CORON What To See And Do
Coron is fast becoming one of the most popular tourist must-visits of the Philippines. Coron is one of the four municipalities that constitute the Calamianes, a group of islands that dot the waters of North Palawan. The islands commonly known as Coron, are actually a cluster of islands, including Busuanga Island (the largest island and home to Coron Town) and Coron Island, amongst many other islands in the Palawan Region.
If you fly into Coron, you will arrive at the Coron airport (more formally known as Francisco B. Reyes) on Busuanga Island, about 25km inland from Coron Town and less than an hour away. The Coron Pier has ever-increasing boat routes for tourists coming from Manila, Puerto Princesa, El Nido and other parts of Palawan.
Most of the tourist attractions are not on Busuanga Island, but on the neighbouring smaller islands and below the crystal clear waters. That being said, it is quick and easy to organise all your sightseeing from Coron Town and it is also the most practical place to stay. Basing yourself here will also give you the widest range of accommodation and food options. Choosing to stay on one of the other islands may be very appealing, but you will need to dig much deeper into your wallet for this experience!
Here are some of the sights, activities and attractions which you can enjoy in and around Coron:
Snorkelling, Free-diving And Scuba Diving
Coron is often described as one of the best locations in the World for Wreck diving. 24 Japanese Ships were sunk on 24 September 1944 by an American Air raid all around the coast of the island. The shipwrecks are for the most part well preserved and are located in relatively shallow water which makes the area perfect for recreational diving. Keep in mind that the visibility is often quite poor (from 5m to 15m) and the marine life around the shipwrecks is sparse - with mostly Scorpion fishes, Crocodile fishes and Nudibranchs plus the usual small reef fish like the Triggerfish, Parrot- and Clownfish. Groupers and Barracudas can also sometimes be spotted. So if you come to Coron it is definitely because you are passionate about Wreck Diving, not just to see reef fish! But fear not as Coron is beautiful and divers coming there are usually delighted!
We chose to dive with the local Coron Divers Dive Center and were very happy with our experience with them. They were attentive, friendly and kept the diving to a small group.
We ended up doing 3 dives with them and explored the wrecks of Morazan Maru and Teu Kaze Maru.
Climb Mt. Tapyas (Busuanga Island)
Coron has a great little trek that leads you up 742 steps to the summit of Mt. Tapyas. It is really just a long flight of concrete steps which takes you all the way up to the top. A Hollywood-style ‘CORON’ sign is perched on the hill below a giant cross. Both of these are lit up with beautiful lights and it’s quite impressive at night. The hike will only take about 15 minutes and the view is totally worth the effort.
From the summit you can spot the port, hundreds of homes built only a few feet above the water and also a great view of the ocean and surrounding islands. We climbed up with enough sunlight to enjoy the view, then hung around there for sunset, which is spectacular from this vantage point. This meant we also got to see the lights coming on and it was easy enough to make our way down the steps in the dark (a cell phone light does help). Just don’t expect to be alone up there, almost everyone who visits Coron Town makes the effort to climb this hill!
Soak in Maquinit Hot Springs (Busuanga Island)
Only a 20-minute ride from Coron Town with a tricycle, you will find this hot spring oasis in the mountains. Maquinit is one of the very few saltwater hot springs in the world - it is said that the water gets heated by a volcano to around 40 degrees Celsius and springs up into the two-tiered circular pool. What makes these hot springs so special is the view they provide of the ocean and the fact that it is a salt-water hot spring. It’s a great place to enjoy the sunset, with a really chilled vibe and everyone enjoying the warm water under the stars.
Opening Hours: 6am-10pm Entrance Fee: 150PHP Roundtrip Tricycle: 300PHP
Lounge on Malcapuya Beach (Malcapuya Island)
Although still part of Coron, Malcapuya Island is located about 30 kilometres south of Coron town and actually lies closer to Culion Island in the east. Because of its distance from Coron, it has remained relatively undeveloped - like Banana and Bulalacao Islands. However, these islands are becoming more popular, an upscale Two Seasons resort opened at Malaroyroy Peninsula in Bulalacao and there are rumours that Malcapuya – itself privately owned – will follow suit.
Malcapuya Beach is located 2 hours away from the town of Coron and most tour groups around town offer packages going to Malcapuya Island which is usually packaged with Bulog Dos and Banana Island. The boats will dock at the back beach from where a short walk will lead you to a powdery, white sand beach facing west.
Swim in Kayangan Lake (Coron Island)
Kayangan Lake is undoubtedly the most popular tourist spot on Coron Island. Your boat will cruise into the crystal clear water parking lot and if you’re not the first boat to dock, you will most likely end up having to walk through 4 or 5 other boats before reaching the jetty! At the jetty, there are a few stalls selling snacks and even ice-cream. From there you will need to take a short hike up the stairs to the ‘Instagram Viewpoint’ before joining all the other tourists clambering down the other side to reach the famous Kayangan Lake.
It’s a sparkling clear freshwater lake with unbelievable underwater rock formations (which you can only really appreciate by diving). Just note that hundreds of tourists flock to Kayangan Lake, so do not expect to be alone! If you can, try to arrange for a private boat tour so that you can avoid arriving at the same time as all the other organised tours. This would only be really early morning or late afternoon just before they ‘close’. It was the last stop of our day tour and we managed to be almost alone as most of the tourists were hurrying back to their boats. Yes, it is a really beautiful lake, particularly viewed from above, but there is nothing serene or peaceful about the experience.
Free-dive Barracuda Lake (Coron Island)
Situated right next to Kayangan Lake is Barracuda Lake. The lake was named after the discovery of a particularly large barracuda fish skeleton found in the depths of the lake's waters. It is one of the most famous diving sites not only in Coron but also throughout the entire Philippines and like Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake is composed of both salt and freshwater. The most notable feature of this lake, especially for divers, is its layers of cold, warm, and hot water, also known as the thermocline. To be able to truly experience these, you really need to dive here as you cannot feel the thermal water difference just by snorkelling.
This lake is just as clear as Kayangan Lake but currently has fewer crowds, possibly due to the higher entrance fee of 200PHP.
Twin Lagoon (Coron Island)
Twin Lagoon is a stunning pool of water hiding amongst the breathtaking cliffs on Coron Island. You need to swim through a small gap under the cliff to get into Twin Lagoon. Once inside the lagoon, you are surrounded in all directions by the towering, dagger-like cliffs (and parked boats!). Just note that hundreds of tourists flock to Twin Lagoon, so do not expect to be alone! If you can, try to arrange for a private boat tour so that you can avoid arriving at the same time as all the other organised tours, although this might only be possible in the very early morning or late afternoon.
This was probably our favourite of the ‘touristy’ spots on our tour as swimming under the cliff was a fun experience. You can also climb up and over the cliff (intended for high tide when you can’t swim under) and from here you get a really great view of the lagoons. However, there are even more beautiful smaller lagoons just around the cliffs in both directions and if you have a kayak or private boat, then this is where we would suggest spending your time. We kayaked two bays to the East and was all alone in the most exquisite of natural settings.
Hidden Lagoon (Coron Island)
This cool swimming hole can only be accessed through a small hole in the rocks. Once you are through the narrow passage the lagoon opens up into a stunning grotto. Another great spot for kayaking and reaching with a private boat.
Africa Safari in Calauit
You might be wondering how giraffes and zebras managed to get to Coron? For somewhat unclear reasons, one hundred and four animals - which included six different types of antelopes (impala, gazelle, bushbuck, eland, waterbuck, and tobi) were brought to Coron from Kenya during the 1970s. The animals were brought to the tiny island where, under a decree of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the locals were moved elsewhere to make way for the new inhabitants. It's an experiment fraught with problems ever since as not only is funding the program a huge concern, the lack of genetic diversity risks the eventual demise of all the animals.
However, for now, the animals and their habitation provide a glimpse of Africa in a remarkable tropical setting. Visitors who make the trek to Calauit have the unique chance to sleep in an open-walled gazebo and wake to giraffes and zebra grazing just a few meters away and day tours from Coron Town are an easy way to see the "Savannah of Coron"
Swim with Dugong (Sea Cow)
This is one of the activities we really wish we had known about before the time. Although, at the steep price and with no guarantees, we may not have been able to justify the spending. But, if unlike us, you have the time and money, please go and do this and let us know your experience!
Dugongs (Sea Cows) are distant cousins of elephants, growing up to 3 meters in length and weighing up to 400 kilograms. They are thought to live as long as humans (about 70 years), and give birth to just one calf every 3 to 5 years. They inhabit shallow waters of the Coral Triangle, wherever seagrass is most abundant, but are currently critically endangered in the Philippines. The name Dugong comes from the Malay word duyung, which means "lady of the sea." Such odd and intriguing creatures, I would love to see them one day!
CORON Island Hopping Tours
The one thing that is synonymous with Coron and which should really be right at the top of this list is Island Hopping! We have dedicated a separate post to this must-do activity in Coron.