PORT BARTON AND SAN VICENTE ISLAND HOPPING TOURS
The one thing that you pretty much have to do while visiting Palawan, is an island hopping tour, or preferably many! If you prefer to try and escape the mass tourist crowds, then both Port Barton and San Vicente are great places to join a Palawan Island Hopping Tour. The biggest challenge will be choosing which one! You will find that most tour operators in both Port Barton and San Vicente all offer the same standard set of Island Hopping Packages and at the same set price. In the past, these used to be significantly cheaper than the Island Hopping Tours of El Nido and Coron, but it seems as though the tour prices have now been pretty much standardised across the whole of Palawan.
What makes the tours from San Vicente somewhat more appealing is that they appear to be more inclusive (mask, snorkel, drybag, towel, entrance fees etc). Tour prices currently vary from 1200 PHP for the standard tours to 1500 PHP for a combination tour. The tours depart from both Port Barton and San Vicente but pretty much include the same island destinations. The advantage of doing an Island Hopping Tour from either Port Barton or San Vicente is that there will most likely be only a fraction of the number of people in comparison to El Nido and Coron.
That said, we found that the scenery and destinations didn’t quite match up to those of El Nido and Coron and if you can only choose one place in Palawan to do an Island Hopping Tour, then we would rather choose El Nido or Coron. You can read more about our experience with each of them in the related posts.
These are the standard Port Barton / San Vicente Island Hopping Tour Packages:
Tour A - Maxima & Exotic Island / Paradise Island, Inaladelan Island, Turtle Sanctuary, Twin Reef, Sand Bar / Starfish Island;
Tour B - Palawan Camping, Inaladelan Island, Fantastic Reef, White Beach;
Tour C - Sand Bar / Starfish Island, Gadiano Beach, Kalipay Beach, Nipuray Beach;
Tour D - Tandan Beach, Tandan Reef, Bigaho Falls, Palawan Camping;
Be sure to clarify whether the following are included or excluded from your tour price so as not to have any surprise costs after the fact:
Collection from your accommodation in the morning
Environmental Fee (50 PHP usually excluded)
Mask and snorkel
Kayak rental (usually excluded)
No matter which tour you choose, you can expect a fantastic, fun day in the absolutely stunning scenery of Port Barton, San Vicente, Palawan and a delicious freshly cooked buffet lunch. It doesn’t really matter which agency you booked with, everybody is grouped together into the appropriate boat depending on the tour choice you made.
SAN VICENTE ISLAND HOPPING TOUR A
We chose the San Vicente Island Hopping Tour A and despite not having perfect weather, it was a fun day excursion. After doing an Island Hopping Tour in both Coron and El Nido, this experience was a little different. The great thing about it was that both our boat and the spots we visited were A LOT less busy that in El Nido and Coron. In terms of the scenery, the tour cannot really be compared to the towering limestone cliffs of El Nido or Coron. Of course, it is still beautiful, but in a most subtly tropical island sort of way. The locations themselves were also not quite as spectacular in comparison to those of El Nido and Coron, but to be fair, this may have been partially due to the windy weather which resulted in less than perfect snorkelling conditions. Overall it was a fun day excursion and although it didn’t quite live up to our Island Hopping experiences in El Nido or Coron, we would still recommend it if you have the time and money and are in the area. The spots we visited included:
Exotic and Maxima Islands
These two little islands are so close to each other and only separated by a shallow channel that you can wade through from one island to the other. This was the first stop of our tour and for some reason also our lunch stop, so we ended up spending almost 3 hours on these two islands. There’s not much to see in the surrounding water, so although we were free to snorkel it wasn’t really worthwhile. There are a few shady places to hang out and relax as well as a few peaceful beach areas to grab some sun rays.
Inaladelan Island And Turtle Sanctuary
We didn’t actually stop on Inaladelan Island, but rather in the open channel (known as Turtle Sanctuary) between this island and Marindeg Island, with the aim of snorkelling to spot sea turtles. The swell was strong and it was a rather exhausting snorkelling session! When we were just about to give up, the guides managed to spot a turtle and were very good at calling us over to see it. We managed to follow the turtle around for a while as he nibbled on coral and then came up for air amongst the eager snorkelers. We were relieved that all our hard swimming was not in vain, but we also realised that there are possibly fewer sea turtles here than one may expect! Strangely, there was not a lot of other sea life around either. If you are not set on trying to spot a turtle, then you can rather swim over to Inaladelan Island and take a picture with the Inaladelan Island sign or just relax on the beach.
Our next snorkelling spot was Twin Reef, two areas of fairly shallow reef within the deep blue. Unfortunately, the weather just wasn’t playing along and it was both windy and overcast, not the best conditions for snorkelling! But, the coral in this area was really spectacular both in terms of colour and variety. We would love to return when the sun is shining! The area is also rich with marine life and if it wasn’t for the swell, we could have easily spent hours enjoying this snorkelling area.
Starfish Island / Sandbar
Our last stop was the sandbar of Starfish Island. This small sandbar island grows and shrinks depending on the tide. We were very happy that the sun popped out just a little and we were able to put the drone up to get some drone footage. This would be an incredible place to capture if you are alone, but we were there together with the few other boats we kept seeing all day. The island apparently has hundreds of starfish of which we managed to find quite a few. They are really something special and at first glance, you may not believe that they are real as they are so picturesque!
From here we headed back through the choppy seas and hugging the gorgeous coastline towards the harbour of San Vicente. We wish the weather had been better, but all in all, it was a fun day out on the water.