San Vicente in Palawan, Philippines: what to do, what to eat, where to sleep?
After our fabulous stay in the beautiful Bacuit’s Bay in El Nido, we had to make a choice for our next -and unfortunately- last part of our trip in Palawan Island… San Vicente! And we probably have met the most charming and nicest persons of our entire stay in the Philippines: the 3 ladies of the Kalipay Canteen. If you are planning to stay around that amazing place, you’re probably asking yourself about what to do, what to eat and where to sleep in San Vicente? Here we are :
WHAT ABOUT SAN VICENTE?
The usual map route once you arrived in Palawan is to land at Puerto Princesa and keep go ahead along the left side to go through the cities along the ride:
- Sabang (animated nightlife and underground river)
- Port Barton (quiet area with beautiful island hopping)
- until El Nido, North of the island.
It can be nice to take some time, and add a stop by San Vicente. San Vicente is village, which takes place along the longest beach in Palawan: Long Beach. This 12km of white sand and coconuts beach is just stunning.
San Vincente is not well known yet… but will be for sure in the coming times. Indeed, an airport building project was started not long ago. Meaning that in about one or two years, the new airport will finally takes place in the middle of this little quiet place. As a result, tourists and news businesses opportunities will also become possible for local people.
Update from mai 2020: all the information concerning the airport project are here
So far so good: San Vincente is still the place to stay if you are looking for somewhere nice and no crowded at all. It is a place where you can easily relax, meet friendly people and live things as smooth as you want. The fact that San Vicente is still unknown is one of the most attractive thing. This gives you indeed the opportunity of discovering a no-too-developed-place (even if the Tourist Office seems be already familiar with the sightseeing). Here is the time to go to San Vincente before it becomes a well-developed area, just like its little sister « Port Barton » (only 30min away by boat).
HOW TO REACH SAN VICENTE FROM EL NIDO?
HIGH PRICES BUDGET $$$
From El Nido, there is no direct road and neither a direct bus line to get to San Vincente (well, there is… but it costs 700 pesos per head, kind of really expensive). At first sight, it seems a bit difficult to reach the village.
BACKPACKER BUDGET $
As usual in Asia, there also is a cheaper way to reach SV. First, go to the bus terminal in El Nido. Over here, you will have to choose between a jeepney or a busbar without air con. Prices are between 110 and 200 pesos, it depends what kind of vehicle you choose. On our side, we got a simple bus at 100 pesos per person, 200 pesos both- so approximately 4€.
You can also decide about the departure time: we advice you to chose an early morning time, like 8am. Be ready the next morning at 7:30am. Take a seat on the bus… and be patient until the arrival at Junction bus terminal. Junction is a city not really far away from El Nido, but the pathway will be long: around 3 hours away from El Nido and around 45km from San Vicente. If you’re lucky, you will be able to catch the bus once your arrived in Junction bus terminal. This bus makes the trip between Junction to San Vicente and the price is really cheap. If you miss it – just like us – here is the time to show your negotiation skills!
In Junction bus terminal, you will meet some motor bikers who will offer to take you to SV. First price might be around 300 pesos per head (6€) ; well, quite expensive for 2 motorbikes (3x the price paid from El Nido to get there).
Looking for Julius -a smiling man who always wears his sunglasses and a beanie- : maybe he will be agree to get the price down for the trip to San Vicente. For the storytelling, we waited around 3 hours under sunshine, without no issue to get to San Vincente without paid 300 pesos. We wait, wait, and wait again, constantly refused the over priced they asked us, to finally accept the half price: 150 pesos. Anyway, ask for no more than 200 pesos. The road is in pretty poor condition, but Julius is a good rider, so don’t be afraid! If you want some advice, ask him, he has really some good tips.
Finally, you will reach the dear San Vincente after a tiring trip: 30min motorbike riding, 3 hours of bus, 1 hour of negotiation with Julius… approximately 500 pesos for two people. Here is the beginning of one of your best trip, I hope: SV.
WHAT TO IN SAN VICENTE?
RELAX AT LONG BEACH
San Vicente is mostly known for its infinite beach of white sand, bordered by coconuts and palm trees. The only living souls you can meet there are the fishermen, some dogs (« aso » or « tuta » in filipino), and some local people who spend their free time on the beach.
For now, the beach is still underdeveloped: only one or two resorts are offering huts in the jungle, but almost all parts of the beach are already sold, waiting for some resort building project and others things. Constructions are in stand-by with the airport building project. Long beach will stay the same inhabited and quiet beach area during the two next years but hurry up to get to SV before the crowd if you’re looking for authenticity. Almost the entire beach is reachable by motorbike: you can rent a motorbike and ride all along the white sand and the stunningly beautiful sea view, which offers a mix of blue and green colors.
ISLAND HOPPING TOURS
You like snorkeling and rest on paradise island? San Vicente offers also lots of tours for Island hopping. You only have to ask the Tourism Office, which is located in the center of the town and ask for a boat tour. They have nice and smiling staff.
Good to know and tips:
Prices are 800 pesos per head (16€) with food. Add 100 pesos per head for snorkeling gears and 50 pesos by island visited as entrance fees. Finally, it’s about 1 000 pesos by head (20€). If you want to rent a private boat, is it possible and price is already fixed: 2 400 pesos per boat (48€, which is half-price that what we paid in El Nido). In this case, you can picked up the islands you wanna see, the stop you wanna make and also the departing time.
According to customers reviews, best stops are: Exotic Island, German Island, Wide Reef and Aquarium Reef. We stayed in Coconuts Island during all the afternoon. We got a quiet and beautiful view with nobody around. The guard of the island made us some fresh coconuts, we drank the juice and we ate the pulp, pretty enjoyable, right?
The Island tours are the same that those you can make in Port Barton: less crowded than El Nido but still beautiful and less pricey. The landscapes you can enjoyed in Bacuit’s bay (El Nido’s Island hopping) are quiet different from the local one. In El Nido, you can enjoy many sumptuous lagoons totally lost on the middle of giant rocks outside water: karst rocks. But here, i’ts more like some islands and snorkeling areas, but still beautiful. It is also more fitting for budget travelers. If you’re lucky, you can even see turtles and manta rays!
GO SHOPPING AT THE CENTRAL MARKET
Go on the market! San Vicente has a wonderful market, where you can find everything you are looking for. The fishermen are selling here their daily fishing and you can buy an entire barracuda + one tuna for 80 pesos (1,60€). What else do you want? Maybe some fresh coconut milk? Please let us introduce you to a nice lady who makes the coconut milk just in front of your eyes. At least: fruits, vegetables, meat, aromatics, herbs… Everything is waiting for you to help you for making your holidays as a wonderful and tasty dinner! Since you are currently located at the market, why not try the best canteen located to the street corner?
WHERE TO EAT IN SAN VICENTE?
Update from June 2020 : the restaurant changed its name from « Villanueva’s Canteen and Catering » in 2015 to « Kalipay Canteen », as it is called today. The 3 charming ladies are still running this place perfectly 🙂
Here we are: one of the best reason to stay some days at least in SV is to try the Kalipay Canteen (ex Villanueva’s Canteen and Catering), which is located just in front of the market. Thanks to this place, we meet the loveliest ladies in Philippines: Joy, Violet, and Elisa. All the meals they offer look very good but don’t miss the delicious and tasty Eggplant with coconut milk (“talong nujong” in filipino language). According to our hosts, this meal is the favorite of all foreigners (the recipe will be given at the end of this article). Otherwise, you can also ask the nice Joy if she has enough time to cook you the fresh barracuda from the market you just bought. She will grill the fish in exchange of some pesos… and what a taste!
When we discovered this place, we just stopped looking around for other places to eat and we come back here every time (what I said? every day, every hour): lunch or dinner, whatever, it was always good. You definitely have to try this place if you are in SV. The prices are cheap but the quality is here every time. And we know what we are talking about! We went to the market with Joy and we bought with her the products she needed for making us the scrumptious « eggplant with coconut milk ». We saw exactly what ingredients were chosen by herself. She picked up carefully every vegetables and she bought the pure coconut milk, which is really expensive by the way (20 pesos for some cl).
To give you an idea about a full and healthy meal in Kalipay: for less than 6€ for two people: 1 fresh barracuda and 1 fresh tuna bought from the market (80 pesos), cooking for the fish (40 pesos), 2 cups of rice (25 pesos), 2 eggplants with coconut milk (100 pesos), 1L of drink water (free), 1 ice cream mango (40 pesos) and 2 potok (5 pesos each), approximately 295 pesos. If you pay attention, you might be able to recognize some usual local customers also.
To sum up, the kindness and the friendliness of the three owners are incredible. They are constantly smiling (even when they are busy and stressed because of people coming to eat), they like chatting just like us about all the subject you can imagine, and the most important thing: they like to cook and they cook really good. You can also buy some potok (the best pastries ever!!) or try their home made mango ice cream without sugar added. Finally, you have to try the pineapple fresh fruit shake made by Elisa (her secret is to put some honey and sugar).
WHERE TO SLEEP IN SAN VICENTE?
In San Vicente, the accommodations business is not yet well developed. Nevertheless, you can easily find some good places to stay. We even found a nice place fit for our wallet of budget traveler…
And here is the secret: the Picardal Lodge! We stayed in Picardal Lodge for 2 nights. And to be honest, if we could have extended our trip, we would have enjoyed staying there. Is it a familial hotel: all the family is nice and smiling. Francis, the owner, is as helpful as possible. Indeed, he will do his best to provide you all the nice and local tips for taking the best of your trip around SV. They offer breakfast and the prices are fine. Is is around 85 pesos for two delicious pancakes with chocolate and maple syrup. Yummy
The rooms are simple but clean and the prices begin at 500 pesos (10€) for a double room with fan and private bathroom (cold water). Other rooms have a private balcony and the A/C for 1 300 pesos. The best rooms I guess are upstairs: from this floor, you can enjoy a wonderful sunset every night, just front of your room, with a stunning view on the bay. There are also middle rooms for 700 pesos by night. All the rooms are fine for staying some days.
WHY STAYING AT THE PICARDAL LODGE?
- You will enjoy a fast Internet connection during your stay: the Wi-Fi is pretty good;
- They also have computers that you can use for your own purpose;
- Picardal Lodge got one of the best location in SV. It is located in front of the bus terminal. You will see the Picardal lodge when you arrive from El Nido, Barton or Puerto Princesa. And it is also practical or your departure! Indeed, you can simply wait at the hostel until the bus is coming for you;
- The hotel is about 30’sec walk from the market and so, 1min from the best place to eat in SV;
- You can also easily book a Island hopping tour because the Tourism Office is at the end of the street, maybe 3min walk and 2min walk from the pier. When you will finally go to the famous Long Beach, it is at only 15min walk. Finally, lot of little supermarkets and shops are around to let you buy the basic stuff like water. Maybe, you will experience walking in the dark into the supermarket because of an electricity outage. Only some candles on the corner will help you to see where you walk. Funny.