Coron is the often overlooked little brother of El Nido in Palawan, but those who make the effort and venture out here will find paradise islands, white sand beaches and epic lakes that we actually think beat those we saw in El Nido.
You won’t be alone, but it is certainly a lot quieter and cheaper than the ever popular El Nido. It is home to some of our favourite places in the whole of the Philippines and should be added to any Philippines itinerary.
Here’s how to organise that trip of a lifetime.
Where is Coron?
What we are referring to as “Coron” is actually a collection of islands in the North of Palawan in the Philippines. There are two Corons: the first is a largely unihabited (but incredible) island that is characterised by huge limestone cliffs, lagoons and white sand beaches. It’s an island that towers over every other island in the area and is instantly recognisable, even from miles away.
The second Coron is the polluted dump of a town on Busanga island and the base for the majority of travellers (well, those who don’t want to spend over $100 USD per night on accommodation). Unfortunately this eye sore is the price you pay to visit the paradise islands nearby.
If you have the funds we’d definitely say you are much better off staying on one of the spectacular islands nearby, the only downside we can think of is that you will be at the mercy of their boat trips (and their prices). If you stay in the town you will have the opportunity to negotiate your own trip at reasonable rates.
The same goes for food, there are quite a lot of options in town, including some which are relatively inexpensive.
Best things to do in Coron, Palawan
Here are the highlights of the best things you can do from a base in Coron Town. We’ve written an in-depth guide that takes you through organising your own private boat trip to visit some of these places, but a couple can be done by tricycle or motorbike.
Either way, you’ll have enough to keep you busy for at least a few days.
The lakes of Coron Island
The star attraction of the area are the three “lakes” (one is two lagoons) on Coron Island. These lakes are characterised by sheer limestone cliffs, deep blue water and views to die for, which are dream locations for swimming. They are five minutes apart by boat and can easily be visited on the same trip.
Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake and Twin Lagoon really do live up to the hype and we could have spent hours in each one. However, they are incredibly popular, so unless you go early, you’ll be sharing paradise with a lot of people!
At 8am you’ll be the only one there and be able to have one of the best swimming spots in the world all to yourself.
Kayangan Lake is the most popular of the tree and we’ve written a full guide on it here.
Finding a paradise beach nearby
Coron is blessed with many paradise beaches, with white sand and turquoise water. The most famous is Banul Beach on Coron Island, a place which quickly became one of our favourite beaches in the whole of Asia. It may be small, but it is truly stunning.
However, this is not the only one, as Coron Island is blessed with so many beautiful beaches, as are the surrounding islands that are a little further away (such as Malcapuya, Ditaytayan and Banana Island). If you time it right (avoiding the lunch stops and schedules of tours), you can have some of these stunning places all to yourself.
Snorkel shipwrecks and reefs
Whilst the snorkelling in Coron isn’t the best we’ve done in Asia (that is reserved for The Perhentians in Malaysia), it is still a really fun thing to do. There are a few shipwrecks that you can snorkel with the most popular being Skelton Wreck that is near Coron Island. This water is fairly clear, meaning you can see some of the rusted hull and fish that swim around it.
There are also quite a few coral reefs which are home to colourful fish and some really unique coral formations. We’ve never seen as vivid coloured coral as the blue coral at Coral Garden Reef. It’s also a top turtle watching spot, we narrowly missed seeing a huge one that our boat crew were lucky enough to spot.
Sadly it did also seem that some of the coral is dead too, which is something we tend to see in every snorkel spot nowadays. It was also a tricky place to snorkel in the middle of the day as the boats that passed created huge wakes that threw us (and the fish) all over the place!
However, if you’ve never snorkelled in a tropical place before - and are doing an island hopping trip anyway - then it is well worth making a stop for.
Maquinit Hot Springs at night
Whilst Coron town may not have much going on, it is lucky enough to have huge natural hot springs nearby - the perfect remedy after a day of exploring. Obviously due to the heat in the Palawan this isn’t one for the day time but we thought it was very atmospheric at night. The journey there will make sure your muscles are ready for a relaxing soak - it is one of the bumpiest and roughest roads we’ve seen in the Philippines - but it was worth it!
There are several pools all of a similar temperature - which was extremely hot! The bottom of the pools felt like a mix of leaves and stone so it is a little rustic. The springs are pretty popular until around 30 minutes before closing time when there is suddenly a mass exodus.
Maquinit Hot Springs are open every night until 9pm, but don’t allow any one in after 8pm (well, if you don’t try to ask nicely several times!). Entry is 200 pesos per person ($4 USD).
To get there, you can hire an expensive tricycle (few would go under 500 pesos for the trip - $10 USD, the lowest we were offered was 400 pesos when the average journey around town was just 15 pesos). The journey should take around 30 minutes.
A cheaper alternative is to hire a motorbike for a few hours for 300 pesos ($6 USD). Even though this was the average cost we paid for a whole 24 hour period during the rest of our trip it was still the best option. You’ll need confidence to cope with the horrific road, but this means you can drive onto dinner afterwards!
Sunset views on Mount Tapyas
For one of the best views in the whole of Coron and even Palawan, head up to the top of Mount Tapyas for sunset. The viewing platform at the top of this hill offers stunning panoramic views of Coron Island and the other smaller islands in Coron Bay. It really is the kind of spot that makes you feel incredibly lucky to be there.
The hike up is well paved, but it is over 700 stairs from the bottom to the top. In the heat and humidity, it makes the walk up a pretty sweaty affair! There are shelters and benches along the way if you want a rest or some shade. The key is to leave early enough before sunset (about 45 minutes in advance) so that you don’t have to rush to get to the top before the sun goes down.
Entry to this viewpoint is one of the few things in the area that is actually free of charge!
Getting to Mount Tapyas is simple as it is just a two minute tricycle from the centre of town or you can walk it like us - we were cursing the additional hill in the heat though! The track starts at the end of a huge car park that will be full of stalls and tricycle drivers trying to sell you trips.
There is an alternative route back to town you will see when you reach the top view point which looked very pretty but which we didn’t take as we didn’t have a torch (the main path marked on the map below is well lit at night).
Getting to Coron
Flying to Coron
Getting to Coron is the fiddly and expensive part. The airport for Coron is on Busanga island (the big one where Coron town is located), but it only services a few domestic locations and flights here are expensive. You can fly from Manila (40 minutes), El Nido (40 minutes), Angles in Luzon (1 hour) or Cebu (1.5 hours). We flew from Cebu with Philippines airline and it was a good flight on a smallish propeller plane.
Flying into Coron isn’t for the faint hearted as the approach requires some really steep banking and the runaway is shockingly short. Our flight did an emergency break and we stopped metres in front of the end of the airport, moments away from rolling through a fence into a farmers field!
The flight attendants were non-plussed though and laughed at our shocked faces. Apparently all runways in this part of the Philippines are short!
Getting the ferry to Coron from El Nido
The other option is getting the fast ferry from El Nido. This takes around 4.5 hours (despite being advertised as 3) and there are three daily time slots to choose from between two different ferry companies. Our journey got incredibly rough and we felt pretty sea sick from it.
The boat is also so heavily air conditioned that we had to put on thermals and saw our own breath in the air (one of the few places you can in the tropics), bring warm clothes! The boat was good though and the seats were comfortable enough. Sadly there is no outside space which I sorely missed as it’s the only way I can combat seasickness.
The ticket costs 1,764 pesos per person (approx $34 USD) with Montenegro Lines and leaves El Nido at 6.00am officially arriving in Coron at 9.30am but expect to be up to an hour later. If you are heading in the other direction it leaves Coron at midday.
The alternative company is Phimal Fast Ferry INC which has two departure times a day. The regular fare is 1760 pesos (approx $34 US). It departs El Nido at 8.20am and 1.00pm and claims to take just three hours.
For those on a tighter budget there was an outrigger boat (run by Bunso) taking anywhere between 5 and 9 hours but it has been suspended until further notice.
The adventurous way to get to Coron
The other way to get to Coron from El Nido is to take a three to five day boat trip run by Tao Expeditions stopping at lots of deserted islands along the way.
This is the journey our friend took to get to Coron and she said it was one of the best travel experiences of her life (she did the five day version). Stopping at beautiful islands along the way where they were the only ones there and sleeping looking up at the stars. It all sounds pretty wonderful but was a little out of our budget (the three day trip costs $390 US per person in low season). If you can spend the funds we can only tell you how much our friend absolutely raved about it.
Where to stay in Coron
Finding good accommodation at the budget end in Coron is difficult. For one, everywhere is overpriced, but a lot of places suffer really badly from noise and are run down.
Charms is a great option as it has recently been built and is outside of town. The rooms are clean and have a good shower - essential after a day of island hopping. It is only 15 pesos to get to town on a tricycle (30c USD) and only takes 5 minutes.
Midrange - The Funny Lion, Coron Town
The Funny Lion gets rave reviews and it must be on to something as everyone we met seemed to be staying there! They are building one in El Nido as well to emulate the success of the place in Coron.
The rooms look great and the views even better! We would have stayed here, but sadly it was fully booked when we visited.
Luxury - Two Seasons Coron Island Resort & Spa, Bulalacao
There’s only one place which people talk about in the luxury bracket and it’s the Two Seasons. The rooms are individual bungalows that look out onto the beach and the sea - a dream compared to the dusty Coron Town.
However, being away from Coron Town could make things like boat tours very expensive. We would recommend checking before you book so that you don’t have a costly shock!
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Are you planning a trip to Coron? Have you found a paradise island in the area that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments below!