Our accommodation (Circon Business Mans Inn) was very budget but in a great location and clean and tidy. Breakfast was nice and the balcony was a great spot for playing cards and drinking beer, which we did a fair bit of. It IS a budget hotel but was central, clean and safe. Check it out on Booking.com or other Puerto Princesa Accommodation here.
I had booked our trip to the Underground River from home. After some research, it was very clear that there are limited number of permits per day and you have to book early, especially at Christmas time to secure a permit. I booked our trip through Shore-2-Shore travel and we were set for a 7am pick up.
Shore-2-Shore was great, however the local company that they used had clearly forgotten us. We were told between 7am and 7:15 and when by 7:30 they hadn't arrived I called and spoke to a very confused lady at the other end. They called back about 10 minutes later and said that yes the van would be there very soon. Around 8am a car arrived, who loaded us up and speeding furiously through town deposited us at the van on the edge of the city. Clearly they had forgotten us, but no harm no foul and off we went.
Its about a 2 hour drive to the port.
From the beach you get a banka (local boat) to the beach.
You walk across the beach to get to the inlet for the underground river
Then you get into a canoe to do the actual 45 minute river tour
Now, seeing as you have to prebook your permit so early, I would have thought that it would be easier to give you an aproximate time window that you would be leaving the port? No that doesn't happen. When you arrive at the port your guide has to then register you. Once you are registered you go on the list for a boat. So what that means is that you get there, and then have to queue for a boat. Another two hours goes by and of course you get sick of sitting in the sun so you have to go and spend money at one of the restaurants to get a drink and stay in the shade.
Eventually your boat gets called (and this is a very confusing process because they give you a group number and a boat number but the PA is so bad that you can't really hear so everyone is crowded around trying to work out where the numbers are at so you don't miss your boat. Anyway... we get in the boat which takes about 5 minutes to start (slightly disconcerting) and off we go. Maybe three times, the boat conks out and there is much scurrying about and the fuel line is removed, sucked out, blown out, replaced and off we go again. The fourth time - there is no starting it. We are of course now getting very close to being swept on to the rocks and for the only time in the trip from the port to the beach there is not another boat in sight. Excellent!
The boys are looking very concerned about the rocks. I myself am not exactly calm but Brad of course hasn't even noticed there is rocks, he is just trying to stick his head down the hatch and see what's wrong. In the nick of time another boat arrives, ties us on and tows us to the beach. We jump out and head to the meeting point only to be told that there is now a line up for the canoes so we have to wait on the beach. Its a beautiful beach so I mention a swim however both the boys and Brad have already seen a HUGE no swimming sign. Of course - you can't swim at the beach because of all the boats coming and going so yet again: we wait. Another 2 hours goes by and we get to make our way over to the river.
They rig you up with an audio tour which is great. They are very conscious about not disturbing the bats in the caves but of course there is always one idiot and a guy in the canoe behind us was talking very loudly and getting shushed by all the guides. The river is around 8km long, however you only go in about 1500 meters. Its very impressive and while as soon as they say don't look up with your mouth open (for fear of a bat shitting in it) you immediately want to look up, we all managed to get in and out without getting crapped on. As usual in Asia they name everything so there was the vegetable garden which has formations that look like eggplants, tomatoes carrots and broccoli. I couldn't see any of it myself they just looked like cave formations but of course you smile and nod and seem to be impressed with their ability to see food stuffs in the cave.
Don't get me wrong - the river and cave was very cool and even the trip over and back is a nice boat trip but the whole disorganization and hours and hours of waiting are very off-putting. We wanted to do the zipline on the way back but we didn't get back to the port until 4pm. The we had to eat our lunch and get back to Puerto Princesa. It was well and truly dark by the time we got home so we had spent the whole day either driving or waiting for a 45 min trip into the Underground RIver.
If they could allocate you a time slot for your boat, and manage the timing better it would be a great morning or afternoon trip but the fact that its a whole day spent waiting, I'm not sure I can rave about it. Make your own decision I guess.