In my journey of visiting all 82 provinces in my country, I have finally stumbled into my current BEST ISLAND in the Philippines — Onuk Island in Balabac Palawan. It has been a week since our visit to this majestic group of islands and up to this day I’m still stoked! So to all my readers asking for this awaited article, here is a Balabac Palawan travel guide with itinerary & budget for your future reference.
Balabac’s breathtaking and unspoiled beaches earned its nickname “the last of the last frontier” in the Philippines. Its stunning sandbars and crystal clear water will definitely guarantee tan lines as you marvel into its exquisite beauty.
Table of Contents
Understanding Balabac Palawan
To give you a bit of information, Balabac is a total of 31 islands located in the southern most part of Palawan and only about 50 kilometers North of Sabah, Malaysia. Most of its islands are privately owned by politicians and some are totally uninhabited.
The north of Palawan which are Coron and El Nico gives tourists a distinct characteristic through massive limestones and shipwrecks. Balabac islands on the other hand features more of tropical palm trees, pristine beaches, pink sand beach, powdery sand, vibrantly colored coral reef and marine life.
- The best season to visit Balabac Palawan is during the height of summer when the sun is up and the beach is at its clearest. Make sure to plan your trip during February – May for best chances of seeing the islands in its utmost majestic phase.
- Although the predominant language is Tagalog, Cuyonon is widely spoken and used all throughout Palawan, as well as Hiligaynon and other Visayan languages. Moreover, English is also widely spoken.
- Indigenous people: the Molbog people dominate the municipality of Balabac, as well as the municipality of Bataraza in the north.
- The currency used is Php and in terms of cash payments only. There are no ATM machines in Balabac so make sure to bring enough cash with you.
Frequently Asked Questions: Balabac DIY Trip
If you are planning to go to Balabac DIY way, below are few significant pre-travel guide tips you should know.
How to go to Balabac DIY way?
Step 1: Fly from Manila (MNL) to Puerto Princesa (PPS). The nearest airport to Balabac will be Puerto Princesa so make sure to book your flight to PPS.
Step 2: Ride a van from PPS airport to Rio Tuba or Buliluyan Port in the municipality of Bataraza. The travel time is 5-7 hours and will depend on which port you will choose – Rio Tuba or Buliluyan Port. If you will come from Rio Tuba the sea travel to Balabac is about 4 hours. Alternatively, if you will come from Buliluyan Port the sea travel is less than an hour to Balabac.
Moreover, the most convenient way is to book van transfers from PPS airport to Buliluyan Port (Php800.00 per way), book here or contact Sir Motet Samson at 0939-363-7676.
Step 3: From Buliluyan Port you have to register at the tourism office which is just beside Buliluyan Port Terminal. Subsequently, rent a boat to Balabac and pay the necessary fees.
Boat rental usually costs Php1,500.00 per person and per day and this only includes 2-3 islands. The rate is also subject to change depending on how many passengers there are on the same date you will rent a boat for island hopping.
Where to stay?
PUERTO PRINCESA, PALAWAN
If you have a budget on hotel rooms, I highly recommend Aziza Paradise Hotel. This is where I stayed for 4 nights, amenities includes a large lobby, swimming pool, wifi, bar and restaurant. It is also located about 2-3 minutes away from the Airport.
Hue Hotel is also one of my recommended hotels around the City. Aside from it is located 2-3 minutes away from the airport, they have lots of room availabilities, amenities like swimming pool, bar, lounge, spa, restaurant and free airport transfers too. It is also walking distance from Robinsons Mall and other restaurants.
SICSICAN ISLAND, BALABAC – KAMP MALAYA
The base camp where you can stay is in Sicsican island, Balabac. There are A-type Kubo (fan room) available for Php500.00 per person and per night. Also, there are decent comfort rooms for guests. Contact Sir Motet Sanson for reservations: 0939-363-7676.
ONUK ISLAND, BALABAC
Overnight is also allowed in Onuk Island for a rate of Php3,500.00/pax which includes fan room and a mattress. Take note that advance reservation should be done. Day tour rate in Onuk Island is still Php1,500.00 per person.
A good reason why overnight in Onuk Island is so pricey is because Onuk Island is Balabac’s pride island. It’s the most majestic island you see online about Balabac.
Where to eat?
Food can be troublesome and might even get you spending more money for DIY travelers. Especially that these are secluded islands so you have to consider the fact that there are not much low budget eateries in the islands. You can opt for paluto or bring your own packed meals.
Where to book Balabac Island Tour?
Insider tip: save yourself from all the hassle and book a packaged tour instead!
Honestly there is not much difference in the budget if you plan to go to Balabac DIY way or booking a package tour. You can find preparing for your meals a bit troublesome and hassle in the island and buying cooked meals can be pricey too! So booking a package tour is more budget-wise if you ask me.
Book your tours with Balabac Island Tour-Kamp Malaya, below are the contact details:
- Sir Motet Sanson 0939-363-7676
- Email: KampMalaya1223@gmail.com
TOUR COST : Php10,990.00 each for 4 Days & 3 Nights
-Roundtrip AC van transfer (shared) from PPS-Buliluyan
-Roundtrip boat transfers
-Full board meals
-All entrance fees
-Onuk Island day tour (add Php500.00 for overnight in Onuk)
-Accommodation (fan room/tent/kubo) add Php200.00/pax/night for AC room
-Local tour guide
–NO HIDDEN FEES!
Helpful Tips From Joan’s Footprints
- Bring your snorkeling and/or diving gears. If you don’t have one, Kamp Malaya has available mask and snorkel for rent (Php150.00 per day).
- Signal and electricity varries from different islands. For instance, Buliluyan Port in Bataraza has no signal for both Smart and Globe users. The base camp in Sicsican Island in Balabac has good signal reception and electricity. You can upload and download images just fine using mobile data. In most islands like Onuk island, the signal is weak you can only send and receive text messages.
- There are no ATM machines so make sure to bring enough cash with you.
- I highly recommend availing a tour package if you’re planning to go to Balabac. Why? The expenses between DIY trip and tour package doesn’t differ much. Yeap! You’ll just add a little extra and you’ll get a comfortable free of hassle trip to Balabac. Your meals, trip, accommodation, boat and land transfers are all arranged for you.
- Mosquito repellant is must!
- Protect the colors of the reef! Use reef safe sunscreens for your skin protection! Purchase Magwai’s reef safe sunscreen and get a 10% discount by using my code JOANA10.
Balabac Palawan Itinerary & Budget
We availed our 4 days and 3 nights Balabac Island tour with Balabac Island Tours-Kamp Malaya for Php10,990.00 each. It includes full board meals, accommodation, fees, tour guide, boat transfers and AC van transfer from PPS-Buliluyan. No hidden fees!
DAY 0: MNL-PPS
10:00PM Board a flight from MNL-PPS
Budget Tip: the tour starts at 2am on Day 1. Try to book the latest flight on Day 0 and wait at the airport (PPS) for your van transfer to Buliluyan Port. For example, I booked the 10PM flight from MNL-PPS and we arrived PPS at 11:30PM. We stayed at the lobby and waited for our van transfer, this way you can save 1 night in a hotel. But if you’re good with booking a hotel room for 1 night then you can opt for earlier flights.
DAY 1: Balabac Island Hopping
Places to visit:
-Patawan Island (dolphin-shaped sandbar)
-Sicsican Island (base camp)
2:00AM Van transfer from PPS airport to Buliluyan Port
8:00AM ETA Buliluyan Port, register, meet with your your tour guide
9:00AM Start of tour
10:30AM ETA Canimeran Island
12:00NN Lunch at Tangkahan Island
2:00PM Patawan Island
5:00PM ETA Sicsican Island base camp overnight @ Kamp Malaya
Canimeran Island has a white sand beach with a touch of pink sand. Pink sand beaches are result of red corals and this also means a healthy reef!
Our next island to visit was Tangkahan Island, there are cottages in the island and it is also a good place for lunch. Tangkahan has a really beautiful front beach so we also went swimming and snorkeling in front if it.
After eating our lunch in Tangkahan Island, we went straight to Patawan Island which is popularly known for its dolphin-shape sandbar. Although our tour guide told us that the dolphin-shape sandbar would show up most likely during low tide.
Patawan Island is also a good place for snorkeling and swimming. It has crystal clear water, stunning sandbar and a white sand beach.
Lastly we went to Sicsican Island which is the base camp for Balabac island hopping. There are A-type kubo available for Php500.00/pax/night (fan-room). The island also has decent wash rooms ideal for few nights of stay in Balabac.
DAY 2: Balabac Island Hopping
Places to visit:
-Nasubata Reef (snorkeling)
-Onuk Island overnight
9:00AM Starfish Sandbar
10:00AM Candaraman Island
12:00NN Nasubata Reef snorkeling
1:00PM Onuk Island, swim with sea turtles, kayak, snorkeling
5:00PM Sunset watching
7:00PM Dinner, socials, overnight in Onuk Island
Starfish Island reminds me of Naked Island in Siargao or White Island in Camiguin. It doesn’t have trees, just a piece of sand in the ocean. This island earned its nickname because of the starfish inhabiting the stunning sandbar.
A friendly reminder to my fellow travelers, please do not pick up the starfish. Do not touch them in any way too.
Candaraman Island is a white sand beach and it is the island in front of Sicsican Island’s base camp. It is also located just beside Starfish sandbar.
Before heading to Onuk Island, we went snorkeling and skindiving in Nasubata Reef. If you don’t have snorkeling gears with you, the tour operator has gears for rental. (Php150.00 per day)
As our boat approaches what seem to be an exquisite beauty, the little piece of island from afar is slowly getting bigger and bigger. The water is slowly turning into turquoise blue making the sea turtles more visible in the naked eye. My heart started pounding so fast and I told myself “the dream destination is finally in front of me!”
Onuk Island is by far, the best island I’ve seen in the Philippines. In its own classy way, it won my heart. Truly it is the last of the last frontier!
So we arrived here at 1PM in the afternoon and had our lunch here too. After that our group quickly marveled into its stunning sandbar, went snorkeling with the sea turtles, i flew my drone too, went swimming and kayaking and took a lot of photos!
Just as we thought everything felt so magical, here comes Mr. Sun setting right in front of us! The sunset changed the mood of the island into light orange. It felt so peaceful and calm! The water was so still and quiet that it mirrored the sky.
DAY 3: Balabac Island Hopping
Places to visit:
-Punta Sebaring island
7:00AM Breakfast at Onuk Island
11:30AM Punta Sebaring, lunch
2:30PM Canibungan Island
4:00PM Mansalangan Sandbar
5:30PM Back at Sicsican Island base camp overnight
In the morning, we went swimming and snorkeling before leaving Onuk Island. Also, the weather went gloomy from sunny since yesterday. Still, the island is so beautiful.
Punta Sebaring made quite an impression to me because of its distinct powdery sand. It made me feel like I was in Boracay.
Mansalangan sandbar looked like starfish sandbar too. Best time to go here is during low tide, in the afternoon the waves gets a little harsh and buries the sandbar.
DAY 4: PPS-MNL
6:00AM Light breakfast
7:00AM Last hoorah at Sicsican Island (snorkeling, swimming)
9:00AM Travel back to Buliluyan Port
1:00PM Van from Buliluyan to PPS
7:00PM Dinner at Kinabuch in PPS
11:00PM flight back to MNL
Sample 4 Days 3 nights Balabac Expenses
This is assuming that you are availing tour package for your Balabac Palawan trip.
- Airfare with Cebu Pacific: Php3,100.00 roundtrip
- 4 Days & 3 Nights Tour: Php10,990.00
- Additional Php500.00 for Onuk Island overnight
TOTAL EXPENSE: PHP14,590.00 / PAX
|Help me improve my Balabac Palawan Itinerary & Budget article! By commenting suggestions in the comment section below, I am very open to new ideas.
Drone shots by Milo Quinantoto & Marga Tuzon.
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