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Have you heard about the Islands of Balabac in the Philippines? It’s like an undiscovered gem waiting to be found, and I have the ultimate adventure for your bucket list!

I went on a four-day island-hopping trip to Balabac in December 2019 as part of my world trip. It was initially believed to be unsafe, therefore travellers avoided it, but now that it has been deemed safe, it is the ideal moment to explore this hidden gem in the Philippines.

With a lot of excitement, I will share this unique bucket list experience in this article, which includes recommendations on how to get there, where to stay, the best time to visit, my favourite islands, and the finest places for Instagram-worthy photographs.

Get ready to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

TIP: Compared to the TAO Expeditions between El Nido and Coron, this journey is not a typical travel experience. I would recommend joining a TAO Expedition first if you are not familiar with off-the-beaten-path adventures.

READ ALSO: The perfect itinerary for the Philippines in 3 weeks

Balabac Palawan: The perfect 4-day adventure in the Philippines

The Balabac Island Expedition: what to expect?

When I heard about Balabac Palawan for the first time, I had to go check it out. Although most people told me about TAO Expeditions’ island trips to El Nido or Coron, I really wanted to see Balabac Island for myself after hearing that it is one of the most remote places in the Philippines.

Expect sleeping in a simple camping tent on the beach, a bucket-flush toilet, cold bucket showers and no connections or WIFI. What do you get in return? The most stunning sunsets, idyllic islands that are uninhabited, breathtaking snorkelling adventures and spending time with local families.

This unique experience will bring you closer to our magnificent world.

TIP: If you want to experience an awesome expedition where you can meet many other travellers and like-minded people, I would suggest checking out TAO Expeditions

Balabac Palawan: The perfect 4-day adventure in the Philippines
Balabac Palawan: The perfect 4-day adventure in the Philippines

Things to know before you go to Balabac

Is Balabac safe to visit?

Although piracy and kidnapping were once reasons why tourists stayed away from this region in the Philippines, the islands are now been deemed safe to visit for a number of years.

With the exception of a wild tropical storm, I felt absolutely safe throughout our journey. On TripAdvisor, you may read reviews written by other travellers who have also had wonderful and risk-free experiences.


On the islands you’ll be visiting during your adventure with Wanderwalkers, there have been no reported cases of malaria, although there have been in other regions of Palawan and Balabac in the past. Where there have been no reported cases recently, they remain on the highlighted islands.

To let you know, I was fine even though I didn’t take any malaria medicines. Do not forget to bring good bug spray and longer clothes for the night.

Crocodiles in Balabac

According to reports, saltwater crocs live near the mainland, not on the islands I visited on this trip. The campground on Bugsuk Island is about 4 to 5 hours from the shore, so don’t worry about that!

How many days do you need for this journey?

Plan to spend 4 days and 3 nights in Balabac. You’ll have enough time in these days to enjoy all the best parts of this trip without feeling rushed. It’s the perfect length of time to make the most of each island and all the amazing things they have to offer.

Balabac Island
Balabac Island

Essentials for your adventure in the Philippines

  • Take a sweater or blanket for the bus ride from Puerto Princesa; they love cranking up the air conditioning.
  • Bring enough cash; there are no ATMs on the islands. I used my Wise Card to get money in Puerto Princesa.
  • Don’t forget insect repellent and sunscreen!
  • Pack a small bag with essentials: flippers, a towel, snorkel equipment, bikinis, toiletries, and maybe a long trouser for nights to protect from mosquitoes/sand flies. Also, bring a book or headphones for long boat rides.
  • If you’re plant-based/vegan, pack some extra healthy snacks.
  • Lastly, leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, and make memories for life!
Balabac Island

How to get to Balabac?

The hardest part of planning this trip to Balabac Island in Palawan was working out how to get there.

After arriving in the Philippines, you can either take a domestic flight from Manila or Cebu to Puerto Princesa in Palawan. From there, it takes about 5 hours by minivan to get to Rio Tuba in the southern part of Palawan.

Once you arrive in Rio Tuba, you’ll have to negotiate with the locals to take you to the islands of Balabac, which takes another 5 hours by boat.

However, this was too time-consuming for me so I decided to go with WanderWalkers, which is an organised trip but without a real guide. You have the freedom to explore and make your own itinerary with the local family.

I slept on the main Island of Balabac with a host family, who also took care of making meals, providing fruits and boat trips to the Islands I wanted to explore.

Once I arrived at Palawan, a minivan picked me up and took me directly from Puerto Princesa to Balabac. Well, to the port of Buliluyan Port in the South of Palawan, where a boat was waiting to transfer us to the islands.

Compared to the route via Rio Tuba, the boat ride from Buliluyan Port is considerably smoother and shorter and you’ll explore also some of the most gorgeous sand bars and islands along the way, where you may have your packed lunch on the beach.

Patawan Island

Map of Balabac

Below you can find the map of Balabac which will show you where in the Philippines it is located and the easiest route to get there from Puerto Princesa.

During the trip with WanderWalkers, we stopped along some sandbars and inhabited islands, which was just stunning!

Map of Balabac

Island-hopping in the Philippines: the Balabac Island Expedition

During this Balabac Island Expedition, I decided to go with Wanderwalkers, and they did not disappoint in any way. Not only was the crew really welcoming, but the booking process was quite simple as well.

When looking at the few tour operators that provide Balabac Island excursions, Wanderwalkers came out on top according to TripAdvisor ratings.

Before you decide to go on a trip to Balabac Island, you should know that it will take you to some of Palawan’s most remote islands. It’s not going to be a fancy trip, and the itinerary might change depending on the weather.

This trip is MADE FOR YOU if you’re ready to get out of your comfort zone, if you love off-the-beaten-path experiences, and want to immerse yourself in real island life.

Balabac Palawan: The perfect 4-day adventure in the Philippines
Balabac Island

How much does a Balabac tour cost?

I paid 16.000 Philippine Peso (PHP) or 332 USD per person for the private 4 days/ 3 nights Balabac Island Expedition with WanderWalkers 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

TIP: Read the reviews and more information on Wanderwalkers’ Tripadvisor page

Note: I could upgrade to a shared dorm beach hut with mattresses and mosquito nets but they were fully booked by the family whom I 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 Island

The best time to visit Balabac Island

The best time to visit Balabac in the Philippines is during the dry season, which typically runs from December to April. This period offers the most favourable weather conditions, with minimal rainfall and plenty of sunshine, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as island hopping, snorkelling, and beach exploration.

Additionally, the sea is calmer during this time, facilitating smoother boat rides to the pristine islands and sandbars that Balabac is known for, providing you with a truly unforgettable tropical experience.

Best time to visit Balabac
Best time to visit Balabac

Where to stay before or after your trip

Whether you organise the trip with WanderWalkers or on your own, I would recommend to leave from Puerto Princesa. You will be picked up at 2 a.m. the day before the trip, and it is a long drive, so I recommend that you book a comfortable hotel with a bed where you can have a full night’s sleep.

Fortunately, there are plenty of great hotels and hostels in Puerto Princesa where you can stay at a reasonable price. I stayed at the

Even after your visit to Balabac, I recommend staying here for one night before continuing to Cebu, Siargao, or El Nido, for example.

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

Balabac Island: Day 1

  • Puerto Princesa – Buliluyan Port (5-6h)
  • Patawan Island
  • Bugsuk Island 

The first day of this adventure began with a 2:30 am pickup from the hotel in Puerto Princesa followed by a stop along the way where we had breakfast at a local restaurant. Expect to get boiled rice and vegetables.

It was also a great moment to get to know the other travelers as there was also a family joining the trip.

We arrived at Buliluyan Port after a six-hour journey and waited nearly an hour before boarding a small traditional Filipino boat. Our boat was having trouble with the engine so luckily we could join the boat with the family to get to the island where we would spend the night.

The first stop on the way to the campsite was Patawan Island, which had a beautiful white beach and turquoise blue waters. perfect to start this trip!

The island of Patawan was also a great place to fly the drone, take stunning pictures, and cool off in the water after having lunch on the beach. It was perhaps one of the best islands I have seen during the trip.

Adventure in the Philippines

The campsite I stayed at was on Bugsuk Island (Punta Sebaring), still undeveloped and wonderfully untouched. It’s the second-largest island in Balabac, hosting just one campsite right on the beach—no hotels, lodges, or big shops around, only a small local store (although don’t expect a variety of great food or drinks). The campsite is managed by a friendly local family who treated me like part of their own.

They have a tiny restaurant where they prepare your meals as part of the tour. For showering, there’s a large bucket filled with water, and there are 4 bucket-flush toilets to share with others.

Upon our arrival at 3 pm, I set up my tent, arranged bedding, and enjoyed some drinks on the beach. The family cooked some fresh veggies and rice for dinner, and I witnessed a breathtaking sunset.

The ultimate 3 week philippines itinerary

Balabac Island: Day 2 

  • Mansalangan Sandbar
  • Starfish Island
  • Onok Island
  • Bugsuk Island 

Day 2 of this awesome adventure in the Philippines began with a stunning sunrise over the ocean, followed by a simple breakfast with my toes in the sand. Pure paradise! Once I finished breakfast, a new boat awaited me for another thrilling day of island-hopping.

First stop of the day, was the gorgeous Mansalangan sandbar, where I had a blast flying the drone and indulging in a refreshing swim in the incredibly blue waters. Guys, this place is breathtaking!

After the sandbar, I 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 the last stop, where the boat got stuck at Roughton Reef right before we entered the island because of low tide. I 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 more than one hour to get out of the coral.

Finally, on Onok Island we had lunch in one of the wooden houses on stilts and walked afterward around the island to catch some coconuts. I loved taking photos here and did some snorkelling 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.

Sandbar in the Philippines
Sandbar in the Philippines

When we went back to the campsite, we found ourselves in the middle of a massive tropical sea storm. Giant waves filled our boat, and I was so scared. The boatmen were stressed too, making me worry the whole time that we wouldn’t make it through.

A few hours later, completely soaked, we arrived back at the campsite. The family was watching news about the tropical typhoon Tisoy which had entered the Philippines and led to the evacuation of over 300,000 people. I felt incredibly relieved to be back on land and considered it just another part of the adventure, right!?

Onok Island

Balabac Palawan: Day 3 

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

On day 3, I woke up at 6 am to catch the sunrise. The family prepared fruits and oats for breakfast and after that we explored three spots, all around Bugsuk Island.

The first stop was the Natural Infinity Pool, a large lagoon surrounded by a sandbank that created a natural pool. I swam in the turquoise blue ocean and completely forgot to fly the drone in the excitement. But trust me, this place is absolutely breathtaking.

After some swimming, we visited the white sandy beaches of Bonbon Beach on Bugsuk Island. Due to annoying sand flies, I asked the boatmen to take me to the next spot.

They brought me to Punta Sebaring sandbar, where I relaxed in crystal clear waters and soaked up the sun. It’s also on Bugsuk Island, not far from the campsite, and has the finest, powdery sands. The perfect spot to disconnect from everything and reconnect with our beautiful planet.

Beaches of Palawan

Balabac Palawan: Day 4

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

On the final day of the Balabac island expedition, we visited Patongong Island, home to one of the most breathtaking beaches in Balabac Palawan. It’s a tiny island, and you can stroll around it in just 10 minutes. When I stepped onto Patongong Island, it reminded me of the Maldives – the only other place where I’ve seen this incredible array of 50 shades of blue.

With its powdery white sandy beaches, Patongong Island is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots in the Balabac Islands.

After hanging out on Patangong Island for a few hours and a 4-hour boat ride, we safely made it to Buliluyan Port. My driver was there, ready to pick me up and take me back to Puerto Princesa.

Saying goodbye to the incredible islands of Balabac Palawan was hard. I hopped into the minivan, drove for 6 hours back to Puerto Princesa, and continued my journey around the Philippines.

bugsuk Island
bugsuk Island

If you’re someone who adores secluded beaches, diving into the most mesmerizing blue waters, craving adventure in the Philippines, and seeking a place to unwind and connect with nature, consider this unique adventure to your bucket list!

Despite the lengthy travel times, especially compared to TAO expeditions in El Nido or Coron, it’s absolutely worth every second! The islands of Balabac Palawan boast some of the best beaches in the entire Philippines, if not the world. Plus, during the off-peak season, you’ll practically have this paradise all to yourself.

I hope my experience has sparked your interest in visiting this untouched gem. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them below or connect with me on Instagram. I’d love to share more about this stunning destination.

Balabac Island

Save these pins for later!

Balabac Palawan: The perfect 4-day adventure in the Philippines
Balabac Palawan: The perfect 4-day adventure in the Philippines
Balabac Palawan: The perfect 4-day adventure in the Philippines

Discover the Balabac Islands in the Philippines with my favourite travel apps

To plan my adventures, I use these FREE websites and apps as they provide the best information, the best deals, and they are user-friendly. 


All the pictures on this page are made and owned by me. If you are interested in some pictures to use for your magazine, website, blog, or any other purpose, just send me an email and we’ll figure it out.

Do you like the edits? My Presets will be online soon so you can edit your pictures in just one click!

The camera gear I used for this trip

I never go out without my camera and many people ask me which gear I use. So to make it quite easy, I listed all the gear I used for this trip below.

Most of the time, I travel with the Sony A7III and the Sony 24-105mm/f4 as my primary lens but depending on the location, I change to another setup. However, I love the Tamron 17-28 to shoot in the big cities.


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