Make the Most of 72 Hours in Coron
You don’t think ‘quick weekend getaway’ when you hear Palawan. You imagine bumpy backroads, sweaty tricycle rides and long bangka trips to take you to some of the most beautiful beaches, islands and dive spots the Philippines has offer. Coron, however, is certainly one of the easiest-to-reach island escapes, with Cebu Pacific, PAL and Skyjet all offering several direct flights a day.
Flying into Busuanga Airport from Manila, Coron is just an hour’s flight and around a 40-minute shuttle transfer away. And it’s a surprisingly stress-free drive past lush ranchland and jungle to get to sleepy Coron town. Don’t expect a bustlin’ bayan with tons of nightlife options. Coron is perfect for visitors who want to get away from it all.
Infinity pool at the Two Seasons
On this trip, we stayed at the newly opened Two Seasons Coron Bayside Hotel. It’s situated right on the water, which means stunning views of the bay from the infinity pool and convenient access to speedboat tours which leave from the hotel’s own dock.
There are, of course, a handful of nice boutique hotel options in Coron, with new ones set to open in the near future, but if you value your creature comforts, first-class accommodations and always-on-point service, the Two Seasons is definitely a great, centrally located hub from which to explore the surrounding islands.
Maquinit Hot Springs
Since boat tours depart first thing in the morning, any island-hopping and wreck-diving will likely have to wait until the next day. That doesn’t mean you have to sit idle, unless you’re perfectly happy with taking in the gorgeous view of the bay from the infinity pool. Ask your hotel to drop you off at the hot springs, about 10-15 minutes away from the Two Seasons. You can also enlist a tricycle driver to take you there and wait for you while you soak in the hot spring’s healing waters.
Sunset over the bay
Once you start feeling like a properly poached egg, return to your hotel in time to catch the sunset over Busuanga bay, ideally with a happy hour cocktail in hand.
Sunset at the Two Seasons
If you’ve stayed at the Two Seasons in Boracay before, you’re probably familiar with signature dishes like their famous four cheese pizza. The hotel’s Baya Restaurant has a very extensive menu, and we definitely recommend the crispy fried squid tentacles, the lobster with crab fat fettucine, and the flame-grilled Angus burger. Try the fried crocodile strips or crocodile barbeque if you’re feeling a bit adventurous.
The most magical dining option for your first night would be the firefly tour. The tour includes a dinner in a floating restaurant, the only forgettable part of the evening. It’s when the boat takes you out to the nearby mangroves after dinner that the magic begins.
The guide takes you to several spots where fireflies congregate, a sight that reminds of lit-up Christmas trees. But it’s the sights above and below which manage to steal the show. The bioluminescent plankton results in a milky blue glow wherever the water is disturbed and every once in a while you’re greeted by glowing specs of plankton which mirror the millions of visible stars above. It’s a visual spectacle which can only be seen away from land. We were too captivated by the view to take photos, so you'll have to take our word for it.
If you have only one day to tour, you’ll have to make a difficult decision: do you want to mainly focus your trip on swimming in lakes and lagoons or wreck- and reef-diving?
We decided on the former, since Kayangan Lake and Twin Lagoon are natural marvels which can’t be missed, but managed to get in a leisurely snorkeling session at the Skeleton Wreck as well. Since both the lake and the lagoon are must-see attractions, you ideally want to get a head start to avoid the crowds.
It’s considered the cleanest lake in the Philippines, perhaps even all of Asia, but that fact won’t matter to you once you’ve completed the 10-minute hike to the inland lake. The limestone-rimmed lake is grander in scale than any other natural attraction we’ve witnessed in Coron and a marvelous sight to behold.
Looking back on the hike up to the lake
Staying ahead of the pack is especially important by the time you get to the Twin Lagoon. While the first lagoon is used to dock, the second lagoon can be reached only via a narrow crevice which only allows visitors to enter one by one (or a climb up and down a couple of ladders). Get there early, by speedboat if you must, and enjoy a swim in the lagoon sans tourists.
After a leisurely lunch at Balete Beach and a dip in its crystal-clear waters, snorkeling the Skeleton Wreck is a nice introduction to the many WWII-era Japanese wrecks around Coron.
While you could arguably enjoy the dive site even more on a scuba-diving excursion, the water is so clear that you can see the sunken ship while snorkeling on the surface. If the wreck has whet your appetite for more, you can find an easy-to-explore coral reef just a quick swim away around the back of the tiny island, before heading back to shore.
Beneath the surface: the Skeleton Wreck
If you aren’t beat from the boat tour and want to venture out, the Hunt Restaurant at the Funny Lion Inn features a surprisingly delightful Pan Asian and American menu with changing chef’s specials.
You’ll definitely want to round off your weekend trip with an excellent in-room massage. Good luck trying to stay awake while the masseuse kneads away.
DAY THREE AND BEYOND
If you have an extra day or three, there’s a whole host of activities you can tack onto your trip, depending on your interests and how much time you are willing to spend on a bangka. You can either call Amika Travel or pick up a few flyers from the flock of flyer-waving ladies at the airport.
An easy itinerary includes stops at Lusong Gunboat (which is so close to the surface you can stand on it while snorkeling), Pass Island (get there early and you have this small island paradise and snorkeling site all to yourself until other boats stop by for lunch) and Coral Garden (a lush coral reef which spans the whole side of the island).
There are too many Japanese shipwrecks, coral reefs and islands to list them all here, but Malcapuya Island, a bigger version of Pass Island on which you could even spend the night camping, and Culion Island, a former leper colony also called Island of No Return, are each worth a day trip.