The island of Palawan in the Philippines is considered one of the “Last Frontiers” in the Pacific as its beauty is still well-preserved, unlike other islands overrun with tourists. Most people arriving will arrive to Palawan by plane from Manila, and will touch down in Puerto Princessa.
Puerto Princessa is the least densely populated city in the Philippines, though in terms of land area, it is the second largest geographically. It's a popular tourist city and a great place to hang out for a few days while making plans to explore different areas of Palawan.
I spent a few days wandering around this city. I had a nice visit (even if I do prefer other areas of Palawan) and found the locals to be really friendly and helpful.
From Manila, I arrived to the tiny airport in Puerto Princessa not knowing what to expect, especially as I'd never been to the Philipinnes before. As I walked into the small airport lobby, I noticed a bunch of men lined up, offering their tour-guide or tricycle (kinda like a taxi or Thailand tuk tuk car - basically a motorbike with a box built around it for people to sit in) services. Never having been in a tricycle before, I decided to give it a go. I walked out into the hot afternoon air, got into the car, and experienced a bumpy but fun ride to my hotel.
I booked reservations at Lotus Garden. It was a more upscale place, though I still only paid about $30 US per night.
The hotel itself was pretty nice but I soon found out it contrasted harshly with much of Puerto Princessa. Puerto Princess is the main gateway to the island of Palawan but many of the residents are poor. I realize this is the reality throughout much of the Philippines and had an idea about the economy in advance, but experiencing the reality was humbling. Downtown Puerto Princessa was crowded with shops, a mall, and some modern-looking buildings. But outside the city, people were living in rickety houses on the side of the road. The scene would repeat itself many times during my stay in the Philippines.
It was my first time witnessing poverty at an up-close and personal level and it struck me to the core. I spent three days in Puerto Princessa. Most of the people were nice though I found some of the women a little cautious and somewhat hostile.
I visited two tourist attractions -- the butterfly garden and a crocodile farm -- which were pretty interesting and good places to while away a few hours.
When traveling outside the main area of the city, the mountains and forests of the Puerto Princessa countryside are gorgeous, but personally, I think other areas of Palawan are more beautiful and welcoming than Puerto Princessa.
However, first-time visitors should definitely spend some time in the city.