Highlights of Coron
Coron was right at the top of our list of places to visit in the Philippines, having been highly recommended by many people who had travelled extensively around the country before we did. Practically every poster advertising the region that we came across included a view of the magnificent karst cliffs surrounded by turquoise waters which can be seen on the way to Lake Kayangan, making the lake one of the main highlights of Coron. We couldn’t wait to take our own pictures there too!
The rugged cliffs of Coron
Much to our disappointment, due to the unfortunate death of two free divers in the lake a couple of weeks before we got there, it was closed during the length of our stay in the region. Quite annoying seeing that it is one of the main attractions in Coron!
However, we discovered that Coron is not only about Lake Kayangan. There are plenty of other beautiful spots around Busuanga island which, all in all, still made our trip worthwhile.
Some clarification though. Busuanga island is one of the islands in the Calamian group and home to Coron town where most tourist accommodation is located. If you plan on going to Coron this is probably where you will stay.
Coron island, on the other hand, is some 30 minutes boat ride away from Busuanga and this is where Lake Kayangan is located. The island is home to the Tagbanwa natives who only allow tourists to access a few spots on it, including Kayangan Lake and Barracuda Lake. You can travel to Coron island from Coron town by boat although it is usually visited as part of a holistic boat tour incorporating other sights too.
Panoramic view of Coron Town from Mount Tapyas
Here’s our list describing the highlights of Coron:
1. Watch sunset from Mt. Tapyas
725 steps to climb up to the second highest point in Coron to view one of the best sunsets in the Philippines. If Nikki can do it, so can you! It’s totally worth the effort and it’s free!
It is best to start climbing the steps about an hour before sunset (check time of sunset during your stay), not only to have a little rest at every 100th step, but also to find a good place from where to watch it since you will not be alone!
- Carry plenty of water and some snacks with you as none are available at the top
- It is best to also take a torch since it might be pretty dark by the time you go down.
Sunset view from Mount Tapyas
2. Go on an island and beach hopping boat trip
Coron town, like El Nido, is packed with agencies offering boat tours covering the main sights in the area. The highlight of any tour is usually Kayangan Lake. We booked our tour for our last day in Coron hoping that the lake would have reopened by the time we went, but no such luck!
The stop at Kayangan was replaced by a stop at Barracuda lake instead, and also included stops at the Twin Lagoon, Skeleton Wreck, CYC beach and Siete Pecados Marine Park. Because of the closure of Kayangan, every sight was unfortunately packed with people, so much so that it felt like being at a theme park most of the time.
Spruced up bangka in Coron
This is unfortunate because the places are incredibly beautiful and photo-worthy, but with hundreds of people in life vests shouting and screaming, hitting you with their selfie sticks and fins (whilst trying to learn how to swim) added to the equation, the magic tends to die out. Our guide told us that had the lake been open, there would be far less people at every other spot.
Notwithstanding, we totally recommend visits to Barracuda Lake (if you are a good swimmer, be sure to swim out towards the middle of the lake, away from all the people so that you can experience its beauty in silence), Siete Pecados Marine Park which is home to some of the best underwater coral life that we have ever seen, and CYC beach which was optional on our tour, but which is actually a cute little spot.
Michelle’s failed attempt to drown Nikki
If you would like to take a different or additional tour, several other trips to wrecks, islands and beaches are also offered by the agencies. A trip to Malcapuya Island is great alternative we have been told.
Our tour cost 1600 PHP each (discounted to 1500 PHP) including an excellent lunch and use of a kayak.
Lunch served during the boat trip
- Life vests are mandatory in Barracuda lake due to the brackish water. Water shoes are also mandatory at the coral reefs and in order to swim out to CYC beach.
- Beware of snakes! Nikki freaked the local guide out when he told him about having swum close to a black and white snake at the water’s edge! Apparently, what we later found out to be a ‘Banded Sea Krait’, is a friendly, yet highly venomous sea snake which kills its prey in eight seconds.
- A dry bag is highly recommended. Most of your stuff will get wet without it. We bought ours in El Nido but they can be found in Coron town too.
- Mask (with snorkel) and water shoes are not provided but can be rented out at the pier before departure for 150 PHP each.
The Coral Reef in Siete Pecados
3. Eat street food in Coron town
Fancy some chicken intestines, gizzards or blood pudding? Little BBQs serving grilled innards on kebab sticks can be found at every street corner of Coron town; most kebabs cost as little as 10 PHP so it’s easy to try them out!
- Some of the kebabs contain large pieces of chicken. If you are tempted to try them, be sure that they have been cooked right through. It is not uncommon to find the middle parts still oozing blood.
Street food in Coron Town
4. Relax at the Maquinit Hot Springs
Although we didn’t actually visit the hot springs (Nikki is not a fan and claims that his experience in the Sulphur baths in Tbilisi provided him with enough scalding water to last a life time), many people we met during our stay in Coron recommended spending at least an evening there.
The saltwater hot springs, surrounded by mangroves, are located 30 minutes (by trike) away from Coron town and provide a soothing experience especially if you visit after having climbed Mt. Tapyas. The hot springs are open until 10pm and the entrance fee is 200 PHP. A tricycle roundtrip from Coron town should set you back 300 PHP.
- There are no locker rooms so don’t take too much stuff with you!
Sunset from our accomodation in Coron Town
5. Go Diving
Wrecks, reefs, corals and an abundance of fish species make Coron one of the best diving spots in the Philippines. Although Nikki had planned to dive, he was slightly ill throughout our stay and had to forgo the experience, much to his disappointment.
Because of this, we cannot recommend any particular diving school or site but, if you are a diver, be sure to set aside some time for the sport when you’re in Coron!
The Coral Reef in Siete Pecados
Getting there and away:
We arrived in Coron from El Nido via the Montenegro fastboat which costs 1760 PHP each one-way. The slow boat is a few hundred pesos cheaper including lunch, but takes almost twice the time to get there; the safety record isn’t brilliant either and using this can be risky in rough seas. Tickets to the boat can be booked from the Art café in El Nido.
Busuanga is home to a little airport, 45 minutes mini-van ride from Coron town, where we caught a flight to Manila.
It was difficult to find budget accommodation when we started looking, about a week before our trip was due. We finally managed to secure a room with a private bathroom at Krystal Lodge for 800 PHP/night right in the heart of Coron town.
Krystal Lodge consists of a number of bamboo cottages set on stilts, perched above the water among the mangroves. The place was one of many which was severely hit by the typhoon a few years back, and is still recovering from it. Our room in particular was slightly tilted, which was a little disorienting until we got used to it. It actually felt like it was sinking, at least from one side. Hammocks and tables were found outside our room making it a great place to relax and chill as we got some work done. Krystal and her team are extremely welcoming and were ready to help us out with any issues and queries including recommendations for tours and places to visit, and the sunsets from the cottages are awesome!
Our cabin perched above water at Krystal Lodge
During our time in Coron we ate at a variety of local eateries (or canteens if you wish, called carinderias), sampled some weird looking street fare, and also tried the food at KT’s Sinugba Sa Balay restaurant which we highly recommend.
Carinderias usually have 5-6 dishes available most of which contain pork or pork innards. You choose whichever one (or all) of these you like, and are served a small portion of the dish with rice. This is definitely the most affordable way of dining in the Philippines and the food is usually great!