Most people fly into Puerto Princesa and jump straight into a van headed for El Nido. Little do they know, they’ve just missed one of the best spots in the Philippines… Port Barton.
WHERE IS PORT BARTON?
Port Barton is a small village on the west coast of Palawan Island. It’s about 3 hours from Puerto Princesa and 4 hours from El Nido. The town itself is pretty much made up of two streets and has a sleepy, fishing-village feel. It’s these relaxed vibes that make it seem “off the beaten track” and really set it apart from the hustle of El Nido.
WHAT TO DO IN PORT BARTON
It may be quiet, but that doesn’t mean Port Barton doesn’t have anything to offer. There’s plenty to keep you occupied for a few days, and to be honest, I didn’t want to leave! If you get sick of swimming, reading a book on the beach or laying in a hammock listing to the waves, try these activities…
Sure, you can do this in El Nido too. But if you prefer to have beaches to yourself, then try Island Hopping in Port Barton. There are different tours advertised (A, B, C & D), but pretty much every company ends up doing the same thing. It’s worth asking your captain to go to Maxima Island instead of German Island for lunch. There’s an awesome view point, empty beaches and hardly any boats go there.
Rent a Kayak
The bay is flat, and water is crystal clear and there are some beautiful beaches within easy reach if you have a kayak. You can rent one from The Jambalaya Cafe (400pesos/day or 300pesos/half day). Go to the left and once you come around the headland you’ll see coconut beach. This secluded beach was completely empty when I got to it and I saw two turtles paddling not far off shore. Keep going in this direction and you’ll get to white beach… This perfect strip of sand is lined with coconut trees and some incredibly clear water. Lay in a hammock, get yourself a coconut, and relax!
Walk to the Waterfall
Now, in the grand scheme of waterfalls, this one is pretty average. That said, there’s a nice swimming hole to cool off in, and it gives you a bit of exercise if all you’ve been doing is laying around, eating and drinking Red Horse (guilty). It’s about 4km from the north edge of the beach. You go passed the cemetery and just follow the road until you see a sign for the waterfall. It it’s been rainy, the road will be pretty slippery, so make sensible footwear choices.
GETTING TO PORT BARTON
Vans leave regularly from Puerto Princesa. It costs 350 pesos from the bus station or 500 if you get on at the airport. The ride takes 3hrs, with the last part being on bouncy, dirt roads. Vans to/from El Nido cost 600 pesos, take about 3.5-4hrs, and leave at 8am or 1pm.
WHERE TO STAY
There is plenty of accommodation, and it’s much cheaper than El Nido. I stayed at a hostel called Russell’s Place, on the southern edge of town. It was 400 pesos per night and the dorms were super comfortable. There’s also free coffee, tea and water.
It’s worth mentioning that there’s no power most of the day in Port Barton. Some places have generators, but don’t count there being electricity all the time. Wifi is also almost non-existent. Don’t let that stop you though. In fact, it kind of adds to the charge of this little island gem. Trust me, go and you’ll see!