St Paul Subterranean River National Park

Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Useful Information

Location: Saint Paul Mountain Range, Palawan.
Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan. Northwest of Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan province.
(10° 10'N, 118° 55'E)
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Guided tours: V=50,000/a [2006]
Address: City Government of Puerto Princesa (Palawan), Protected Areas Management Board, 146 Manalo Street, Puerto Princesa, Palawan
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1887 first mentioned by Dean Worcester.
26-MAR-1971 National Park established under Presidential Proclamation No. 835.
1992 won an award of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in the Environmental Enhancement Category.
1999 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
11-DEC-2003 declared a National Geological Monument by the National committee on Geological Sciences.


The St Paul Mountain Range consists of limestone, and is a typical tropic karst area with sharp ridges, and rounded peaks called towers. It shows pinnacles, stone forests, shafts, dolines and limestone cliffs. The principal feature of the park is an underground river, more than 8 km long and known as the Subterranean River or St Paul Cave. The river flows underground for almost its entire length. Its spring is at an altitude of 100 m asl, 2 km southwest of Mount St. Paul. Soon it is swallowed by the cave and reappears at St. Paul's Bay, where it flows directly from the cave into the sea.

The fact that the underground river flows directly into the sea is rather special. It is called a submarine karst spring. The lower portion of the river is brackish and subject to tidal influences and thus a unique habitat. The biodiversity in the park is very high as it shows both, a full mountain to the sea ecosystem and a sweetwater to saltwater ecosystem, plus the troglobitic ecosystem of the underground river. Most submarine springs are only accessible by divers, this is one of the few such rivers which the general public can easily visit.

The cave tours are offered by local boat operators which are supervised by the park. They start at a nearby harbour with a boat ride to the resurgence. Then the boats enter the cave and cross the full length of the cave to reappear on the other side.

St Paul Cave is very impressive, with huge passages and enormous chambers. The biggest chamber is 120 m wide and 60 m high, the length is hard to define, as it is just a very wide section of the passage. St Paul Cave was known to local Batak people since ancient times. According to legend it was inhabited by a spirit that prevented anybody from entering the cave. Today only 200-250 Batak survived, the surrounding area is inhabited by Tagbanua communities, who are christianized.

Babuyan River is another hydrological feature, stretching along the eastern side of the Park.

Today the Park has become the major tourist attraction of the country. More than 50,000 people visit it every year [2006], about 20% of the visitors are from foreign countries. The government makes a great effort to make this cave more popular, although it is still in an almost undeveloped state. It was renamed Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR). It was nominated to become one of the "New 7 Wonders of Nature" some years ago. This "contest" is actually one of numerous rather unimportant internet polls, where people can poll to find some kind of "democratic" ranking list. This poll is pushed by the government by frequent press releases and campaigns, they even talk about ordering ever Filipino on the world to vote. So the actual idea of the poll, to give some kind of demographic result on the popularity of natural wonder has been annulled. This is even stranger, as there is nothing to gain, it's just a poll initiated by a guy from Canada. The frequent publications keep the cave in the news, but any other campaign would have done this too, if this much effort had been behind. Fortunately the poll ended on 11-NOV-2011 and is now forgotten.