Port Barton and, more recently, San Vicente are quickly becoming popular options as a halfway stop for those visiting El Nido and Puerto Princesa. Yet another confusing location naming of the Philippines, both towns of Port Barton and San Vicente (usually referred to as just San Vicente) are located within the Municipality of San Vicente, in the province of Palawan. So be very sure where you are heading, Port Barton Town or San Vicente, before confirming your accommodation and transportation. We have heard of a few people ending up in the wrong location, and although geographically close, the two towns are actually a 2-hour drive apart! If you do accidentally end up in the wrong place, you would be better off trying to arrange a local boat to transfer you to the other, although this will depend on availability and weather as there is no scheduled service.
That being said, getting to both Port Barton and San Vicente is very easy. You will most likely be coming from either El Nido or Puerto Princesa. Our cost for the 3-hour shared air-conditioned minivan transfer from El Nido to San Vicente was 500 PHP per person. San Vicente also has a fairly new airport which opened in 2018, so now you can even fly directly here.
Which Should You Choose…
Port Barton Or San Vicente?
You will find a lot of positive information available regarding Port Barton, referring to it as similar to El Nido and Coron, but with fewer backpackers. Unfortunately and inevitably, this recent publicity has drawn many more backpackers seeking to escape the crowds and hence things are changing quickly. It was for this reason that we decided to choose the even less visited and less established town of San Vicente as our halfway stop between El Nido and Puerto Princesa. We’re not saying you’ll go wrong by choosing Port Barton, just don’t expect it to be as off the beaten track as some blogs may mention. Another point to note is that Island Hopping Tours in this area are the same, irrelevant of whether you do them from Port Barton or Poblacion San Vicente.
PORT BARTON, PALAWAN
Many refer to Port Barton as having the same beauty and charm of El Nido and Coron, but with far fewer backpackers. Although Port Barton is still very much up and coming, recent publicity has drawn many more backpackers seeking to escape the crowds, which has inevitably resulted in increased (and ongoing) development. Port Barton finally got 24-hour a day electricity around the end of 2018, and many say that the changes visible in Port Barton over just the past year are already starting to detract from its original charm.
If you’re not all that concerned about trying to escape the crowds and you prefer to have a little fun and nightlife around you, then Port Barton could be just the perfect place for you to break the otherwise long trip between El Nido and Puerto Princesa. There is plenty to do there, with the most popular activity being the Port Barton Island Hopping Tours, which will take you to some awesome snorkelling spots, incredible beaches and even the chance to swim with sea turtles. Some other activities to consider doing when in Port Barton include:
White Beach - just a short boat ride away from Port Barton, so if you are looking for a beach stay away from the crowds then this is the place to go. You can also reach the beach in about a 30-minute walk from the village beach.
Port Barton’s Main Beach - this is a great place to enjoy the sunset.
Hike to Pamuayan Falls - to reach the waterfalls, you’ll need to hike about 4kms, which takes about one and a half hours from the north of the town.
Take a boat ride and trek to Bigaho Falls - this is included in some of the Port Barton Island Hopping Tours.
SAN VICENTE, PALAWAN
Tucked away about halfway between El Nido and Puerto Princesa, San Vicente is a lesser-known little treasure for the traveller looking for something authentic and off the main tourist trail. Largely devoid of luxury comforts (for now), the sleepy little town of San Vicente goes about its daily business whether you choose to visit or not. It’s a relaxed tropical paradise for those who prefer immersing themselves in a country and culture without being pampered by facilities established solely for tourism. And let’s not forget, San Vicente boasts some of the best beaches, as well as the longest white sand beach in the whole of the Philippines! It’s no surprise then that San Vicente is being dubbed the next big thing in Palawan - so our advice would be to visit sooner rather than later, things change far too quickly these days! Don’t miss the following while in San Vicente:
Long Beach - considered to be the longest white sand beach in the Philippines (although the full length is actually made up of multiple sections of beach), this 14km stretch of picture-perfect beach is so far removed from mass tourism that it seems too good to be true. Here you can actually have the entire beach all to yourself. Just remember to pack enough water and snacks, as there is currently no infrastructure or facilities along the beach.
San Vicente Island Hopping - as with everywhere else in Palawan, the main activity to do here is Island Hopping. The same tours are run from both Port Barton and San Vicente. We chose to do “San Vicente Island Hopping Tour A” and it was a fun day out on the water. So much less crowded than the Island Hopping tours in Coron and El Nido. Prices used to be significantly cheaper, but it seems like they have now brought all prices across Palawan in line with those of Coron and El Nido. You can read all about our experience in our post on San Vicente Island Hopping.
Swim with Sea Turtles - this will most likely be included in your San Vicente Island Hopping Tour. There are two endangered species of sea turtles (known as pawikans), namely the Green Sea Turtle and the Hawksbill Turtle.
Bigaho Falls - a visit to the Bigaho Falls is included in some of the San Vicente Island Hopping Tours and you will need to hike for less than 30 minutes to reach the falls once you arrive at the beach of Bigaho.
Mangrove River Cruise At Inandeng River - tours depart from the village of New Agutaya, near the Long Beach. Or, if you prefer the DIY style, then you can rent a small boat or kayak from the New Agutaya village. You can also inquire at the San Vicente Municipal Tourism Office, where they can help you with arranging a guided river tour.
Bato ni Ningning - this popular spot is actually about 20km north of Poblacion San Vicente so you’ll need to arrange return transport from the village. In return, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree panoramic views too beautiful for words. If you have your own transportation, be sure to make your way here before or after visiting Erawan Beach. The ride takes about 45 minutes from the town of Poblacion San Vicente.
Erawan Beach - arguably the most beautiful of all the beaches along this stretch of coast. Don’t forget to make your way up to Bato ni Ningning while you are here for an amazing view of the beach.
Poblacion Food Court - right next to the Poblacion Bay Park, this is a really local food court area well worth visiting if you enjoy eating like and with the locals. We ate here most days and the food was always delicious and cheap!
San Vicente Public Market - nothing in comparison with bigger markets across Asia, but still worth taking a stroll through if you are in the area. The market is surprisingly clean and well organised by Asian standards!
Is It Worth Visiting Port Barton And San Vicente?
In our opinion, yes! If you're looking for a half-way spot between El Nido and Puerto Princesa and would like to see a little more of Palawan off the main tourist trail, then we would recommend visiting San Vicente. We would also advise you to visit before things change and it becomes too late to see this sleepy seaside town for the authentic gem of the Philippines that it currently is!
Seriously though, we realise that not everyone is looking for the same thing when travelling. So if you’re looking for a party scene, good nightlife, luxury accommodation and meals - you better look elsewhere. If you’re looking for untouched natural beauty, wanting to visit a small authentic Filipino village where the people greet friendly without trying to sell you anything and if you don’t mind eating really local food - then San Vicente is the place for you.