Port Barton is a quieter, smaller, and more laid-back version of El Nido. The activities you can do here are very similar to those in El Nido (but for about half the price), including for example Tours lettered A through D, kayak rentals, etc.
Port Barton doesn't usually attract luxury seeking, status vacationers. Instead, it has become a popular choice for budget backpackers and other adventurous international travellers, who appreciate and enjoy the rural, relaxed atmosphere and natural beauty that this quiet and peaceful beachside village, on the edge of the rainforest, has to offer.
Fortunately, Port Barton is not as popular or progressively developed as Boracay or Puerto Galera. Therefore, it does not attract bus loads of domestic tourists. Also, due to its remote location Port Barton does not suffer from hordes of photo snapping, day trippers, as does the more accessible, touristic Sabang, or the more promoted El Nido with its airport. Much of the road to Port Barton has been paved, though considerable stretches are still unpaved, which can mean very slow travel times especially if you're on a jeepney. There are now regular van services between Puerto Princesa and Port Barton.
Port Barton is comparatively unspoiled and somewhat unsophisticated, and that’s exactly what seems to make it an attractive destination. Only recently has construction of a paved, concreted road into Port Barton gotten priority. There is very little public transport shuttling to and from the village, just a couple of jeepney and bus trips daily. (There is no road going to San Vicente as shown on many maps.) The houses along the beach have turned into small resorts or restaurants but the interior of the village is still mostly untouched.
There is no electricity, except from 17:30 until midnight. There are no banks or ATMs. There are no doctors or hospitals. There is a small medical centre.There are no five star hotels. Many places are now enticing tourist with longer suplies of electricity, along with free internet and hot showers.
The community was built on fishing and offshore pearl-farming, although tourism has gradually (since the early 1990s) taken over as the primary source of income. Increasingly, outsiders are moving into Port Barton to set up small businesses that can cater to tourists. Farmers can be seen walking their buffalos to their fields, children in school uniforms walking the 2-3 blocks to school, older teens playing in the basketball courts, and fishermen untangling their nets on the beach.
Coming from El Nido you can take a bus to Roxas and catch the jeepney that departs from there at 12:00 or go until the junction passed Roxas and get the jeepney from Puerto Princesa (if you arrive in time) or hire a motorcycle to take you the rest of the way to Port Barton.
There are now several direct vans going between El Nido and Port Barton each day. The price varies depending on who you book through so ask around - in Jan 2016, prices were either 600P, 650P, 700P, or 800P. So ask around to get the best price. But the cheapest way to get from El Nido to Port Barton is to take a bus to Roxas (P100), then take the 12pm jeepney from Roxas to Port Barton (P150). In Jan 2016, I caught the 8am bus from El Nido (at the bus station opposite the Corong Corong market - there are frequent buses), got to Roxas at around 11am, and got the 12pm jeepney (there is just this one jeepney per day). Schedules in the Philippines are mere loose guides; buses and jeepneys can leave very early or very late, so best to be early rather than late.
There are now at least two companies running direct van services running back and forth between Puerto Princesa and Port Barton (Puerto -> PB ₱300, PB -> Puerto ₱350). Pickup/dropoff is at the San Jose bus station about 7km north of Rizal Ave in Puerto Princesa proper. Multiple (4) travel times each day - in Jan 2016, the latest travel time was 4pm. However these services may not run during the low season.
You could also rent a vehicle with driver from the airport.
Travel time from Puerto Princesa by standard bus is approx. 4 hours, and costs ₱200 (Feb 16) per person. Look for a standard size lime green bus. The St Jose terminal can be confusing as it's made up of 3 or so terminal buildings so if you can't see the bus or are greeted with confusion look around the other terminals. The direct van is ₱350 (Feb 2016) however this price can be flexible if they know you are aware of the cheaper bus option. It takes about 3 hours (if the driver is driving like a madman which they usually are it can be even 2.5 hours). The bus (P200 option) has no air con and is a little bumpy though a great culture experience where as the vans are air con'ed, carry less people and stop less often. They are modern white vans with tinted windows.
At the moment (mid-2015) the road from Roxas to Port Barton is 80% paved, and the construction is progressing well. The sections that are still under construction can get muddy and very slippery in the rains.
From both El Nido and Sabang there are daily boats going to Port Barton and you can also hire your own boat. Especially in the rainy season it might be necessary to hire a boat, since there are not many travellers around at that time.
The village is so small that walking is the only feasible option. Going to the nearby islands you can hire a boat or in the high-season, join organized trips.
The main attraction is the beach, the nearby islands and the corals.
Nearby are numerous islands with spectacular beaches, rainforest and very good snorkeling. You can arrange a boat with a local boatman but mostly he will price at the official tourist rate of ₱700 per passenger for a day trip including a lunch with grilled fish and rice and vegetables. So you can deal straight with the boatman's association which has an office on the beach.
There are 2 dive schools.
One's called 'Aquaholics' run by Keith Dudley and located in the middle of the beach next to summer homes. This diving center has a highly recommended diving instructor named Martyn who has been diving for more than 33 years and is also a level one qualified SSI Free Diving Instructor and swimming teacher +639199916282(Smart). Martyn can teach you to dive and take you through speciality courses such as Wreck and Deep diving. Aquaholics also has a dive shop near the airport in Puerto Princesa and can arrange diving, transport and accommodation. Annie runs the Aquaholic shop in Puerto Princesa and can also help with transport to Port Barton.
The other dive school is 'Easy Dive' at the southern end of the beach run by Doris Hufnagel and assisted by the recently employed local diver named Benny.
They both run diving courses and fun dives. For fun diving and diving courses Port Barton is superb, with great coral and marine life, not to mention some wrecks, within easy striking distance.
There is also limited trekking in the rainforests around Port Barton. At the northern end of the beach there is a small path leading to a waterfall (about 4.2km each way) where you can swim in the cool water. Begin your hike north of Greenview resort along the beach. (You will see a clear path going into the jungle starting a few meters beyond Greenview). You will quickly pass by a small graveyard, and later you will get to a junction: take the right path. (As a general rule, whenever you reach a fork, proceed along the right. ) After 15 minutes on this path, you will reach the junction going to Pamuayan village and Pamuayan waterfalls: just follow the signs for the final 50 minutes walk to the cool waterfalls. A simple shed near the waterfalls serves as a rest area with benches and a table.
There are a couple of second-hand bookstores in town that are pretty basic (small home with stacks of books) but perfect if you're in need of something to read. One is along Bonifacio street towards the north end of town, at the small house of an Australian man. There is also another bookstore in that area, but located closer to the beach.
San Vicente is a larger town that you can visit by boat. A local boat leaves Port Barton daily in the morning at about 8am and costs ₱150 (single trip) look for the Magdalena boat organized by an amazing boatwoman called Dahling, near El Busero.
If you make some friends you can go to the karaoke place (called "7170") up the road. They have a huge selection of songs.
Port Barton has very limited shopping options, although a couple of souvenir shops have popped up.
Even compared to El Nido, bottled water is expensive (40P for 1.5L, 110P for 6L). So is laundry (100P per kilo!).
There are no banks or ATMs in Port Barton or San Vicente. There are only ATMs in Puerto Princesa and El Nido, so it may also be wise to bring extra cash with you. Very few businesses accept credit card payments.
Whist ATMs are scarce, it is possible to send yourself money online and pick it up locally in Palawan Pawnshop which is located in Port Barton. The process of sending money starts with registration on WorldRemit website. Then you send money from your country to Philippines, Palawan. You select cash collection in Palawan and proceed to the point when you get a confirmation email and an id of the transaction. After that you need to go to Pawnshop (very close to the beach and the place where vans stop), fill in a 'receive money' form (you need your passport and id of the transaction) and you can get cash in about 1 hour.
The Petron gas station near the sea in Roxas will give cash against a credit card - 6% service charge.
Many restaurants (including resorts) along the tourist strip of the beach offer great food for ₱150-300. Most places offer English breakfasts as well, such as pancakes. Some restaurants have begun to specialize, e.g. Japanese dishes at Deep Gold resort, Cajun dishes at Jambalaya.
In the village you can find a few basic outlets offering Filipino food.
For cheap ₱15 instant coffee (e.g. Kopiko brown), try Bamboo House or any of the other small "sari sari" stores in the village.
Port Barton is a place to relax and do nothing, and is definitely not known for its nightlife. You can grab a beer in the few beach-side restaurants and some of them also offer liquor and wine. Kusinero del barrio restobar has a happy hour every day.
If you make friends with locals, they can take you to a karaoke bar located a couple of hundred meters up the street leading out of the village. The bar continues to run on a generator after the power cuts off at midnight—as long as people keep on ordering drinks.
Note: When you arrive in Port Barton, expect to be approached by touts, who may try to recommend a place they know. They get paid a commission by the resort/hotel, which may discreetly pass this expense over to you by bumping up your daily rent.
When you arrive, you can simply leave your luggage at the Tourist Assistance Centre, while you comfortably wander around looking for somewhere to crash. But they will charge you a "Eco tax" of 50PHP... (You can also choose to go to Jambalaya Café, which has a dedicated space for "free backpack storage". They offer an unbiased ‘Accommodation Guide’ and other tips, although the guide may not always be up to date. The food there may be on the expensive side but, graciously, the cafe does not oblige you to dine there.)
On the beach there are about a dozen places to stay, all offering cottages of various quality and price. Just show up at the beach and pick one that pleases you.
There are also a few resorts on the nearby islands, Secret Paradise Resort, Coconut Garden Island Resort and Blue Cove Island Resort.
High season is generally from December to May, it’s mostly very busy in January and February, during this time it is advisable to book a room in advance.
The quietest time to visit Port Barton would be July, August or September, you will find many discounted rooms available.
It is never advisable to leave your money or valuables in any unattended room, best to ask the management at reception about the safe keeping of valuables etc.
If you want to ensure a good night's sleep, earplugs are a good idea! Street dogs may keep you awake at night, and roosters may wake you up really early!
It's good to ask for a discount if you plan to stay for a week or longer.
If you are staying in the Philippines for a little longer, consider buying a prepaid 3G SIM with unlimited data. It is usually your most reliable access to the Internet—especially in Port Barton. There are two mobile phone companies operating within the Port Barton area, Globe and Smart. You can buy a cheap SIM card there. Globe seems more popular due to a stronger signal, but the phone signal can disappear for hours!
Most hotels and their restaurants now offer Wi-Fi (through a 3G router) as long as they have electricity. Check with your hotel if they do, and if they have a generator.
There is a good Internet/Gaming cafe next to the elementary school, where the road to Roxas begins. ₱50/hr.
Plenty of other places offer Wi-Fi as well, such as the Ballesteros General Store (right next to the Tourist Information Center). Aquaholics dive centre has free Wi-Fi for divers.
Port Barton has no land-line phones.
There are one or two daily van trips that go direct to Puerto Princesa (₱350) or El Nido.
For cheaper options, there are two Jeepneys that leave Port Barton everyday.
One goes south to Puerto Princesa, it leaves at 9am approx, the journey takes about 5 hours and costs ₱200, you may be expected to pay a little more if you have large luggage. Sometimes the Jeepney stops halfway for a C.R. toilet break at a rather basic canteen on the highway.
The other Jeepney goes northbound to Roxas (pronounced Roh-Hass) it leaves at c. 08:00, takes about 1.5 to 2 hours and costs ₱150 to Roxas, possibly extra if you have heavy luggage.
There is no direct Bus or Jeepney to El Nido. Get the Jeepney that goes to Roxas, simply inform the driver you want to be dropped off for the El Nido bus, just before Roxas on the main highway, where the El Nido bound bus will pick you up sooner or later. It is probably more straightforward to get dropped off at the Roxas terminal where buses (both air-con and non air-con) depart for El Nido regularly. The AC bus from Roxas to El Nido costs ₱180.
If you can afford the luxury, there are also boats mainly going to El Nido, and also to Sabang. Costs and times of travel vary, depending on how many passengers etc. It may seem expensive, but understandably fuel costs have risen here too.
Ask at the Greenviews Resort, or at the Port Barton Tourist Assistance Centre for more info. Beware of being over-charged, and make sure the boat is safe, not too loud, and properly licensed to travel to your intended destination. To avoid possible misunderstandings about costs, etc, it's always advantageous to pay for your trip (not in advance), but when you arrive safely at your destination.