Port Barton Itinerary: What to do for 3 Days in Port Barton

by Feb 15, 2020Itinerary, Philippines

Nearly every backpacker is looking for that perfect beach in Southeast Asia that has yet to be discovered by hoards of tourists. In the Philippines, you can still find some undiscovered gems. Port Barton on the island of Palawan is one of those places that is just getting the attention it deserves on the backpacker trail. In this Port Barton itinerary post, I’m going to highlight some of the things you can do in Port Barton over the course of 3 days. I’ll also tell you where to eat, where to stay, and how to get to Port Barton,

I stayed in Port Barton for 8 days in 2020. YOU don’t need 8 days, though. I’d say a stay of 3 or 4 days is enough. This would include 3 days of sightseeing and 1 day of just doing nothing.

If you’re going on to El Nido from Port Barton, check out this article on a fantastic tour of Sibaltan

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The first thing you’ll read about Barton is that it’s nothing like El Nido, meaning it’s quiet and non-touristy.

True. True. True.

But it’s not as much of a backwater as what you’ve also heard. There have been lots of changes recently (January 2020).

You might have heard…

  • Port Barton has electricity for only a few hours a day – NOT TRUE – When I was there, there was electricity 24 hours a day,
  • Port Barton is quiet – YES and NO. Compared to El Nido, it’s like a cemetery, but in the evenings, it sounds like every hotel on the beach is trying to compete with each other for who can play the loudest music. And nearly every spot on the beachfront is filled with a hotel or restaurant.
  • Port Barton has no ATMs – Well, I saw an ATM near the beach and I did see people using it, so yes, electronic banking has come to paradise.
  • There’s no internet – Not, completely true. You can get 4G connection in Port Barton, but it’s pretty abysmal. And some hotels have WiFi, but that is even in a sadder state than the 4G.

So, Port Barton has come a long way, and by the time you read this, maybe they’ll have paved all their roads.

What’s the town of Port Barton like?

Situated halfway between Puerto Princesa and El Nido on the island of Palawan, Port Barton is much smaller and much less developed than both of these cities. The road leading into town is still unpaved. The town has got mostly potholed dirt roads that can get so muddy when it rains that it can feel like you need to run through an obstacle course to get anywhere. There’s a small bus station that gets busy when a mass of tourists are leaving in the morning or arriving in the afternoon. 

What makes Port Barton so special is that it still feels like a place that’s first and foremost for the locals.  This is so unlike El Nido where it seems that the city exists in order to cater to tourists. 

You can really see the local culture at night when the town really comes alive.  The church gets going, stalls open up selling everything the locals need from food to clothing, and the stadium becomes packed with locals watching a concert or a volleyball game.

You’ll still come across cafes  selling tourist fare like pizzas, mojitos, and vegetarian food within the first block or two from the beach. There’s even a coffee shop owned by an Italian selling amazing Italian coffee and gelato.

What’s the beach like in Port Barton?

Shaped like a crescent, the shore has a nice long and wide sandy beach. You can comfortably walk barefoot on it without worrying about stepping on rocks.

Lined up along the shore are small independently-run hotels. Thankfully, I didn’t see any huge resorts in Port Barton. For a beach facing room expect to pay around US$60. For rooms not facing the beach, around US$40. These prices are much cheaper than anywhere else I’ve seen in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam). You can find even cheaper places than this a block or more from the beach.

If you’re facing the water, the hotels on the right side of the beach are quieter than those on the left side.

a boat in the water at sunset
The water is the biggest disappointment. The ocean in front of the beach is filled with tour boats. Not fishing boats. People don’t fish here anymore. Instead, they take tourists out for island hopping.

The water is also shallow, so you need to walk quite a ways until it’s deep enough to swim. On top of that, the water is murky, so you can’t see what you’re stepping on, and there are enough rocks on the bottom to make walking an unpleasant experience. And if it’s one of those days when the current brings in the jellyfish, well, you’ll probably be one of the many unlucky who experiences their sting. I ran into 2 people who’d gotten stung swimming in this water.

If you really want to swim, you need to take a boat to White Beach (300 pesos RT (US$6)) or pay more for another beach somewhere further away (2,000 pesos minimum (US$40)).

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DAY 1: WHITE BEACH

Start your itinerary off with a nice relaxing day at White Beach–a medium-sized beach with nice thick sand and with water that’s not too deep and not too shallow at the shore–a perfect place for swimming.

Getting to White Beach: You can get to White Beach by boat or motorbike. I don’t drive a motorbike, so I took a boat. Boat rides took 20 minutes and cost 150 pesos (US$3) one-way and 300 round-trip (US$6). It’ll take you over an hour to walk to the beach.

How to find a boat to take you to White Beach: While I was walking down the beach at around 11:00 am, touts were asking people if they wanted to go to White Beach. The boat was right in front of the hotels along the beach. You’ll need to walk in the water to get onto the boat. Before getting off the boat, arrange a time for them to pick you up from White Beach. Just remember the name of your boat.

Arriving on White Beach: When I got to White Beach, I was met by a guy informing me that I needed to pay a fee of 50 pesos (US$1) to the hotel (Esmerelda Villa – US$60/night) that occupies the area in front of the beach. The 50 pesos allows you to use the hotel’s hammocks, toilets, and showers. Even if you don’t use these things, you still need to pay.
Where to eat on White Beach: There’s a restaurant at the hotel. Prices are the same as anywhere else in Port Barton: 250 – 300 pesos (US$5 – $6) for an entrée (I ordered chicken adobo) and 60 pesos (US$1.20) for a 1.5-liter bottle of water. If you buy water in a store, it costs 35 pesos.
What to do on White Beach: There’s not much to do on White Beach except lie around and relax. And that’s just fine.

Swimming is good as the water is not too shallow and not too deep. But it’s not as clear as the water is in Thailand or other beaches in the Philippines.

There are tons of hammocks all over the hotel grounds and in front of the beach. But the hammocks look more comfortable than they actually are. Don’t worry. If they’re all taken when you get there, one will open up soon.

DAY 2: ISLAND HOPPING TOUR

You’ll see signs all over Port Barton for the alphabet tours: tour A, B, C, and D. I signed up with a tour through my guesthouse (Paradiso), but the tour company was called Gilligan’s through Villa Marguerita. I paid 1,200 pesos (US$24).

To be honest, I didn’t even know which letter it was. I asked several of my fellow passengers and they all said different letters. Our guide said that they don’t do letters anymore; they just take you to the best places. We went to a combination of places where all the other tour boats went and places where no one tour boats went to.

Stop #1 – Twin Reef: Your boat and 5 others park near a reef (drop the anchor on the reef!) and snorkel around. It’s like a traffic jam. You’re always bumping into other swimmers.

Stop #2 – Exotic and Maxima Islands: Because German Island was packed with other boats, we went directly to Exotic and Maxima Islands.

Our boat and 15 others arrived here at these 2 beautiful small islands at the same time. To get from one island to the other, you cross a shallow lagoon with water that goes up to your waist and that is as clear as a glass of water and as warm as your bathtub. The sand is soft and not rocky at all. 

The crew served lunch of grilled fish, chicken adobo, eggplant, cucumbers, rice, fruit, and a lot of flies. It’s the same lunch you’ll see on all of your tours around Palawan minus the flies. 

Stop #3 – German Island: We were supposed to stop here before Exotic and Maxima Islands, but there were too many boats, so we came here afterward. There were only 2 boats here. We didn’t actually stop on the island. Instead, we went snorkeling over a reef off the coast of the island. There were 2 turtles that everyone in the boat except me saw!

By the way, it’s called German island because a German bought it and then donated it to the city of Port Barton.

Stop #4 – Fantastic Reef: We next went to another reef for more snorkeling. When we arrived on this amazingly gorgeous island, we were the only tour boat here.

Stop #5 – Pamuayan Beach: For me, THIS was the most beautiful beach I had ever seen. That is until I went on the Sibaltan Island Hopping Tour in El Nido.
The beach here is as long as the eye can see and as empty as a deserted island. The water is not warm but hot. The water is as clear as glass.

There’s one hotel on this beach. It’s a little shack called EVIO. There’s a restaurant on the beach where you can order a beer from and sit around sipping it while admiring the beauty of nature and the fact that there aren’t any other tour boats here. Then you find out that the beach is just an hour-long walk from Port Barton.

Oh, and lest I forget: there are starfish everywhere!

WARNING: I met two couples who visited the beach within 1 week of each other and both got severely bitten by sand flies. They didn’t see any flies when they were there but when they woke up the next day, they had large red welts on their back and legs from them.

Stop #6 – Old Sandbar: The last stop is at Old Sandbar, a sandbar in the middle of the ocean. I actually never knew sand bars in the middle of the ocean existed until our last stop of the tour. There were even more starfish.
starfish

DAY 3 MORNING:  PAMUAYAN WATERFALL

On the third day of your Port Barton Itinerary, you can spend the morning at Panayuan Waterfalls and then head to Panayuan Beach again in the afternoon.

Getting to the Waterfalls: You can walk, rent a motorbike, or hire a tricycle or motorbike to take you there. I chose to go on foot. From my hotel, which was at the farthest end of Port Barton’s beach and thus, the closest to the Waterfall, it took me 1 hour and 10 minutes. If you’re staying on the other end of the beach, it will take longer. You can find the Waterfall using Google Maps.

What you can do at Pamuayan Falls: You can swim in the water. It’s cool (not ice cold) but also refreshing. I’d suggest bringing some food with you so you can have a picnic. I got super hungry but hadn’t brought any food, so I went back sooner than I wanted. On the weekend, it can get crowded with locals having parties and picnics.

When I was there, there was an obnoxious drunk who was a bit handsy.

The walk back is more strenuous as it’s more uphill than downhill.

DAY 3 AFTERNOON: PAMUAYAN BEACH

After leaving Pamuayan Falls, head back to the fork in the road and take the unpaved road to Pamuayan Village. There are signs pointing the way to Pamuayan Village.

Here you’ll get to the beach that you were at the day before on your island-hopping cruise. It should take you 30 minutes to get to the beach from the waterfall.

There are just literally no people on this gorgeous beach. I don’t understand why there aren’t hotels and resorts scrambling to build on this perfect beach. I’m glad there aren’t any. 

WARNING: I met two couples who visited the beach within 1 week of each other and both got severely bitten by sand flies. They didn’t see any flies when they were there but when they woke up the next day, they had large red welts on their back and legs from them.
clear crystal water off the coast of Pamuayan Beach in Port Barton

HOW TO GET TO PORT BARTON

You can get to Port Barton easily from Puerto Princesa, Sabang, and El Nido.

Take the van and NOT the bus. Buses are non-airconditioned.

The frustrating thing is that you’ll hear that everyone paid different prices for their trip. For example, it costs between 350 and 600 pesos (US$7 – $12) to get from Puerto Princesa to Port Barton.

From Puerto Princesa to Port Barton

I traveled from Puerto Princesa to Port Barton twice. The first time I took a van from my hotel and the second time the van was from the bus station. Take these amounts and times as approximates when planning your trip.

Before Puerto Princesa, you’ll need to fly there or take a boat there from Manila. You can also fly there from Cebu. If you’re worried about getting to and from the airport in Manila, here are some great tips for getting around Manila.

COST FROM YOUR HOTEL: 400-500 pesos (US$8-$10) and van will pick you up at your hotel; just expect the van to be 30 minutes early or late picking you up, so be ready 30 minutes before pickup

COST FROM BUS STATION IN PUERTO PRINCESA: 350 pesos (US$7) from the bus station + 150 pesos (US$3) for a tricycle to the station; my van was dirtier, more cramped, and the driver was more irresponsible than the driver from the van from the hotel (he got to Port Barton in 2 hours!—it should take 2.5 to 3 hours)

DEPARTURES FROM PUERTO PRINCESA: times vary by van company – 6:00 am, 8:00 am, 10:00 am, 12:00 pm, 1:30 pm 5:00 pm; another bus company leaves every hour on the hour

DEPARTURES FROM PORT BARTON: times vary by company – 6:00 am, 8:00 am, 10:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm, and 5:00 pm; another van company leaves every hour on the hour

DURATION: 2.5 – 3 hours

VAN COMPANY: Avoid SBE Transport–their driver drove like a maniac, passing every single car on the road

From El Nido to Port Barton

COST: 600 pesos (US$12)

DEPARTURE:  8:00 am, 1:00 pm, 5:00 pm

DURATION: 4 – 5 hours

COST: 600 pesos (US$12) + 100 pesos (US$2) minimum for tricycle from hotel to bus station in Port Barton

From Port Barton to El Nido

COST: 600 pesos (US$12)

DEPARTURE: 8:00 am, 1:00 pm, 5:00 pm

DURATION: 4 – 5 hours

VAN COMPANY: Nature Island Tourist Transport Service (the driver drove very responsibly: avoid SBE Transport (insane, irresponsible drivers)

While in El Nido, make sure to do the Sibaltan Tour from Happiness Hostel. You can read about it in this article on the best island hopping tour in Palawan.

Also, check out my easy-to-follow itinerary guide for El Nido

WHERE TO STAY IN PORT BARTON

Paradiso Beach Resort: (AGODA | BOOKING.COM) I stayed at the Paradiso Beach Resort which is a misnomer since it’s NOT a resort. It’s someone’s home and they rent out 3 rooms on the top floor while a caretaker lives on the bottom floor. There’s a sort of functional kitchen where you can heat up water for coffee in the morning and a fridge/freezer that the caretaker keeps on unplugging. There’s no hot water. There’s only a fan. The bed is ok. It’s very clean. But they don’t clean your room while you’re there, so the room can get full of sand when you’re there. My biggest complaint was that there’s nowhere except the floor, bed, and one plastic chair to put your stuff. I ended up storing my stuff on my bed.

The view of the ocean is blocked by some bamboo trees. But there’s a hammock you can rest in that is overlooking the ocean.

It’s the farthest accommodations on the right-hand side past Greenview Hotel. It’s very, very quiet.

If I were to return to Port Barton, I’d probably stay in a place with a beach in front of the place like one of these places:

Greenviews Resort – I liked this place as the restaurant is good, there are rooms overlooking the ocean for US$60 and rooms farther back for US$40. The owner is a Brit who’s particular about who stays at his place, so he doesn’t advertise on booking.com.

EVIO beachfront cottages – This place is on Pamuayan Beach. You’ll need to contact the hotel directly. Here is their facebook page.

Coconut Garden Island Resort – (AGODA | BOOKING.COM) – If you’re looking for a peaceful spot, check out this resort located on its very own island.

WHERE TO EAT IN PORT BARTON

These are the places I ate at while in Port Barton:

Greenview Hotel restaurant – This place had the best food at the best price is Port Barton. I had fresh prawns (6 pieces) for 250 pesos (US$5). They also give you soup and dessert along with the main entrée. Their specialty is curry, which costs 300 pesos (US$6). They have decent breakfasts for 150 to 200 pesos (US$3 – $4) that include coffee or tea. They have wifi.

Mabuti Restaurant – If you’re looking for vegetarian food, stop by Mabuti Restauarnt – This place was quite popular when I visited. Prices for entrees are the same as anywhere else in Port Barton (250 pesos US$5). I had lumpia (spring rolls) with peanut sauce. They were filled with delicious tofu plus carrots, and what tasted like sauerkraut. They were so soggy and wet that it was difficult to eat. The sauerkraut overpowered everything else even the peanut satay sauce. SKIP THE SPRING ROLLS! Their shakshuka is supposed to be delicious. They have wifi.

Mojito’s – There were signs for this place all over Port Barton when I visited. It was also recommended to me by some other travelers. They specialize in mojitos. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the beach along muddy roads. At night, it can get really dark and the roads around it can get really deserted.

When you get there, they give you a complimentary shot of a mojito. I got the cherry flavored shot, which was delicious. They have all kinds o fruity flavors. But I ordered the house mojito, which I thought was too sweet. It cost around 295 pesos.

Their entrees are each around 350 pesos (US$7). They have rice bowls (satay sauce, teriyaki), sliders (fish (frozen), pork, beans, or chicken), and tacos. I ordered the chicken slider. It was good, but I felt that it needed some zip to it. All I could taste was the chicken and mozzarella. I couldn’t taste the garlic or the honey mustard sauce that was supposedly on it.

Milano’s – On your way to and from the bus station, stop by an Italian owned café called Milano’s. They serve Italian coffee, ice cream, sandwiches, and desserts. I had a macchiato and it was the best thing I’d drunk in the Philippines. I also had the ice cream (salted caramel and coconut), but I felt it was a bit too sweet. I was told that the owner makes his own ice cream. They have wifi.

How to get medical care in Port Barton

I don’t usually include medical care in my posts, but since I experienced it and you might as well, I thought I’d tell you what I know.

Free Health Clinic in Port Barton: There’s a free clinic next to the police station (the same road you take to get to the bus station). You can’t find it on Google Maps. I had a plugged up ear. They flushed my ear out with cold sanitized water and pretty much made the ear worse. I needed some medicine, but the person who owned the only “store” in town where you can get the medicine was gone for the day.

Where to go for health care: I went to Puerto Princesa for medical care. First, I went to the Emergency Room at Adventist Hospital, which is about as basic as the clinic in Port Barton. They didn’t have the equipment to help me so they sent me to an ENT specialist at Medical City (15 minutes away by foot), where I got excellent treatment.

 

What to Pack for Your Trip to Port Barton

Full Face Snorkel Mask

If you’re not an expert swimmer or if swimming in the ocean freaks you out like me, then get a full face snorkel mask. The first time I used one, I became a snorkeling fanatic. THIS is the best thing I bought for my trip to the Philippines.

Check price here!

Waterproof Dry Bag

A dry bag is a must have for your island hopping tour in Port Barton. Whenever you need to take a small boat in the Philippines, you’re going to get wet. You’ll either get splashed on or you’ll have to wade through water to get to and from your boat. A good quality dry bag will keep all your important stuff dry.

Check prices here!

Water Shoes

These water shoes were my secon best purchase for my trip to the Philippines. Without them, it’s easy to stub your toe or step painfully on a rock. They also don’t take up much room in your backpack. 

Check price here!

Port Barton is a great place to spend a few days. It’s quieter than El Nido and there are some beautiful beaches nearby. The biggest disappointment was the beach in front of the town. The island hopping tour was better than the ones in El Nido because the one in Port Barton took us to some really beautiful beaches.

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3 Comments

  1. Great detail! I’m not familiar with this place and I learned a lot here. Thanks!!

    Reply
  2. The medical options is a really good thing to add into destination posts. I’m glad you included it. When we were in Thailand my friend got bit by a stray dog. She had to go to a hospital to get rabies shots. The shots are given each day.. so they sent her home with a box full of rabies vaccines (no needles, so she couldn’t administer them lol) she tried bringing them on a plane, they were in a styrofoam cooler with RABIES written on the side of it… people on the plane had concerns… hahaha

    Reply
    • Thank you! I always seem to get hurt or sick while traveling overseas, and I never know where to get treated. Getting rabies while traveling overseas is my biggest fear.

      Reply

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About the Bamboo Traveler

Julie Krolak

Hi! I’m Julie, the Bamboo Traveler!  This blog is devoted to helping the inquisitive traveler explore Asia’s history and culture. On this site, you’ll find itineraries to help you plan your trip, reviews to help you make more informed decisions, lots of history and cultural information to help make your travels more meaningful, and book recommendations to help you understand a place more deeply.

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