Calamian archipelago

When you are looking for more information about the Calamian archipelago, I’d suggest you to read this article. The Calamian archipelago is the largest group of islands in the Palawan Archipelago and is situated north of Palawan. In this article, I’ll give you more information about the four municipalities within the archipelago, the main islands within the archipelago, the best way to visit these islands and other fun activities. At the end of this article you’ll find several tips and recommendations for an unforgettable time in the Calamian archipelago.

calamian archipelago

Content

  • Introduction: Nature at its best
  • The weather, the temperature and best time for travel
  • The four municipalities in the Calamian archipelago
  • Island hopping: discover the Calamian archipelago
  • The Islands
  • The Sights
  • Diving in the Calamian archipelago
  • Overnight stays in the Calamian archipelago
  • Tips and advice

Nature at its best

The first discovery of the Calamian archipelago was by the Spaniards who named it: Provincia The Calamianes. This doesn’t mean that before that, it wasn’t occupied. One of the oldest inhabitants of the archipelago are the Tagbanau. The Tagbanua tribe is one of the first tribes on Palawan. The Tagbanau first settled in the caves on Coron Island, about 5000 years ago. The Tagbanuas from the Calamian you now, mainly find on the island Coron and on some parts of the island Busuanga. They have their own dialect which differs from the Tagbanaus from Palawan. The Tagbanau rely mainly on agriculture and fishing to provide a daily living. In addition to that, they gather nests and gather seaweed. The nests, that are mainly sold to foreign traders are called Balinsasayaw. These nests are edible. In China for example, they use the nests soup to cook in.

The Calamian archipelago is located north-east of Palawan and is parallel with the province of Mindoro. The archipelago covers a surface area of 1761 square kilometres. This natural pearl consists of steep limestone formations, high cliffs and mountains. The Calamian archipelago is blessed with dense jungles, beautiful sandy beaches with powdery white sand and turquoise lagoons. At the sea, you’ll find Mangrove forests and in the sea coral reefs and seagrass fields. These different biotopes result in a unique world of species. In addition, the land is very fertile and suitable for the cultivation of crops. The islanders have used the land for centuries for the keeping of livestock and the cultivation of crops.

In 1898, the Calamian archipelago was added to the province of Palawan. Four years later, Coron was officially appointed as city. Caron got known for its natural resources. During the second world war, the Japanese and Philippines, who at that time were still in the hands of the Americans, occupied the city. The Japanese went further with the mining of the natural raw materials in the Calamian archipelago. In 1944, the archipelago was the decor of a battle between the Japanese and the Americans, in which American aircrafts attacked the boats of the Japanese Navy. The result of this battle is still found in the clear sea water and it’s what the Calamian islands are best known for; it’s the most important sites for diving on shipwrecks.

To explore the Calamian archipelago, you’ll best experience this by boat. When you take your time, you soon will be enchanted by the beauty of this region. As you do so, you’ll come across several unique birds, including the Palawan Rhino Bird and the Beo. In addition to above water snorkelling, underwater and a lot deeper, there’s also a lot to see and discover. Snorkelling and diving should certainly not be skipped on your visit! In addition to the shipwrecks, there are also beautiful coral reefs with a large variety of marine life. As well as different coral, fish, turtles and manatees. Very impressive!

As you may know now, the Calamian archipelago offers travellers an unprecedented experience in a both environmental and cultural area. So, what are you waiting for!? Go on holiday and explore the beautiful surroundings of the Calamian archipelago.

The best time to travel

  • The weather
    The climate could be described as hot and humid. You could distinguish roughly between two seasons when you’re on the Calamian islands; the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season lasts from December to May and the rainy season from July to October. Most of the rain pours down from August to September.
  • The temperature
    During the year, the temperature varies between 26 and 32 degrees Celsius. The warmest month is May and the coldest month is July.
  • Best time to travel
    The best time to travel depends on what you want to see and what you intend to do. In November, at the end of the rainy season, everything is beautiful and green and the flowers are blooming. This period is not as warm and there’re very few tourists, so it’s fairly quiet. December is often a hectic month due to the holidays. When you are planning to go scuba diving, then March and April would be a good period to visit. The water then is calmest, which means, diving conditions are best. This causes a lot of tourism and is therefore the high season on the Calamian islands.

The four municipalities in the Calamian Archipelago

The Calamian archipelago consists of four municipalities: Busuanga, Coron, Culion and Linapacan. Each municipality has its unique characteristics and associated activities. Listed below, you’ll find a brief introduction of the four municipalities.

Busuanga

This municipality includes the western part of the island of Busuanga and 40 smaller islands. Busuanga is the largest island of the Calamian archipelago.

Coron

This town consists of the eastern part of the island of Busuanga, Coron and 50 smaller islands. Coron is the most famous place in the Calamian archipelago. The town Coron is often the beginning or the end of the journey by the Calamian archipelago.

Culion

This town consists of the island of Culion and 41 smaller islands. The island of Culion (from 1906) was used to house people with leprosy and became known as the largest leprosy colony in the world. Since 2006 Culion is leprosy free but you can still visit the leprosy museum. Other things to find there are the remains of a Spanish fort.

Linapacan

This municipality Linapacan consists of the island Linapacan and 52 smaller islands. Linapacan is known for the clear sea water and is highly recommended for snorkelling and diving.

linapacan

Island Hopping

The Calamian archipelago is very suitable to go island hopping. With 180 islands, there’s plenty here to explore and discover. In contrast to the Bacuit archipelago the Calamian archipelago is not as developed. When you want to discover Calamian archipelago you have about four options:

  • Option 1: a private day tour
    You can rent a Bangka (boat+captain+skipper), you determine where you want to go and you negotiate on the price. On top of this price you’ll have to pay for your own lunch, rent a snorkel and mask and a little fee for visiting the sights. The advantage is that you can determine your itinerary. The downside is that this is often more expensive than an organized tour.
  • Option 2: Organised day tour
    Putting a predetermined route, including a few attractions and lunch. The big advantage is the price, especially when you are traveling alone. The downside is that you are not free to choose where you want to go.
  • Option 3: Multiple days’ tour
    When you choose a trip of several days than is everything for you. You will be picked up at the airport of Busuanga. be brought to your accommodation, you are going to 3 or 4 days island hopping and you will be get taken back to the airport. You’ll island hopping for 3-4 days on Coron and everything to see things to themselves.
  • Option 4: Multi-day expedition
    When you choose a multi-day expedition, you’re deciding on exploring the Calamian archipelago for real. Where the three options above are mainly focused on Coron (and less on Busuanga) you are now leaving the main tourists attractions and explore a secluded paradise and the enchanting underwater worlds. When you’ve 5 days to spend and you don’t mind exploring the Calamian archipelago without luxury, then this is your best bet. This is undoubtedly one of the highlights during your holiday in Palawan.

For many people the adventure begins as soon as the airplane lands at the airport in Busuanga. From here they often travel straight to Coron. Daily, there are Bangka’s leaving Coron. These Bangka’s show tourist the bay of Coron and Coron Island. This of course is very nice, but only a small part of the Calamian archipelago.

Islands in the archipelago

With more than 180 islands the Calamian archipelago has something to offer for all travellers. There are islands with imposing mountains, islands with soft sandy beaches, islands with dense forests and islands where you can find local inhabitants. In the Calamian archipelago, you’ll definitely find an island that makes you happy! Since I won’t be able to appoint all the islands in this article, I opted for the largest island in the archipelago, listed below.

Busuanga Island: more than just the airport

Busuanga is the largest island of the Calamian archipelago. Many people know it because of Busuanga airport and only fly in here, to straight away go to Coron. This way you’re missing out on a lot. In the north of Busuanga you’ll find a number of beautiful resorts with good diving possibilities. In the west, you can find Calauit island, which is designed as a safari park. In the south west, you’ll find the Gutob bay with beautiful islands, including Nagtenga Calumboyan, Malajon, and Palmalica. These places are great for snorkelling and diving. Next to that, there’s a village named Conception. In the south of the island you can find the Japanese shipwrecks from the second world war, a highlight for many divers. South east of the island, on the bay of Coron, there’s Coron city, where most excursions leave from. The east of the island isn’t very touristy.

Bulalacao Island: white sandy beaches

When you’re looking for a beautiful soft white sand beach, then you should visit Bulalacao Island. With Banana, Ditaytayan, Malaroyroy, Malcapuya, you have enough to choose from. By boat, it takes approximately one and a half hours from Coron, but then you’re really in a dreamy destination. Underwater, there is plenty to see by the good quality of corals.

Coron Island: mountains, lagoons, lakes and beaches

Coron island is blessed with a beautiful natural landscape. The original inhabitants, the Tagbanua, still live here. These people make a living of the agricultural and fishing and by the opening up their island to visitors. Coron island has many lakes, but because these lakes are holy, only two are available to visitors. The lakes Kayangan and Barracuda should not be missed on your list. The Twin Lagoon is a must. The southern part of the island has a few beautiful beaches. Banol is the largest (and therefore most popular). The left and right of the beaches Banol Smith and Beach 91 are just as nice, but not as big.

Culion Island: history and nature

In previous centuries, the Culion island was used to accommodate leprosy sufferers. It grew to the largest leprosy colony in the world and it took until 2006 before the WTO Culion leprosy free declared. On Culion, you’ll find history. You’ll find remnants of the Spanish period and a museum which tells you everything about the leprosy colony. In addition to history, the island also has beautiful beaches and good dive sites. The facilities there are just not as developed as on Coron.

Linapacan

When you love diving and snorkelling, Linapacan is the place for you! Linapacan is surrounded by very clear sea water, so that the references under water are very good. You will find a number of beautiful coral reefs that are both great to reach for snorkelers and divers. Barangonan, Cacayatan, Cagdanao and Dimanglet Island are recommended places that include the coral reefs. Some islands around Linapacan are private and can’t be accessed. Linapacan isn’t as developed as for example Coron, so if you like a little adventure, there’s a lot to discover and explore for yourself.

Calamian archipelago: The sights

kayangan lake

  • Barracuda Lake
    When you are looking for an unique experience than the Barracuda Lake is highly recommended. This lake consists of several layers of water. This is called thermocline. On top of the lake floats a low freshwater on a low brackish water. This floats on a layer of salt water. The water on the bottom is 37 degrees warm.
  • Calauit Island
    This protected area is a safe harbor. Not only for large wild from Africa, but also for the local animals such as the bearcat (binturong), ant eaters, pythons and crocodiles. You’ll as well come across a great variety of birds. The bay around Calauit island has now also become a protected area, so that the reef can be protected from illegal fishing.
  • Kayangan Lake
    Kayangan Lake is ‘the’ attraction of the Calamian Archipelago and not for no a reason. The lake is truly stunningly beautiful. The bright colour combination make this lake one of the highest priorities on your sightseeing list, that you really MUST have seen when you visit the Calamian archipelago.
  • Shipwrecks
    The highlight for many visitors are the Japanese shipwrecks. Wreck Diving has have had always something magical, but in many areas diving for shipwrecks is only allowed to specialists, because the wrecks are often too deep, the view is often limited, the flow is often too strong and the seawater too cold. Here you won’t be affected by any of these things. The wrecks are easily accessible and the view is good. That’s why it divers from the rest of the world and it’s so popular to come here to explore the wrecks.
  • Twin Lagoon
    The Twin Lagoon is a beautiful lagoon located at Coron Island. The lagoon has two parts and is surrounded by high rock formations. The first part is reachable by boat and causes a nice contrast between the grey rocks with green vegetation and the blue sea water. The second part is only reachable by swimming through an opening in the rock wall. You can see that there are various water layers, that are causing blurred vision while snorkelling. Certainly, worth a look!

Diving in the Calamian archipelago

In this article, a chapter about diving can’t be missed, because the Calamian Archipelago is a paradise for divers. There are so many good dive sites to discover that you can easily spend a few weeks without visiting the same place twice. Below you will find a list of some dive sites which are definitely worth visiting.

Busuanga Island

  • To the north of the island of Busuanga you will find the islands Dimakya and Tara. Around these islands, you’ll find beautiful corals. There’s also a large chance of seeing manatees and manga rays. At last, you can find the wreck of the Kyokuzan Maru.
  • To the south of the island of Busuanga you’ll find several beautiful coral gardens. Recommendations are the coral gardens of Calumbuyan Lusong Sangat and Santa Monica. The highlight here is however still the wrecks, including the Irako Maru, the Kogyo Maru, the Okikawa Maru and the Olympia Maru.

Coron Island

  • In the bay of Coron you’ll find two nice dive sites; Siete Pecados and Twin Peaks. There are also a few wrecks of fishing boats. Gunter cave is also a beautiful dive site, located on the southern tip of the island.
  • Further to the south of Coron Island, around the islands of Bulalacao, you’ll find the most coral in Coron. It’s over one hour by boat from Coron, but more than worth it because of the coral.

Culion Island

  • The diving on Culion is mainly situated around the island Chindonan. Here you will find a number of spectacular reefs, including Bugor and Dynamite reef. The house reef at Chindonan is worth a visit. Because most people come for the wrecks, which lay between the north and the south of Culion of Busuanga, these reefs are visited less often.

Linapacan

  • Of course, diving in Linapacan is absolutely stunning, the downside though, is that there are only few facilities. This means that the diving here is also a lot more expensive than other places in the Calamian archipelago. On Ariara Island there’s a luxury resort which organises dive trips for its guests. Because this is not for everyone, most people go for snorkelling in Linapacan.

Accommodation in the Calamian archipelago

As you may have read, there is plenty to do in the Calamian archipelago. As a traveller, you need a good place to stay to visit the various places. Below you find a list of some resorts from where you can visit the many sites of the archipelago easily.

Budget

  • Caleb’s island beach camp
    If you want to dive but you don’t want to spend too much for a dive resort, then Caleb’s island is a good option! Located on Lusong Island, right in the middle of the diving area.
  • Coron Backpacker
    Located in Coron, this is a good place for backpackers to stay and be able to explore the archipelago.
  • Majika
    A nice place located on Apo Island.
  • Sanctuaria Three House
    Near the village of Conception, you’ll find this unique accommodation: sleeping in a tree house!

Diving

Many people come to the Calamian archipelago for one thing: diving! To offer the best service as possible, you’ve got the option to choose from a wide range of dive resorts. The dive resorts listed below, are located between the islands Culion and Busuanga.

  • Chindonan Dive Resort
    A good dive resort located at Culion Island. This resort is located right in the middle, between the shipwrecks and coral reefs, so that you don’t have to travel far from your accommodation to the dive sites. A good choice
  • Coral Bay Dive Resort
    This Dive Resort is located a little further away on the island of Popototan. A nice dive centre with a nice beach.
  • Sangat Dive Resort
    This dive resort is the most famous dive resort of the Calamian archipelago. Everything here is organised perfectly and from high standards. The facilities are good, the surrounding area is stunning, the location is very central, the diving equipment is perfectly taken care off. An ideal place for a successful diving holiday!

Expedition

The best way to admire the Calamian archipelago is on a multi-day expedition. This multi-day excursion takes you from El Nido to Coron, or from Coron to El Nido in 5 days. On the way, you’ll visit various beautiful islands and you explore various coral reefs. You’ll spend the night in simple huts on the beach to enjoy nature at its best. There have different competitors available, but one stands out: TAO Philippines. When you want to discover the Calamian archipelago in a unique way, according to many previous travellers, this is a must and will be the highlight of your trip!

  • TAO Philippines
    When you have at least 5 days to spend and they have a spot available, then, there’s only one thing you’ve got left to do: book it! This expedition is so popular that it’s often fully booked, months in advance. When you manage to get a spot on the boat (sailing), a unique experience awaits. The philosophy of TAO, the staff of TAO, the different islands where you spend the night and of course the beautiful nature: as it’s meant to be! It isn’t for everyone, but if it is, this is a once in a lifetime experience!
  • Native Exploration
    Native Exploration, follow the footsteps of TAO. They also started with the trip between El Nido and Coron. As in the case of TAO: it’s definitely worth it! A good second best in case TAO is fully booked!

Luxury

When you’re looking for luxury, there are plenty of options in the Calamian archipelago. First decide on which part of the Calamian archipelago you want to visit and explore, then select your accommodation.

The north of Busuanga island

  • Club Paradise Resort
    At the north side of Busuanga, you can find Club Paradise. A luxurious island resort on a beautiful beach with good diving opportunities. The attractions on the south side of the island are a bit on a distance. A luxury resort to stay for a few days. I would still try and stay a couple of days on the other side of Busuanga, to also tackle down this experience.
  • El Rio y Mar Resort
    Another nice resort located on the north side of the island of Busuanga. A good choice if you are planning to stay here.

The south of Busuanga island

  • Al Faro
    I personally find Al Faro a splendid and unique place to stay. The atmosphere is good and the location is great, the food is delicious and the accommodation is very nice. Because they don’t have all the facilities that other luxury resort offer (tv, WIFI throughout) they don’t get as many stars as the other. Due to this, Al Faro has an above-average price quality ratio. Highly recommended!
  • Busuanga Bay Lodge
    This luxury hotel is located opposite Al Faro and offers its guests luxury in a beautiful environment.
  • Ekhaya
    This luxury villa is located opposite Al Faro and in next to Busuanga Bay Lodge (BBL). When you are looking for a luxury private villa to stay by yourself or with a group then this is a great option.
  • Huma Island Resort
    This luxury resort is located in the secluded Gutob Bay. The resort offers various types of villas including villas built on stilts above the sea water. In addition, this resort features luxurious facilities to make your stay as pleasant as possible.

Coron

  • Corto Del Mar Resort
    Centrally located in Coron. A luxury hotel near the excursions of Coron. A good choice if you’re planning to go on day trips in the Calamian Archipelago and want to return to luxury at night.
  • Two Seasons Coron
    This luxury resort is located on a beautiful location surrounded by several islands with the best sandy beaches of Coron. The five-star resort is located on Malaroyroy Island, a peninsula of Bulalacao Island. This is an ideal destination for a beach holiday in luxury.

Linapacan

  • Ariara Island Resort
    The ultimate luxury destination in the Calamian archipelago. Here you can stay on your own private tropical island: in ultimate luxury. Your own sandy beach, your own luxurious accommodations, your own house reef and qualified staff who ensure that you won’t miss a thing.

Tips and advice

  • When you have the time (and money): TAO Expedition! One of the most beautiful and fun activities on Palawan!
  • Take mosquito-spray or deet or Off, an anti-mosquito spray, also available in Cooron.
  • Be aware for toxic underwater animals. Some poisonous animals are: Jellyfish, coral, indestructible sea serpent, stone fish, scorpionfish, lionfish and sea cucumber.
  • Protect your feet against toxic animals, sharp stone and coral when you run of walk close to the water. A step in a sea urchin is very painful.
  • Protect your skin against harmful UV radiation. Even though it seems cloudy, the sun can be very bright.
  • Take the weather into account. When it’s raining or windy, some tours can’t depart or start, and your day can take a quick change.
  • There are quite a few cloudy days on Coron. Ideal for the heat, less ideal when photographing a white island with a blue sky.
  • You can take out cash in Coron, but please note that a maximum amount is applied. When you don’t receive any money, it’s often not because of the ATM, but rather the (high) amount you’ve entered. I’ve able to take out 5000 pesos with my debit card and 20000 pesos with my credit card.