During my 4 days of Palawan trip, I spent a day in Puerto Princesa, which is the capital of the Palawan island.
Puerto Princesa with its 254,000 ha is the biggest town in the Philippines when it comes to the area of the town. Although, the town itself is not very big. There are a couple of things to do while in here. But you can actually manage to see everything in a day very easily.
I recommend these 10 things to do in Puerto Princesa:
1. Plaza Cuartel – it is a memorial place for all the American soldiers killed in the WWII by the Japanese. The massacre happened in 1944 on the Puerto Princesa coast and all the Americans were captured by the Japanese and brought to the place where the Plaza Cuartel is situated. It is just above the beachfront. There was a prison underground for the American captives. The underground tunnel to the dungeon is still present here nowadays, but visitors are not allowed to enter because of the scorpio’s nests there. Such a shame, it would be really interesting to go donw and imagine the hard time of the prisoners over there.
One of the prisoners managed to escape, Don Schloat, who survived the Japanese attack of the Plaza Cuartel. Don Schloat kept coming to the Plaza Cuartel afterwards every year for ”holidays”. He used to stay in the Regent hotel, come to the Plaza Cuartel, speak with the visitors and explain them the details about the past of the place. Don Schloat was also the one who in 2009 put a memorial with the names of all the Americans killed by the Japanese here in the Plaza Cuartel. Unfortunately, Don Schloat died in 2010.
memorial of Plaza Cuartel in Puerto Princesa
memorial built by Don Schloat in Plaza Cuartel
2. Cathedral – a Catholic blue-white cathedral just outside the Plaza Cuartel. At its place there was a small Catholic church built in the 16th century when the Spaniards came here. The funny things is the basketball playground just outside the Cathedral.
cathedral in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
3. Palawan Heritage – the museum was just opened June 23rd 2011 and it features the history of Palawan with a lot of pictures, 6 video screens and some artifacts that the indigenous tribes used. The history of the island is explained here – since Tabon Man (the skull of the earliest known human inhabitant in Palawan who was 29 to 35-year old), the replica of the famous Manunggul jar and the things that the first tribes used, including the pottery, sculptures and the jewellery. Then you will find out here about the differences of the tribes living in Palawan, such as the Tagbanua, the Tau’t Batu cave people, or the Batak.
replica of Manunngul jar in Palawan Heritage Museum in Puerto Princesa
indigenous tribe jewelry in Palawan Heritage Museum in Puerto Princesa
After the indigenous inhabitants, the Spaniards came to the Philippines so learn more about them observing the photos from that era. Their main impact on the indigenous tribes was the conversion to Catholicism. The Spaniards were the ones who started building all the churches in here. It was in 1898 when the Americans expulled the Spaniards and brought the public education. During the WWII the Japanese arrived to Palawan and that period can be described just as deconstruction. They didn’t bring anything good to Palawan unfortunately, just destroyed the place. Afterwards, it took a lot of time to many Palawan Governors to make Palawan a nice place to live in, to reconstruct the damages after the WWII. This is the main history of Palawan you can learn in just a couple of minutes during your visit of Palawan Heritage.
the Tagbanua tribe in Palawan Heritage Museum in Puerto Princesa
the Batak indigenous tribe in Palawan Heritage Museum
4. Rizal Avenue – the main street with many shops, banks, restaurants and bars. Nice to visit both during the day and night. Logically, just the bars are better at night time. You should definitely visit Taverna Luna which is a cool restaurant with really yummy food and a bar at the same time. Go there on Sundays or Tuesday when a local guy Simon sings there. His voice is so relaxing and the romantic atmosphere will just capture your heart. If you are in a drinking party mood, then Kinabuchs is the right place for you.
roasted chicken with rice in Taverna Luna
singer Simon in Taverna Luna restaurant
5. Lighthouse – the white-red lighthouse is located in the military port. It is prohibited to take photos there because of security reasons, so you have to register and leave your camera together with an ID at the entrance with a security guy. All you can see there are big military ships, some militants living there in small white houses with palm leaves roofs and if you go up the lighthouse, the seashore. Definitely worth a short visit.
lighthouse in Puerto Princesa
6. Fruit market – on the way to the bus station there are many stalls with fruit and more
7. Tamilok – it is the speciality of Palawan when it comes to traditional food. Basically, tamilok are so called wood worms because they taste like wood, it is like eating a delicious mangrove. I haven’t tried them personally as I’m not into any seafood nor aything that looks a bit disgusting and it’s not fish or chicken, but my friend Jason Montana from www.montanatheexplorer.com did so.
entrance to Kinabuchs restaurant in Puerto Princesa
Tamilok woodworms in Kinabuchs in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
8. Crocodile meat – it is one of the specialties of Kinabuchs as well.
9. Vietnamese noodle soup – there are a lot of Vietnamese restaurants in Puerto Princesa because of the past. Many Vietnamese were prisoners during the war in Palawan and once they were liberated, many of them did not go back home to Vietnam but stayed in Puerto Princesa, hence the historical reason why you can get a lot of Vietnamese food in Puerto Princesa.
10. Take a free tour around Puerto Princesa – in the Jollibee area there is a bus that picks up the tourist to take them around the town for free. It is organized by the Tourism department of Palawan.
Usually, Puerto Princesa is considered just as a stopover place to go to the beaches of El Nido, Coron or Underground River but you should spend at least a day in here as it has a lot to offer.
And there are also many lovely places around Puerto Princesa. Pay a visit to Crocodile farm, Butterfly garden, Iwahug penal farm, do a Honda Bay tour. Island hopping tour around the islands such as Snake island, Pandan island, Luli isnad and Starfish island is very popular, too.
I explored some of the things to do in Puerto Princesa with Panglima tours. To take a tour around Puerto Princesa, contact the travel agency Panglima Tours on facebook and twitter or directly the owner Caesar via firstname.lastname@example.org or +63 915 322 8888.