Why Port Barton Is Better Than El Nido

I did not come all the way to Port Barton just so I could lie in the beach! I could that anywhere! I came here to explore and find out why a local tour guide raved about this small village. He also said that the snorkeling sites here are far way better than El Nido.

Port Barton Marine Park was established in 1998 and covers around 750 square kilometers of protected marine area. Fishing is not allowed here and there are strict regulations against reef poaching.

Upon arriving in the village, I immediately secured a boatman to take me to the nearby islands and snorkeling sites. After coming to terms with Mang Jensen Gabuco for the details of the island tour and food that we will bring, I proceeded to rest in my cottage.

The Traveling Panda
Mike Laagan at Port Barton

My second day in Port Barton started early as I prepare for the island hopping. After getting a hearty breakfast, I called Mang Jensen to inform him that we were good to go. In a little while, he showed up at my room in Ausan Beachfront Cottages and Restaurant with a big smile on his face and remarked, "Tara na sir, ok na yung pagkain natin para sa island hopping!". ("Let's go sir, I have already prepared our food for the island hopping)

It was a promising day as the weather really looked good that morning. I sat in front of the boat and let the early morning heat scorch my already burnt skin.

Preparing for Snorkeling
Preparing for Snorkeling

The boat stopped after fifteen minutes. I thought there was something wrong. Apparently we stopped at the Aquarium 1, one of the snorkeling sites for our trip. I looked down on the sea as I prepare to plunge into the calm water. I can see schools of fish swimming on top of beautiful coral reefs. Who would say that more than twenty years ago, dynamite fishing was once rampant in this part of Palawan.

There was no other boat in sight. It felt like the area was all mine to enjoy and appreciate. Mang Jensen told me that the best time to be here is in the morning when the water is still high since the area is quite shallow and not accessible during low tide.

I enjoyed the island hopping and snorkeling at El Nido. Port Barton however is a totally different experience. While the former was more commercialized, the latter has a more serene setting. The idea of swimming all alone on the sea was totally relaxing. I was like a fish in one big aquarium.

How to remove moisture from your goggles
How to remove moisture from your goggles

Next stops was Aquarium 2 and Wide Reef. Words are not enough to describe the beauty beneath me. The problem however was the moisture on my goggles. Mang Jensen took my set and brought out a toothpaste. He then applied some toothpaste in the lenses and voila, my goggles were as clear as daylight.

Wide Reef
Wide Reef

I spent the whole morning in the snorkeling sites and would only climb to the boat either when I am tired already or need to get something sweet to counter the taste of salt water. There were lots of colorful fishes and fascinating coral formations. I fancied two corals that resembled a woman's private part.

German Island
View from German Island
Boy walking along the beach of German Island
German Island

Soon enough it was time to prepare our lunch. We proceeded to German Island to get some rest and shade from the blistering summer heat. The island is private though there are no fees collected when someone docks.

I roamed around the island as Mang Jensen started to prepare our lunch. He grilled a big fish and some big squids. After a while another boat arrived. A family of five got out of the boat and smiled upon seeing me. Apparently they were vacationing from France and chose Port Barton since they wanted to go to a beach but wanted a place where there was little crowd. The family, consisting of the grandparents, their daughter and two grandchildren was a picture of bliss as they play in the powdery white sand beach.

German Island is a good place to have lunch or simply rest for a stopover. There are several huts with table and wooden planks to sit on. Several rattan hammocks are also tied to some coconut trees line up near the beach line providing tourist with a glimpse of nature's beauty.

There are also some patches of coral garden worth exploring around the island but I eventually settled in one of the hammocks and started my siesta.

Exotic Island
Exotic Island
Exotic Island

Mang Jensen woke me up so we can move to Exotic Island. There were a lot of people when we arrived in the island. It was another alternative to have lunch. Locals frequent this island especially during the summer season. A pathway made of rocks was created so one could go around the island.

Just across it was another island, which can be reached through the shallow part between them. It was also a good place to swim though I had to go far out wide to see some corals and varieties of fish.

Paradise Island
Paradise Island

From here, we proceeded to Paradise Island. Mang Jensen narrated that there used to be a small resort in this privately owned island. A caretaker and his family stays here to take care of the island. They safeguard the coral reefs from poachers and keep the beach free from garbage. The powdery white sand felt soft on my feet as I jumped from the boat. The water was crystal clear. There was no local on site maybe because there was a Php50 entrance fee. I think it was a small price to pay for keeping the island clean.

Twin Reef
Twin Reef

We did not stay long as Mang Jensen said we still have to check two more snorkeling sites, the Twin Reef and the Sanctuary. The coral reefs and varieties of fish in both were equally astonishing as those I have seen in the morning exploration. The marine life in Port Barton is really rich and fascinating.

Other islands worth exploring are Capsalay Island, the developed Double Island and Smart Island named after the telecommunications company who put up a tower here. We opted to only pass by these islands for lack of time but I hope to explore on my trip back to Port Barton. I thought a day of island hopping would be enough to explore but I was wrong.

Coconut Garden Island Resort
Coconut Garden Island Resort
Coconut Garden Island Resort Cottage
Coconut Garden Island Resort Bedroom
Coconut Garden Island Resort

Our last stop was in Coconut Garden Island Resort. It is a private island with several cottages. Electricity comes from the solar panels. The place was so peaceful and unspoiled. Crystal clear water gushes into the powdery white sand as I walk along the beach.

Aside from island hopping, the resort offers other activities including kayaking, beach volleyball, paddle boating, tropical forest hiking. The staff told me that turtles start to lay eggs on their beach starting every November while hatching season is between December to April.

On our way back to the mainland, we passed by Luli Island. It got its name from the first syllable of the words "lulubog" (sinking) and "lilitaw" (floating). This is because it disappears during high tide and appears during low tide.

Island Hopping Rates
Island Hopping Rates

Unlike El Nido, the rates at Port Barton is much cheaper. A private tour good for two people will cost Php 2,000 (without food) and can go as high as Php 2,800 for four people, which already includes food. Rates can go lower depending on your haggling skills. Make sure to ask your boatman what islands and snorkeling sites are included in the rate that both of you agreed on. The Tourist Assistance Center has a list of certified boat operators. They would be glad to help tourist secure a boat for island hopping. The rates for Bigaho Falls is usually separate from the island hopping. The solution is to ask your boatman to incorporate the trip to Bigaho in the island Hopping.

Other options include a private trip to San Vicente where you can find the 14-kilometer white sand beach. They also provide private trips to Sabang and El Nido but is quite expensive already and I do not really recommend since you will be traveling out in the open sea.

Mang Jensen Gabuco
Mang Jensen Gabuco

For island hopping activities you may contact Mang Jensen Gabuco at +63 921.626.9191.


I enjoyed the island hopping and snorkeling activities in Port Barton more than my El Nido trip. A trip here should definitely be in the list of backpackers and people who want a vacation away from the crowd.

Enjoy your stay at Port Barton and do drop a comment about your experience here.






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13 comments:

  1. Thanks to this post, bookmarking Port Barton for a future trip :) cheers

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  2. Hi mike! Thanks for this post. I'd like to ask if it's safe to travel alone in port barton? I have already booked my hotel and will be traveling on my own next month. Thanks!

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  3. Hi mike! Thanks for this post. I'd like to ask if it's safe to travel alone in port barton? I have already booked my hotel and will be traveling on my own next month. Thanks!

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    1. yes, it is very safe to travel alone in port barton. it is like el nido without the night life...

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    2. Hey Mike! I see it'so been a number of years since you've posted this blog.. do you known if Marg is still offering these tours? We are in Puerto Princessa now!

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  4. I have now an idea where to go this November. Thanks sir!

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  5. That soounds fantastic! Will be there next week and will definitely do the islands hopping too.

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  6. Thank God for your blog! I was thinking of visiting Port Barton soon... just came from El Nido and didn't have an awesome experience... thanks Mike!

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  7. seems like island hopping in Port Barton is pricies as compared to El Nido but if getting the bangka solo then it is approximately 50% cheaper. thanks

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  8. Hey Mike! I see it'so been a number of years since you've posted this blog.. do you known if Marg is still offering these tours? We are in Puerto Princessa now!

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  9. Is it expensive as a place we re looking for a cheap place to spend at least 2 weeks hoping to help the community thanks

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  10. Hi Mike! Thanks for this post. Are the contact details for Mang Jess updated. Still not in the Ph so I couldn't call his number to verify. Planning to head there later this month. Thanks a bunch. ^^

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  11. I soo agree to that - Port Barton is much better than el Nido! We liked it as it is so laid-back! And spendind the nights at the White beach...priceless! We wrote about our experience here in case you want to check out: https://www.myhammocktime.com/2017/03/14/where-to-stay-in-port-barton-must-go-in-the-philippines/ Thanks for your nice blog post!

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