A three hour drive from the city of Puerto Princesa, including one hour on a bumpy, unpaved road that you’ll be driven down at top speed, is Port Barton. A laid back beach town, Port Barton makes up for what it lacks in amenities and WiFi with plenty of nearby islands to explore and hammocks to relax in.
Backpedaling a little bit in case you didn’t read my most recent post about how I found myself spending five days in Palawan. An amazing deal for $500 round trip flights from the U.S. to Manila prompted my boyfriend, Nick, and I to book flights to the Philippines for my first “real vacation” in quite some time. All the advice we received about where to go from there was practically unanimous: we *had* to visit Palawan, which many people call the most beautiful island in the world.
Travel Guide to Port Barton, Palawan
Port Barton is far from the top destination of Palawan, but it’s under-the-radar-ness is part of its charm. There are no crowds – even though we were there during the busiest week of the year (Holy Week) and every room in town was filled, it still felt pretty empty. We never waited for a table to eat, and we were able to book tours less than a day in advance. It was an actual stress-free vacation – something I don’t normally encounter!
While the planner in me wanted to have things lined up to do before we arrived, I couldn’t find much information about Port Barton online before the trip. If a similar Googling quest has brought you to this page: have no fear. As of March 2016, you really don’t need to plan anything in advance. Except, perhaps, you should book a room if you’re planning to go during Holy Week. We met a couple guys who had to rent mosquito nets from a hostel and sleep outside in a hammock because every bed in town was full. While things could be worst than having to sleep in a hammock in paradise, I personally prefer a roof over my head!
Where to Stay in Port Barton, Palawan
There are no luxury accommodations or chain hotels in Port Barton. Many of the local restaurants double as guest houses, and some even triple as tour companies. We stayed at Deep Moon Resort, which we booked through Airbnb. Our room was spacious, and we had a great balcony with an ocean view. The “resort” has a small bar right on the beach, as well as a restaurant and rooftop deck where yoga classes are held.
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FYI, girls: there is limited electricity and running water, so plan accordingly. Public electricity is available from around 5:30pm until midnight, so we were thankful to have an air conditioner that cooled our bedroom down before we went to sleep every night. We brought a solar panel from Amazon to charge our phones, Bluetooth speaker and cameras during the day (click here to shop for portable solar power via my Amazon affiliate link). The real drag isn’t the lack of electricity, but the lack of a shower. Bring dry shampoo, embrace the ocean, you’ll be just fine. Just try to ignore the dreadlocks forming until you get home.
If you are willing to forego even more amenities and walk down the stairs to go to the bathroom, there’s a beautiful tree house hotel you can stay in as well! It’s called Ausan Beach Front Cottages.
Things to do in Port Barton, Palawan
Island Hopping: There’s really only one thing to do in Port Barton, and that is island hop. While the beach of the town itself is fine, it doesn’t hold a candle to the white sand beaches you’ll find on nearby smaller islands. An island hopping tour typically includes a variety of islands, lunch and two snorkeling spots and lasts the entire day. You can book one through your hotel, or simply wander down the beach and coordinate directly with one of the tour companies advertising island hopping.
Beach Camping: If you’re feeling adventurous, you can forego a night in the hotel and camp on one of the islands for a two-day island hopping tour. We spent a night on German Island and it was one of the highlights of our trip. We actually didn’t plan to camp there, but the three people on our day tour ended up being awesome. When they invited us to join their camping trip we thought… well, there’s no electricity or running water at our hotel anyway, so why the heck not?! The guides were nice enough to bring us back to Port Barton to grab a few things (contact lens solution, a change of clothes, a bottle or two of rum… you know, the essentials) and they miraculously whipped up an extra tent for us. We didn’t have any bedding or pillows, but that’s what the rum was for.
WARNING: I ended up falling asleep in one of the hammocks and woke up around 2am literally covered in sand fly bites. While not the end of the world, I looked pretty scary like I had some type of pox for a couple weeks. I’m lucky that when I got back to the U.S. it wasn’t shorts season quite yet… or I’d be getting some strange looks on the street. Sleep in your tent, people.
Fishing: So it wasn’t my suggestion, but if you are traveling in Port Barton with your significant other, and that happens to be a boy who likes fishing, this excursion would be fun. The un-fun part was that we had to meet our boatman at 6am, however we were honestly so messed up from jet lag that going to bed early the night before was not at all a problem.
We negotiated beforehand with the tour seller to do a combination of island hopping and fishing because honestly I don’t think I could have handled a whole day of fishing. Sorry, Boyfriend!
Turns out that sitting on a boat watching other people fish isn’t that bad when you’re surrounded by beautiful island scenery! And look… I even caught one! (Please ignore my Day 3 of No Showering Hair).
After a few hours of catching tuna, the guide took us to an island where he grilled the fish and prepared a full lunch including rice and veggies. It was delicious!
Where to Eat in Port Barton, Palawan
I honestly never thought of the Philippines as a culinary destination – shame on me, but I didn’t have an inkling what Filipino food was before I took off. My mind was consumed by tropical scenery images. However, I quite like the food in the Philippines. As someone who considers making pasta with canned sauce a serious culinary endeavor, I was also impressed with the ability of local people to cook delicious full meals without electricity.
I can’t speak to all Filipino food since I only visited Palawan during this trip, but here are my local recommendations for where to eat in Port Barton:
El Busero – They have breakfast sandwiches and WiFi. The dream. As most local dishes seemed to, the sandwiches were made with tomatoes and cucumbers. Interesting and pretty good.
Jambalaya Cajun Cafe – They have…. jambalaya. Not sure how a New Orleans-inspired restaurant made it all the way here, but it did! And it’s delicious. The menu also includes a variety of typical Filipino dishes and “Asian fusion” type meals.
Elsa’s Beach House – This was one of my favorite restaurants in terms of the food and overall vibe. It was super affordable and they had quite an extensive menu.
You’ll find all these just walking down the beach. Jambalaya gets pretty busy, so if you’re planning to go there, stop by during the day or the night before and make a res! And we had some of the best food of the trip during our island hopping tours, so make sure you book one of those.
Traveling to/from El Nido or Puerto Princesa from Port Barton
As I mentioned above, you shouldn’t stress out too much about booking things in advance. That being said, we did want to make it to Port Barton right away after our flight (and traveling for nearly 30 hours), so we booked a private van with Recaro Transport from Puerto Princesa’s airport to Port Barton for 5000 PHP (roughly $100 USD). On the way back, we took a shared van booked through Deep Moon Resort for 350 PHP per person. Much more affordable, but I honestly don’t think I could have handled the shared van after three planes and two four-hour layovers on the first day. It involved a lot of holding onto the ceiling to avoid going flying at turns, and since I am short I was given the wonderful middle seat up front with the driver which I’m pretty sure was not really supposed to be a seat.