Banol Beach, Coron, Palawan
Image: Leizl Cantanero
To say that Coron is a paradise is an understatement and I think I will never be captivated by any other island as much as Coron did. Well, this might change only if I get the chance to go to Bali or perhaps Maldives soon! But for now, let me revel in this exhilarating feeling after my 3-day stay in Coron.
On the southeast part of Busuanga in Palawan lies Coron, the island of the Tagbanua people. Consistently listed as one of the best islands in the world, Coron is famous for its exceptional marine life, diving spots, limestone formations, and shipwrecks for wreck diving.
Cheap daily flights to Coron are available via local budget carrier, Cebu Pacific
. If you’re the type who patiently waits for seat sales, like my friends and I, you can book a roundtrip ticket for as low as PhP1,500. Philippine Airlines
also fly to Coron daily. You can also take a ferry ride via 2GO, which sails to Coron twice a week since last year, with travel time of about 14 hours. For this trip, we took a Sunday noon flight to Busuanga via Cebu Pacific and arrived there in less than an hour.
Upon arrival at Francisco B. Reyes Airport in Busuanga, you will have to take a van to bring you to Coron town proper. Note that most travel packages already include airport transfers. But if you’re on a DIY scheme, vans are also available outside the airport on a pay-per-ride basis of PhP150. From the airport it took us about 30 minutes to reach Coron.
The clear Kayangan Lake is decorated with karst formations or limestone terrain.
Coron is never short of tourists, both foreign and local, especially during the summer season. But tour guides say that the best time to go island hopping is during the months of September to November, despite being a typhoon season, when the weather is just right and the wind is cool and breezy.
Island tours can be availed for as low as PhP650, which is a basic tour of Coron including a visit to Kayangan Lake, to as high as PhP2,400, which includes a visit to Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary. The town is replete with travel agencies so you don’t have to worry if you haven’t booked a tour upon arrival. Inclusions on said tours are lunch, drinking water, island fees, life vest, and tour guide.
Karst walls dotted with lush greens are plenty in Coron.
If you also arrive in Coron without having booked a room, you can choose from hostel rooms at PhP1,200 to PhP1,500 per night for 2 persons, or resort hotels with prices that can go from PhP10,000 to PhP18,000 per night for 2 persons, depending on room type.
Like with our trip to Puerto Princesa a few years back, we bought our Coron travel package from the Travel Tour Expo, a yearly fair held at SMX Convention Center where fellow travelers flock to avail of cheap domestic and international flights, accommodations, and tour packages. And with Coron being a top tourist destination in the country, we had plenty of options to choose from. In the end, we opted to get a package from the same agency we had for our Puerto Princesa trip.
Let’s Go Island Hopping!
Banol Beach, Coron, Palawan
On top of every tourist’s must-see destination in Coron is Kayangan Lake (entrance fee: PhP200/head). After around 20 minutes from the port, we took an uphill climb of 150 steps to get to the exact spot where pictures of this natural beauty are usually taken.
Dubbed as the cleanest lake in Asia and a Hall of Fame awardee for the Cleanest and Greenest Inland Body of Water in the Philippines, Kayangan Lake is surrounded by karst formations where boats dock below them. After being led to a spot where we could spend some time enjoying the view, we went ahead and had a dip underwater and saw large granite rock formations too.
Lunch is served on native tables in native huts at Banol beach.
Our next destination was Banol Beach (entrance fee: PhP100/head), a common stop for all tourists where lunch is served. That day we feasted on crabs, inihaw na bangus and liempo, eggplant salad, and bananas for dessert.
After our delish lunch, we proceeded to CYC Beach, short for Coron Youth Club, the only beach without any entrance fee in the area. Locals frequent this place especially on weekends when they can spend quality time with their loved ones.
Next we went to an area near Balinsasayaw Resort, a high-end resort in Coron with comfortable beachside cottages. Our guide definitely wasn’t kidding around when he said that for him, that is the perfect location for snorkeling. Despite not knowing how to swim, and armed only by my life vest and snorkel set, I went underwater with a friend and marveled at everything that moment had to offer. Aquariums and marine parks will honestly pale in comparison with the real deal. The feeling is just exhilarating!
Anyone can find Nemo (or Nemos) under the waters around Balinsasayaw Resort.
Image: Leizl Cantanero
Our final stop is the Twin Lagoon (entrance fee: PhP100/head), another famous spot in Coron. Surrounded by karst walls, a small tunnel separates the entry point to the other lagoon. You have to hold your breath down the water to reach the other side. Unlike our underwater adventure in Kayangan Lake and Balinsasayaw Resort, we were advised to just relax here and take in its beauty.
Two other renowned spots in Coron are Siete Pecados and Skeleton Wreck. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see them due to limited time. Siete Pecados or Seven Peaks (entrance fee: PhP100/head) is a group of seven islands surrounded by limestone karst formations. Legend has it that there were once seven sisters who went swimming in the area despite their mother’s disapproval. They all drowned as a consequence, and seven small islands appeared thereafter.
Skeleton Wreck (entrance fee: PhP100/head), meanwhile, is a sunken Japanese ship visibly seen upon close look at the water. A rope is connected from the shipwreck to serve as guide for divers.
Other Notable Places to Visit
The 700 paved steps leading to Mt. Tapyas summit
A must-visit place in Coron is Maquinit Hotspring. One of the few natural saltwater springs in the world, Maquinit boasts of one main pool and two smaller pools. For some people, it would take about 10 minutes to get used to the water’s temperature, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll want to savor the feeling as long as you can. It is also the closest thing to Japan’s onsen. You can stay at the spring until 10:00 PM for an entrance fee of PhP200. To get to the place, you’ll have to hire a tricycle and pay PhP300 for a round-trip where the driver will wait on you for an hour. You’ll have to negotiate with your driver thereafter if you want to stay longer.
For the hikers and the adventurous types, you can try climbing Mt. Tapyas. With more than 700 steps of paved surface, this is not recommended for those who easily tire or have a medical condition.
Another place worth visiting is the Saint Augustine Church located in Cuyo, Palawan. Founded in 1901, the Church has undergone several renovations through the years, the last being in the year 2012.
What’s a Trip without Pasalubong?
Wooden tribal masks in various sizes are a popular souvenir item from Coron.
Image: Xien Primero
For all your souvenir needs, head on to Coron Souvenir and Gift Shop. They have a wide range of t-shirts to choose from, plus the usual ref magnets, key chains, bags, woodwork, etc. A pair of small earrings made from freshwater pearls can be purchased for as low as PhP150, whereas the cheapest South Sea pearl is at PhP3,000 per piece. They also sell cashew nuts, Coron’s staple food, for PhP700 per kilo. Other pasalubong food items are cashew tarts, butterscotch sweets, banana chips, and others.
Danggit in sealed plastic
If you’d love to bring home dried fish, go to Coron Public Market very early in the morning and check out their wide selection. You can even buy fresh “danggit” (PhP150/pack) and have the seller wrap them well so you wouldn’t have to worry about it upon checking in your baggage.
Also, if you happen to pass by Don Pedro Street in Barangay Poblacion 2, be sure to check out ECO Cashew Store for cashews sold in snack packs. At PhP50 and PhP100 per pack, they are perfect giveaways for family and friends. You can also drop by at an optical shop, the only one in the area, that sells products from Baker’s Hill. Products such as hopia, choco crinkles, and ensaymada are delivered there straight from Puerto Princesa twice a week.
Perfect selfie at Twin Lagoon
Despite being a non-swimmer, in this trip I managed to go underwater with the help of our tour guide and my trusty snorkel set and life vest. What I experienced in this trip is way beyond my expectations. For a budget of PhP10,000 or less, including airfare, tours, accommodation, meals, and pasalubong, trust me when I say that a trip to Coron is worth every cent as you will bring home with you memories that can last you a lifetime.
And who says I need to be in a hurry to get to Maldives or Bali? I have enough good memories with me right now. And besides, those two islands will require lots of research, not to mention a hefty budget. For now, I’m all good. For now.