Of all the places we have visited in Southeast Asia, we left our hearts in Coron Palawan. We’ve been to the area three times and it’s one of those places we will always go back to when we are in the Philippines.
While Coron Town itself is a decently busy tourist hub, it’s the area around it that truly beckons to us. Unspoiled beaches, islands, and jungles are what draws us to the area. Every time we visit we discover something new and this isn’t something that can be said about a lot of places in the world.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when visiting this area is to just hang out in town and maybe take one boat trip over to Coron Island. Do not sell yourself short, there are many wonders to see in the area.
This extensive guide is designed to give you some insight into the area, share with you some of the things that we love and to help you plan the perfect stay.
In this guide you will find:
- Defining the Palawan Region
- Where is Coron?
- How to get to Coron
- History of Coron
- Things to do in Coron Palawan
- Itinerary Suggestions
- Where to Stay in Coron
- Practical Information for your Visit
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Philippines (Travel Guide)
Defining the Palawan Region
Palawan lies in the southwestern Philippines, in a region known as Mimaropa, which is surrounded by the Sulu Sea and the South China Sea. It is about 1 hour from the capital of Manila by plane.
The state of Palawan is named after Palawan Island, but there are other islands that make up the state, such as Busuanga and Coron Islands. As tourism is still beginning to be developed, Palawan has a lot of unspoiled nature and really clean and crystal-clear waters.
When compared to other places in the Philippines, such as Boracay, Palawan is a region with more nature and with beaches almost unknown. The population survives from fishing and general services, mainly around the state capital.
Puerto Princesa is the least populated capital of the Philippines and has often been mentioned as the greenest and cleanest city in the country.
The best time of the year to visit the Palawan region is from December to May. After that, the typhoon season starts and the weather is not so appealing to visit islands where the main attractions are beaches and the main activities include snorkeling and diving.
Where is Coron Palawan?
Coron is the name of the region, the name of one of the islands and the name of the main city of the region, located on Busuanga Island. The region of Coron composes a group of islands, formed by Coron, Uson, Apo, Bulacao, and Cabilauan, which are part of Palawan.
Coron is on the north end of Palawan and is different than anything else you have ever seen. It is formed by paradisiacal beaches with a transparent sea and surrounded by fantastic mountains.
Coron Island is known for its several lagoons dug thousands of years ago in their islands, forming an environment seen in few places in the world. The lagoons are a mixture of salt and freshwater that change in temperature according to the depth immersed.
History of Coron Palawan
The Philippines is a country that was once a Spanish Colony, American Colony and Japanese Colony and all this history is told on the walls of its museums and on the streets of each city.
Just walk around Manila and catch a ride on a Jeepney, or pay attention to street names, or visit Corregidor to come across an unfamiliar and gaping story in front of you.
During World War II, in 1942, the region of Coron was occupied by the Japanese. In September 1944, due to American bombing, a group of approximately 10 or 12 Japanese ships sunk in the region.
Thus, Coron is listed as one of the best places in the world for diving due to the number of shipwrecks, which results in amazing and unique ecosystems.
How to Get to Coron Palawan
Coron used to be very difficult to get to but with tourism in the area increasing, travel options are improving. The best destinations to begin your journey to Coron are Manila or El Nido.
From El Nido to Coron
There are two ferry options from El Nido to Coron, one is slow and cheaper while the other is more expensive but faster. The slow ferry takes about 8 hours, leaving early in the morning at around 8:00 am from the port of El Nido.
The slow boat is the same as those that make the longer trips around the Palawan area with a capacity for 150 people and with 2 floors. It is not comfortable and the trip can become boring, but it is possible to sleep or sunbathe to pass the time.
The fast ferry, on the other hand, is comfortable and air-conditioned, taking only around 3.5 hours to get to Coron from El Nido. Check online for up to date prices.
From Manila to Coron Palawan
The quickest option to get to Coron from Manila is by plane. The flight from Manila to Busuanga Island is approximately 1 hour long. The most used airline for this route is Cebu Pacific and tickets can be bought online.
To get to Coron town from the airport, the most common transportation is in a shared van. These vans wait for passengers outside the departure gate and the journey takes around 45 minutes directly to your accommodation.
From Manila to Coron there is also the option of taking a ferry. Despite the fact that it takes 15 hours, most of the route is done during the night, so it could be a way of saving one night on accommodation if your budget is low.
But, keep in mind that the ferry leaves from Manila to Coron only on Tuesdays and Fridays. The return from Coron to Manila departs only on Sundays and Thursdays.
12 Best Things to do in Coron Palawan
The town center of Coron is quite small, known in just a few hours walking and there is not much to do there. The main attractions of Coron are its amazing tours of the islands and beaches of the region, which there are many.
Tours in Coron Palawan are divided as Tours A, B, C, D and more. Some agencies make changes in this, making private tours or adding destinations and reducing the number of people per boat, which increases the value.
Make sure to do a lot of research before booking with an agency, because the value for money can change dramatically from one agency to another.
Some of the experiences you may enjoy in Coron include kayaking at CYC Beach, relaxing at a cottage on Banana Island, visiting the village of Maricaban or climbing up Mount Tapyas and admiring the view of the town of Coron, it’s bay and islands.
Other than that, Coron is filled with beautiful beaches. One of them is Atwayan Beach, which is famous for its calm waters. Banol Beach is located in a region with a small coral reef and snorkeling is mandatory there.
You will be able to see several species of coral of different colors and shoals of fish, all this with just 1 meter (3 ft) of depth.
1. Barracuda Lake
Barracuda Lake is a lake that sits among the stunning island rocks rising out of the water. The boat tours stop outside the island and from there, there is a small wooden path that navigates through the middle of the rocks and in 5 minutes you arrive at the lake in the center part of the island.
The water of the lake is a mixture of fresh and saltwater, so the body sinks easier than at sea. Although a beautiful lake, the visibility of the water isn’t great and there are almost no life, just a few small fish and one giant barracuda that inhabit the bottom.
2. Kayangan Lake
Kayangan Lake is a lake of the same style as Barracuda Lake, but much larger. In the same way, you need to take a trail, only much longer and more time-consuming.
On the way there, steps take the trail uphill reaching a viewpoint, from where the view is one of the nicest of Coron and the Philippines.
Kayangan Lake has a bamboo raft that can be floated and navigated around the lake. It also has a wooden deck that wraps around a good part of it. Coron Palawan has at least a dozen of these lakes, but some of them only the locals know about and know how to get there.
3. Twin Lagoons
The Twin Lagoons are two identical lagoons, connected by a tunnel possible to cross when the tide is low. Despite the name, they are two bodies of seawater, one blue and one green.
An interesting difference is their temperature, one is cold and the other warm and you can feel the difference in your skin. Depending on your tour operator, you may get the chance to kayak and/or paddleboard in these calm waters.
It is also an excellent place to snorkel. In addition to it being warm and cold, the area also has random spots that mix saltwater with freshwater, creating a very neat effect in the water. The phenomenon is best observed underwater.
4. Take a Kayak Trip
This part of the Philippines is one of the best places in the world to kayak. It has been named, time and time again, by major media (National Geographic included!) as a destination for a trip of a lifetime.
The unique landscape of islands, beaches, and reefs means that no trip is the same and you’re able to easily get off the beaten track. Kayak trips allow you to get up close and personal with the area and one of our favorite things to is explore the lush mangrove forests along the coastline in search of hidden hot springs.
5. Thermal Baths of Maquinit
Maquinit hot spring is glued to the sea, with the saltwater of 40ºC (104 F) and overlooking the islands in the background.
The sunset at this place is magical when the islands become orange and you can enjoy this landscape while relaxing in the thermal waters. It is a great way to end your busy touristic day around the islands of Coron Palawan.
6. Climb Mt Tapyas
If you don’t mind a climb and want to get the most incredible panoramic view of Coron, then this adventure shouldn’t be missed. 700 steps will lead you to the summit of the second tallest mountain in Coron.
Once you reach the top there is a viewing platform and most people choose to visit at sunset. Although it is worth getting up for sunrise in this spot too.
Climbing Mt Tapyas will take you less than an hour on the way up, depending on your fitness. Be sure to take water and sunscreen for your hike.
It is possible to do this hike independently from the downtown of Coron Town or you can ask to have it included in any number of tours around the area.
7. Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Whichever beach you choose to stay at or boat tour you decide to enjoy, you cannot miss the opportunity to scuba dive or at least snorkel to see the fish and coral in the crystal-clear waters of Coron Palawan.
It is possible to rent professional diving equipment and enjoy recreational dives around the area. If you do not yet have your diving certificate, you can take an open water course at one of the local diving operators.
We recommend it to anyone who is going to stay in Palawan for a longer period of time because then you can learn, dive and have plenty of time to recover before moving on to your next location.
Snorkeling can be enjoyed throughout the region of Coron. Some of the sites where you can experience this are Las Islas de Coral, Hidden Lagoon, Siete Pecados and Coral Gardens where there are several kilometers of corals and fish to explore.
As mentioned, the highlights of scuba diving in Coron include the shipwrecks. Witnessing how corals can take over ships in less than 70 years is surprising.
It is as if the ships were always present in that landscape and were part of the coral’s system. Skeleton Wreck is one of the main sites and it sits right in the shallow waters in Coron. You can explore it by snorkeling and diving. Either is equally rewarding.
Another famous shipwreck is the Lusong Gunboat at 18 meters (59 ft) deep. This ship was sunk by a submarine during World War II. Several corals have formed overtime throughout the ship and dozens of marine life have made it their home.
9. Explore the Calamian Satellite Islands
Being in Coron Town is really about all of the amazing day trips that you can take to explore the area. One of our favorites is to hire a private boat or take a tour that explores a few of the many satellite islands, that make up the Calamian Island group.
This is where you’ll stumble across unmarked reefs, pristine white sand beaches, and random shipwrecks.
Some of our favorite island discoveries include Malcapuya Island, Pass Island, Banana Island, Bulog Dos, Kalachuchi and many more. Each island is unique, providing you with some perfect combination of nature to enjoy.
In addition to exploring this area by boat on a day trip, the best adventure is to take a multi-day kayaking trip through the islands. Most trips are Banca boat supported but really give you the chance to immerse into the area and explore at the water level.
We’ve done this twice and not only is it a world’s Top 100 Travel Adventure, but it’s also simply magical.
10. Take a Hike
One of the most appealing things about Coron and Busuanga is not only the remoteness but the easy access to some incredible hiking. Our two favorite options are to hike along the coastline and upwards, which gives you some insane views of the coast and areas.
The water is so clear and so abundant reefs that you will be hard-pressed to get better views elsewhere in the Philippines. We also like to do some jungle hiking, especially on the trails that lead to hidden swimming holes.
11. Go on Safari in Calauit
Calauit is a small island just off the coast of Busuanga where there is a nature park. It is possible to observe the local fauna and a population of typical African wildlife such as giraffes, antelopes, and zebras.
Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary allow its animals to walk freely making a visit feel like a safari experience. It sounds strange, I know, but it’s a really cool experience to see African wildlife here.
12. Spend the day Mountain Biking
Take advantage of the dirt roads that run through Busuanga before heading off on a single bike cattle trail into the jungle. We enjoyed river crossings, narrow bridges, fun terrain, fields and local interactions on our day we spent mountain biking.
Biking trips on the island can be custom tailored meaning you can pedal as much or as little as you want. There are also options for truck support if your legs get tired along the way.
I think one of the biggest questions asked is ‘how many days should I plan for Coron?’ This is legit because the Philippines has a lot of amazing things to check out.
That said, Coron Palawan is one of those amazing places and it deserves more than a couple of days. I would say the average stay is around 3 to 4 days, but if you want my honest opinion you should give it a week. Especially if you are a diver and want to check out the shipwrecks.
Our suggested itinerary using Coron as a base:
- Day 1 – Arrive, check into a hotel and plan a sunset hike at Mt Tapyas
- Day 2- Book a day trip to Coron Island and spend your day experiencing the Twin Lagoons, Kayangan Lake and Barracuda Lake
- Day 3 – Book a day trip to Malcapuya, Banana Island and Bulog Dos
- Day 4 – Book a day trip to Pass Island, Siete Pescadas Marine Reserve, and Lusong Gunboat Shipwreck
- Day 5 – Check in to Sandcastles Palawan and go for an afternoon kayak along the coast
- Day 6 – Take a jeep expedition to Calauit Island and go for a jungle hike to a hidden swimming pool
- Day 7 – Morning kayak and early afternoon departure
An Alternative Coron Itinerary:
One that we LOVE to do when we visit Coron, is to head off on a sea safari. These trips are for the more adventurous but your days will be spent hiking, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling and exploring remote islands.
Your mode of transportation is a large Banca boat and your accommodation is camping. These trips are an incredible way to see the area.
Where to Stay in Coron
We’ve done our legwork when it comes to recommending places to stay in Coron. There are several places we love and you really can’t go wrong with any of them when planning your stay.
- Corto del Mar: one of the fancier hotels on the island, this hotel is centrally located with western amenities. It has a fantastic restaurant that serves both traditional Filipino dishes and western food, including their famous thin crust pizza. They also operate a dive shop, Corto Divers. We stayed here on our first visit to Coron and enjoyed it.
- The Funny Lion: we stayed here on our second visit to Coron and found the place to be incredibly relaxed. The rooms are very large and comfortable with all the amenities you can think of to make your stay perfect. Their pool is gorgeous and set back away from the road, overlooking the forest. When you’re in it, you feel completely secluded. They also have a very nice restaurant. The location is just outside of the downtown, so it is a much quieter place but you do need to use tuk-tuks to get around.
- Sandcastles Palawan: if you want off the beaten path, this place is an absolute oasis. We have stayed here on every visit to Coron and truth be told, would never miss the chance to visit again. This eco-resort is located way outside of Coron Town up the coast on Busuanga Island. They have a private beach, natural bungalows and luxury bungalows. They also operate adventure tours out of this location and the kayaking along the coast here is out of this world. If you don’t mind the seclusion, it’s paradise.
In addition to these places, there are several budget type guesthouses and hostels available in Coron Town. We have stayed at a few but recommend booking with one of the above unless you are really on a tight budget.
In that case, you can either book the cheaper places in advance or try to find one when you arrive in Coron. Keep in mind that quality levels vary greatly and that availability could be sparse during high season.
Practical Information for your Visit
- Safety: Coron is a very safe place and you’ll find smiling faces around every corner. As with all places, opportunistic theft can happen so be mindful of your things. We have wandered the streets of Coron Town and various beaches around the whole area at all hours of the day and night without any threat. If you feel lost, stop and ask someone for directions.
- ATM Access: Coron Town has several ATM machines located in the downtown area. Money is dispensed in Philippine Pesos (PHP) and there is a 200PHP withdrawal charge.
- Transport: The cheapest and easiest way to get around is by tuk-tuk. Prices are negotiated with the driver and based on your destination. Rates are ever-changing, so be sure to ask around for the going rate before you head out and start chatting with the drivers. There are also shuttle buses that primarily provide transport to/from the airport. Coron Town is small and can mostly be accessed by foot. What can’t be reached on foot is usually done by boat.
- WIFI Access: The Internet is sufficient and widespread around town. Most service works decently fast but the island does experience random power outages. It is recommended to purchase a SIM card and data package in Manila when you arrive in the Philippines, this will allow you to turn your phone into a hotspot.
- Booking Plane Tickets: When flying to Coron you will actually be booking your plane tickets to Busuanga Island, airport code USU. It is a very small airport and delays are common. Keep this in mind if Coron is your last stop in the Philippines. I highly advise you to plan a night in Manila before connecting to any international flights.
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