Note: I’m behind on my blogging – again. I wrote drafts of several posts while I was travelling, but wasn’t able to post them all during the trip (limited wifi!!). These next few posts are arriving online late, but were mostly written on the road.
Getting to Port Barton was fun, (well, until it wasn’t… you can read about that in my previous Post) but being in Port Barton – that’s the real story. I found this area accidentally; I’d never heard of it until the day before setting off to get here, and it has me wondering. I wonder to myself “In this modern age of travelling with Google Maps & Instagram Influencers & Bloggers galore who have been everywhere & the Hostelworld app at my fingertips, could I REGULARLY find myself arriving in towns I’ve never heard of until I was almost there?!” Who knows, maybe! After all it’s still a huge beautiful world out there. And I guess I’ll enjoy ‘sometimes’ even if ‘regularly’ doesn’t happen.
I had been sitting around the bar at my hostel in Puerto Princesa looking for a place to stay in El Nido, and not having much luck at all. I was surprised to find that almost everywhere was already fully booked up, and I was beginning to wonder why I was spending all my time on my phone scrolling through places to stay instead of being out doing something more fun. I made a comment to that effect to a traveller next to me, and he said “Oh! You should go to Port Barton before El Nido! I just arrived from there, you’ll love it.” As it turns out, Port Barton is a tiny little town on the cusp of adventure. (In my opinion, both literally and figuratively.) The stunning beachfront with soft deep sand is so inviting, sparkling with the promise of a great day regardless of if you choose to be busy; boating or snorkelling or paddleboarding; or lazy lying on the sand or in a hammock and soaking up the sunshine. And there definitely are signs of tourism catching on. While it still can’t be found on the hostelworld app(*), there are several great options for backpackers to stay. And more being added all the time to keep up with the demand! We stayed in a couple new hostels and were really impressed with the rustic comfort and unique vibe of each place. So lets backtrack again a little so I can relive all the best times.
* At least, not found on the app as of this post. I suspect that changes before long!
Take a walk along the beachfront and you’ll see fishing boats gently jockeying for space, their anchor ropes cast out to the beach as they hope to reel in tourists now more often than fish I think. Strolling across sand and drinking in the atmosphere is up there among my favourite simple pleasures, and this place doesn’t disappoint! All along are friendly people suggesting options or activities; and yes, I know they’re hawking their businesses but it never felt pressuring or irritating (like I’ve found in some other countries). This felt more like they were suggesting an option to a friend, something I might enjoy if I felt like going, but only if I wanted. I’ve commented on this before in the Philippines and it’s true in this town as well – I got the impression that the locals were just genuinely excited to show the world how great their home is, and as a whole are not trying to just squeeze a buck out of the tourists. I recommend taking up one of those suggestions and booking an island hopping tour, as there are some incredible reefs for snorkelling here. Bright coloured fish darting around the coral, schools of silver fish like a mist passing through, giant sea turtles paddling lazily past, fat starfish settled in near sandbars, and so much more!!
When I’m not busy being deliciously un-busy at the water, I meander around to eat. Everywhere I turn I seem to find another new place serving tantalizing options, from traditional to traveller-trendy. For such a small town the options are vast. One of my favourites in Port Barton is Mojitos Restobar. It’s not on the main street, not on the beach, (though both are full of great places!) instead it’s a gentle hike up through the village and into the jungle. Less than 15 minutes of walking at a leisurely pace, following the signs they have up along the way, is rewarded with Mojitos Restaurant and Bar. I call it a “Tropical-Zen-Party Zone” which sounds like such an oxymoron but somehow still really works.
Mike and I spent a whole afternoon here, chatting with the owner and snacking on incredible fresh pub food. Sounds like another oxymoron but somehow it’s true! And of course, sampling our way through the menu of specialty mojitos. I’m partial to the passion fruit calamansi mojito…. and I’m salivating again just remembering that drink!
Back in town again, the streets transform to a night market, and it’s clearly the place to be to mix with the locals. We watched a high school basketball tournament, shopped for trinkets, and were delightfully bemused with the popup gaming stalls. Like an arcade for kids at a summer fair, but instead of tossing rings to win a plush toy these children were gambling centavos like pros! Reading this, it could sound negative and like the kids are being taken advantage of, but I never got that sense. It seemed like a safe and fun way for the kids to play with their candy allowance.
The next morning Mike and I decided a slow start with breakfast on the beach was just what was needed, and yep, we were right. I think I might have gotten a little sneak-peak of heaven with my mouthful of mango topped pancakes.
All this to say: Don’t be surprised if before long your Instagram feed is FULL of #PortBarton from the travel bloggers and Influencers. This is one spot that will be having a major moment on the tourist trail before long. It’s incredible as is, seems to have room to develop and sustain tourism, and has such a special charm that my days here will forever make me smile. You should definitely plan to be here if you’re anywhere near the Island of Palawan!