Puerto Princesa City Tour: Sightseeing at The City in a Forest | Lady & her Sweet Escapes

Jun 22, 2014

Puerto Princesa City Tour: Sightseeing at The City in a Forest

Excitement and goosebumps ran over my body when I stumbled across a grand seat sale on flights to Puerto Princesa a couple of months before our homecoming. Puerto Princesa in Palawan is on the top of my Dream Destinations in the Philippines list, but it was never on my vacation plan this year, not until the Piso Fare promotion! It came as a surprise, a chance that I immediately had to take. 

So, a spontaneous budget vacation in Puerto Princesa happened. We got our plane tickets at half the price and stayed in the most affordable accommodation, yet still had a full load of fun! Puerto Princesa, fondly called by many as the City in a Forest, did not disappoint. Our half day City Tour on Day 1 doubled as an amazing nature trip.

Puerto Princesa City Tour with the family

Puerto Princesa's Urban Attractions
Marianne Home Inn, in partnership with Maple Travel and Tours, facilitated our half day Puerto Princesa City Tour. We were fetched at the accommodation a little past 1pm. A 12-seater van was utilized and we were only with two other guests from another hotel and a tour guide, hence we were able to lounge comfortably during the whole urban getaway!

The tour started with a 'getting to know' portion; getting acquainted with Puerto Princesa, its history and attractions and of course getting to know each other as well. Touring with strangers would be so weird, so that moment somehow cracked the ice. All the casual convo happened while we were approaching Puerto Princesa's Boardwalk. The van slowed down for us to see the sights well, but we were not given the time to go down for some photo ops. Our tour guide said that Boardwalk comes alive at night; there are barbecue stalls along the promenade where we can have our dinner. It would probably be awesome. However, I already had a restaurant in mind and we already placed a reservation, so we decided to go with our original dinner plan.

Puerto Princesa's Boardwalk
Puerto Princesa's Boardwalk

We had our first stop at Plaza Cuartel, a heart-wrenching historical sight, where over a hundred American soldiers-turned-slaves were burned during World War II. The place is wrapped in serenity, shaded with trees and with a monument that serves as a reminder of the tragic past. Across Plaza Cuartel is the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Parish, a lovely church with blue and white exterior that blended so well with Puerto Princesa's perfect blue sky with thin white clouds that afternoon. We were given enough time to say our prayers before we went on with our tour.         

Plaza Cuartel in Puerto PrincesaImmaculate Conception Parish in Puerto Princesa

Souvenir Shopping 
I don't know when it started, but the Puerto Princesa City Tour offered by most travel agencies was modified and does not include a visit to Iwahig Penal Farm anymore. It was replaced by short stops at souvenir shopping areas in the city center; Mercado De San Miguel and LRC 908 Market Mall.

A year ago, a museum owner told us to think of pearls when we visit Palawan as it is where we can purchase the precious gems of the sea at the cheapest price. We took his advice seriously! It was in our heads the whole trip that aside from the pearl market visits we made during our guided city tour, we went back three more times! As for the foodies, think of cashew nuts! :) Palawan is the Cashew Capital of the Philippines! The souvenir and pasalubong stores have all sorts; from plain to salted to flavored cashew nuts, cashew pastries and even cashew wine!

Mercado de San Miguel in Puerto Princesa
Mercado de San Miguel: a prime shopping destination for pearls and souvenirs
LRC 908 Market Mall in Puerto Princesa
 LRC 908 Market Mall: where you can purchase cool shirts, baked goodies and more pearls
pearl shopping in Puerto Princesa
pearl shopping at LRC 908 Market Mall

Crocodile Farm and Nature Park
After souvenir shopping, our tour guide took us to Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center; popularly known to tourists as Crocodile Farm and Nature Park. Based on its name, it is a breeding area for Philippine Crocodiles and a sanctuary for other endemic animals, like the Palawan Bearcat. Travel time was about 20 minutes from the city.

Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center
Crocodile Farm and Nature Park

There is an educational guided tour every 30 minutes. It started at the entrance hall where a huge crocodile skin and skeleton are displayed. Several crocodile facts were mentioned, and the room was filled with oohhh and ahhhhs while I cringed in a corner. I hate reptiles! I was bothered, especially when I learned that the skin on the wall belongs to a saltwater crocodile that killed a person. Nasty! Then, why are they breeding these predators? It was explained that the Philippine crocodile is an endangered specie, hence Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center is there to protect them and to increase their population. And that answers the BIG question that was in my head the whole time. So, for the sake of ecological equilibrium, I had to stop the crocodile angst. 

educational tour at the Crocodile Farm in Palawan
educational tour at the Crocodile Farm 

Then, we were guided to the Hatchling House where baby crocodiles are taken care of. We were reminded not to place our hands over the tanks, not to tap the sides, not to use camera flash and refrain from making loud noises. Again, I cringed. Those tiny predators can easily gobble my fingers! Eeeekk! 

When we reached the end of the Hatchling House, I thought "That's it! I survived! Where's the bearcat?" Little did I know that I have to cross a metal bridge above the lair of old crocodiles to get to the other side! I felt like every crocodile underneath were staring at me, watching every step, hoping I'd fall off the bridge! Excuse my kaartehan! I know, I'm such an overly dramatic coward! It was supposed to be an educational tour, yet fear shut down my brain. Sad to say, I reached the end of the bridge without learning a thing. :(

Hatchling House at the Crocodile Farm in Palawan
baby crocodiles at the Hatchling House
viewing bridge at the Crocodile Farm in Palawan
the viewing bridge above the crocodiles' den
Lady at the Crocodile Farm in PalawanEd at the Crocodile Farm in Palawan

I have reached my stress threshold when we arrived in a cottage where guests can have a souvenir photo session with a baby crocodile. My parents and Ed delightfully queued for a photo. They had their photos taken several times in different poses, even with the crocodile's tail around their necks! I actually joined my husband for two snaps, but I couldn't stand holding the cold-blooded reptile with thick rough skin! Can you imagine how I look like in the photos? Not blog-worthy at all! We spent a lot of our limited time at the photo booth that we were not able to explore the rest of the nature park. Aside from the crocodiles, it was only the Palawan Bearcat that we saw before we took the exit gate.    

Palawan Crocodile Farm souvenir photo
my parents with a baby crocodile 
Palawan Bearcat
the nocturnal Palawan Bearcat sleeping soundly 

Refreshing Stop at Mitra's Ranch
I needed a breath of fresh air after the stressful stop at the Crocodile Farm! Thankfully, we were on our way to Mitra's Ranch. The triangular-shaped mansion situated on top of the hill is a perfect relaxation spot! It offers a spectacular panoramic view of greeneries and the sea. The picnic ground and the balcony are open to the public for free. Guests can also have a look at the interiors of the mansion for a fee of Php 10. Fun activities, like zipline and horseback riding, are also available. 

log mansion of the Mitra Family in Puerto Princesa
log mansion of the Mitra Family
interiors of Mitra's Mansion in Puerto Princesa
all wood, including that huge column in the middle of the house
Mitra's Ranch picnic ground with horseback riding area and zipline
Mitra's Ranch picnic ground with horseback riding area and zipline 

Nature Trip x Foodie Trip at Baker's Hill
Baker's Hill, located just a few minutes away from Mitra's Ranch, was the last destination of our Puerto Princesa half day City Tour. It is a place for both foodies and nature lovers! There are several restaurants inside the compound serving various cuisine; from Italian to exotic! Pizza or Woodworm? Your choice! :) Among the charming food cottages, the most crowded is the bakeshop that sells uber delicious hopia (bean-filled pastry) in different flavors! 

Baker's Hill in Puerto Princesa
Thumbs up for Baker's Hill!
Baker's Hill famous Hopia Monggo and Hopia Ube
Baker's Hill famous Hopia Monggo and Hopia Ube

Baker's Hill is perfectly landscaped! I greatly adored the beautifully designed gardens shaded by tall trees! It was such a tranquil spot to shake off the unwanted tension! Other than the lovely array of plants, there are life-size figures of famous cartoon characters that smitten both kids and adults. Located at the far end are peacocks and peahens which seemed not to be in a courtship mood that day. I didn't see them flaunting their fabulous tails. 

Baker's Hill beautiful sprawling garden
a portion of Baker's Hill beautiful sprawling garden
Shrek at Baker's Hill Ed and the scary anaconda figure at Baker's Hill

Love at Baker's Hill in Puerto Princesa
Baker's Hill is L.O.V.E.

Extra Extra!
On our second day in Puerto Princesa, we arrived a little early for dinner from our Underground River Tour, and that gave us enough time to check out the must-visit places which are not included in our city tour package. We devoured Noki Nocs Halo-Halo and got to see Palawan Provincial Capitol up close. 

Palawan Provincial Capitol is an eye-catcher! Our guide during the city tour said that the iconic structure has a blue and white dome which signifies the unity of the Catholics and Muslims in the province. Ed and I felt we were inappropriately dressed, so we didn't bother to ask if we can go in. Across Palawan Provincial Capitol is Noki Nocs Savory House, a local restaurant that serves the best halo-halo in the province, if not in the whole Philippines! Noki Nocs' halo-halo has the finest and the smoothest shaved ice which is already infused with cream and sugar. There's no need of mixing as the ice alone is a dessert itself. But of course it's called halo-halo (in English: mix-mix), so mixing all the ingredients before eating is still a must!    

Palawan Provincial Capitol
Palawan Provincial Capitol upclose
Noki Nocs Savory House in Puerto Princesa
Noki Nocs Savory House: home of the best halo-halo in Palawan
Noki Nocs Savory House halo-halo
the smoothest and the creamiest halo-halo I ever had

Most travel agencies offer the half day city tour at Php 600/person. It's quite expensive compared to a DIY tour via a public tricycle and time was never in our hands, but I had a lot to thank for: the nice-to-know facts, the jokes that made me laugh and the chance of meeting new friends! We got to see the amazing City in a Forest while having the utmost comfort in an air-conditioned van and the convenience of having a tour guide that facilitated everything. When I said everything, I mean EVERYTHING... from queuing for the entrance tickets to buying hopia and drinks at Baker's Hill. 

Puerto Princesa City Tour can be scheduled in the morning or in the afternoon.
Our tour started at 1pm and ended at 6pm.

Puerto Princesa

More of Puerto Princesa
Where we stayed: 
Marianne Home Inn

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