We arrived into Port Barton with little knowledge and few expectations. After many laborious internet searches via sluggish hostel WIFI systems, we had gathered that El Nido was the ‘place to be’ when visiting Palawan. Considering we’d flown all the way to this remote-feeling island and the long bus journey between Puerto Princessa and El Nido felt daunting, we decided to break up our journey by visiting the quieter town of Port Barton.
The town was easy to reach- we booked via Recaro transport and the minibus picked us up directly from our hostel in Puerto Princessa. Contrary to what we’d heard, the bus left on time and actually only took about 3 hrs 30 mins. It was not a comfortable journey though; be ready to get snuggled up way too close with the stranger next to you. When you arrive, you have to pay an environmental fee (50 pesos pp) and then it’s just a short wander into the town.
‘Town’. Ok, that’s already misleading…
Port Barton itself is more of a village. It consists just of two main streets and the seafront. Although the village is quaint, there are a few cafés and bars peppered among locals’ homes, as well as plenty of options for a cheap place to stay (we had pre-booked, but many pensions were advertising free rooms for the same night, so you might not need to plan ahead)
It’s what lays outside the perimeters of the village however, that makes Port Barton a ‘must’ on your Palawan itinerary…
We stayed in the aptly named Jungle Bar which was about an hour’s (risky) walk from Port Barton. Although we enjoyed our first trek via Port Baron Beach, the mangrove forest, and the outskirts of the jungle (bugs and rather large lizards galore!) there are other ways of getting there. The bar itself organises a truck that runs between Port Barton and the jungle. Alternatively, you can catch a boat from Port Barton Beach to White Beach. This option will cost between 100 and 150 pesos per person and takes around 10 minutes- totally worth it for the scenery.
From White Beach, you can walk (about 15 minutes) up to Jungle bar. Even if you don’t stay there, it’s definitely worth the journey just for a meal or an ice-cold beer. The views from up there are simply incredible; with the rich green jungle in one direction and the island filled lagoon in the other, you’ll be mesmerised. Call by in the evening and witness a stunning sunset followed by a night sky full of stars and you’ll never want to leave.
We didn’t find many organised trails through the jungle, but some locals offer tours of their village which will take you up into the hills for a day if you’re craving more jungle-y goodness.
Perhaps my favourite experience in Port Barton was the island-hopping tour. At 800 pesos we found it crazy good value for money; you get a whole day’s tour of some breath-taking places and just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, a tasty picnic lunch is included.
From White Beach (which is stunning in itself: a turquoise water and palm tree paradise) the tour took us to some great snorkelling spots, to a turtle watching point (and yes, spotting a majestic sea turtle is pretty much guaranteed), Paradise Beach (the clue’s in the name) and the beach bar (a tiny patch of sand in the middle of the lagoon where you can find some huge starfish)
The tour was definitely the best way to see these stunning places and they truly did all take my breath away. We just booked the tour through our accommodation, but any boatman will be able to give you advice on how to book.
The final highlight of our stay in Port Barton was hiking to Pamuayan Waterfall. From Port Barton village the journey up to the falls took us about an hour and a half on foot, although you can get most of the way by scooter if you prefer. The majority of the journey was a simple path, but the last bit was a bit more of a scramble- you’ll have to cross some streams so waterproof shoes are a good shout (sadly we didn’t get this memo) There is a small donation point near the falls as well, so be sure to bring some change. You can also grab a refreshment there.
When we reached the falls we were super happy that we had bothered with the trek. With a perfect jungle canopy above and greenness surrounding you, it’s as if you’ve found the inspiration for the original infinity pool. The pool at the foot of the waterfall gets deep enough to swim in so make sure you bring swimming stuff (yet another thing that slipped our mind- underwear it is!)
So, whether you’re a fan of vast green jungles, epic views, or fantastic snorkelling spots you’ll find what you’re looking for around this quiet and lesser-trodden place. Definitely worth a stop-off if you’re planning on visiting El Nido, its more touristic neighbour.