Saturday, October 3, 2009

Casa Linda Inn & Hibiscus Garden Inn - Accommodations in Puerto Princesa Part 1

Picking out an accommodation during travel is a basic necessity. My concerns have to always balance between budget and comfort; between accessibility and safety. To me, choosing a place where I feel comfortable is imperative. I have to be able to relax when I lay down my head at night, since my day time activities are mostly hectic and strenuous. I also want my bathrooms very clean, with non-dripping fixtures – and no hair strands on sinks.
During my 3rd visit to Puerto Princesa, I spent sleepless nights researching about “acceptable” places. Most of these guesthouses don’t have websites. I had to scrap off the swanky Hotel Asturias from my list altogether. I was there the last time I was there, and I wanted to check out new places. Besides, if you really think about it, Hotel Asturias is way out of the city center. Although they do have perks (airport pickup, swimming pool, and a nice welcome sign with your name at the hotel foyer - haha).

This time around, I decided to try 3 hotels/guesthouses: Casa Linda Inn, Skylight Hotel, and the relatively new Hibiscus Garden Inn. These places have varying rates, although the latter 2 belong to the higher end of the spectrum. Though Casa Linda will arrange for an airport pick-up (a van), you have to pay PhP200 direct to the driver for this. They used to have a free service that picks up guests at the airport, and you’d be lucky to find actor Matthew Mendoza as your smirking driver (his parents own Casa Linda). LOL. On the other hand, Skylight Hotel in the center of town, and Hibiscus Garden Inn both offer free airport shuttle service (you have to inform them of these transfers). Although it isn’t necessary most of the time, I still preferred to call them straight from Manila to reserve the specific dates of my stay, including transfers. I wanted a fancy-free Palawan trip.

Casa Linda Inn is probably the most popular guesthouse in PP where backpack travel is concerned, and for very good reasons. My room was spacious, with 3 separate beds, wooden floor, A/C, television, and a huge clean bathroom. The walls are handcrafted sawali (bamboo mats). I have read reviews from trip advisor. Majority of the comments from American and European tourists were more than satisfactory. Funny thing is that the only negative comment comes from Filipino travelers who complained of the rooms being dark and the walls being too thin (“We couldn’t sleep coz we could hear people talking from next room.”) We find this whining too unnecessary. The walls were NOT that thin and the complaints too prissy. They have room for improvement but for its price, you obviously can't be expecting a luxury suite, can you? We paid PhP1,100 ($23.40) for an overnight stay. This doesn’t include breakfast, as dining facility in their cafĂ© is limited and rather pricey. You can also avail of their wi-fi connection for a price.

Casa Linda Inn started out in 1962 as a four-room affair. Now it has more. The inn doubles as the family home of owners Linda and Buddy of the respected Mendoza clan of Palawan. Designed to embody the laid back Palawan lifestyle, Casa Linda Inn is noted for its cleanliness, friendly and efficient staff. Conveniently located at a quiet street (Trinidad Road) just a few paces from Rizal Avenue (the city’s major road), Casa Linda is within walking distance from center of business and entertainment; 2 minutes from the airport; 5 minutes away from the Port. From Rizal Avenue, there are rows of restaurant to your right (it's also the road going to the airport). To your left is Kinabuch for your nocturnal alcohol fix; the Provincial Capitol, and the other guesthouses (One Rover’s Place – just across the road). Casa Linda fills up fast so it’s best to reserve. Call +63-48-4332606.

Front desk and cafe - expect to meet American and European backpackers if you stay on a little longer.

Casa Linda's gazebo (kubo) in the middle of a garden facing each room.

Tutubi, tutubi... paano kita mahuhuli?

Casa Linda rooms. This spacious room has 3 separate beds, which we booked via phone through Era. I have no complaints about accommodations here except that lighting is a bit inadequate (you can't comfortably read using lampshades and incandescent bulbs), so when you're doing your readings for your next-day activity, you have to strain reading or get out of your room and into the cafe.

Actor Matthew Mendoza is said to be managing Casa Linda Inn these days. His parents started the business that's now a formidable name in Puerto Princesa's affordable lodging.

Hibiscus Garden Inn is a relatively new establishment located along Manalo Extension, a few walks from favorite chicken dining, Balay Inato Chicken. It is very near the airport. In fact, if you’re into walking, you can roam from Hibiscus Garden Inn; turn right once in Manalo Extension, then left at Bancao—Bancao Road until you reach Rizal Avenue. Just cross the street for the airport grounds. By car, it will be a 5 minute ride. Hibiscus is some 10 minutes from the center. Since they offer free airport shuttle, everything is convenient and accessible.The inn itself is tastefully painted with pastels, and boasts of a sprawling garden in the middle of the hotel grounds.

The hotel is run by a German expat (he speaks very good Tagalog) who married a local lass. All these flourishes and expertise have been brought about by experience. They used to own the exotic Flower Island Resort (you’ll see its aerial photo on display at your room) located 1 hour of boat ride from the wharf in the municipality of Taytay (north of Puerto Princesa). Upon realizing that their 9 children are growing up fast (they have to be schooled in the city), they sold Flower Island to the Cojuangcos. We saw 3 of the 9 kids, including pretty Paola who “modeled” for their ads in the web. The hotel is home to a very cute black Labrador named Rasta, who was 6 months old during our visit. Ask him to shake his paws and he will, with ears pushed backward and tail wildly wagging away.

Hotel Hibiscus Inn - home to several well-heeled German and French backpackers

Front desk and mini-shop for your souvenir items. We booked our room by phone through Mariz.

My classic room is 30 square meters big and has 2 beds: a queen-sized and a single bed as well. It costs PhP1,800 ($38.20) and is based on double occupancy, meaning, it should accommodate only 2 persons. An additional head will cost you PhP500 ($10.60) more. Each room has a 29 inch TV, a split type A/C, digital safe, free internet wifi access, etc. Bigger rooms are available (called Queen and King Rooms at PhP2,300 and PhP2800 per night, respectively). It is easy to hail a tricycle from Manalo Extension. Trike ride ranges from PhP7 to PhP10 to anywhere within the city limits. Email them at or call them at +63-48-4341273 for reservation. 

For more information, visit

We chose Hibiscus Garden Inn as our last hotel stop because it was very near the airport. On the morning of our flight back to Manila, we enjoyed breakfast served at a table just outside our room. We ordered the food the night before. Breakfast option is as follows: Filipino (choice of lamayo or danggit, tapa and longganisa) for PhP120 ($2.50), Continental for PhP160 ($3.40) and European or American for PhP180 ($3.80). A van took us to the airport, and a very nice lady from the hotel went to see us off (Her lola was a patient at Veterans Memorial Medical Center, and was supposed to be a special case of note. However, I missed her story altogether.)

Next up: Skylight Hotel and Microtel Inn & Suites and the other accommodations to be had in Puerto Princesa -

This is the Eye in the Sky.

Flowers all over Hibiscus Garden Inn

My classic room - rates good for 2 persons only. Notice the gumamela flower (Hibiscus) on top of the towels.

Sawali (bamboo mats) on the ceiling and as lamp shade mixed with modern conveniences.

Peaceful, romantic nights.

Paola, one of the owners' 9 children modeling for Hibiscus Garden Inn. Below are the Classic, Queen's and King's Rooms. This photo only courtesy of

Breakfast right outside my room.

Rasta, the very amorous black Lab of Hibiscus Garden Inn.

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