d be swimming with a whale shark and when it decided to go away, it would just swim down and disappear. It worried me to think what else could be swimming alone!
Our lunch was cooked and served to us on the boat and it was probably the most delicious food I had in the Philippines. After lunch, we motored around the bay a bit more and made our way back in.
The crew on our tour was super great to have, and I’d highly recommend anyone going to the Philippines to check them out. If you want to get out and swim with these magnificent creatures, or just want to go on a dolphin watching tour — I highly recommend that you check this company out – Dolphin and Whales Travel Tours, Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
I had such an amazing trip to the Philippines with Rodrigo. It was sad to say goodbye to the Philippines, and I definitely plan on making my way back to explore more of these wonderful islands in the future.