Sabang is a small village in Palawan, Philippines. It is used as an entry point to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River. There's not much in the village except services for those going to visit the river, but there is a beach and a chilled out atmosphere.
From Puerto Princesa, take a trike or jump in mini-bus going to the "New Market" Jeepney Terminal in San Jose. It takes about 10 minutes. Trike fare is about ₱80 and the mini-bus is about ₱12. Four trips from the San Jose Terminal to Sabang run daily between 7AM and 2PM. The bus/jeepneys costs roughly ₱150 and takes about 3 hours.
Tourist agencies in Puerto Princesa run day trips in minivans which include a tour to the Underground River and a lunch buffet at a beach resort.
All boats out of Sabang are subject to weather conditions.
There are about 45 Park Ferry Service boats registered for transporting tourist on a 5-km (20-minute) voyage from the Sabang Pier to the Underground River and back. These boats carry up to 6 passengers. They are all about the same, so it doesn't matter which one you go on. They are the perfect size for getting in and out of the rocky Sabang Pier. The cost for a round-trip boat ride to the Underground River, including the park entrance fee is ₱300. These boats may also take tourist out in St. Paul Bay for: sight seeing, snorkeling and fishing, and they charge a minimum of ₱1,000 for 2-4 hours.
Only a few charter boats in Sabang are fully registered and insured to transport passengers for tourism from Sabang to Port Barton and El Nido. Some of the boats making these voyages are in poor condition, have small engines, bamboo balancers, and are not properly registered. These voyages are for the young and adventurous, and are not recommended for children.
Boats from Sabang to Port Barton are about ₱1,200 and take about 4 hours. Boats from Sabang to El Nido are about ₱2,200 and take 7-9 hours. These fares include a non-refundable 10% booking fee for the local commissioners. So, if your voyage is canceled due to weather, you can either re-schedule or lose 10%.
The voyage from Sabang to El Nido is very long and remote. The weather often changes quickly in the afternoon, so consider a stopover for a night or two in Port Barton.
The voyage into El Nido is like nothing else. It's an indescribable "once in a lifetime experience."
Ask in the village or at the Tourist Information & Assistance Centre (8AM-5PM) to hire a driver.
Sabang is very small so everything in the village is within walking distance. To get to the underground river you need to hire a boat from the pier, or walk along the jungle trail/monkey trail (about 5 km and 1-2 hours). Don't forget to pick up your permit to the underground river from Puerto Princessa before arriving in Sabang.
See and do
Underground river: this world heritage site is the main attraction in Sabang. There is a ₱250 entry fee which buys you a trip down the river. Or, you can buy a ₱1200-1500 tour from any travel agency in the area.
If you decide to go solo, you can only buy tickets for the Underground River tour in their office in Puerto Princessa as that is the only place to get a permit. There is a limited amount of people allowed each day and booking office is more interested in selling tickets to tour agencies, so make your reservation at least 2-3 days in advance but it can be booked out a month in advanced during holiday seasons. Permits are no longer available in Sabang. An online booking system is in the works but currently unavailable at time of writing (May 2012).
There are two ways to get to the entrance of the river from Sabang. The first is a boat (banka) and this costs ₱500-600 per boat (banka) from Sabang pier and is subject to weather conditions, and the second is a 1-2 hour walk through the jungle. The latter is very nice and worth the effort.
When you get to the cave entrance, you have to wait for another boat to take you down the underground river (included in the ticket price). Be sure to register and obtain your "boat number" the moment you arrive there. The whole process is much tailored to groups arriving on package tours, i.e. nobody will call you when your boat number is about to depart, so be active and ask local staff about the current number every 10 minutes or so.
Jungle trail/monkey trail: an alternative way to get to the start of the underground river. Approximately 5-km walk through the jungle which takes 1-2 hours. You can walk up to Central station without a permit, but no further.
Mangrove river cruise: a cruise along a nearby river surrounded by mangroves.
Enjoy the scenery from a bike: There are beautiful mountains around Sabang. Rent a bike and wander around! There is a big "Ugung" rock that you can climb from inside with a guide: good value the money!
There are a number of restaurants around the village serving a mix of Asian and western dishes. Except for Daluyon Resort, food needs to be ordered a few hours in advance as restaurants do not stock up on food but only shop when they are sure the food will be sold.
There are a number of bars including a few with pool tables. Be sure to check the temperature of the beer when buying from local shops as electricity is only available in the evening.
- Mary's Beach Resort (At the very right of the beach.), ☎ . Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Good place to relax during the day but the simple nipa huts are extremely rundown inside. Cracks in the floor and let mosquito's in, a hole in the floor serving as the shower drain did the same. It's cheap and it's got character but is not for the fainthearted. It is perfect for those who just want to take a sleep and enjoy the rest of the day in the beautiful nature. If you prefer to take a bath right after a swim in the see, you can do it easily here. ₱350-500.
- Daluyon Beach & Mountain Resort, ☎ , . A beautiful resort on the beach. Friendly and helpful staff, gorgeous rooms with hot shower, 24-hour electricity, AC, minibar, TV, DVD player (ask front desk for available DVDs), room service breakfast included, very nice pool with outdoor shower facilities. Restaurant is open for walk in guests: very good quality! 3950-8950.
- Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa, Sabang Beach, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan,Philippines (a few meters away from the Sabang Wharf fronting the Sabang Beach.), ☎ , , . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. A beautiful beach resort, with a backdrop of hills and forest. Over 90 modern guestrooms and suites with a touch of Asian culture - fully fitted and fully furnished. 24-hour electricity. It features great restaurant with a buffet dinner for ₱620 (tax included), exceptional wellness spa, gym, very large pool with kiddie pool, outdoor jacuzzi and outdoor shower, poolbar, lobby lounge with gift shop. ₱5,400.
- Dab Dab Resort, ☎ . Turn left once you hit the beach. The owner has an arty flare and built some funky cabins including a treehouse style. with own bathrooms. Bring your own insect repellent, and torch is a must. ₱600.
- Roberts Beach Resort. Cottages with fan and own bathrooms ₱500/600/800.
- Taraw Beach Resort, ☎ . Fan cottages with own bathrooms. ₱600.
- Penao Beach Cottages. Cottage with fan and own bathrooms. ₱700.
- Bambua Nature Cottages, Sabang main road 1 km before the beach (Ask the van/jeepney driver to drop you off at Bambua before reaching Sabang beach), ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: noon. Lovely place in the middle of the rainforest away from the hustle and bustle from the beach. Run by a Filipino family that has been here for 30 years. Offers budget rooms for backpackers as well as private cottages for families. There's a small bar and a restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner. Has its own pond and is surrounded by rice paddies. Power runs from a generator from 10AM to midnight. Single ₱300, double ₱500, cottages from ₱1250.