Gateway to the best island in the world
It is nature carving earth’s history; an ongoing process of millions years of geologic evolution that’s resulted in a magnificent karst landscape and an extensive underground river system with cathedral height ceilings, and communions of stalactites and stalagmites that form columns resembling fortresses of ancient civilizations.
Listening to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park tour’s audio guide makes you realize how utterly fascinating nature’s machinations are. But more than the distinct full mountain-to-sea ecosystem where the famed Underground River belongs – that is said to be home to over 800 plant species, 195 bird species, 30 mammals, 19 reptiles and eight bat species – it is its high amount of energy stemming from its unique thermal equator location, super marine climate, perfect combination of wind, humidity and strong variable air fluxes allowing the cave system to offset the effects of high-impact
tourism that makes the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park a true wonder of the world.
But, without being able to see the caverns and its dramatic speleothems in their full splendor (it is nearly pitch black inside, save for the boatman’s spotlight’s reach), the experience comes off mostly as an opportunity to tick off a bucket list item born from a solid tourism marketing campaign.
This isn’t meant to take away from the truly amazing planetary evolution that led to one of Palawan’s (and the world’s) more iconic natural gems. Geographically, it is an undoubtedly remarkable wonder; as a touristic experience, though, it inevitably falls short of the massive hype.
But still, it is something you need to experience for yourself. And with the capital city of Palawan being the main entry point for the exploration of the gamut of natural gifts Palawan has to offer, the Underground River remains an inescapable draw should you find yourself in Puerto Princesa.
Downtown and beyond
The Underground River will always be synonymous with Puerto Princesa, but the city’s offerings are far from limited to the subterranean wonder.
Downtown Puerto Princesa is peppered with bar and grills like Kinabuchs (where you can sample the exotic grub crocodile sisig) that’s part of the city’s thriving dining scene.
More sophisticated beer palates would be glad to know that Puerto Princesa is also home to Palaweño Brewery—one of the country’s craft beer pioneers. They have a tasting room where you can clink glasses and swap hearty laughs with the brewers themselves—a fun and welcoming bunch that makes a visit to Palaweño Brewery a must when in the city.
There’s Baker’s Hill—a colorful dining destination to satisfy bread and pastry cravings. What started as a lone bakeshop has now evolved into a sort of theme park with manicured gardens, a playground, various dining outlets, and even an aviary—all of which have combined to make Baker’s Hill a popular tourist stop.
About two hours from the city center, there is plenty of the usual island hopping fare to be had in Honda Bay, where the requisite snorkeling, picnics and beach combing abound.
Three hours away is Port Barton and San Vicente’s plethora of exquisite beaches, while some five-plus hours away is the unmistakable allure of pristine El Nido.
Being the default transit point for most adventures to be had in Palawan, Puerto Princesa ambitiously expects to reach a million tourist arrivals this year – a testament to the continually burgeoning tourism trade of the island.
Hospitality in bloom
And, if you find yourself in Palawan via Puerto Princesa to discover and experience its many gifts, the charming boutique hotel that is Hotel Fleuris stands as a smart choice for a Puerto Princesa home base.
Attentive staff with genuine warmth in their smiles amplifies the hotel’s subtle charm that effortlessly blankets you with a homey comfort most welcome for any adventure.
“We take pride in providing personalized service to our guests, along with all the amenities and facilities that a traveler would need,” says Hotel Fleuris Director of Operations Millie Po-Artillaga.
With 47 rooms (eight of which are suites), a charming little pool area, a lobby café that doubles as a piano bar, a business center, and its own Japanese restaurant, We Be, the recently renovated Hotel Fleuris is all set to carry on catering to Puerto Princesa’s continually flourishing tourism trade.
“As the saying goes, Hotel Fleuris is a home away from home. Guests have always commented on how well they are treated during their stay. While the staff is always alert to the guests’ needs, they also ensure that they value their privacy,” shares Po-Artillaga.
Hotel Fleuris Palawan is located at Lacao. St., Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. For reservations, contact (02) 846-6488, (02) 812-0384 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.fleuris.com
By TIMOTHY JAY IBAY
Photos By KLARA FERNANDEZ
Additional photos by TIMOTHY JAY IBAY