Coron is the first island I backpacked in the Philippines. I was joined by another traveler who was also backpacking the country. Traveling the Philippines is not as easy as other countries in South East Asia such as Thailand, Cambodia, Laos region where you can easily do land and sea travel. It is very similar to Indonesia which is a group of many different islands but what makes it different is that most of the islands are not as commercialized than any other country in South East Asia, making it more natural and special.
Whenever I travel around the beaches, there are very few people- mostly locals or people from Manila, but very few tourists. I travel off peak or shoulder season because flights are cheaper and there are less tourists. The peak time for travel is during summer and holy week. You’ll see a lot of people in Manila and tourists on the beaches. Traveling to the beaches during shoulder season is like having the whole island to yourself.
Coron is another town located on the northern part of Palawan. The best and easiest way to get here is to fly out of Manila to Busuanga airport. if you have more time, you could do land and sea travel from Puerto Princesa stopping to El Nido. Travel time is about 8 hours. Then El Nido to Coron for another 8 hours. Yep, traveling the Philippines is an adventure itself already!
So why should you visit Coron? Simply because it has one of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines.
(Unedited photo of Banana Island, Coron taken from my iPhone 4)
We flew to Busuanga from Manila with no fixed plans, no place to stay and just went there with our backpacks.
(Aerial view of Coron, Palawan)
We got to Busuanga airport late in the afternoon and we took a van P250 ($4) to get to downtown. It wasn’t hard looking for a place to stay and a lot of the accommodations are available. We asked the driver to take us to a cheap place so we ended up staying at Kokusnuss Garden resort. We paid about $16 for the bungalow, costing us $8 per person. The room was okay and the shared bathrooms were clean. I don’t really recommend staying here as we got bitten so much by mosquitoes and the walls are super thin so expect to be awaken by roosters early in the morning. The next day we moved to Seadive resort. I recommend this resort more because it is right in downtown Busuanga and close to the port for island hopping.
Things to Do:
1. Boat ride to Banana Island
(Bangka= local term for boat)
Banana island is about 1.5 hour boat ride from Busuanga town proper. It is quite a bumpy ride and you WILL get wet. It is best to have a waterproof bag with you to store your valuables.
2. Kayangan Lake
(Our boat man looking at the entrance of the lake)
We did the Kayangan lake the day after we went to Banana island. You cannot combine the two in one day as they are in different directions. This lake is considered to be the cleanest lake in the whole country and is the major spot to see in Coron. You would have to hike up the hill to get to this view:
(Kayangan lake view from top)
3. Snorkeling/ Diving
(fishes from Barracuda lake)
The water in Coron is so clear that you can see fishes from the boat. It is a good place for snorkeling but I find the underwater of Puerto Princesa to be more beautiful than the one in Coron.
I’ve never done this personally but I met travelers who went wreck diving in Coron. If you’re into wreck diving, Coron is where the sunken Japanese ships from World War II are. It was also listed as one of the top 10 scuba dive spots in the world by Forbes Traveler magazine.
4. Search for the Giant Clams in Malcapuya Island
(carrying the baby clams with the other travelers I met on the trip)
Malcapuya Island- one of the islands in Coron not only has beautiful white sand beach, it also has a large concentration of giant clams. If you get lucky and it’s low tide, you can actually walk to get to the clam stations and you can even hold them!
So where should you go? Puerto Princesa or Coron?
If you can’t do both islands, consider these factors. Coron is more rural compared to Puerto Princesa. There’s more nature to be seen and more boat rides for island hopping adventure. Both islands have great underwater scenes. But I prefer Honda bay’s underwater more. Also, there’s not much to do after a day in the beach snorkeling and relaxing in Coron. Nightlife in Coron is quite dead. Puerto Princesa on the other hand is more lively and has more restaurants to choose from or hang out at night. But both islands are beautiful in their own right. I tried to capture the beauty with my point and shoot camera and I think it hasn’t given it justice. You have to see it yourself.