Coron, municipality on Busuanga Island north to Palawan, is the last natural beauty we’ll be able to appreciate here in the Philippines.
First of all, a due clarification about the names here: Coron is both a municipality on the southeastern side of Busuanga Island, a town (officially Coron Town Proper), and also the name of the wonderful island offering the most famous natural attractions in the area.
EL NIDO-CORON FERRY
Our fast ferry from El Nido to Coron was rather well comfy, although chilly air conditioning is often an issue on these boats, you better bring a hoodie with you. Also the sea was a bit rough, having our seats at the front it was like being on a roller-coaster in some points! Luckily we got safe and sound to Coron, ready to get the best out of it, and naively not worrying about our return trip at all.
As in El Nido, one can find everywhere boards listing the same tours, but the offer here is wider because Busuanga Island is way bigger than El Nido bay, so the tours have various names and prices. Since Coron town extends on a larger area, pick-up and drop-off to hotels is also included.
MAQUINIT HOT SPRINGS
While walking around, we enter an agency to get shelter from a heavy thunderstorm, and so we end up booking the most popular tour, that includes visits to the Kayangan Lake and Twin Lagoon, both within Coron Island. We will do that tomorrow, for today we rent a scooter to go and enjoy the island’s natural hot spring, named Maquinit.
After a few kilometers on dirt muddy roads we reach the location: it is about 4 pm and the place is quite empty. Most customers come at night time, when it’s even more suggestive. The spring is literally piping hot, over 40°C, and plunging in the pools gives you chills! The setting is beautiful too, the springs face a lovely bay right on the ocean. We stay until 7 pm to see the lights switching on in the evening, but then we leave to avoid the crowd. We find a nice place for dinner and get back early to our room.
CORON ISLAND TOUR
In the morning we get picked-up around 8.30 am, and after waiting an hour or so as usual for Filipino relaxed timing, we leave for our tour. Coron Island is very close, we soon arrive at the entrance of Kayangan Lake. This is one of the few places on the island that have been torn from the native tribes. The guide tells us there’s a sort of agreement allowing tourists to visit just selected places, provided that natives can live peacefully in their villages.
Our bangka docks at a wooden pier and we continue on foot: a 367-step stair goes up to the most photographed viewpoint in the area, and then down through the jungle to reach the wonderful deep blue lake. We are given half an hour of “freedom” to swim and dive in a fenced side, although it is compulsory by law to always wear life jackets. Proceeding with our trip, we reach the stunning Twin Lagoon: as boats leave people outside, there are 2 ways to get into the lagoon, depending on tides. At low tide you can swim through a small passage under a rock, as we did. At high tide tiny wooden stairs help you climb the rocks and get on the other side. Actually there’s also a third way, swimming underwater when the tide is up! The waters are very shallow now and in some points it is literally crystal clear, what a dream!
Later on we dock at Beach 91, where we have the usual delicious buffet lunch under nice huts built on the rocks. Other stops will be snorkeling and diving to see the Japanese Shipwreck, sunk during WWII, and the stunning colourful sea bottom, including some peculiar blue and purple corals. Lastly, sunbathing on CYC beach, the only free beach in the area, hence more crowded with locals, but we enjoy it as some cute Filipino kids come to meet and play with us. By 5 pm we return to Coron town, we had a great day!
MANGROVE & FIREFLIES NIGHT TOUR
It rains all night and the following day too, the only relaxing activity we can do is getting a Filipino massage, which is not bad! At night time, we booked the Fireflies Tour in the Mangrove Forest (Kingfisher Park), which is said to be a wonderful sight. After being dropped-off at a pier in the darkness, we sit on a motorboat while the guide waits for some instructions via walkie-talkie: we suddenly leave for a couple of minutes sailing at max speed in pitch black and we dock at the charming floating restaurant where we are going to have a romantic dinner. The restaurant consists in a dozen of wooden tables on two floating surfaces, that’s why we were waiting at the pier not to overload the small eating area. In retrospect this would be the highlight of the tour, unluckily the bright full moon will not help us spot many fireflies as we expected. Don’t go on a full moon night!
By waving a stick in the water, you can experience the glittering fluo plankton, again it would be more evident on a darker night. The motorboat flows slowly along the mangroves, sailing at night in the tranquil waters of Coron bay is pleasant; after some 45 minutes we dock back at the pier. Although the dinner on the floating restaurant was very nice, we surely would have enjoyed more a day trip to the mangrove forest, where you can rent kayaks to paddle through narrow trails.
CABO & BALI BEACH
The next day is October 31st, many are decorating their bars for Halloween, which is actually quite big in the Philippines, since in the past they have been under American domination too. For what should be our last day in Coron, we get a scooter and look for some pristine beaches, hoping to find another Nacpan Beach. Unfortunately, beaches here on Busuanga Island aren’t that beautiful. A 15-20 km ride from Coron town, we find Cabo and Bali Beach, a name that certainly doesn’t make justice to its original. Bali Beach lies in front of a very shallow bay where it’s basically impossible to swim, and the beach is clearly not looked after, not in this season. Cabo Beach is better, in a quite area far from noises: the best aspect is that very few tourists come here, we are about 10 people. The famous Siete Picados (snorkeling and diving site) are visible on the right side. If you are looking for sandy beaches, definitely join a tour, this beach is kind of red and pebbly, good to stay a couple of hours.
CLIMBING MOUNT TAPYAS
The climb is a tough effort for our legs, but the view from up there is spectacular, especially going at sunset.
We enjoy a lovely dinner with lots of fish, get back to our room and prepare our bags. In the morning we happily check-out and hop on a tricycle direction Coron port… Awful surprise to see no ferry there, and an official telling us that boats are cancelled for today due to weather alert, a typhoon is reaching the region. We understand that every morning at 5 am an official bulletin is released to allow or not boats to travel in the open sea. They assure us that, if all clear will be given, our ticket will be valid for tomorrow morning. There’s no alternative but to head back to town, where we check-in in the first available guesthouse: a basic room with shared bathroom, with a lovely kitchenette and balcony overlooking the sea. Even though we would have preferred to be back in El Nido, we don’t get discouraged and rent a scooter as soon as it stops raining, heading westwards to explore the heart of Busuanga Island.
The road becomes more and more beautiful every kilometer we get further from the main town: this part of the island is still authentic and fascinating. About 45 km later, we reach a small sign saying “Concepcion Falls“. As we read online, some kids are waiting for us and offer to guide us to the falls for some pesos, we gently refuse. The path to the waterfall is fairly simple, although Ambra almost has an heart attack when seeing a black and yellow snake on our way! We surpass it and get to a lovely stair leading down to the beautiful natural pool just underneath the waterfall. As routine, we sign our names on the official manifest and leave a small offer for maintenance (100pp, entrance is free). There’s a group of locals having lunch, but none of them is bathing, so we jump in the pool all for ourselves! The water is fresh and cool as it just stopped raining, it’s magical feeling to enjoy this little wonder of nature in such peace.
It doesn’t last long tough, a group of young Filipino boys will join and show their diving skills, climbing on the rocks like they were monkeys and leaping carelessly. The place becomes soon busy as the sun comes out, we leave happy we came early, and enjoy a slow ride back home. Having much time to spare, we head once more to the nice Maquinit Hot Springs, this time after sunset, and relax in the hot waters (to be honest the cold waterfall was a better feeling than the hot springs when it’s 30°C outside!).
The day after, our 6th already in Coron, we head to a few agencies who call the ferry line and get confirmation that all boats are cancelled today again, as the typhoon is still threatening. We head back to our guesthouse to extend our stay, also we paid already for an accommodation in El Nido and that money’s gone wasted. It is heavy raining all day, and we start to worry we will be stuck here for some more days and miss our flight from Puerto Princesa to Manila! Also, we have to retrieve our backpacks we left in El Nido. At the time of our booking, back in August, we hadn’t considered the option to go by ship from Coron to Manila, which takes 16 hours overnight, but is cheaper than flying, or to fly directly from Busuanga to Manila. Also these bigger ships can face certain weather conditions if they are not too severe. Under a pouring rain, the only option we have is going for a massage, so we try and forget our concerns with a lovely 90-minute body pampering.
CORON TO EL NIDO FERRY TIMETABLE
Luckily we made it aboard, the ferry will be over an hour late, but we’ll finally make it back to El Nido, too late to explore its surroundings a bit more, but still in time to get all our transfers connecting one to the other.
A strong recommendation we give you when travelling in the Philippines, is to always consider the event of a typhoon delaying or cancelling your flights and ferries. Remember to allow a few days between transfers, mother nature has no time table!
WHERE TO STAY:
- Abrhys Ridge Inn, Coron: modern rooms in very quiet area, 10 min walking or 20 pesos tricycle to town, AC, hot water, TV, tours booking available;
- Coron Hilltop Resort: a high-end resort with all the comforts you may need, 5 min ride to town, awesome views.
- You can pre-book all your stays in Palawan with free cancellation here.
HOW TO GET AROUND:
- Fast ferry, Coron – El Nido: 1750pp/person, 3h30, 11.30 am everyday;
- Bunso boats, Coron – El Nido: 1400pp/person, 5-8hrs, 7.30 am everyday;
- Tricycle, Coron port to town: 50-100pp, 10 minutes;
- Flights, Coron Busuanga to Manila: about 1 hour.
- Coron Island Tour: 750pp/person, fees, boat, lunch, guide, snorkels included; kayak not included;
- Environmental fee, compulsory for every person: 200pp, valid for 1 week for any number of island hopping tours;
- Scooter rental: 400pp/half day;
- Maquinit Hot Springs: 200pp/person, open until 9 pm, last entrance 8 pm;
- Mangroves & Fireflies night tour: 800pp/person, dinner on floating restaurant incl.;
- Filipino body massage: 400pp/1 hour, 600pp/90mins;
- Concepcion Falls: free (optional offer);
- Mt. Tapyas: free;
- Cabo Beach/Bali Beach: 50pp/person.
- Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.