Balabac Palawan: the ultimate adventure in the Philippines

by suitcasestoriesbe
Balabac Palawan: the ultimate adventure in the Philippines

Have you ever heard about the islands of Balabac Palawan in the Philippines and always wanted to do a real island expedition? Well, be ready to add this ultimate adventure in the Philippines to your bucket list!

The last time we visited the Philippines during our world trip (Dec 2019), we finally signed up for the ultimate adventure in the Philippines, which was a 4-day island-hopping expedition to the most remote islands of Balabac Palawan.

The islands of Balabac Palawan have always been avoided by tourists due to piracy and kidnapping but have been “declared safe” for several years now. We always have been dreaming to go there so the moment we discovered we could go to Balabac Island, we couldn’t wait to explore this unspoiled piece of paradise.

We decided to write this article to share our experience about this amazing adventure in the Philippines, including tips on how to get there, where to stay, the best time to visit, our most favorite islands in Balabac Palawan, and insta-worthy photo spots. We can’t wait to share this true paradise with all of you!

WARNING: The Balabac Palawan adventure in the Philippines is not for everyone and completely different from the TAO Expeditions between El Nido en Coron.

Balabac Palawan map - The ultimate adventure in the Philippines
Save this handy map of the Philippines and Balabac in Palawan for later
Balabac Palawan Philippines
Every island in Balabac looks so pretty from above

The Balabac Island Expedition: what to expect

When we first discovered about Balabac Palawan, we were so curious to explore this place. Most people recommended us to do the island expeditions in El Nido or Coron with Tao Expeditions, but when we found out that Balabac Island was one of the most remote islands of the entire Philippines, we couldn’t wait to go and see this paradise for ourselves.

Check here for more information about the TAO Expeditions in the Philippines

We slept on the beach in a basic tent, had only a bucket shower and a bucket-flush toilet, there was no WiFi or signal at all, got bitten by hundreds of sand flies, and conquered a tropical sea storm but never felt as connected to this beautiful planet as during this amazing adventure in the Philippines!

We chilled on the most stunning white-powdery beaches, visited mind-blowing sandbars, and swam in the most crystal clear waters. This Balabac island expedition was a blast and we would go on this adventure over and over again!

Ready to read on?

Bugsuk Island Balabac Palawan-3
Our little tent on the beach
Bugsuk Island Balabac Palawan-3
Having the islands all to ourselves

First things first: is Balabac safe?

For many years, the islands of Balabac Palawan have been avoided by tourists due to piracy and kidnapping but have been declared safe for several years now. We never felt unsafe during this adventure (except during the tropical sea storm), and on Tripadvisor, you can also read reviews from other tourists where you will notice that they all felt very safe the whole trip and had such a great experience.

There are also a few other misconceptions about Babalac that shouldn’t stop you from exploring this place but you should know about:

Malaria in Balabac Palawan

Yes, it’s true that there were cases reported of Malaria in some regions of Palawan and on Balabac in the past, but NOT on the islands, you are visiting when you book the Balabac Island Adventure Expedition with Wanderwalkers. They only take you to the highlight islands where are no cases reported anymore.

FYI: We didn’t take any antimalarial medication before or during the trip and were completely fine. Just be sure to bring some good-quality mosquito repellent with you and some longer clothes to protect your arms and legs during the evening.

Saltwater crocodiles in Balabac Palawan

Yes, there are reports of saltwater crocodiles close to the mainland of Balabac Island but also NOT on the islands we have visited during the trip. The campsite on Bugsuk Island where we stayed, is almost 4-5 hours away from the mainland so you should not worry about this at all!

Visiting Balabac Island: How to go to Balabac Palawan?

When we first planned this island-hopping adventure in the Philippines, how to get to Balabac Palawan was the hardest thing to figure out. 

First of all, the best option is to fly to Puerto Princesa, which is super easy from any main airport in the Philippines like Manila (1h25min) or Cebu (1h40min). We flew from Manila to Coron one-way for $105 per person and traveled all the way to Puerto Princesa by boat and mini-van. 

Check for flights to Puerto Princesa here

From Puerto Princesa to Balabac

When you touch down in Puerto Princesa, you’ll need to go to the port of Rio Tuba by mini-van or bus to arrange a boat that will take you to Balabac Island. A few buses and vans are departing daily from 4 am-9 pm to Rio Tuba, which takes around 4-5 hours but the easiest way is to book a private or group tour with transfers included as we did.

Not only you’ll save lots of time as you’ll drive straight to Buliluyan Port, but you’ll also have a boat the same day that will bring you to the islands of Balabac Palawan. This way you’ll start this amazing island-hopping adventure in the Philippines right away.

Island hopping Philippines - Balabac Palawan
Locals welcoming us at Buliluyan Port
Island hopping Philippines - Balabac Palawan
A traditional Filipino boat "Bangkra"

Island-hopping in the Philippines: the Balabac Island Expedition

We booked our Balabac Island Expedition with Wanderwalkers, which are in our opinion the best to go with. The booking process went super smooth and we had a very friendly crew who even tried their best to cook vegan for us. There are not many tour companies offering trips to Balabac Island, but out of the few, Wanderwalkers are also having the best reviews on TripAdvisor. 

Tip: Before booking a trip to Balabac Island, make sure you know that the Balabac island expedition is a tour to the most remote islands of Palawan. This trip is not luxurious at all and planned activities can change depending on weather conditions. 

If you can leave your comfort zone behind, love some good adventure, and want to experience the real island life, then this trip is FOR YOU and you definitely should read on!

Read also: Philippines in 3-4 weeks: travel route + tips

Onok Island - Balabac Palawan
Our private boat at Onok Island

Balabac Island Expedition: private tour vs group tour

There are two options to visit Balabac Island with Wanderwalkers; by group tour or private tour.
We did the private tour, which is best for couples, families, or a group of friends who want to visit Balabac Island together and enjoy ultimate freedom.

We only shared our transfers from Puerto Princesa to Balabac Island with another family and stayed at the same campsite but we had a private boat with our own boatmen and could stay on all the islands how long we wanted. Having the time to take all our photos, enjoy all the beauty, and having almost all the islands completely to ourselves, was definitely one of the biggest highlights of the trip.

We paid 16.000 Philippine Peso (PHP) or 332 USD per person for the private 4 days/ 3 nights Balabac Island Expedition and had the following included: 

  • Return transfers from Puerto Princesa – Buliluyan Port
  • Private boat with the local boat crew
  • All meals (breakfast, lunch & dinner)
  • Entrance fees to visit the islands of Balabac
  • Beachfront campsite with a tent and mattress 
  • Use of a generator at night to charge your camera
  • Travel insurance with medical coverage

Note: we could upgrade to a shared dorm beach hut with mattresses and mosquito nets but they were fully booked by the family where we shared the transfers with. Normally it would have been 500 PHP or 10 USD per person for the entire trip, which is definitely worth it if you don’t like sleeping in a tent.

Balabac Palawan beach with banger boat
Just us and all the beauty of the Balabac Islands
Patongong Island Balabac Palawan-3
How island-hopping in Balabac looks like

How many days is enough to visit Balabac Palawan?

Depending on how much time you have to visit the Philippines and how many other islands you are planning to go to, we would say that 4 days/3 nights will be enough to visit Balabac Palawan. It’s the ideal length to see all the highlights during this adventure in the Philippines without needing to rush and still having enough time to spend on each island. 

Best time to visit Balabac Island

There are two main seasons in the Philippines; the dry season (Nov – May) and the wet season (Jun-Oct).
Although weather in Balabac Palawan is very different and unpredictable from the rest of the country>.

Balabac Island dry season: March – May
Balabac Island wet season: June – February

The best time to visit Balabac Island is during summer, which is between March and May. During these months, you’ll have the most chance of sunny weather and fewer rains or tropical storms. We went in December, which is not the best time to go to Balabac Palawan, but were very lucky we only had one heavy tropical storm during those 4 days.

The advantage of going to Balabac Island during the wet season is that you’ll have the islands to yourself but prepare for a mix of rain and sun + rough seas.

Balabac Palawan Philippines during summer
Best time to visit Balabac is between March and May

Balabac Island Expedition: our experience + day-to-day planning

Map Balabac Palawan - The ultimate adventure in the Philippines
Save this map of Balabac for later to know which islands to visit

Balabac Island: Day 1 

🚐 Puerto Princesa – Buliluyan Port (5-6h)
✔️ Patawan Island
⛺ Bugsuk Island 

On the first day of our Balabac island expedition, we got picked up at our hotel in Puerto Princesa around 2.30 am. We stopped along the way in a small local restaurant for breakfast where we had some rice with boiled vegetables. We drove with 2 mini-vans as there was a family going to Balabac Island too. 

We arrived 6 hours later in Buliluyan Port, where we waited for another hour to get picked up by a small traditional Filipino boat. Due to some problems with our boat, we needed to join the family on our first day to get to the island where we were going to sleep. 

On our way to the campsite, we first visited Patawan Island which has a super beautiful white beach and is surrounded by stunning turquoise waters. Patawan island a wonderful spot to fly your drone, taking pictures, and having a swim. If we look back on our entire Balabac adventure in the Philippines, Patawan Island was definitely one of our most favorite photo-spots.

Tip: Best place to stay before/after your Balabac trip: Hue Hotel & Resorts Puerto Princesa
Patawan Island Balabac Palawan
Patawan Island
Island hopping Philippines - Balabac Palawan
Patawan Island
Patawan Island - Balabac Palawan
Patawan Island

The campsite we stayed at was located on Bugsuk Island (Punta Sebaring), which is still undeveloped but so untouched. It’s the second biggest island in Balabac with only one campsite which is right on the beach, no hotels or lodges, and one little local shop. (but don’t expect you can really buy great food or drinks here) The campsite is run by a local family who made us feel at home and welcomed us like we were part of their family.

They have a little restaurant where they make your food as part of the tour and to shower yourself there is one big bucket filled with water and 4 bucket-flush toilets to share with the others.

When we arrived (3 pm) we got our tent, made our bed and had some drinks on the beach. The family cooked us some fresh veggies and rice for dinner and we watched an amazing sunset.

Campsite - Balabac Palawan
Aerial view from the campsite on Balabac
Sunset on Balabac Island
Sunset views on our first day

Balabac Island: Day 2 

✔️ Mansalangan Sandbar
✔️ Starfish Island
✔️ Onok Island
⛺ Bugsuk Island 

Rise and shine… We started day 2 of this amazing adventure in the Philippines with a beautiful sunrise over the ocean and had a simple breakfast with our toes in the sand. Paradise! When we were ready, there was a new boat waiting for us to leave for this exciting day of island-hopping around the islands of Balabac Palawan.

Our first stop was the beautiful Mansalangan sandbar where we enjoyed flying our drone and some swimming in the incredibly blue waters. Guys, this place is so beautiful!

Balabac Philippines Mansalangan Sandbar
Mansalangan Sandbar
Starfish Island Balabac Palawan
Starfish Island
Mansalangan Sandbar - Balabac Palawan
How beautiful is this sandbar?

After the sandbar, we stopped in the middle of the ocean at Starfish Island to swim with lots of starfishes. Definitely take your go pro or an underwater housing for your camera or phone to take some fun shots.

Onok Island was our last stop, where our boat got stuck at Roughton Reef right before we entered the island because of low tide. We felt so bad we hit the coral, but the locals here didn’t seem to care that much. The island sits on an atoll, which makes it difficult to find the entrance and it took us more than one hour to get out of the coral.

Finally, on Onok Island we had our lunch in one of the wooden houses on stilts and walked afterward around the island to catch our own coconuts. We loved taking photos here and did some snorkeling at the reef.

Onok Island is one of the main highlights when visiting the islands of Balabac Palawan, and definitely one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines too! Getting to this island is hard, but so worth it.

Onok Island Balabac Palawan
Onok Island is so photogenic
Eating fresh coconut at Onok Island - Balabac Palawan
Onok Island - Balabac
Entrance to the beautiful Onok Island

When we returned to the campsite, we got caught in the middle of a huge tropical sea storm. We had giant waves filling our boat completely with water and were so scared. Our boatmen were super stressed too, which made us think the whole time we wouldn’t survive.

When we arrived a few hours later and completely soaked, the family of the campsite was watching tv about the tropical typhoon Tisoy which entered the Philippines and evacuated more than 300,000 people. We were so happy to be back on land and felt very lucky we survived it. Let’s call it part of the adventure, right!?

Typhoon Tisoy Philippines - Balabac Island expedition
Watching the news about Typhoon Tisoy after we arrived

Balabac Palawan: Day 3 

✔️Natural Infinity Pool
✔️ Bonbon Beach (Bugsuk Island)
✔️ Punta Sebaring sandbar (Bugsuk Island)
⛺ Bugsuk Island 

On day 3, we woke up again around 6 am to catch the sunrise and the family have made us some fruits and oats for breakfast before we started our last day of island-hopping in the Philippines. We visited 3 spots all located on and near Bugsuk Island. 

The first stop was the Natural Infinity Pool, a big lagoon surrounded by a sandbank that forms a natural pool. We had a swim and enjoyed the amazing turquoise blue ocean so much that we even forgot to fly our drone here. But we probably don’t have to tell you that this place is absolutely breathtaking. 

After some swimming, we visited the white sandy beaches of Bonbon Beach which is located on Bugsuk Island. Because there were so many sand flies, we asked our boatmen to continue the trip to the next spot.

They brought us to Punta Sebaring sandbar where we chilled in the crystal clear waters and enjoyed some tanning. It’s also located on Bugsuk Island, in fact not far from the campsite, and has the most powdery fine sands. The perfect place to disconnect from everything and re-connect with our beautiful planet.

Bon Bon Beach Balabac Palawan
Bonbon Beach
Punta Sebaring sandbar Balabac Palawan
Punta Sebaring sandbar

Day 4

✔️ Patongong Island
🚐 Buliluyan Port – Puerto Princesa (5-6h)

On the last day of the Balabac island expedition, we stopped at Patongong Island which has one of the most stunning beaches of Balabac Palawan. It’s a super small island and you can literally walk around in 10 minutes. When we arrived on Patongong Island, we felt like we were back in the Maldives as that’s the only place were we saw this kind of 50 shades of blue before. Patongong Island is with it’s powdery white sandy beaches definitely one of the most beautiful places in the Balabac Islands.

Patongong Island Balabac Palawan-3
Patongong Island
Patongong Island by drone - Balabac
Patongong Island is a dream for photographers
Patongong Island - Balabac Palawan
Patongong Island

After spending a few hours or so on Patangong Island and a boat ride of 4 hours, we arrived safe and well at Buliluyan Port where our driver was waiting to pick us up and drive to Puerto Princesa.

With pain in our hearts, we said goodbye to the untouched & beautiful islands of Balabac Palawan. We jumped in the minivan and drove in 6 hours back to Puerto Princesa where we continued our trip around the Philippines.

Read also: Best places to stay in the Philippines

Extra tips on visiting Balabac Palawan

  • Take a sweater or blanket with you during the bus ride from Puerto Princesa. The locals love to put on their airconditioning at their max. 
  • Bring enough cash with you as there are no ATMs on the islands.
  • Don’t forget insect repellent and sunscreen! 
  • Prepare a small bag with just flippers, a towel, your snorkel equipment, some bikinis, and toiletries. You won’t need more on the islands. Ow, maybe add a long trouser for at night to protect yourself from the mosquitos/sand flies and a book/headphones for the long boat rides.
  • If you’re plant-based/vegan too, definitely bring some extra healthy snacks.
  • Last but not least, leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but pictures. And make memories for life!

Last words about our Balabac Island experience

If you are someone who loves secluded beaches, swimming in the most beautiful blue waters, open for some adventure in the Philippines, and looking for a place where you can totally relax, and connect with nature… please add Balabac Island in Palawan to your bucket list!

Although the travel times to get there are quite long, especially compared to the TAO expeditions in El Nido or Coron, it’s 200% worth it! 

The islands of Balabac Palawan truly offer the best beaches in the entire Philippines (if not in the world) and if you go during off-peak season you’ll have this paradise almost entirely for yourself. 

We hope we have inspired you to visit this place and please if you have any questions, drop them below or connect with us on Instagram. We’d love to tell you more about this beautiful untouched destination.

Valerie & Mik

Patawan Island - Balabac Palawan
Every island in Balabac is paradise on earth

Plan your Balabac Palawan trip with our travel resources

As you know, we love to share all our best tips and favorite places with all of you. That’s why created all these online travel guides, which are completely free. If you found this post (or anything we do) useful, we’d be grateful if you buy something through one of our affiliate links in this article. We’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you, which helps us keep our travel blog alive.

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Balabac Palawan: the ultimate adventure in the Philippines
Balabac Palawan: the ultimate adventure in the Philippines
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