Why I prefer Port Barton to El Nido
It’s a VERY good question indeed and if I am truthful, many years ago I would have said I preferred El Nido to Port Barton but sadly all that has changed and its simply down to tourists don’t like tourists!
One of my divers recently contacted me from El Nido asking if I could help finding accommodation in Port Barton as she could not believe the hordes and hordes of tourists that were there in El Nido. I found her accommodation and she SCUBA dived with us for three days. As she was leaving I asked what she thought was the difference and she said hell versus paradise with El Nido being the former. Unfortunately for El Nido,the town has become a victim of its own success and is a classic example of what happens when thousands of tourists flock to the same spot in a town where there is no proper sewage control and no proper infrastructure.
Port Barton does not suffer from this and most buildings are exactly where they should be. If you want proof regarding the buildings on the Port Barton seafront have a look at the pictures taken below 25th March 2018.
Port Barton is part of San Vicente and there are massive plans over the next 20 years to develop the area as the Philippine’s flagship tourist destination. I have seen the amazing plans which cost around 12 million pesos. A few resorts have already been constructed along the long beach which is 14 kms from end to end. If all the plans go ahead it will surely be an impressive development. Indeed the new airport in San Vicente has recently opened and a road is being cut through from San Vicente to Port Barton putting Port Barton firmly on the map. From July 16th 2019 Sky Jet will be operating 4 flights a week from Manila to San Vicente airport and Philippine Airlines(PAL) will be offering flights from Clarke.
Funnily El Nidos Secret Lagoon is not so secret. A fellow diver told me that whilst he and his wife enjoyed El Nido he thought it was funny that when he went island hopping they were taken to Secret Lagoon where he and 700 other tourists went. He told me that in his opinion he didn’t think it was a very well kept secret! When he took a picture of the magnificent limestone formation he told me that half of the picture was covered in yellow kayaks!
When it comes to Island hopping again Port Barton scores over El Nido simply down to both the price(2019/2020 1200 php) and the fact that there are not lots and lots of boats all at the same location. If you want to checkout the island hopping here in Port Barton hop on board Santa Cools boat located on the beach in between Besaga and Villa Marguerita and speak to Rizza. I like to recommend Santa Cools for Island tours and if you are curious click on the link or take a look at the pictures below
Eating out. Port Barton is blessed with many diverse restaurants and all very different so it really depends on what you want to eat and drink. For breakfast, why not try Mabuti where the shakshuka is awesome and they make delicious homemade ice cream also.Try Olives Crib for seafood or how about amazing salads, pizza and humus then try Gorgonzola.On a budget ? Try Gacayan where a main course plus drink starts at 50 php.If you are vegetarian then again Mabuti, Imus, Gorgonzola and Mojitos are great places for you to eat.
For a really great night out with outstanding food, ambience and service from the friendliest of staff then you really can’t beat Mojitos.Try a goldfish bowl cocktail between the two of you. For food how about fish tacos, poutine, pork sliders or for the guys maybe you just want the 3 hot chicks? I dare you! Mojitos opened in 2017 and the owners Jackie and Rob have gone out of their way to make a difference within the local community. They set up a plan to help the dogs and cats of Port Barton and every few months they have arranged a neutering programme where the cats and dogs including strays are given free surgery to help keep down the ever growing population whilst also treating them for skin conditions along with an annual rabies jab.
If you are thinking of checking out Mojitos either at lunchtime or evening; please remember they love their cats and dogs and there are one or two excitable dogs there who will want to make a great fuss of you on your arrival but will not harm you in anyway.
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This is Chance one of their dogs who literally staggered in just a few weeks ago and would you believe these two pictures were taken just 6 weeks apart!Yes just 6 weeks of love and affection.
I get lots of moans about the high costs of accommodation in El Nido. Even accommodation such as dorms seems extreme.There are no palaces or 5 star hotels/resorts in Port Barton as of yet. Accommodation is mostly basic but some more middle of the road places starting to open with higher end places under development. Just opened last year and proving very popular with the young and particular the backpackers is Co Co Rico right in the middle of the town with AC dorms and fan dorms from 350 Php but don’t expect to get a lot of sleep as every evening there is a FREE bar for half an hour and free shots on the hour! Not to mention the booze cruising Island Hopping with unlimited local drinks. Oh to be young again!
In both El Nido and Port Barton you will be charged a tourist tax, El Nido charges 200 pesos and Port Barton just 50 pesos. The money apparently goes to help protect the environment but in reality I aint so sure. If you didn’t pay this tax because say your van came in late, you will need to pay this tax to allow you to do such things as island hopping or scuba diving. This can be paid at tourism arrivals at the van terminal.
There are 2, one is located at the side of the Whitehouse and I believe the other is at Acostas Petrol station. For foreign exchange try either Palawan Pawn shop or Acostas store.
As for the Nightlife in Port Barton, El Nido and Boracay are easy winners over the sleepy little Port Barton. In fact I am bold enough to say if you want nightlife stay away from Port Barton as its pretty much closed around 11 pm although there are a couple of places that stay open late such as Tres Tequila with excellent live music from 6 pm and Bar 7170 where you can sing your heart out until 2 am. For an amazing sunset drink why not try Happy Bar or Villa Marguerita.
Getting to Port Barton
Depending on where you are coming from there are lots of vans going to and from Port Barton. In peak season they go pretty much on the hour. Most popular operators are SBE and Recarro. You can find them at the airport usually in Puerto Princesa or at the San Jose Terminal in Puerto Princesa. It costs around 350 php to get from PPC to Port Barton although possibly more if you get collected from the airport or your lodgings. It takes approximately 2.½ hours to get there. From or to El Nido expect to pay around 600 php and the journey will take around 3.½ to 4 hours.
As for the diving in Port Barton and what is it like to dive with us maybe have a look at some of our reviews at the end of this article and then you can decide,
We hope to see you soon in beautiful relaxing Port Barton soon and remember we offer daily fun dives for the certified divers and dive courses for the first timers from Open Water to SSI Dive Master or maybe try it first and see if you like it! Get started here at www.divessi.com and get registered and commence the free online learning.
Martyn and the Aquaholic team