Fear not, there is already 24-hour electricity in the island, so much so that the residents take in their first Fiesta (town party) with unlimited access to electric power into full use, by partying all night, blasting music that could be heard all throughout the island. For years, Port Barton in Palawan has been unknown for tourists or just a side trip as they visit the more famous El Nido or Puerto Princesa, the capital city, or even Coron. For our next “Because Traveling is What” series, we visit the relatively untraveled path that is Port Barton and discover its islands which are at par with its neighbors in its beauty but untouched by mass tourism and offers the kind of peace and calmness that, these days, are hard to find while traveling.
Port Barton Islands
Port Barton has countless of nearby islands to offer, many still relatively untouched or rarely visited by tourists. Stepping into these islands feels like being an explorer. I pick my top 5 islands to visit in Port Barton, each of which left me in awe, for real.
Top 5: Double Island
Eisenberg Rating: 1,100 out of 2,000 stars
First stop was the islands of Bongot and Marindeg, collectively known as the Double Islands and is also aptly named Turtle Island because of the well, turtles. I should mention that we had gloomy skies back then so I did not appreciate the sea that much. To my dismay, there were a dozen people snorkeling around the area where the turtles supposed to be residing but it could be much worse in El Nido. After an hour or so of searching underwater (our boatman joining the chase), we failed to see even a single turtle. But our boatman didn’t want to give up so we returned in the afternoon and finally saw some turtles. Compared to other islands in the country offering turtles (such as Apo Island in Dumaguete), this one was a bit of a let-down, but the area has a secluded feel about it, despite the presence of tourists, unlike the other islands in the country offering the same attraction.
Top 4: Exotic and Maxima Island
Eisenberg Rating: 1,400 out of 2,000 stars
Also called the Twin Islands, the amazing thing about these islands is the fact that you can walk to and from the two islands thru white sand slightly submerged in water during low tide. Just be careful with your gadgets, it might get wet (“Save the phone!” As a German friend aptly reminded me while we’re crossing to the other island). Also be careful of the ropes from the boats docked on the islands, because you might trip on them, shout out to those foreign friends who held down the ropes while we’re crossing the sea. The islands are not that large, so you could stroll around, or take awesome drone footages, with some rocky parts and some stretch of awesome white sands, while (in our case) waiting for lunch. The islands are also a good place to eat lunch with dogs casually roaming by the beach and the peace and calm it could provide due to the lack of the usual throngs of tourists.
Top 3: Paradise Island
Eisenberg Rating: 1,680 out of 2,000 stars
It feels like you’re in Survivor in this place but with amenities such as the several nipa huts and hammocks where you could sleep for a couple of minutes while breathing in the fresh air of sea water and listening to the gentle waves with no one to disturb you. This is also good especially when you didn’t get enough sleep due to the all-night party of the townsfolk. The place has mangroves on the one side and a sandbar on the other where you could walk to cross the adjacent island or go snorkeling to see the corals. It is also a good place to shoot some drone footages or to go camping, staying for the night to see the beautiful sunrise.
Top 2: Port Barton Beach and Itaytay Beach
You don’t need to go far to see some awesome sunrise and sunset, the beach in the town proper is enough to have you in awe every day. It looks like Boracay in its conception, with bars dotting the beachfront and playing music at night. You will feel safe walking at the beach at night just bring a flashlight. The main island has a long stretch of undeveloped beach and the raw beauty of it, especially during sunrise will take your breath away. Unlike any other town proper, you could definitely swim in the seafront or lie on the sand while reading a book and drinking. The town itself is not developed compared to other tourist places in the country, it feels like it is 20 years late which is a good thing to experience with its simple church, market, and houses. (Eisenberg Rating: 1,690 out of 2,000 stars)
Top 1: Sand bar Island
Eisenberg Rating: 1,700 out of 2,000 stars
One of the best islands I ever visited where I watched one of the craziest sunsets I ever witnessed. This island just appears during low tide and we went there with just a very few people so the view was not ruined. Our boat docked a few meters from the shore where we were met by hundreds (or thousands) of starfish in varying sizes which, according to our boatman, glow during nighttime, imagine what it would look like. If there is a place where you should fly your drone, this is definitely it.
The food prices here are effingly high, much higher than in Boracay where you could find cheaper places to dine in. But the good news is that there is surprisingly good food that you can try in the various bars and restaurants around the town proper. Here are my top 5 food that you should try out plus the restaurants or bars where you could find them.
Top 5: Island Tour Lunch $0 Free!
This list will not be complete without including the traditional lunch during the island tour which is typically prepared by the boat’s crew. In our case, it was a true feast with just the five of us. Our lunch included this very big fish called big mouth or something (I forgot to check the name with the tour guide), a very tasty one, freshly caught, with the hint of the sea you couldn’t possibly taste in your typical restaurants ( it was so huge we couldn’t finish it despite sharing it with the dogs by the beach). Next up is the grilled chicken which was delicious as well, it did not taste like charcoal which I really hate. There was also grilled pork which was just ok but perfect when dipped in this calamansi soy sauce typical in the Philippines. There was a salad served as well but I didn’t touch it. The favourite part of my boat companions was the fruits that they served which is just your typical melons in the country (it was yellow and they were intrigued by it), bananas (also not worth mentioning for me but they love it) and the pineapple which amazed my companions so much because it was just this whole pineapple but was really sliced and was ready to eat like some ninja sliced it in perfection. They love it because it was so sweet but for me, it was just how it usually tasted here, like all the fruits here are sweet, lucky us. (Eisenberg Rating: 1,300 out of 2,000 stars )
Top 4: Choco Mango Crepe $5 (The Beach Barn)
Eisenberg Rating: 1,310 out of 2,000 stars
This one served as my birthday cake because there was no cake whatsoever on this island. The Mango Chocolate Crepe of this restaurant by the beach called “The Beach Barn” looks like your ordinary crepe but with one difference: the mango. The sweetness of the mango jibes well with the hot chocolate poured on top of it, while the crepe was perfectly done. There might not be a birthday candle in this one but it sure hell beats having a cake for your birthday.
Top 3: Grilled Squid
with Vegetables Curry $8
(All Day Happy Bar)
The largest grilled squid I ever tried, stuffed with spices in the inside, it was so tasty I was tempted to order another one (but I didn’t, I swear). It was so large and yet I finished it in an alarmingly fast rate, that’s how good it was. It comes with a nice lemon juice to complete your dining experience. This one is from “All Day Happy Bar” (sniggers) which is technically a bar but served dinner as well. It was a bit noisy in here but the staff placed us in this obscure table where we could see everyone in the bar, it was great. This grilled squid is a bit pricey but the price range is well within the price of food in restaurants here in Port Barton. Tip: the food being served in restaurants by the beach are more expensive than those in the town proper. ( Eisenberg Rating: 1,400 out of 2,000 stars )
Top 2: Tomato Rice Pork $7 (Native Bar)
Eisenberg Rating: 1,600 out of 2,000 stars
This one deserves the top spot with the squid curry which I will discuss later, but for the purpose of order and proper numbering, I just placed this tomato pork thingy in number 2. The closest I could compare this one is the one which I tried in Hong Kong, in Happy Day inside The Peak. Check my Hong Kong food review here:
You could taste real tomatoes in the rice that they served and it was just the perfect balance of sweet and salty and everything nice (Powerpuff!). It was mixed with decently sized slices of pork ( I tried to order seafood but it was not available) and I tried it with coffee (not brewed which is sad) and it was amazingly good. The serving could be for two and I worried about my carbs intake after I finished it. It was served in this restaurant called “Native Bar” which is really a bar which serves lunch and dinner (all of the restaurants seem to be bars) and while it’s true that there are tourists groups drinking inside, you can choose a table far from them or sit beside them and try to listen to their conversation. Your choice.
Top 1: Squid Curry $6 (The Beach Barn)
Eisenberg Rating: 1,720 out of 2,000 stars
My top pick for the Port Barton food list, and one that you should definitely try. This is the best curry I have ever tasted so far with just the perfect level of creaminess and spice, I am trying to give justice to its awesome taste. The squid, sliced in just the right size, was fresh, sipping in the curry flavor. This food was mixed with various vegetables (squash, string beans, eggplant, okra and other stuff I couldn’t recall anymore), which made it taste unique. Coupled with the perfect night vibe of the beach, with the wide-open tents, the easy conversations of other diners, and the light from the lighted torches, it definitely made my stay in Port Barton memorable.
The other not so good-tasting food
I’ll just mention here the other food that I tasted on the island which was not that bad but was either boring or did not have any taste at all. First is this food everyone was raving about. I had it technically outside Port Barton, in Puerto Princesa which is the capital of Palawan, the province where Port Barton is under. My friends are raving about it so much I had to try it. True, I did not have it in this popular restaurant that they’ve suggested because it was too far and I was just killing time for my flight to Manila. I had it in this mall called Robinsons Puerto Princesa (a beautiful architecture, not your typical SM-style mall, check what I’m talking about and Google it). The Chaolong, as it is called is just your tasteless noodle soup with ordinary noodles and beef with the soup that needed soy sauce just to make the taste decent. But the view on the restaurant was amazing so it did not matter.
I also had this tasteless pasta for my birthday lunch in this place called “Gorgonzola Pizza and Pasta” which is famous for its large pasta (more on that later). The place itself is cool, with an indie vibe, and by far the largest metro-level restaurant on the island with cool wall-turned-blackboard, a whole side, for its menu. But their pasta is so tasteless you will just cry, not to mention their mango juice which surprisingly tasted like water with a yellow color and the price, for $8 including the juice? It’s criminally expensive.
Then there’s this giant pizza every tourist there was raving about. It is not that large, but larger than your standard pizza, and the taste is just fine. It’s for sharing and the price (ranging from $8 to $10) is a good one for your group.
Geek Guide Data
Immigration – If you’re coming via a direct flight (from Seoul or Taipei), you need to pass through the immigration counter upon landing, but the Q is not that long because most tourists there come from Manila. Check your visa requirement before visiting Port Barton. There’s no ASEAN lane in here which is too bad, but it is not needed because the process is quick anyway.
Transport – From Puerto Princesa International Airport you need to take a van going to Port Barton for less than 3 hours. The vans are stationed just outside the airport or you could take them in the station at the city proper where there are also buses if you prefer it. The San Vicente Airport (travel time is exactly the same) is also available but the vans outside it mostly catered to tourists going to El Nido.
There will be a stopover for a few minutes for snacks. Upon arriving you need to go register with the tourist office at the station, the card they will give you (with a $2 fee) is needed for your island tours. Getting a boat for the island tour can be arranged via your hotel or you could go to any booths in town offering the tours. The tours ranged from A to D the included islands vary or you could tell which islands you prefer to visit. The tour fee is $24 including lunch. There is also a boat which could take you to El Nido for a fee which is exactly the same as the island tour fee.
You can rent a motorbike to take you outside town to visit other places like their waterfalls and such stuff.
WiFi – Until 2018, the whole town just had electricity for 3 hours a day, but they have 24-hour electricity now. Sadly, their WiFi connection ranges from poor to passable and you need a local SIM card to take care of that WiFi signal. The funny thing is that the signal at the beach front and other islands is stronger compared in the town proper.
Shopping and English – There is not much shopping to look forward to in this place because the town is your typical simple place with a small church and a market, but you could buy souvenirs at some of the stores there. Their English, like in the other places in the Philippines, is superb so communication is not a problem, just switch your accent to U.S English if you can.
Hotel – The town of Port Borton is so small you can walk around it in no time so you don’t need a tricycle to take you to your hotel. The hotels here are not your 5-star type of hotel because the town is just beginning to catch up with the other popular destination in the country, but they have all the basic necessities that make up for a decent hotel so don’t worry.
Weather – November to May are the best months to visit the island because the rainy season in the Philippines starts from June to August. March to May typically would bring the local tourists to town but they prefer neighboring El Nido so you can still look forward to a peaceful vacation, but if you can, do visit the place before those months.