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As I was thinking of what to write about next, J gave me an idea – he said why don’t you post something highlighting your home country? My immediate first thought was sharing my island-hopping guide for one of my favorite places on earth: Coron.
I was born and raised in the Philippines. The Philippine archipelago is composed of 7,641 different islands – there is a LOT to explore. Before I tied the knot and moved to Thailand, I did A LOT of local traveling in my own country.
This exploration led me to the beautiful island of Coron, Palawan. I first visited in 2012 and loved it so much I ended up doing an almost yearly pilgrimage: I went back in 2013, 2014, 2016, etc. etc. etc.
Local Knowledge: While popular, Coron is definitely more laid back and smaller than the more frequently visited El Nido. When friends bound for the Philippines ask for travel advice, I always point them in the direction of Coron.
Why do I keep going back to Coron? Every time I go, the place feels quite familiar, yet continues to give me a wonderful fresh experience.
The attention on Coron has increased a lot since I first went in 2012, probably helped out by the rise of social media – many people come to see its beauty and are inspired to share their experience with the world.
But you can’t really blame them at all: Coron is one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the Philippines.
Okay, let’s get to it. How do you get to Coron?
You can get there by boat, but you’ll most likely want to fly from Manila to Busuanga. With a bit of advance planning, expect a round trip ticket from Manila to Busuanga to cost about $100 USD. In past trips, I have flown different airlines including Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and Skyjet.
Travel Tip: Make sure you’re going to the right place: the official name of Busuanga Airport is Francisco B. Reyes Airport and the airport code is USU.
The flight will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour and I would of course suggest getting a window seat because the view of the islands from your plane window is gorgeous, you’ll definitely not want to miss out!
From the airport to town
Upon arrival at the airport, transport isn’t a problem at all. There are a lot of vans that will take you to your hotel in Coron town. People on the island are friendly and they are experts at catering to tourists – plus they speak excellent English. Road travel from the airport to the main town is a pleasant 30 minute drive.
Where to stay
There are many hotel options with a wide price range depending on your budget. I have stayed in everything from an inexpensive home stay to a fancy resort. On the more affordable end, I loved staying at Mommita’s Lodge – it cost about 800 pesos per night (about $15 USD). A big step up but still reasonable is Corto del Mar – 2,500 pesos per night (about $50/night USD) and has a lovely pool.
Booking the boat tour
Once you’re settled and decide you’re ready for your island hopping adventure, just take a walk around: there are many tour packages all over town.
Check a few of them out and if they fit your budget then I suggest you go for it!
Personally, after so many trips, I already have my favorite island spots in mind so hiring a private boat is the way I like to go. This option will cost about 2,000 pesos (about $40 USD) for the day not including food and entry fees to individual islands.
How to book a private tour boat: If you decide to go the private tour route, just go to the boat dock and ask around. You can then arrange an itinerary for the day with the boat driver directly. Don’t worry, the locals are friendly!
What to eat
On the day of the trip, I like to go to the local market early in the morning because: included in the $40 boat fee is grilling and cooking services also!
This means you can shop for your family (plus don’t forget the two-man boat crew!) and have whatever your choice of lunch is for that day.
Me? I usually go for the freshest catch like fish or squid. Since I’m a Filipino and we do love our pork, a grilled liempo (pork belly) should definitely also be in the menu. Tropical in-season fruit is also high on my shopping list.
No need to wake up at the crack of dawn: Boats usually leave 9 am at the earliest, as the boatsmen need to wait for the approval of the Coast Guard before they embark.
Top seven Coron island hopping spots
So you got your boat, your food, your family. Where to?
Here are my tried and tested, not-to-be-missed, absolute best island hops you can make while in Coron:
1 – Twin Lagoon
When you enter the lagoon you can’t help but be impressed by the massive jagged cliffs. Your boat will dock in the first of the twin lagoons. If you’re fortunate enough to be the only boat around and the wind is calm, you might be treated to a view like this:
As for the second lagoon, depending on the tide, you will either have to swim under a little cave or climb up a ladder to arrive on the other side:
Don’t forget: If you opt for the private tour boat, remember to set aside a few pesos for the entrance fees to each little island. This small fee usually between 100-200 pesos per person.
2 – Smith Beach
Smith Beach is an absolute stunner of a stop. It is also one of my top recommendations for a beautiful spot to have lunch. Since others may think the same, plan to arrive a bit early to get a nice hut.
While you’re relaxing and swimming in the clear blue waters, the boatman will be preparing lunch. After a morning on the water, nothing tastes better than some fresh seafood and fresh fruit. And yes, some pork as well!
3 – Waling Waling Island
Waling Waling is a privately owned island. If you want to include this on your itinerary, you’re going to have to make sure that your boatsman has some connection to the owner of this island.
If that connection is intact, plan on lingering here: because it requires a bit more effort, chances are you’ll be lazying around on the white pristine beach with no one else around.
4 – Vivian Beach
Another great spot to lounge around on the sand, splash around in the water with your little one, or just relax and take a nap in a hut.
Vivian beach also has a pet monkey who is constantly hungry and enjoys being cuddled!
5 – Kayangan Lake
Going to Kayangan Lake is like hitting two birds with one stone.
There’s a bit of a hike on the way up, so you’ll get to see a beautiful view of Coron, one that looks like a scene out of Neverland from Peter Pan.
Once you’ve worked up a sweat, you’ll hike down and cool off in the crystal-clear, super-refreshing freshwater Kayangan Lake. Perfect!
6 – Banana Beach
Because it’s about a 45 minute ride away from the other beaches, I’ve only been to Banana Beach one time. If you are in no rush and want to get away from the crowds, then this beach is perfect. And the grass is a nice touch, something you won’t find on many islands.
7 – Coral Garden and the Sunken Japanese Shipwreck
One of the most beautiful corals I’ve ever snorkeled is at Coral Garden. Even if you don’t get wet! Just by looking down from the boat, you can see the beautiful, vibrant, and colorful scene. Me and J decided to give the boatman a break and traded off babysitting and snorkeling.
Don’t forget: Make sure to bring along functioning snorkel gear! This can be rented before you board the boat in the morning – the boatsman can point you to the right direction.
For your planning: to arrive at Coral Garden and the Japanese Shipwreck, it takes about an hour each way.
These are my seven favorite island hopping spots in Coron! Although I have visited many times, I would go back to Coron in a heartbeat. There has been so much progress over the span of the last 5 years. Hip restaurants with lots of tasty food choices and gelato shops are sprouting up everywhere in town. I do hope that Coron will maintain its charm as it develops in the years to come.
Have you decided to island-hop in Coron? Here are some trip practicalities to help you plan:
Cheapest Flights to Philippines:
- If you’re not already in the Philippines, you have to get to there. For cheap airfare, our first stop is always Momondo where you can sort for cheapest, quickest, and, brilliantly, best (which basically gives you an idea of how painful the flight will be on a smiley face scale from 1-10). We’ll then double check with another site like JetRadar and the airline website itself to make sure we’re getting the best price.
Best price on the hotel:
- We usually start our search on Tripadvisor and go from there. Once we settle on the cheapest option, we get further discounts by making the purchase through the Ebates/Rakuten website. For example, if a Tripadvisor search shows that Hotels.com has the lowest price, instead of going directly their website, we go to Hotels.com through the Ebates/Rakuten portal, which gives us an additional 3.5% (or whatever the the rate is that day) cash back. Easy.
TAGS: ADVENTURE, PHILIPPINES, TRAVEL WITH KIDS