Coron: The complete travel guide
This article is a complete travel guide to the municipality of Coron in the Philippines. The municipality of Coron consists of the eastern half of the island Busuanga, the Coron Island and about 50 other islands. The municipality is part of the Calamian archipelago. When you have a passion for diving and tropical islands, then this is the place for you! After reading this guide you will know what to do, where to go, where to stay and are well prepared for your Coron exploration!
- A short introduction
- The best time to travel
- The map
- Transport options
- Points of interest
- What to do
- Advice and recommendations
A short introduction
When speaking of Coron, people often refer to Coron’s city centre, but it’s much bigger than that. The municipality of Coron consists of the eastern part of Busuanga Island, Coron itself and 52 smaller islands. The municipality, in total covers 689 square kilometres. The municipality of Coron is situated in the north of the Palawan province and together with the municipalities of Busuanga, Linapacan and Culion form the Calamian archipelago.
The Tagbanua and Calamianes tribes, were the first inhabitants of the archipelago. Although the Calamianes have lost their original roots, due to marriages outside their own tribes, the Tagbanua tribe still exists. They mainly established on Coron and live from fishery and agriculture. In the last few years tourism also has become a source of income.
There are two versions that tell the story of how Coron got its name. The first version is that the word is obtained from the language Cuyonon. In Cuyonon, Coron means “pot”, because the bay of Coron is shaped and looks a bit like a pot. Another version is that the name Coron comes from the Tagbanua tribe. According to them, Coron means “embedded”, and would refer to the high mountains that surround the island on three sides.
For many divers Coron offers a unique chance to dive on shipwrecks. These wrecks are a relic from the second world war in which Coron was the decor for the US air attack on Japanese warships. Because the wrecks are pretty shallow, the sight often is good and the current not too strong, this is an ideal opportunity to go wreck diving!
In addition to wreck diving, Coron has much more to offer. Coron has high mountains, impressive limestone cliffs, green jungles and dense mangrove forests. Here, you’ll find unique animals such as the Palawan peacock pheasant, the Palawan cockatoo and the Calamian deer. There also are very impressive lakes, enchanting lagoons, beautiful white sandy beaches and clear blue seas, full of life!
I’d recommend staying at least a few days in the town of Coron and explore the various attractions in the municipality of Coron from there. Go for your PADI or diving qualification here, go island hopping or enjoy one of the beautiful islands in the neighbourhood. Coron has you travellers a lot to offer and can’t be missed during your discovery of the Palawan province!
The main reason to visit Coron is the impressive nature and scenery! A large part of the islands is covered by various types of trees. The most common are the plank root trees that grow against the mountain slopes, including forests of different compositions. This will then go into pasture or mangrove forests. Many animals call this habitat home, including:
- 218 bird species
- 58 mammalian species
- 64 reptile species
- 21 amphibian species
There are animals, such as the Blue-naped Parrot, the Lesser bamboo bat, the Bearded pig, the Western Pond turtle, the Palawan frog and the Philippine crocodile. These animals are generally very tame and generally avoid the hustle and bustle of the city.
When you’d like to get face to face with these animals, then Kingfisher park trips would be a great day activity. Here you’ll become acquainted with different ecosystems and get the chance to see different animals, including various types of Kingfishers.
In addition to the nature on land, there’s an breath-taking world to explore under water. There are 10 protected sea areas in the waters of the municipality of Coron. This habitat is home for lots of plants and animals including:
- 349 coral species
- 342 fish species
- 18 mangrove tree species
- 9 seagrass species
There are animals such as damselfishes and clownfishes, but also the Eagle ray and the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray. In addition to many types of hard and soft corals with the corresponding invertebrates such as nudibranchs, lobsters and shellfish. Because of the seagrass, you’ll also see the Manatee and different types of sea turtles. In the deeper waters, you’ll find dolphins and whales swimming.
The best time to travel
The best time to travel is different for everyone. November-December is a good time for people who like to rest and want to enjoy the nature. The rainy season is just finished this time of the year, so the vegetation is lush and green. From the end of December, slowly, but steadily, more tourists will be arriving. December-February are the coldest months, ideal for people who don’t necessarily want to walk underneath the burning sun. When you are looking for heat, blue skies and a calm sea, then March – May is what you should be looking at!
- The climate
The climate is divided into two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. The rainy season starts when the monsoon coming from the south-west makes its way to the islands. In general, the monsoon reaches the islands mid-June and creates a strong wind from the Indian Ocean, with warm wet air. Most of the rain pours down in July and August. The rainy season runs until November, from when it doesn’t get to assimilate as much rain as the months before. The dry period starts at the end of November until the end of April. In the dry period, you can describe the weather best as dry, hot and plenty of sun.
- The temperature
The average temperature is between 25 and 32 degrees Celsius, with a minimum of 20 degrees and a maximum of 40 degrees. December, January and February are considered the coolest months, due to air currents from the north-east. This time, it’s regularly cloudy. This doesn’t necessarily mean a clear blue sky, but there definitely is a pleasant temperature.
The water temperature is around 28 to 30 degrees, whole year round. This means that you don’t need to wear a thick wetsuit. The visibility on average is between 7 to 30 meters. The sight is among other things, influenced by the rain. That’s why it’s better not to dive from July to September. Plankton as well, hinders the visibility under water, but also causes more activity. The warmer the weather, the more plankton. The plankton season runs from December to April.
Between Christmas and New Year and the Chinese New Year, it’s visibly busier on Coron. The school holidays start in April, which makes it a busy month too.
- The best time to travel
From January to April there’s little to no rain. This, in contrast to the period from June to October when Coron gets a lot of precipitation. This period, it rains 20 days per the month, on average. When you want to enjoy a beachy holiday, it’s advisable to book another time, then the months from May to October. Although, the rain season perks up the nature and shows it in its most beautiful state, with stunning green vegetation.
Coron! It sounds nice but how do I get to Coron? To get to the town of Coron you have two options. Option one: by airplane and option two: by boat.
When you choose for travelling by plane, you save time. In just over an hour you fly from Manila Ninoy Aquino to Francisco B. Reyes on Busuanga. After you’ve arrived at the airport in Manila, you can fly straight from there. Please note that the domestic flights depart from terminal 4. Make sure that you have at least three hours of transfer time in between. There are a number of companies that fly from Manila to Busuanga, including Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines. Cebu Pacific is a good choice!
- There are daily flights between Manila and Busuanga. Once arrived at the small airport of Busuanga, little busses are already waiting for you. These little busses, bring you in less than half an hour to your accommodation in the city centre of Coron. The price is 150 pesos per person.
When you choose for the boat, you can save money and bring more stuff. The trip is often cheaper and you can sleep on the boat, which again saves money. In addition to these benefits, there are several things you need to be aware of. Between Manila and Coron, also smaller ferries sail. In the case of a rough sea especially, these boats aren’t safe. Make sure to book your tickets in time and be prepared that boats can be very full.
On Saturday and Wednesday there is a boat between Manila and Coron. The journey takes 15 hours and the price starts at 1800 pesos per person. Because this is an overnight journey, beds will be provided. This saves costs on accommodation.
- On Saturday and Wednesday there is a boat between Manila and Coron. The journey takes up to 15 hours and the ticket price starts at 1800 pesos per person. As this is an overnight boat, so you can sleep on the boat, which saves you money on accommodation.
- On Sunday and Thursday there is a boat between Puerto Princesa and Coron. The trip takes about 4 hours and the ticket price starts at 1600 pesos per person.
- Daily boats sail between El Nido and Coron. For 1760 pesos there is a “fast craft” which sails to Coron within 3.5 hours. You can also use the larger ferry which takes you to Coron for 1400 pesos. Trips with this boat tough, take at least twice the time.
In Coron no taxis will be found. The main means of transport is the tricycle, an engine with a covered sidecar. There are a big number of tricycles, so you never have to wait long. Prices for rides within the city centre are 10 pesos per person. In addition, there are also jeepneys and mini vans, but aren’t always necessary, because the distances are relatively small and there are plenty of tricycles available.
In addition to transport on land, there obviously is the transport on water. The transport on the water is mainly done with the Bangka. This is a boat with on each side a float for more stability. When you’re about to explore the different islands on Coron, the bangka ideal! On Coron, these tours are well described and I as well, will get back to this later in this article.
As you’ve read in the introduction, Coron is a lot bigger than most people think. Yet the choices are somewhat limited. From the airport on Busuanga, you’ll have the choice to either travel north or south. The road to the North brings you to the coast where you’ll find few accommodations, mainly resorts. If you choose the road to the south, at a given moment, you’ll arrive on a two split where you can choose to drive to Coron’s city centre or choose the exit to the municipality of Busuanga. Once arrived in the town, you can take a boat to one of the island resorts.
- Busuanga Island
The major part of the accommodation options is located on the island of Busuanga. The eastern half of the island belongs to the municipality Coron. There is a great difference between the north and the south coast of Busuanga. The south coast is a lot busier, has more villages and also more activities. Choose for the north coast when you want to enjoy yourself in a resort or when you’re planning to go scuba diving around Dimakya or Tara Island. From the north of Busuanga you can even reach the Apo reef. The South Coast with Concepcion offers a nice place on which you can find various accommodation options. From here you get the chance to visit the surrounding islands (and wrecks). A good location is D’ Pearl Bay, which house vest different hotels. Al Faro is awesome!
- Bulalacao Island
When you’re looking for beautiful beaches, the islands around Bulalacao is the place for you! Most of the beaches here have fine white sand. With the clear blue sea, the green vegetation and a blue sky, beach lovers can eat their heart out. Especially recommended: Malcapuya island, Banana island and Ditaytayan Island. I was particularly keen on Ditaytayan, which offers next to a beautiful beach also amazing snorkeling experiences, with lovely coral and fish!
- Coron Island
Coron island is the largest island of the municipality of Coron. This island offers travellers a beautiful environment. When you’re here, you’ll feel one with nature and forget the world around you. In addition to the rest, the island is graced with 13 beautiful lakes. The two most famous, and the only two accessible for tourists, are Barracuda Lake and Lake Kayangan. Barracuda Lake is a clear lake in a volcano crater. The lake is known for the thermocline. Thermocline is a transition between two layers of water with a difference in temperature and density. The water under the thermocline has a temperature different than the layer above, which makes a unique diving experience. This place is for non-divers as well a wonderful place to visit. The Kayangan Lake, is most famous from the postcards. It’s a beautiful lake with emerald green water. A lovely place to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Next to that, there are two other popular natural attractions Twin lagoon and Banol beach. Twin lagoon are, as the name suggests, two lagoons where you can kayak in a beautiful environment. Banol beach is the most beautiful beach of the island. In addition to the Banol Beach are Atwayan beach, Smith beach and beach 91 certainly worth a visit.
- Coron City
The town of Coron is particularly painless to visit because of the plenty of dining and sleeping options and fairly central location, so that the other islands are easy to visit from here. The town also offers the necessary facilities that will make your trip a lot easier. In addition to these matters there’s enough to see and discover around the town. The most famous natural attractions include the Maquinit hot springs, Kingfisher Tapyas natural park and the mountain. The Tapyas Mountain is located closest to the city. Here you can go for a walk. You can climb to the top of the mountain via the spacious 700 steps. After a long climb, you will be rewarded with a fantastic view. The Kingfisher natural park has a lot to offer, one of which are the kayak tours on which you can see many animals. The Maquinit hot springs are ideal to end a long day.
- Sangat Island
When you go to Coron to dive, Sangat island is the place for you. On Sangat you’ll find a dive resort. This resort is equipped with all comforts, to organize an epic dive experience for you. Since Sangat island is surrounded by wrecks, you do not have to sail far to go diving. From Sangat you have the opportunity to visit a few of the most beautiful coral gardens.
Points of Interest
- Barracuda More
Barracuda Lake is a unique dive site. This lake consists of several layers of water, also called thermocline. The layers include one of seawater, a layer of brackish water and fresh water. At the bottom of the lake are hot water sources which heat the water up to 37 degrees. The view is good here, the rock formations impressive and if you’re lucky you can see a barracuda. This place is also for non-divers an impressive place to visit.
- Calauit Safari Park
A nice day out. You can admire various African animals like zebras and giraffes, but they also have local animals such as the Calamian deer and the Palawan crocodile. By feeding the giraffes so you can get very close. A nice trip for animal lovers.
- Kayangan More
When you visit Coron, the Kayangan can’t be missed! On one side, there’s a beautiful view over the bay and its characteristic rock formation. On the other side of the lake you’ll find the lake where you can swim and enjoy this beautiful natural attraction. This place should be high listed on your priorities!
- Kingfisher Park
This is a park where you’ll get acquainted with the different biotopes. Here you can find a large variety of animals in the wild. You can come here with a canoe and explore the mangrove forest.
- Coral Gardens
Visiting the corals is a unique experience. It’s advised to go towards the islands Lusong and Calumbuyan to explore the coral gardens. Here you’ll find many types of corals and a great variety of fish. Once there, you can encounter sea turtles. Malajon Island, North Cay island and islands around Bulalacao, are good fo snorkelling, but you have to get out on a boat a little further. When you get at the coral of Lusong you can also visit the sunken gunboat.
The Maquinit hot springs are easy to reach by tricycle. For about PHP 300 you can buy a return. Entrance fee to the hot springs is PHP 200. Good to spend a few hours. They have two springs. One of about 30 degrees and one of 40 degrees. Pure relaxation after a long day of activities.
When you like diving, the shipwrecks are a must! A dozen of Japanese shipwrecks are located on the bottom of the sea. In contrast to other wrecks elsewhere in the world these are relatively easy to reach. Recommendations are the Akitsushima, the Irako, the Olympia and the Okikawa. Meet these impressive wrecks, explore the different areas and watch how the wreck now serves as an artificial reef for many underwater animals.
- Siete Pecados
These seven islands off the coast of the town of Coron are a nice snorkel destination. The advantage is that you don’t have to sail too far and that there’s a lot of coral and fish to see. Because Siete Pecados is easy to reach, it can be very busy.
A visit to Coron without beaches is impossible! Unfortunately, you do have to make a little boat trip for most beaches. On Coron island the beaches Smith, Banol, Beach 91 and Atwayan are located next to each other. These beaches are maintained by the Tagbanua. They have an entrance fee of 100 pesos, but for that price you get a stunning beach and a covered table. When you take part in a tour, lunch often gets consumed on one of the beaches. You can also go to CYC beach, which is free. The sand is less nice, but it’s better suited for swimming. The most beautiful beaches are found in the direction of Bulalacao Island. Malcapuya is an excellent choice! This is a more tropical island than the busy beaches of Banol and CYC.
The Birch Tapyas is the highest point in the town of Coron. From here you have a beautiful view over the different islands. With 700 steps to the summit, you can climb this mountain by yourself easily. Highly recommended to do this before sunrise or sunset for spectacular photos, as well as that the temperature isn’t as hot, resulting in an easier climb.
- Twin Lagoon
This lagoon can’t be missed! The lagoon consists of two parts. To reach the second part, you have to swim through a hole in the rock wall. Here you’ll get extremely beautiful photo opportunities and especially the second part of the lagoon is amazing for snorkelling. Together with the Kayangan Lake, the Twin lagoon can’t be left out on your trip to Coron!
What to do
As you may have read above there is a lot to do in Coron. Because the time is often limited, I’ve described the two best activities below:
Many of the activities on Coron are dominated by the beautiful underwater world. You can choose from many dive shops that would like to help you discover the wonderful underwater world.
To start, there are all sorts of diving courses, from a refresher course to a specialization course in for example wreck diving. Corto, Fun & Sun and Rock Steady are good dive shops. What style best suits you, is something you have to decide on yourself. Some dive shops are a bit cheaper, others have a larger boat or offer a better lunch. Don’t forget to ask in advance, how many divers come along on a dive tour and where the dive tour goes. Often, dive centres organize one tour per day, consisting of three dives. Ask where the excursion is going, discuss preferences and ask how much guidance they offer, per diver. It’s ideal to dive with no more than 2-3 divers per dive guide. Most diving excursions will focus on the wrecks. When you do three dives, they usually choose for two wrecks and one coral reef. The coral gardens of Calumbuyan and Lusong are worth a visit. Also, the nearer Twin Peaks reef is certainly recommended.
You have two possibilities for a day tour to do in Coron, namely:
- An organised tour
You have the choice of about 10 different tours that organize a whole day for a favourable price. Certainly, when you consider that food and drinks are included. You’ll have the choice of a large number of different tour companies. Most prices are approximately the same. Some companies have the Snorkel set already included in the price, with others this is considered an extra opportunity. Prices are depending of the number of destinations you visit. An average attraction costs between 100 and 200 pesos so the more you go for, the higher the price of the tour. In any case, I would recommend a day tour to Coron Island. What you definitely shouldn’t miss are the Twin lagoon and the Kayangan Lake. Also, the Barracuda Lake more is worth a visit. Thing is that I’d wish to dive there and that’s never included in the tour. In addition to the Twin lagoon and the Kayangan Lake, you’ll visit a nice white beach where you have a delicious lunch, so you return home fully satisfied. You’ll now find more and more tours that go for the greatest possible number of destinations. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they all are well worth a visit. In case of high water, I find the Sceleton wreck too deep to go snorkelling and I’ve seen way more beautiful corals than these coral gardens. When you’ve some time to spend in Coron, I would recommend a day tour to Malcapuya and enjoy the beautiful beaches! The city tour would I would organize myself (or just skip). When you aren’t planning to dive, the coral reefs at Calumbuyan at Lusong offer a wonderful snorkel experience.
- Organizing a tour yourself
Certainly, in the low season you can easily arrange a tour yourself. First you need to find a bangka. These are easily found in the port. Ask the captain if he’s any plans tomorrow. If not, you can start negotiating about the price. The final price all depends on how far away your destination is and how many different places you want to visit. You therefore need some time to sort out your tour. You’re as well, responsible for getting to the harbour yourself.
- The price inludes:
- Cost Bangka (petrol + crew)
- Number of sites
- The price inludes:
When you have little time, I would always go for an organized tour. You’ll be picked up at your accommodation and after your tour also get dropped off home. For a tour with the Kayangan lake and the Twin lagoon you pay between the 1500 and 1800 pesos per person.
When you have more time you and you’re happy to negotiate, especially in the low season, you can try and arrange your own tour. This way you’re in control of your day trip and determine where you go and how long you are staying somewhere. Prices for renting a boat start at 2000 pesos. Then there are the costs of the sights and the food. Of course, you can negotiate about the price but this doesn’t mean that they can’t make money from you at all. For this reason, make sure that eventually you come to a fair price that’s good for both parties.
In the town of Coron there are several restaurants. When you want to go out at night, you’ll find most restaurants here. Most of the restaurants are located on the Coron – Busuanga street and their side streets. You’ll find various grill restaurants, fish taverns and restaurants for pizza and pasta. Also for vegetarian dishes this is a good place to go. It’s advised to not too eat late in Coron, because dishes may sell out. Chances on queuing for the popular eateries, like Altrove, when you decide to eat around 19:00pm are big. Although, Altrove is amazing! Especially delicious stone oven pizza! There is also Winnie’s. Plastic tables and plastic chairs, but this is where you find the locals. In addition to the local menu, there’s list hanging on the wall, with all other delicious dishes on offer. These are just two of the many restaurants in Coron. Most of the restaurants serve grilled fish and seafood. Next to that, many grill restaurants are found. In addition to grilled meat, pork sissig is recommended. Simply, eating at your accommodation, obviously is always a good option as well. I found the restaurant of Sunz and Coron very good. They have a various menu with plenty of choice.
There are a few factors you’ll need consider, before you choose where to stay in Coron.
When you’re in Coron for a short stay and want to make the most of it, regarding to sights and activities, I’d like to recommend to stay in or close to the town. Here you’ll find the biggest choice of accommodations, restaurants and excursion possibilities. Backpackers have the choice of several budget accommodation in the centre, such as Patrik & Tezz, Coron De Backer and port 1916
The north side of Busuanga island
Here you’ll find three resorts including one on an island. There’s the River House with a beautiful view over the river and the mangrove and Vicky’s guest house for the budget traveller. The advantage is that, from here you easily access the north side of the island of Busuanga for some exploring. The downside is that you’ll often dependent on your resort or hotel for doing activities.
The town of Coron
Here you’ll find a wide variety of accommodation. The advantage is that the facilities and activities are in the vicinity. You therefore have a wider choice of dining options and excursion possibilities. The major disadvantage is that Coron is a dusty and very busy town. When you’re looking for something a little quieter, you’re best off booking your accommodation somewhere outside the city centre. I myself, chose for Sunz and Coron. Located quietly, beautiful rooms with air conditioning, a hot shower and a swimming pool. They even offer free shuttles to and from the centre. Excellent choice!
The islands to the south of the island of Busuanga
To the south of Busuanga, in the bay of Coron, there are several islands. On a few these islands, resorts are located. The advantage is that you have a wonderful island experience, the downside is that you are dependent on the facilities of your accommodation.
For a beach holiday on Coron you rely on two things: a day tour or the place of your accommodation. The town of Coron has no beach, although, boat trips to the various beaches in the area do leave from here. Accommodations with a beach are located on the north side of Busuanga. The beach of Club Paradise here, has the whitest beach. In the south, the accommodation of Two Seasons and of the Dive resort on Sangat island offer the best beaches.
Top 5 (Alphabetical)
- Club Paradise
- Corto del Mar
- Sangat Island Dive Resort
- The funny lion
- Two Seasons Coron
- Cashew Grove beach resort
- Coron Bancuang Mansion
- Patrik & Tezz
- Sunz and Coron
- The River House
Advice and recommendations
- Take mosquito spray/deet with you or an anti-mosquito spray. Also available in Coron.
- Do not drink tap water. Order filtered water (in a sealed bottle).
- Be aware of toxic underwater animals. Some poisonous animals are: Jellyfish, coral, coral reef snakes, stone fish, scorpionfish, lionfish and sea cucumber.
- Protect your feet against toxic animals, sharp stones and coral when you’re walking or going in the water. A step in a sea urchin is very painful.
- Protect your skin against harmful UV radiation. Even though it’s cloudy. The sun can be very bright.
- Take the weather into account. When it’s raining or windy, sometimes, tours can’t depart or continue. Plan for those days a day at the waterfalls.
- There are quite a few cloudy days on Coron. Ideal in addition to the (sunbathing)heat, less ideal for photographing a white island with a blue sky.
- You can get cash out in the town of Coron, but please note, that there’s a maximum amount. When you don’t succeed, it’s often not the ATM itself, but the (too high) amount that you’re trying to get out. I’ve been able to get out 5000 pesos with my debit card and 20000 pesos with my credit card.
- Make sure that you have informed your accommodation on how to pay (in advance, through the internet or credit card) if you are not staying in the town of Coron.
- Make sure to take cash with you, so you can pay anyway. This in case of when the cash machine isn’t working or doesn’t get refilled until the next day.
- During my trip in Coron, I haven’t experienced any problems with my debit card. In addition to my accommodation and food, I also had to pay for the TAO expedition and my diving course, so I was glad I had some extra pesos with me, because those costs were more than the daily limit i could get from the bank.