Balabac: the Unspoiled Beauty of Palawan

Staying in my home country for vacation, wouldn’t be complete without doing a local travel destination. I used to go on my own, with family or friends but this time with a twist. I decided to join an organized tour as recommended to me by my friend and the trip was in Balabac, Palawan. Honestly, I wasn’t familiar with the place. All I know is the famous spot like El Nido and Coron but never heard of Balabac Islands from before. But when I saw all the pictures online, I was awed. Without a second thought, I joined the group. At the time I was checking Balabac Palawan, there was only a few available information on the Internet, so I took the opportunity to join a group to save money, time and for safety reason.

Balabac is a second class municipality in the province of Palawan. It is a group of islands located at the southernmost tip of Palawan. It is 50 kilometers north from Sabah, Malaysia across the Balabac Strait and lies in the Sulu Sea.

 

Getting to Balabac, Palawan

I left Manila to Puerto Princesa via Cebu Pacific early in the morning and met my travel group for the first time at Puerto Princesa airport. I was happy to know we were 12 in the group plus the trip leader. Before heading to Rio Tuba which is the gateway to Balabac, we had our lunch in the city and bought additional food for the journey. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the full travel were provided in the package. From Puerto Princesa City to Rio Tuba was about 6-7 hours by van. There is a rough road on the way, but if you are used to long travels by land, then it is okay. If you wish to do it by yourself, Rio Tuba can be reached by jeepney, bus or shuttle van which departs daily from the city. We stayed overnight in Rio Tuba,  Bataraza before starting our trip to Balabac.

 

JJAS Pension House, the place where we stayed overnight in Rio Tuba

 

The group prepping for our trip

 

We left early in Rio Tuba and traveled roughly 1.5 hrs to Bangkalan port. Balabac Palawan has 36 islands and sandbars, and the main transportation is by boat. There is no public boat that goes from one island to another as most of the locals have their own boat. A 3-hour boat ride takes a traveler to the main island of Balabac from the port. To save time, we started our island hopping right away!

 

Bangkalan Port

 

No fancy port to Balabac

 

We are so ready for the adventure.

 

Mangroves near the port

 

I was mesmerized by the beauty of each island we have visited.  Each is having their own characteristics. If you want to be with the harmony of nature, Balabac Palawan is the best place to be.  

Here are some of the islands and sandbars we visited:

Patawan

Photo Credit: Yob Red
Clear water and white sand

 

Look, I got my huge swimming pool!

 

The Pink Island

Isn’t it calm and relaxing?

 

You can always have your alone time.

 

Or a perfect getaway with friends.

 

Grainy pinkish sand

 

Blue sky, clear water, and sunbathing

 

Candaraman

Photo Credit: Yob Red

Photo Credit: Yob Red

 

 

 

We slept on the hammock for our overnight stay.

 

Angelica’s Sandbar / Anjela Sandbar

Photo Credit: Yob Red

 

Lots of sun basking.

 

The boatmen chilling!
Blending colors of the sky and the water. Such a stunning view!

 

The water is so clear. I have been to many beaches in the Philippines and out of the country, but this place is truly breathtaking! I cannot count how many times I said the word ‘WOW” in a day!

 

 

Punta Sebaring

Photo Credit: Yob Red
The finest white sand I have ever seen!
The first time I saw a stingray!

 

Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island is one of my favorite islands in Balabac. With its long stretches, powdery white sand it is just irresistible. We were lucky we were able to visit the island as it is already privately owned by one politician and it will be closed to the public soon. To when I am not sure.

The most sought island is Onuk, a private island owned by the Mayor of Balabac. Due to some misunderstandings to our operator, we weren’t able to visit the island. But even we end up not checking Onuk; I swear all other islands are worth to visit.

In mainland Balabac, we stayed in Sing and Swing Lodging House. There is no high-end resort available if you are looking for one. But the room is spacious and clean. We stayed in an air conditioned room, but there are also non-aircon room if you are on a tight budget.

 

Main town of Balabac

 

The place where we stayed

 

People are friendly. You can walk around. Habalhabal or tricycles are the main means of transportation within the island. Malaysian products are widely available due to its proximity to Sabah.

Different kind of tricycle. I find it adorable.

 

I can’t get enough of him.. so cute!

There are many beautiful places to visit in Palawan. Balabac is my first place to visit in Palawan, and until now I cannot believe I reached the most remote, isolated and one of those untouched islands in the Philippines. The whole trip was five days; two days was spend for island hopping than the rest for the transfers. The whole trip was short but was so worth it. Now I can say Balabac is enchanting more than the photos I have seen online. It was such a perfect getaway! 

Our trip leader managed the whole trip so well. We had so much laughed and fun conservations all throughout the trip. Balabac even relatively unknown is truly magnificent and hidden gem of Palawan.

 

Total Expenses: 12,700 PHP/ 255 USD/ 98 OMR

9,500 PHP /190 USD/ 73 OMR – Accommodation, rental of private boats , land transfers and food

3,200 PHP/ 64 USD/ 25 OMR  – Roundtrip airfare Manila- Puerto Princesa + terminal fee in Puerto Princesa

 

Helpful Tips and Reminders:

  1. Most of the islands are privately owned, proper coordination is a must. Join an organized tour to save money, time and have fun with other travelers. You may contact Yob Red on his Facebook account who arranges travel trips around the If you wish to go solo, research and plan well before the journey.
  2. Buy bottled water and food, probably in Puerto Princesa before the trip to Balabac.
  3. Some of the islands are 2-3 hours away apart, so be prepared to be toasted. Protect yourself from the sun. Bring lots of sunblocks, wear glasses and bring sarong /long clothes with you.
  4. Bring some personal medicines. (Paracetamol, loperamide, and medicine for motion sickness)
  5. There might be Nik Nik (sand mites) in some islands so bring long sleeves, pajama, and socks for protection. Bring insect repellants lotion. Lit a bonfire on your campsite to push away the sand mites.
  6. No ATM is available in Balabac. No establishments accept credit or debit card. It is a must to withdraw money in Puerto Princesa.
  7. Electricity is not 24/7 in the main town of Balabac. The power runs only from 4 pm until 6 am. There is no electricity at all to other islands. Bring flashlight. Bring a full charge power banks and extra batteries for your camera on your trip.
  8. This trip is not for all. It is for adventurous person. It is advisable for cowboy type of people, ready for anything. This trip has lots of sunbathing, transferring from one boat to another,  distant land and sea travel distance and camping out. You might experience heavy waves.
  9. There are phone signals and data in Balabac proper but none to other islands.
  10. If you wish to buy Malaysian products, there’s a lot in the mainland Balabac and near Bangkalan port.

Video of our Balabac Trip:

Video Credit: Yob Red

So do you want to go Balabac, Palawan? Share in the comments below.

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