And that was it. We were reaching the end of our Filipino adventure. After exploring Moalboal, Siquijor and Siargao it was time to visit the place everyone was talking about: Coron!
We arrived full of excitement and ready to explore. But we were clearly not ready for Coron Town.
After spending almost 3 weeks in idyllic tropical places with fairly little traffic and the beach close by, I guess we kind of got use to that. Coron town was a harsh welcome back to reality. The town has 2 main streets which makes it super jammed at all times. When I say super jammed, I mean honking, stray dogs having to jump out of the road all the time to avoid being ran over, big trucks 10 cm behind trycicles. But mostly it was the smell. The mix between heat, sewages, food and raw meat made the atmosphere almost unbreathable with waves of those scent coming up to us every 5 mn even though our accommodation was up hill.
So yeah, Coron Town didn’t really make us a good impression upon arrival and it pretty much stayed the same throughout our 5 days stay. However, we found out that once we get out of the city, either by sea or land, the area is a true paradise.
Quick precision first. What is commonly referred to as “Coron” isn’t really Coron, it’s the island of Busuanga and Coron town is the main touristic point. Where most of the island hopping takes place is called Coron Island and is a 10 mn boat ride from Busuanga and Coron Town 🙂 Now that the geography aspect is covered, here’s what’s to explore in the area!
Go diving (or free diving)
I was SO excited to go diving in Coron after hearing all the amazing feedbacks. I chose to go with Reggae Divers and I’m glad I did as not only was the organisation and the dives perfect, they have a strong commitment to no single use plastic! We left the port at 8 and started with a reef dive which was very nice to warm up and followed up with 2 wreck dives. I had never done a wreck dive before and I can say for sure it’s fantastic! The corals and fish really make the wreck their home and I felt like in the little mermaid because of how many fish and colourful corals there were. Dream come true!
We can back around 4, dead tired but happy as can be.
Cost: 3 dives costed 3600 pesos and 2 were 3200 pesos all included (they even planed a vegetarian lunch for me)
2. Island Hopping
Island hopping is the main touristic attraction in Coron. Every day, dozens of boats leave the harbour heading to Coron Island to show travellers the wonders of this Avatar like wonder where rocks and tropical trees protect transparent lakes and lagoons.
Just like in Siargao, you can choose to go with a group tour or hire your own private boat for the day.
We chose the private tour as we were trying to beat the crowds and not be pressured by time at each location. What is about to follow is to show you that no matter how well you plan, travelling always comes with its fair share of adventures!
We went to the port the day before and decided to talk to someone at the Calamian Tourist Boat Association as it’s kind of the “union” for tourist boat. There, we were met by a man who seemed to understand that we wanted to leave extra early the next day, we shook hands and agreed to meet at 6:30 the following morning. Regarding price, they are all on display so there’s no negotiation possible (2700 for the “traditional” coron island tour).
The next morning, we were there at the agreed time and started the waiting process. 6:35,40,45,50. At 6:50 we started asking around and a guy told us that our partner for the day often came around 7:30.
We tried not to get stressed and kept waiting. When at 7:00 no one was there, we agreed to go with someone else whose boat was already ready and who seemed super friendly.
Getting the boat out of the port took another 15 mn so we ended up loosing 45 mn which gave us not that much advance compared to the group tours.
However and considering we had no choice, we decided to let that thought go and enjoy the day and the locations no matter how crowded they would be. After all, weren’t we in a stunning location in one of the most beautiful countries in the world?
Our first stop of the day! There weren’t many boats attached to the pier which we thought was a good sign so we started climbing full of excitement. Several hundreds steps later (yes, hundreds! Watch out when they’re wet), we finally reached the lake. I had seen it in picture but seeing it in real life is something else. So much beauty, calmness and serenity in one place. The water is greenishly transparent and inviting and so so warm. Officially you have to wear your life jacket but if you go early enough, there’s no one to actually enforce the rule. We spend half an hour enjoying the place before heading back to the boat and stopping on the way at the viewpoint. Unfortunately in the morning, most of view is still in the shade but it remains beautiful.
Only downside of the lake? If you go before 9, the pier around it is FULL of mosquitoes. Don’t forget your repellent as we had no idea and ended up getting bitten dozens of times.
This has got to be the most scenic entrance to a lake in the world. With its wooden stairs among rocky formation, it sets the tone of the place. The water at baraccuda lake has to be one of the clearest we had ever seen before. No wonder there’s free diving and diving excursions taking place here! Just at the surface with a mask and a tuba we could see so far away but still not until the bottom of the lake, which in some places, is dozens of meters deep. The reason why it’s so clean is because locals have organised to take care of it and manage its raw beauty. When we went for instance, one part of the lake was not accessible because it’s recovering.
Coral reef garden:
When our driver asked if we wanted to snorkel, we of course said yes! He took us to coral reef garden which, as its name indicates, is a protected coral reef area where hundreds of fish are swimming unharmed. The excitement was real when we spotted Nemo and its family and schools of sardines. Don’t dismiss this spot as it’s truly magical!
The key to avoid the crowd at this place where most people are having lunch is to come before 10:00am. Then, you’ll likely have to share the place with very few others and enjoy the stunning beach and crystal blue water!
Another stunning location on Coron Island! The twin lagoons are called this way because it’s basically two lagoons that communicate through a rocky formation that you have to either climb or swim below to access the other lagoon. It was pretty crowded when we got there but it didn’t take anything away from the magic of the place. Once again Coron, you blew my mind!
3. Ocam Ocam Beach
Coron Town and its surroundings don’t really cater for beach bums. The coastline is mostly trees and roads which isn’t ideal if you’re planning on relaxing or sunbathing. Yet, if you’re willing to go a bit off the beaten path, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Ocam Ocam beach is about 75km away from Coron Town (meaning almost 2 hours by bike) with the last 4 km on a dusty rocky road (watch out, we actually had an accident on that portion of the road). Keep following the sign and you’ll reach the little village of Ocam Ocam Beach, a place where time seems to have completely stopped. Kids playing in the waves, adults preparing food in large bamboo huts and dogs napping under the palm trees… Yet, we didn’t feel like intruders, more like welcomed guests. There’s huts on the beach which you can rent to spend the night for about 1000 pesos and we so wished we knew about it before and had done it. This place was so peaceful and even though sand wasn’t white but more yellow and a bit rocky, it seriously looked like the definition of paradise.
4. Black island
The main reason we went to Ocam Ocam Beach was to reach Black Island.
This majestic island can also be reached from Conception but Ocam Ocam is the closest. As soon as we arrived, a lovely fishermen offered us to take us there for 1500 pesos (the standard price) and stay with us for as long as we wanted. As we approached the island, we could feel its magic.
Bigger than any other island we had been to on island hopping tour, it’s covered by rocky formations and tropical trees and bushes. The sand though is SO white and water so blue, we could not believe our eyes (we were also the only tourists on the island, felt so luxurious!). We immediately fell in love with it and started exploring. The main beach is amazing in itself but we didn’t want to miss the smaller beaches and creeks on the left when facing the sea. There’s no path so you have to swim for about 10 mn before feeling like you’re alone on the island and … pretty much in the world! This little creek is a perfect snorkelling spot with schools of sardines and colourful fishes (the best we’ve seen in the PH!).
There’s also caves you can go to on Black Island but we decided not too as I get pretty claustrophobic… 3 hours after setting foot in paradise, we left back to Ocam Ocam Beach, our head filled with the best memories of our trip.
5. Mount Tapayas
Definitely in Coron Town, this climb is the perfect way to do a little workout while having the best view of Coron as a a reward! 700 steps (doable in about 20 mn) will lead you the summit where the Hollywood like letter “Coron” will be waiting for you.
If you’re there for the sunset, pass by the main platform where the crowd will be and go left onto the trails at the back of the mountain. Chances are you’ll find a place for yourself and a quiet view to enjoy which happened to be one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in the Philippines! Don’t forget to drink plenty as the climb can be exhausting!
Where to eat?
Vegan food in Coron is a struggle to say the least. I’m not sure if it’s because of the recent tourist developments or the difficulty to import food on the island. Anyways, we found very few places where I could eat so we pretty much went back… everyday!
Altrove: Probably the most famous restaurant among travellers in Coron, it explains why it’s always full, including at 6pm. It’s not incredible but it’s one of the best Italian food we’ve had while in the Philippines. Pizzas are much better than the pastas. There were numerous power cuts when we were there which undoubtedly adds to the charm of the “trattoria”
Brujita: I was already in love with the name even before trying the food. Located on Coron Town’s Main Street, it’s not necessarily a place where you’d stop and say “wow I want to try it” but don’t be fooled by the appearances, it’s some of the best food we’ve had. So.many.curries and so delicious! Don’t miss the jackfruit curry which wasn’t on the set menu when we were there but written on the walls. Also the coconut milk smoothies are to die for.
Epic café Coron: If you’re craving a cappuccino, a banana bread or a chocolate cake, this is your place. A bit pricy for sure and there aren’t many vegan options but the banana frappé felt so refreshing after a day out exploring. And the place is super cute too!
How to get around?
If you’re staying within Coron Town or doing activities that leave from Coron town (e.g diving, island hopping) you don’t need to rent a scooter, everything can be done by foot (which is a good thing considering how crazy the traffic is in Coron town). If you want to explore the rest of the island though, scooter is your best bet. Unlike the other islands though, I didn’t feel very safe driving in Coron, traffic is crazy, people are honking everywhere and it’s constantly slowing down before accelerating again. Make sure you got your helmet!
Where to stay?
Depending what you’re after (convenience to be close to activities or peace and quiet), here are a few recommendations:
Vienna Hotel: Where we stayed. Conveniently located near the mount tapayas entry and out of the craziness or coron town, it’s a very new hotel with a swimming pool and a rooftop terrace. Rooms are huge and clean, breakfast is ok but it’s very noisy. You hear the neighbours talking and walking around at al times so maybe not your best pick if you’re a light sleeper. Around 40 euros a night.
Funny Lion: Where we wish we stayed. This elegant eco resort has a swimming pool overlooking tropical trees, is located just far enough from the center to be quiet but still convenient and apparently has an amazing breakfast. Only downfall? It’s so pricey (when we looked it up, it was around 700 euros for 5 nights… hum)
La natura resort: Another option if you’re looking for peace and quiet. This resort is about 20 mn from Coron Town in the middle of a tropical garden. Rooms are fairly basic but the real luxury is the remoteness and wilderness of the place. Apparently wifi doesn’t work too well.
The Bay Area: a good mid range option in Coron town! Super clean rooms, lovely staff and very affordable price, book it if it’s available when you’re looking! 🙂
Any sustainability initiatives?
Unfortunately, not really. Compared to other locations in the Philippines we went too, we saw loads of plastic pollution while exploring the islands and the single use plastic culture seems very president in Coron (plastic straws, bags etc). Yet I was thrilled to see that Raggae divers for instance had a no plastic policy on their diving boats! Steps by steps, little by little things are changing! 🙂