You can say San Vicente is the Philippines’ last frontier’s last frontier. If this doesn’t sound right, this report will.
Palawan’s open secret might probably be the best thing to ever happen to local tourism, and it’s not hard to see why: sustainable tourism practices are at the heart of what drives the once sleepy fishing town of San Vicente.
The teeny spotlight lit on San Vicente’s two attractions: Long Beach and Port Barton. But the fact is there are more to the town than lounging around these breathtaking shores.
Cove hop on Boayan Island
Boayan Island, the largest island off the coast of San Vicente, boasts some of the most pristine beaches in the province. Most of the beaches on Boayan are within private property, but island hoppers can stop by it. Coves like Kalipay, Evergreen, and Kambingan are great if you want a beach to yourself.
Ask your boatman to bring you to Daplac Cove, one of the more pristine beaches on Boayan Island. It’s a 300-meter cove with powdery white sand that’s a host to a few sea turtles and if the conditions are right you may spot them in your visit.
Boayan Island is about 30 minutes by boat from the San Vicente Port. St. Vincent Travel and Tours has this in their tours.
Photo Op at Bato ni Ningning
Bato ni Ningning, named after a drama series that aired on local TV in 2015, gives you a view of Erawan Beach as well as a near-360-degree view of the surrounding area.
Stand atop the rock and bust out your selfie stick to get Erawan Beach in the photo, or go down a bit from the top of the hill and have a cleaner shot of the beach.
Bato ni Ningning is a 45-minute drive from the airport, and best reached on a motorbike. Bike rental is around Php600 (USD12) per bike. Entrance to Bato ni Ningning is Php20 per person.
Bar hop in Port Barton
The crowd in San Vicente will always gravitate towards Port Barton. It’s the first area of San Vicente to be explored by tourists and a welcome alternative to those who have been to El Nido.
Two of the top bars in Port Barton are Moon Bar and Mojitos Restobar. Mojitos was once named as Palawan’s best resto-bar on TripAdvisor and is known for its nine variations on the classic mojito. Moon Bar alternately is a beachfront bar that serves smoothies, beer, wines, and cocktails with a view of San Vicente’s cotton candy-colored sunset. It’s hard to miss since it looks like a gigantic two-storey beach hut.
Drinks at Moon Bar start at Php200. Moon Bar is a five-minute walk from the center of Port Barton.
To date, there are only two waterfalls known to people who have been to San Vicente: Bigaho and Pamoayan. Bigaho Falls, a 10-minute walk from the beach where your boat will dock, is pretty accessible and often the final stop on your Port Barton Island Hopping tour. It has a small pool at the bottom of the falls for taking a leisurely dip.
Pamoayan Falls, 10 minutes by motorbike on paved and dirt roads from Port Barton beach, calls the adventurous. From the entrance, it’s a five-minute trek including wading on a creek to get to the waterfall. Compared to Bigaho, Pamoayan is more majestic in terms of size and features. Its dipping pool is larger than Bigaho too.
Bigaho and Pamoayan both have a sari-sari store where you can buy snacks and drinks, and where there’s a donation box for those who wish to donate cash.
Spend the afternoon (or the night) at Inaladelan Island
It’s a tongue-twister of a name, but Inaladelan Island (or German Island) is one of the best islands to spend a night on in San Vicente. It has tents, a 300-meter white-sand beach on one side, a small bar that serves cocktails, and a small pavilion where you can have your lunch. You’ll love the trees giving you shelter when it’s a tad too sunny. Inaladelan is often a lunch stop for island hopping tours, but we recommend actually spending a night here for you to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Less than a kilometer from its shore is where you’ll find what people visit San Vicente for: sea turtles. There’s a huge patch of seagrass below the waves that sea turtles love to graze in, and they’re more than happy to let people snorkel or swim with them while they feed. Note: This phenomenon is year-round.
Overnight stays at Inaladelan are at Php2,500 per person (minimum of two) with roundtrip transfers from either Port Barton or San Vicente, a camping tent with foam bed and pillows, dinner, and breakfast. Book at Inaladelanisland.com
Explore Port Barton’s reefs
Port Barton is home to some of the more thriving coral reefs in Palawan. The islands in Port Barton Bay like Inaladelan and Exotic have some of the clearest waters, making them a playground for snorkelers.
Some of the more popular reefs are Twin Reef and Wide Reef. Twin Reef is a shallow dive (less than 15 feet) and home to large table corals and schools of fish. It’s a small area that’s easily explored even by those who don’t dare dive beneath the waves. Wide Reef is a wider reef area, hence the name, and deeper than Twin Reef, with similar coral formations and species of fish. If you’re looking for larger schools of fish, have your boatman take you to Small Lagoon Reef, located close to Exotic Island; for and to Fantastic Reef, close to Double Island, for a look-see of green corals.
Snorkeling in Port Barton Bay is a part of the tours provided by St. Vincent Travel and Tours.
Laze on Long Beach and forget time exists
This one you can do at any of the beaches you’ll visit, but Long Beach gives you the best opportunity to enjoy a legitimately long walk on the beach or do nothing at all.
Long Beach is a 14.7-kilometer, cream-colored sandy beach that has got one of the most colorful sunsets you’d evert see. There aren’t many establishments on Long Beach yet, which means a visit this early will give you a good chance of taking those beach photos without people and manmade structures in the background.
Put on loads of insect repellent before you and within your visit to keep you from being bit by sand flies.
Watch sea turtle hatchlings go to the sea
Another unique way of enjoying a stay in San Vicente joining the locals and taking part in releasing sea turtle hatchlings on Long Beach.
Backed by a municipal ordinance, the residents (especially school kids) and officials of the three barangays that share Long Beach walk on their portion of the beach either early in the morning or late in the afternoon to look for sea turtle nests. Tourists can join in on the fun by simply walking with them or visiting Club Agutaya, where they release hatchlings within 24 hours of finding them. Turtle hatching season is from October to April.
Register for free at Club Agutaya’s front desk when you visit San Vicente to join locals in looking for sea turtle nests.
Visit Dumaran Island
It’s not exactly on every tour operator’s itinerary and it’s not exactly in San Vicente, but Dumaran Island is the definition of an unknown tourist destination in Palawan. The island is three hours away from San Vicente and will have you take dirt roads and a boat ride to get to it. It’s not a touristy place, with no proper resorts, restaurants, and other tourist establishments but it does have spots you can check out like Isla Pugon, Encantasia Island, Renambacan Island, Maruyug-ruyog Island, Calampuan Island, and the Dumaran Spanish Fort.
Tours at Dumaran Island can be arranged with either the local tourism office or Isla Pugod Eco Resort (@DumaranPalawanDiscoveryOfficialPage on Facebook).
Get there: SkyJet Airlines flies direct from Manila to San Vicente four times weekly. Motorbikes are the preferred way of getting around San Vicente, with rentals priced around Php600 (USD12) per bike.