I am a born skeptic. When people say that this place is beautiful or that restaurant serves great food, I normally do not buy it, particularly if the person’s taste does not have that many entries in my database. I am the type of person who’s got to see and experience things for himself. So when I hear people say that Coron, or Palawan in general, has the best beaches and sights in the Philippines, I place those feedback nicely tucked into my bucket list of things to verify.
Just last weekend, I visited Coron with my friend, Kakay, and a couple of her contacts. I was the fifth wheel in a party of five. Since my decision to join the group came after they have already booked their flights, I had to fly to Coron alone. Flying by yourself makes you fully aware of things around you because of the absence of a chat partner. Like how fragile and vulnerable the airframe of a turboprop seems to be and how inexpensive airplanes have really cheap seats that look almost like pimped-up monoblock chairs. I just diverted my attention to my mp3 player and got lost in the music.
Busuanga’s airport was no different from other small island airports in the country. It was simple and just has the basic necessities: a runway, a covered wait area where food can be bought and travel agency stalls for those who flew to the island without an itinerary. Coron town which is basically the destination of most people who go to the island is barely in the outskirt of the airport. It’s a good 45-minute drive across grasslands, scattered trees, cow herds and small mountain ranges. The fact that van trips cost 150 per head and that they can take you anywhere in Coron town is definitely something to appreciate. Plus, they do not fill the entire van with people. It left with only two people in our row and I definitely appreciated the extra space for movement.
Coron town shares its name with the Palawan municipality it is in and a nearby island that made the place popular to tourist. The main road of the town separates a mountain side from the Busuanga Island seashore. Some houses sit right at the foot of the mountain on different height levels while the others are situated at the other side of the road by the sea. In fact, some residences and lodging houses were actually built on docks that are on top of the clean water that surround Busuanga.
We stayed at Viring Birang Guest House which only offers air-conditioned rooms. Ours was priced at PhP 1600 per night for three people. Apart from having Wi-Fi, Birang has their own dock so it is very convenient for guests to get picked up by the boats that will bring them to their island hopping destinations.
Coron, the island, is one of the prime tourist spots on this side of Palawan. I first saw a glimpse of Coron when we did an exhausting 720-steps hike to Mount Tapyas (a quick trip to the Maquinit Hot Spring is highly recommended after doing this high-altitude, leg-burning endeavor). I barely noticed its beauty because of the waning sun and my then burning thighs.
“A view of Coron from Mount Tapyas”
It was not until the following day when I saw Coron Island up close.
The boat ride to Coron was sort of like an unveiling. The veil being the distance of it from the town and the slightly misty morning. As the boat moved closer to the island, the details of its magnificence started to unravel before us.
The whole island of Coron is primarily made of huge rocks. Nature put together these rocks to form some sort of impenetrable mountain around it. It reminded me of a fortress- like structure similar to Helm’s Deep but only less gloomy but rather refreshing to see. The crevices of the walls of Coron are occasionally studded with foliage. The water that surrounds it was blue – indicating depth despite being close to a landmass.
I uttered “Wow…” in disbelief as we got nearer and nearer. Every detail of the island was an eye candy to someone who has been living in a city like Metro Manila. I immediately started snapping photos and the sheer beauty of the island made it easy to get picturesque shots. I heard someone behind me say “The Last Frontier” and he was right. This is clearly an island that deserves such titles like “The Scenic Fortress” or “Nature’s Refuge.” I have never seen any island like this in the country.
After docking the boat, you can follow the path that lead to one of several astonishing lakes inside the island. The rocky mountain structure of Coron seems to run not only outside but also inside the island. My educated guess is that after several thousands of years of precipitation, the lowest points inside the island has formed the lakes. The first one we went to was Barracuda Lake which is a popular dive site in Coron along with several Japanese shipwrecks around the area.
“Snokeling at Barracuda Lake”
Another lake that can be visited is Kayangan Lake which is accessible on a different yet close side of Coron. It requires a bit of a hike and descent before you reach the lake. The following photos show the rewarding views you will see when you do the quick journey.
“A view from a cliff in Coron Island”
Coron Island is not popular for a long white beach like Boracay but it has several small beaches that serve as lunch rest stops for island hoppers. We went to Banua-Atwayan where you can rent nipa huts for PhP 100. A group of locals sell junk food, cup noodles, softdrinks and beer at Atwayan beach but they are a bit pricy (as one should expect) so bringing your own snacks from the town would be wise. Also, you can buy raw fish, other seafood, meat and rice from the market and have your boatman cook the food for you.
Whole day boat rental costs around PhP 1500-2500 depending on the size of the boat and the number of people in your party.
Below were the lunches which were prepared by our boatmen for two day’s worth of going into the sea.
“Inihaw na tulingan, inihaw na liempo, eggplant, diced onion and tomatoes, pineapple and banana”
“Inihaw na liempo, chicken and fish”
If you are looking for a beach bumming experience, you would have to go on a 1.5-hour boat ride to fully embrace the activity. Still in the Coron municipality and very near Culion Island (the former leper colony) is the hidden treasure, Malcapuya Island. Its main beach is always likened to that of Boracay minus the crowd. It is perfect for a chill out experience under the sun. We were told that the owner of the island bought it for only PhP 3000 back in the 70s. I wish I could go back in time and buy it for myself. Check it out:
“Malcapuya’s main beach”
“A view of the main beach from a cliff”
Near Malcapuya is another island called Banana Island. The place also has a white beach (it seems like most islands in Palawan have it anyway). It was particularly windy when we came there and there were a few tourist doing kite surfing (wakeboard plus a big study kite and you are flying above pristine water)."Banana Island"
The verdict? All the good things that people say about Coron are true. Go and see it yourself!
This is the itinerary we followed for the 4d3n trip to Coron which puts tiring stuff first in Day 1 (hike) and Day 2 (island hopping and snorkeling) and puts laid back stuff in Day 3 (beach bumming). It is a good flow to follow which was prepared by our contact Zaide Uy: 09198950016. You may get in touch with her for trips to Coron, Palawan. I spent roughly around PhP 10,000-PhP 10,500 for the entire trip inclusive of the tours, food, lodging and airfare. You can spend less than that if you are not too picky about accommodation or if you think you can reply on your people skills to find out the cheapest deals in Coron on your own.
12:15 PM / 01:10 PM Departure Manila to Busuanga
01:20 PM / 02:15 PM Arrival in Busuanga
03:00 PM / 04:00 PM Settle down at Lodging House / Take some snacks nearby
05:00 PM Head to Mt Tapyas for Sunset Viewing and Pictorial
07:00 PM Head to Maquinit Hot Spring
08:00 PM ETD Maquinit Hot Spring
09:00 PM Dinner (Suggestion: Sea Dive Resort / Kawayanan)
07:00 AM Wake up / Breakfast
08:00 AM ETD for Coron Island Hopping
-- Siete Pecados
-- Kayangan Lake
-- Twin Lagoon
-- Barracuda Lake
-- Skeleton Wreck
-- Banol Beach or Attuwayan Beach
05:00 PM Souvenir Shopping / Cashew Factory
07:00 PM Dinner (Suggestion: Kawayanan Grill)
07:00 AM Wake up / Breakfast
08:00 AM ETD Beach Hopping (Malcapuya and Banana Island)
07:00 PM Dinner Out / Night Life at Coron (Suggestion: Subasco)
09:00 AM / 11:00 AM ETD Lodging House
10:45 AM / 12:35 PM Departure Busuanga to Manila
4D3N Lodging (Room for 3; Room for 2)
Boat Rental for 2 Days with Lifevest and First Aid Kit
Licensed Tour Guide
Lunch during Island Tours
Kayak, Fins, Snorkel (for Rental)
Airport Transfers (150 per pax per way)
Tricycle Rides (roughly 200 per head for whole trip)
Day 1 / Day 4 Lunch
Recommendations for trip:
Waterproof Camera / Dicapack
Ziplocks for Gadgets