The last decade has seen tourism boom in Palawan, including the provincial capital of Puerto Princesa City. Large and modern concrete hotels have popped up around the city. But if you’re looking for a place to stay that’s quiet and relaxed, check out Balay Tuko Garden Inn, located in the northern leafy suburb of Brgy. San Manuel. The nature-inspired accommodation’s name means “gecko house”, referring to the tokay gecko (Gekko gecko), a native species of the Philippines. While I’ve encountered the largest geckos on previous trips to southern Palawan, I unfortunately never heard or seen one during my recent stay here. Don’t worry, while they can be feisty when disturbed, tukô are harmless!
Location-wise, Balay Tuko is a strategic choice. It’s only five kilometers away from the downtown area, but more importantly near the north and south highways that can take you to the popular day-tour destinations of Honda Bay and Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. The hotel can arrange day tours for guests. And if you’re heading elsewhere on the island, this accommodation is conveniently situated only two kilometers away from the San Jose Terminal, where you can take northbound or southbound buses or vans to Port Barton, San Vicente, El Nido, Quezon, Bataraza (the jump-off point for Balabac islands), and other destinations on mainland Palawan.
Set in a large garden, the three-storey main building houses 15 guest rooms ranging from 25 to 50 sqm in floor area. The Standard Room I stayed in, despite being an entry-level accommodation, was spacious. There was a lot of room to lay out my luggage for unpacking, and hang up my clothes. I liked the touch of Filipino architecture, as seen in the capiz shell windows of the room, a unique characteristic of Filipino mansions during the colonial era. Drinking water dispensers can also be found in the corridors outside the rooms. This is an eco-friendly alternative to providing bottled water to guests which should already be standard practice to reduce plastic waste.
In terms of interior design, I wish the tropical atmosphere of the outdoor gardens was introduced more generously into the rooms perhaps by adding bright floral motifs in the pillow cases or curtains, or by bringing in plants indoors. Within the lush compound, there’s an open-air restaurant, an events hall with an indoor swimming pool, and an aviary filled with chittering parakeets.
Room rates are inclusive of plated breakfast served at the open-air restaurant, which also serves ala carte lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, there are no other restaurants within a short walking distance from this accommodation, so one has to take a tricycle or book a Backride motorcycle taxi to dine out.
How to Get There
Balay Tuko Garden Inn is 4.5 km north of the Puerto Princesa International Airport, and only 2 km away from San Jose Terminal (tricycle fare: ₱60).
A cost-effective means of transport while staying here is to rent your own scooter. Located 200 m north of the airport junction (across Star Oil gas station), Bataga Vehicle Rental (contact no. +63 9530867992 or +63 9126062075) rents out scooters, motorbikes and cars to tourists. Scooter rental rates are ₱500 per day, exclusive of fuel.
Address: Corner San Manuel Rd, Barangay San Manuel, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
Contact Number: +63 9913988781