2020 DIY Travel Guide to Balabac Palawan
Nestled at the southwestern and farthermost tip of Palawan is the Balabac group of islands. For those who don’t know, Balabac is a secluded area of raw paradise with turquoise waters, pristine white island beaches, beautiful flora and fauna, and a preserved culture among the locals. Read our Balabac Travel Guide below:
The remote municipality resting in the Sulu Sea is just a dot between Palawan and Sabah, Malaysia. With 31 islands and islets, Balabac is one of the places to visit if you want to experience one of the best beaches in the Philippines, particularly one in Palawan that could rival the beauty of El Nido and Coron.
In this 2020 Travel Guide to Balabac Palawan Blog, our aim is to provide helpful budget tips, DIY Travel tips, recommended hotels to stay, places to visit, sample itinerary, places to eat, and more.
Best time to visit Balabac, Palawan
As a beach destination, summer is considered as the best time to visit Balabac. The dry seasons of April and May are the best times to visit the island since the sea is perfectly calm on most days during these months.
You may also visit Balabac during the months of December to February where it is fairly good. However, these months are also the amihan season in Palawan, which can make the waves particularly rough on the beaches. Of course, you should also consider the general weather updates whenever you want to schedule your trip.
How to get to Balabac (from Manila)
Compared to other beach destinations in Palawan, Balabac is a long way from Manila. There are no direct Balabac flights yet and the fastest way is via Puerto Princesa City.
- By plane, you have to travel at least 1.5 hours from Manila to Puerto Princesa International Airport. Once you’re there, you need to spend at least 10 hours or a full day to get to Balabac.
- The first leg of your long Balabac journey is to take a trip from Puerto Princesa to Rio Tuba. From the airport, you need to ride a tricycle to get to the terminal for your journey to Rio Tuba.
- You can choose to either ride a van or bus from the San Jose Terminal in Puerto Princesa and ride for at least 4-5 hours to go to Rio Tuba.
- From Rio Tuba, you need to take a boat ride to go to Balabac island and spend another four hours on the sea.
Getting around in Balabac
Since Balabac is still a remote area, you only have three transportation options to get to where you want to go: a tricycle, a bus, or a van.
The fastest transport option is a van since it has a few stopovers to make and you usually ride one in a terminal. Of course, you have to ride a boat if you want to go island hopping since the islands and islet in Balabac are spread far apart.
Places to stay in Balabac
In case you’re too tired or it’s already late to pursue your travel from Rio Tuba to Balabac, you can opt to swing by a few places to stay for the night. Be warned that most accommodations and facilities in Balabac are pretty basic, so looking for fancy resorts or restaurants are out of the list.
Here are a few hotels that offer overnight stay with affordable fees that you can choose from:
Balabac Island Accommodation in Poblacion, Balabac
There are only two accommodations available so far in Poblacion.
JD Lodging (Sing and Swing Lodge) provides two options for lodging. You may go for their basic room with a fan or spend more when you go for a room with airconditioning priced at 1,000php.
Contact info: 0910-662-0073
Visit their FB Page
- 400php for 2pax
- 250php for 1pax
MLK Lodging provides a basic room with an electric fan and its own comfort room. This option is much cheaper than JD Lodging although the former has an airconditioned room available.
Contact info: 0939-517-6169
- 400 for 2pax
Balabac Island Accommodation in Rio Tuba
White Haven Lodge
White Haven Lodge also offers a basic room with a fan and its own comfort room for just 300php. The lodge is the best accommodation to have in Rio Tuba given its near proximity to the van terminal and the front desk also knows the boat schedule from there to Balabac.
- 300php for 2pax
Dewelyn Lodging House
Address: Brgy. Rio Tuba, Bataraza, Palawan
Offers Fully airconditioned and Ordinary Fan Rooms. They are open 24 Hours with round the clock power supply. The lodging house also offers free WIFI.
Best places to eat in Balabac
Since Balabac remains a remote community of locals, fancy restaurants are not something you’d easily find in the area. On the other hand, the island has plenty of eateries you can try that serves delicious rice meals and other dishes. The upside to this is you get to eat good meals for cheap and experience some great local dishes.
Wi-fi and Internet access
You can bring your own mobile wi-fi to Balabac for internet access. However, the internet connection in Balabac is intermittent so most of the time, it’ll be hard to establish a decent connection. Call and text functions are also available but most of the islands in Balabac don’t always have good signals.
Things to do and see in Balabac
As an island paradise, Balabac has plenty to offer for the ultimate backpacker and tourists who wish to enjoy one of the best remote islands in Palawan. Here are some things to see and do in Balabac:
Visit Balabac’s own white sand beach in Bugsuk Island
Punta Sebaring Beach rivals the White Beach of Boracay when it comes to powdery fine and blinding white sand beach. Not only that, Punta Sebaring is the Philippines’ longest white sand beach that is 3x longer than Boracay.
Go island hopping
If you have enough cash to burn and you want to experience the best of Balabac, you can go island hopping and visit interesting spots. Heres the list of must-visit islands in Balabac:
- Patawan Island
- Patonggong Island
- Bugsok/Sebaring Island
- Canibungan Island
- Candaraman Island (sand bar)
- Pulaw Bato Island (sightseeing)
- Camiaran Island (pink sand beach in Balabac)
Hop on a land tour
While the beaches of Balabac are a must-see, you shouldn’t miss out on the scenic views that the land of the islands has to offer as well. Climb the top of the Spanish-colonial Cape Melville Lighthouse and be a party to the treacherous strait between the Philippines and Malaysia.
If you enjoy mountains and trekking, there are a few trails you can go try like Melville Peak, Malaking Ilog Peak, and Italawon Peak to name a few. There are also a few historical markers you may want to check out like the old Spanish Fort located in Ulitan, Ramos Island, and Larindon Bay with its Spanish ruins.
Get the ultimate beach experience at Onuk Island
If you’re a sucker for beaches, lounging in the sun, and swimming in crystal clear waters, a visit to Onuk Island is definitely for you.
Visit the Pink Island of Camiaran
If you haven’t seen any pink sand beach ever, the Pink beach of Camiaran will make you rethink the color pink in sand beaches. The small island has one of the finest pink sand beaches in the Philippines and is also well-known for its beautiful coral gardens making it a nesting place for sea turtles.
Snorkel at Pulau Bato and Sicsican Island
If you’re one for some adventure and beautiful views underwater, the Nasubata Reef and Sicsican Island are two places you can go snorkeling and enjoy its rich marine life.
Balabac Island is home to various endemic species. It is the home of birds like the grey imperial pigeon (Ducula pickeringii), Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), blue-headed racket-tail (Prioniturus platenae), and the Palawan hornbill (Anthracoceros marchei).
Money-saving tips for your Balabac trip
Going to Balabac on a budget is very much possible. To save on costs, it’s better to travel to Balabac with your friends or family or both. A group tour is much cheaper compared to when you just go at it alone since most of the things you’ll need to enjoy your stay – like tents/hammocks, transportation, full board meals, local guides, and even insurance – will be provided for in a packaged tour.
Of course, you can also do it DIY style where you decide where you want to go and which places you want to visit. The most expensive part of going to Balabac is the island hopping where you’d need to spend at least 8000php for two days. On the other hand, you don’t have to spend that much if you’ll just visit nearby islands like Sicsican, Punta Sebaring, and Candaraman – which only costs about 2000php.
Sample Balabac Travel Itinerary and Trip Budget
To help you organize your trip, we created a sample Balabac Itinerary and travel budget:
5 days Balabac itinerary
- 8am — Arrival in Puerto Princesa Airport
- Transfer from Puerto Princesa Airport to San Jose Terminal via tricycle
- Bus / Van Ride from San Jose Terminal to Rio Tuba
- Arrival in Rio Tuba and Hotel Checkin
- Overnight in Rio Tuba
- 7am — Tricycle to Rio Tuba pier
- Balabac island hopping
- (Tour B) Visit Patawan Island, Mansalangan Island, Punta Sebaring Beach in Bugsuk Island.
- You can also visit Patongong Island and Anjela Sandbar
- Back to Hotel
- 7am — Balabac island-hopping Second Day
- (Tour A) Canabungan Island, Sicsican Island (Snorkeling site) and Candaraman Island, and Sandbar.
- You can also visit Secam Island and Camiaran Pink Sand Island
- 7am — Balabac island Land tour third day
- (Tour C) Melville Lighthouse, Nasubata Reef / Pulau Bato, and Pink Island.
- Onuk Island a.k.a Roughton Island
- Arrival in Poblacion, Balabac Island
- Check-in at Balacac accommodation
- Rest in Poblacion, Balabac Palawan
- Travel Back to Puerto Princesa
Balabac Budget and Expenses Breakdown
- Puerto Princesa Airport to San Jose Terminal tricycle — PHP100
- Puerto Princesa to Rio Tuba Fare per person – PHP450
- The boat ride from Balabac to Rio Tuba (One Way)- PHP350
Balabac Travel Tips
- Get a tour package and join group tours with other travelers instead of renting your own boat or getting a private tour.
- Bring extra cash, There are no ATM machines in Balabac Town proper and Rio Tuba.
- Always bring an emergency kit and basic medicines.
Looking for Balabac Palawan Tour Packages? Here’s a list of boat rental and tour operators that you can contact:
- SHAFARAH’S TRAVEL & TOURS SMART# 0946-2640-988 / GLOBE# 0965-1976-744 / TEL # 433-0740
- Kilometer Zero PH by Kap Andong (+63) 920 421 4583 / (+63) 926 685 9095 | Boat rental and tour operator
- Kuya Mark Anthony +63 999 470 9484 | Boat rental and tour operator
- Rombo Balabac Adventure by Kuya Renato Principe +63 929 140 3125 | Boat and tour operator
- Balabac Expedition by Fidel (FB Page) (+63) 918 2571 499 / (+63) 999 561 4998 / (+63) 995 933 3321 | Boat rental and tour operator
Source: Balabac Tourism
All in all, going to Balabac is a definite challenge for the ultimate backpacker and bakasyunista. For flashpackers, Balabac may not be worth the time and effort considering the 10+ long hours of travel time but its definitely just a normal thing for experienced adventure seekers.
Still, if you’re a fan of beautiful beaches, pristine island views, uncrowded places, and a place to rest and relax, then Balabac is a worthy place for you to try.
Have you been to Balabac, Palawan? Help us improve this 2020 Travel Guide to Balabac Blog by sharing your personal Balabac travel tips and personal recommendations.
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