What’s in Sabang?
The town of Sabang is about 63 Km to the north of El Nido and about 36 km away from Puerto Princessa. It is the closest point to the world famous Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, AKA the Sabang Underground River (UGR). The underground river in Sabang is the largest navigable subterranean river in the world. It stretches back deep into a hillside for about 7km, with the first 5km of it being accessible by boat through the cave entrance. The UGR was recently named a UNESCO world heritage site and its preservation is supported by many international donors. It is also supported by travelers who come from far and wide to go on the underground river tour. I have written this post because I would like to help you get there on the cheap.
Most people visit the underground river by booking a tour from an agency out of either El Nido or Puerto Princessa. They get taken to Sabang to go on the tour, but then have to turn right around and go back. That definitely sucks because the tour is only 2 hours long and the van ride is 3-4 hours each way, depending on which city you start in. That means you endure 6-8 hours in a van for a 2 hour tour.
The better thing to do is to just make the town of Sabang a stop on your way to El Nido or on your way back and stay there a night or two. This way you can book your own river tour at a cheaper price and have plenty of time to relax in between van rides. There are several cheap place to stay in the town of Sabang. We stayed in a nice bungalow with a private bathroom right on the beach for $8 usd. The beach is actually really nice and empty too. There are a few restaurants in town and if you have extra time you can do some of the hikes that are close by. If you want a guide for a hike just look for the man they call Jungle George.
Taking the Bus to Sabang From El Nido
Okay, so it’s not a bus exactly. It’s a shuttle van. You can take the shuttle van directly from El Nido to the town of Sabang or from Puerto Princessa. We asked around for different prices for booking our tickets out of El Nido and were told 650-825 Ph. I actually ended up getting it for 600 Ph each though, by just telling the girl at my hotel that a guy at the terminal offered me that price and she matched it. The ride from El Nido to Sabang takes about 3.5 hrs. The shuttle service that makes the trip is called Lexus Shuttle. You can call them yourself or have your hotel call them and reserve a seat for you. This is a picture of their flyer with the most recent time table (August 2017). When you are ready to leave the town of Sabang, the trip to Puerto Princessa only costs 200 Ph and takes about 2 hours. You can make a reservation right where the van dropped you off in town. The same is true if you are traveling the other direction towards El Nido.
How much does the Underground River Tour Cost?
The underground river tour should only cost 1222 Ph. That’s 735 for the park pass, 300 for the entrance fee, and 187 for the boat ride. You can see these costs detailed in this image, taken in August 2017 at the front office for the Underground River Tour. This is the cheapest way to do the tour. When we got to town our hotel tried to sell us the tour for 1500 and they of course claimed that they were going to charge me the exact same rate as the ticket booth. Clearly that turned out to be a lie. The ticket office said we needed to make a reservation the day before the tour, but the next morning when we showed up they didn’t care if we had one or not. The doors open at 8 am and you can pay your fees and then depart as soon as they have 6 people in the first boat. You can also take a private boat if you wanted to for some reason, but it will cost you a lot more. You can do the Subterranean River Tour and only have to stay one night in Sabang if you are short on time. The first tour is at 8 am and you will be back by 10 or 11 which is before any hotel in town’s checkout time.
The Underground River tour in Sabang is definitely worth stopping for if you are traveling around Palawan. If you like caves and bats and natural wonders you will certainly enjoy it. I wrote this post to show that you can make the trip on your own without having to book an expensive tour from El Nido and spend a whole day sitting on a bus. The people in the town of Sabang are friendly as well and will appreciate you staying. Visiting the UGR provides funds for further preservation of the site and the park. Visiting the town of Sabang is a great way to support some of the locals that work in the park as well. So buy a smoothie and eat at the restaurants. I hope that this post was helpful.