If you’re looking for a nearly undiscovered paradise look no further than Port Barton, Philippines. This quiet fishing village in San Vicente on the island of Palawan checks all the boxes for a tranquil getaway.
Unlike busy and popular El Nido the tiny beach town of Port Barton has a fabulous lack of touristy lodging, bars, and commercialism. This doesn’t mean there’s nowhere decent to stay and enjoy a meal or a drink, but if you’re looking for 5-star resorts and a non-stop party atmosphere this is not the place for you.
What Port Barton does offer is unspoiled beaches, cozy accommodations, charming beach bars and the option to enjoy activities in the warm, clear water. It’s the type of place you go to relax, unplug and commune with nature. If this sounds like heaven to you read on for everything you need to know about discovering the paradise of Port Barton for yourself.
How to get to Port Barton
As this little village is not yet on the mass tourist radar it’s not the easiest place to get to. However, that is changing as more people discover its beauty which means it’s easier to reach than it used to be.
You’ll probably be arriving on Palawan Island at either El Nido to the north or Puerto Princesa to the south. Port Barton sits in between the two.
Puerto Princesa to Port Barton
Puerto Princesa is 146 km from Port Barton and most of the journey will be on a national highway. The final 25 km is on a newly built road which is somewhat of an improvement to the old dirt, pot-hole ridden one. However, don’t expect a totally smooth and easy journey. The highway is windy and hilly and the new stretch of road towards the end is not completely paved so there’s still some rough sections. Having said that it’s also a really pretty drive full of stunning scenery and scattered villages along the route.
There are three main ways to get from Puerto Princesa to Port Barton: by van, by bus or by renting a car or motorbike. Both the buses and vans leave from San Jose bus terminal in Puerto Princesa and you can take a tricycle taxi for about P100 from anywhere in town.
Travel by van is usually the first choice for transportation to Port Barton as they’re faster, air-conditioned and more comfortable than the bus. Don’t take that to mean that you’ll be riding in luxury though as they tend to fill to capacity and the seats in the back are not much fun. Operators are SBE and Recaro.
Whichever line you choose you should book in advance and double-check the departure times as they do vary seasonally.
Departs at: 7:30am, 9am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm
Travel time: 3 hours
Reservation: Call or text 09054858597/09093513037 or book online with 12Go
Departs at: 6:30am, 9:30am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 4pm
Travel time: 3 hours
Reservations: Call or text 09194455021/09951629155 or book online with 12Go
Taking the bus or Jeepney is less expensive and more of an adventure but it’s also a longer journey, there’s no AC (it’s open-air) and there’s usually only one departure daily.
Departs at: 9:00am
Travel time: 4 hours
Reservations: Not available so show up early to ensure a seat.
El Nido to Port Barton
Van is definitely the best option for traveling El Nido to Port Barton.
Departs at: 8:00am, 1:00pm
Travel time: 4.5 hours
Reservations: Call or text 09054858597/09093513037 or book online with 12Go
Departs at: 9:00am, 2:00pm
Travel time: 4.5 hours
Reservations: Book online with 12Go
There is no direct bus on this route which means you have to take a van from El Nido to Roxas and then transfer to a bus/Jeepney. This option will save you some money but will take double the time so we really don’t recommend it.
Where to stay in Port Barton
There are no large 5-star resorts in Port Barton but that’s part of the charm. Following we have listed some favorites both beachfront and in the village. You can find more options on booking sites but when you do a search put in San Vicente and then zoom into the Port Barton area.
Tip: We didn’t reserve a room in advance and just wandered around until we found a place that suited us. However, we don’t recommend that as there are limited options and as Port Barton becomes more popular it can be difficult to find decent lodging last minute. When booking a stay in Asia we always use Agoda for the best pricing and Tripadvisor for reviews.
We got lucky and found a room available at Elsa’s Cottages. Rooms are basic but comfortable and come with fans or AC. The location is perfect right on the beach and they have a nice open-air restaurant.
Check rates and availability for Elsa’s Cottages here
Ausan Beachfront Cottages
You can’t miss Ausan Beach Cottages when you walk down Itaytay beach because they have a cool treehouse cottage overlooking the sea. All rooms have fans and some also have AC although you have to pay for use and they won’t run at night since power is turned off from midnight to 7 am.
Check rates and availability for Ausun Beachfront Cottages here
Deep Moon Resort
One of the most popular choices for a beachfront stay is Deep Moon Resort. Here you’ll find spacious rooms (many with an ocean view balcony), a beach bar and restaurant and a rooftop where they hold yoga sessions.
Check rates and availability for Deep Moon Resort here
Off the beach
Santa Claus Hilltop
As the name suggests Santa Claus Hilltop sits on a hill which means great views of the area and beautiful sunsets. Plus it’s just a 5-minute walk to the beach and restaurants.
Check rates and availability for Santa Claus Hilltop here
Rubin Resort has one of the few pools on the island making it a popular option for cooling off when the power is out. All rooms have fans and electricity is on 18 hours a day which is better than many other accommodations.
Check rates and availability for Rubin Resort here
El Busero Inn
El Busero Inn is a favorite of backpackers and budget travelers. It’s conveniently located near the terminal and has a popular open-air restaurant.
Top things to do in Port Barton, Palawan
We actually did very little in Port Barton as we were looking for a few days of rest and relaxation in-between visits to Puerto Princesa and El Nido. However, if you want to do more than nap on the beach there’s enough to keep you occupied for several days.
Go island hopping
The number one thing to do in Palawan is going island hopping and Port Barton makes a great base for that. The scenery isn’t quite as spectacular as around El Nido and Coron but it’s still stunning and also less crowded and less expensive.
Tours are regulated so regardless of who you book with you’ll choose from itinerary A, B, C, D, or E. Tour A is the most popular with six stops including idyllic islands, top snorkel sites and a delicious beach lunch on one of the islands. Prices start at PHP 1,200 and tours last from about 8 am to 4 pm.
Trek to a waterfall
There are two waterfalls that you can reach by foot or motorbike: Bigaho Falls, about 13km from town, and Papawyan Falls, 4km from town. The falls aren’t overly large or amazing but they’re pretty enough to make the trip worthwhile if you have the time.
Stretch it out with beach yoga
During our time in Port Barton we saw group yoga sessions happening on the beach. We didn’t find out if there were scheduled classes but everyone was welcome to join in.
Enjoy drinks at a beach bar
Port Barton is not a big party destination however, there are quite a few funky beach bars to enjoy a few drinks. Many of them also have food and you’ll even find live music on certain nights. Our favorite spots for a refreshing libation were Hangout Beach Bar, Jambalaya Cajun Cafe, Happy Bar and Jungle Bar.
Relax on White Beach
Itaytay Beach in the village of Port Barton is nice but it doesn’t stand up to White Beach for beauty. It’s the type of tropical paradise you see in magazines with soft white sand, crystal clear water and coconut palms lining the beach.
White Beach is 4km from Port Barton and is best accessed by boat, although there is now a rough road connecting it to the village. It’s managed by the Esmeralda Villa (formerly White Beach Annex) and they charge a small fee to use the beach.
Being a tropical island it’s no surprise that diving is one of the activities available. There are two options for arranging diving: Aquaholics Dive Centre and Secret Paradise Resort & Turtle Sanctuary. Some of the top dive sites near Port Barton are Shark Point, Middle Rock, Ten Fathoms and Wilson Head.
Watch the sunset
Port Barton beach (Itaytay beach) is an ideal spot to watch the sunset, we did exactly that every night we were there and experienced some of the most spectacular colors we’ve ever seen in the sky. One night we watched from a blanket on the beach, another evening we viewed it from Hangout Beach Bar and on our third night, we watched the colorful display while eating at Jambalaya Cajun Cafe.
Try beach camping
If camping on the beach is a dream of yours then Port Barton will not disappoint. German/Inaladelan Island offers overnight camping with can be booked individually or as part of a tour. For about PHP 2,500 you will get round trip boat transportation, a tent with bedding plus breakfast and lunch.
Kayak to an island
The water off of Port Barton is generally calm and smooth making it a perfect place to kayak. It’s also pretty easy to kayak to some of the neighboring islands. You can kayak to White Beach in under an hour and to other spots like Starfish Island in a matter of minutes.
Kayaks can be rented by the hour, half-day and full-day at spots along the beach or at many of the accommodations.
Top Tips for Port Barton
- Bring cash as there are only two ATMs in Port Barton and they do run out of money sometimes plus many places do not accept credit cards.
- Power and water are shut off in many lodgings for several hours a day so make sure you know the schedule when you check-in. *Update: Electricity is now on 24/7 although there are occasional outages.
- WiFi is limited so be prepared to unplug for most of your time in Port Barton. Is this such a bad thing?
- There’s an Eco-fee which varies depending on your length of stay. Unless you plan to visit Port Barton for more than 10 days in the year you’ll need to have about PHP 50 cash for the fee.
- For the most part, noise is a non-issue in Port Barton due to the lack of mass tourism and commercialization. However, there are roosters to wake you in the early hours and some of the accommodations have beach bars that can get a bit loud in the evenings.
- Shops are limited so it’s best to bring what you need. We definitely recommend bringing sunscreen, bug spray, medications, a dry bag, and beach towels.
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Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.