Philippines: Coron

After a few amazing days in Bantayan and Malapascua, we headed to another island, Coron.

Day 5 – Cebu to Coron 

We got up super early and grabbed an Uber for the 5 min drive to the Cebu airport ($1.60 Canadian). Since we were flying domestic to Busuanga airport in Coron we didn’t need to be there too early (one hour) as we had checked in online. When we had booked our flights with PAL it said we had free baggage allowance up to 20 kg except on (insert plane type) would only be 10 kg. Turns out our plane was that type and we owed for having our bags oversize – ₱200/kilo. *always check your baggage allowance before you fly* 

Krispy Kreme at Cebu airport, Philippines

Since there was no option to purchase baggage for a cheaper amount, there wasn’t much we could do if we had this info beforehand (except maybe pack more in our carry on bags and layer clothes) to avoid this unexpected cost.

The Cebu airport was super modern with fast free wifi and a bunch of American fast food chains (Krispy Kreme AND Dunkin’ donuts) and security moved quickly so arriving one hour before our flight was no issue.

View of Coron from the plane

We landed at Cebu airport a half hour early and grabbed our bags and exited in record time. Busuanga is definitely one of the smallest airports I’ve been to. We caught a shuttle to our hotel in town for ₱150 each. This is the standard rate and bargaining doesn’t appear to be customary in this situation. Had we known tours departed at 8:30 we probably would have jumped on a tour right away and we were anxious to get out to see the sights, and Coron town itself doesn’t have much to offer. After a leisurely breakfast we wandered down to the boat dock and hired a private tour to take us to 5 stops for ₱5500 + ₱500  tip for 4 people. It was more expensive than group tours and didn’t have the inclusions such as lunch and kayaks but we would otherwise have been left in the town. We were allowed to choose our stops from a menu and opted for places not on the tour we planned to do the following day. The base rate for a private tour is₱2800  (again, set rate for all private boats) and then each stop is₱150-300/person which for us, added up to ₱5500.

DIY prices for stops on tours in Coron, Philippines.

Barracuda lake – a must see stop with crystal clear water surrounded by large cliffs. Not much to see snorkelling but the visibility was incredible.

Twin lagoon – similar to Barracuda lake but divided in two with the option to climb a ladder over rocks to the other side or snorkel under the rocks with only about an inch or two of air space above. It looks a lot scarier than it was.

Coral garden – this was the epic snorkelling stop of the tour. The coral were colourful with several types of fish swimming through them. There was no landing for this stop, snorkelling was off the boat only.

Skeleton reef – another snorkel stop with no landing. Not as beautiful as the coral garden but we were able to observe a sunken ship. It is rare to be able to see a ship wreck by snorkelling as they’re usually too deep so if you aren’t a diver and ship wrecks intrigue you, check this spot out.

Paddling away from CYC Beach in Coron, Philippines

CYC Beach – this is a free locals beach so we were not charged to go here. This is a tiny island with white sand and beautiful clear blue/green water surrounding it. Exactly how you’d picture paradise. It was rather busy as we went on a weekend and locals were out enjoying the beach but the children were pretty funny interacting with us and it was still far from crowded. A highlight was when we heard what sounded like an ice cream truck jingle from home and notice a little boat paddling to the beach with a Nestle sign. Their version of an ice cream truck but by boat!

When we got back we organized the rest of our stay and checked out the town. Disappointingly, the dugong tour is on the other side of the Busuanga Island (approx. 2 hour drive) and is very expensive (approx. $100 US each) so we skipped this outing that we had researched as a fun option for this island.

3/4 of us came down with a gastrointestinal bug leaving us in rough shape for the next few days. Thankfully we had packed enough medications to allow us to continue to enjoy our time in Coron between frequent trips to the toilet. For a list of medications I always travel with, click here.

Day 6: Coron 

We opted to do a group tour to see the other spots we had missed.

Sample tour flyer in Coron, Philippines
Tour prices in Coron, Philippines

Sadly we did not book one with the free kayaks as they all seemed to not be running the day we wanted or not available on the tours we wanted. Note that although we booked a 6 stop tour, we actually only went to 4 stops as two of them were “2 in 1” stops. Also, they say the tours go until 5 pm but we were back by 3 pm. That being said, this tour was well worth the₱900 and we considered doing it again as we had such a great day!

1. Green lagoon – perfect clear water surrounded by cliffs but not much to see snorkelling. It was not at all crowded and we were the only boat there until the end.

2. CYC beach (same as the day before) + snorkel stop (2 in 1). I swam around with my snorkel for awhile looking for the snorkel spot but only found sea grass so spent the rest of the hour stop there on the beach.

Lunch on the boat tour from Coron

3. Lunch spot at Atwayan/Sunset beach – this beach was incredible and for most of the time we were the only boat there. We were greeted by an iguana and swam around while our lunch buffet was prepared. The hot lunch was pretty incredible considered we were on an island with no amenities. There were two types of pork, fish, rice, roasted vegetables and bananas. I’m not sure if they cater to vegetarian or special diets but I was satisfied with rice, vegetables and a banana. One note here: don’t use outhouse. Don’t even look in it. It is something straight from a horror movie.

4. Kayangan Lake – our final stop and the one we were most excited for. There were several boats parked there when we arrived. We climbed the 174 steps up to the viewpoint and the 200 steps down to the lake. We swam around the lake for 1.5 hours – the coolest part being going inside the caves furthest across the lake from the boardwalk. There are some other cool caves you can see underwater near here. We were having a great time until we heard rustling and noticed a snake on the rocks! This snake was about 1-2 cm in diameter, one of the thinnest snakes I’ve ever seen but had us terrified as it was drinking from the lake we were swimming in!!!

Kayangan Lake, Coron, Philippines

The sunny ride back to Coron town was about half an hour. Transportation to our hotel was included but unnecessary as it was only a short walk from the boat dock we returned to.

After dinner we watched the sunset from Lualhati park and wandered around checking out the town and public market by the water. If you’re looking for any fresh produce (or raw meat), this public market is the place to go!

Jeepny down by the boat docks in Coron

Detour: You can take a boat to El Nido for only 3.5-4 hours each way. If you have an extra day or two, this would be a great side trip!

Day 7 – Coron 

After realizing there was no beach near town and not wanting to do another boat tour, we opted to check into a nearby resort to have access to the pool. We rented scooters (₱350 for 4 hours) and cruised up towards the airport. We were too timid to go through the crazy traffic of town otherwise heading east would be a better route as you can head to the hot springs and a small beach just past the hot springs.

We decided to catch the sunset from the top of Mt Tapyas so tackled this 15 minute/700+ step hike around 6 pm.

View from Mt. Tapyas at sunset in Coron, Philippines

After dinner we had massages and contemplated karaoke. Coron appears to have some decent nightlife that I can’t really comment on because of my ridiculously early bedtimes on this trip.

Detour: hike up the backside of Mt. Tapyas and down the front side into town to give yourself a more diverse hike. The hot springs are a natural place to go after this hike and there are plenty of tricycles waiting at the bottom of the hike to give you a ride there. We didn’t do this but based on others’ accounts, it is worth doing! 

Day 8 – Coron to Cebu 

A much needed rest day by the pool. We did nothing. Did not leave our resort until it was time to go to the airport at 2:30 pm.

Westown Lagoon Resort pool in Coron, Philippines

Because the airport is so tiny, check in and bag drop and security takes about 3 minutes total. The waiting area was overcrowded, hot and stuffy. There are minimal food vendors selling hot dogs and chips, and a couple souvenir stands.  This is not Heathrow airport. There is a sign requesting ₱100 terminal fee but we were told we didn’t have to pay it. Perhaps because it was included with our ticket with Cebgo? I suggest waiting outside until close to your boarding time soaking up the last bit of Coron sunshine. One bonus, the airport does have one hour of free wifi which likely came in handy for all the people booked on the PAL flight that was cancelled while we were waiting. Thankfully we were on the Cebgo flight which was an hour delayed, but not cancelled.

We landed in Cebu late and checked into our airport hotel as my friends had a 4 am flight home the following morning.

Next stop: Bohol

Coron general tips:
– 2 nights is plenty to see/do everything. If you have longer, consider an overnight boat cruise or head to El Nido for a couple of days (3 hour boat ride each way) or book into a resort to chill by the pool as we did.
– There is no beach near Coron town other than ones requiring a boat ride to get to. Stay somewhere with a pool. The nearest small beach is a half hour away, somewhere past the hot springs.
– Pack your own snorkel to save ₱150 /day in snorkel rental fees. The snorkels they rent out are pretty good compared to some I’ve seen in other places so you won’t feel too bad if you have to rent one.
– There are no toilets or washrooms on the day trips/tours. If you have a gastrointestinal bug, keep this in mind as it could be a problem.
– Fly Cebgo over PAL for clear baggage fees and because it’s just a better airline.
– The core of Coron town is all walkable however some of the resorts are further out (5-10 minute tricycle ride, ₱30/person)
– After you have done a boat tour or two and the other main touristy things, there isn’t much else to do, and Coron is a dirty, loud town. You may want to limit your stay to 2-3 nights max. especially since there is no beach near town.
– Many accommodations won’t have hot water showers and are very basic.
– There are many, many, stray dogs and cats in poor condition, literally dying on the side of the road. There is no local rescue organization that we were able to find so if the sight of dying cats and dogs bothers you, you may want to go somewhere else. The state of the animals does not appear to affect the locals which is even more disturbing. For more info on the stray dogs in the Philippines, click here.

Stray dog in Coron, Philippines.

Summary of Coron activity costs (March 2018)
– tour to the islands – starting at ₱900/person
– Private boat tour with 5 stops = ₱5500/4 people
– Scooter rental for 3-4 hours = ₱350
– One hour massage = ₱500 -₱700
– Hike Mt. Tapyas = free, 2 min. walk from town
– Hot springs entry =₱200, 30 min ride east from town.
– Tricycle to resorts on outskirts of town (ie. Westown resort) = 30 php/person
– Shuttle from airport to town = ₱150/person, 30 min northwest of town.

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