Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River Overview

Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park, located on the northern coast of the island of Palawan in the Philippines, is a remarkable natural wonder that has captivated the imagination of travelers and nature enthusiasts worldwide. Established as a national park in 1971 and later designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the park spans an area of approximately 22.2 square kilometers (about 8.6 square miles). It is renowned for its iconic feature, the Puerto Princesa Underground River, which is one of the world’s longest navigable underground rivers, stretching over 8.2 kilometers (about 5 miles) through a spectacular limestone karst landscape before flowing directly into the South China Sea.

The park’s landscape is characterized by its impressive limestone karst mountains, pristine natural beauty, and rich biodiversity. The underground river itself winds through a cave system that features major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and several large chambers, including one of the world’s largest cave rooms. This subterranean river is home to a unique ecosystem, with species of fish and invertebrates adapted to the dark environment.

Beyond the underground river, Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park boasts a diverse range of habitats, from mountain-to-sea ecosystems that include lush forests, mangroves, and coastal areas. These environments provide a haven for biodiversity, hosting a variety of plant and animal species, some of which are endemic to Palawan. The park is an important conservation area for Philippine biodiversity, protecting species such as the Palawan peacock-pheasant, monitor lizards, and numerous species of birds.

Visitors to the park can explore the underground river by boat, a journey that offers a glimpse into a mesmerizing world beneath the earth’s surface, as well as engage in other activities such as trekking, bird watching, and enjoying the park’s scenic landscapes. The Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park is not only a testament to the Philippines’ natural heritage but also a symbol of successful conservation efforts, showcasing the extraordinary beauty of one of the planet’s most unique ecosystems.

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Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park Pictures

Engaging Puerto Princesa

Sabang X Zipline Adventure Trail

Rating: Moderate (due to the physical activity required for the zipline)

Description: While not a hiking trail in the traditional sense, the Sabang X Zipline offers an exhilarating way to experience the park’s landscapes from above. Participants hike up to the launch platform, then zip line over the sea and forests, offering breathtaking views of the surroundings. It’s an adventurous way to see the park from a different perspective.

Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park Trails

Monkey Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: Approximately 5.2 kilometers one way, with minimal elevation gain.

Description: The Monkey Trail offers a scenic trek through the park’s lush rainforest, leading hikers from the park entrance to the underground river without taking a boat.

Along the way, hikers can observe diverse wildlife, including monkeys and monitor lizards, and enjoy the rich biodiversity of the area.

The trail ends near the underground river entrance, where you can take a boat to explore the cave system.

Jungle Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: Around 3 kilometers one way, with minimal elevation gain.

Description: The Jungle Trail is a shorter alternative to the Monkey Trail, providing a more direct route to the underground river.

It meanders through dense tropical forest, offering opportunities to spot endemic birds and plants.

This trail allows visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the park while learning about the unique ecosystem of Palawan.

Mangrove Forest Walkway

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 1 kilometer round trip, with minimal elevation gain.

Description: This easy, accessible boardwalk takes you through a pristine mangrove forest, one of the key ecosystems within the national park.

The trail offers educational signs about the importance of mangroves and the opportunity to observe various species of mangrove trees, birds, and occasionally, small marine creatures.

It’s a peaceful walk suitable for all ages, emphasizing conservation and the role of mangroves in coastal protection.

St. Paul Mountain Range Trek

Rating: Very Difficult

Distance and Elevation Gain: Varies greatly, depending on the chosen path within the mountain range.

Description: For the truly adventurous, trekking in the St. Paul Mountain Range offers an intense wilderness experience.

This challenging hike takes you deep into the biodiversity of Palawan, through untouched rainforests, and up rugged terrain.

Trekkers can discover hidden waterfalls, endemic flora and fauna, and stunning vistas of the island. This trail requires good physical condition, preparation, and preferably, a guide.

  • IUCN World Heritage Outlook, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Lonely Planet, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • UNESCO, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park,, retrieved April 2024.