It was originally voted as the number two island in the world according to its readers, but this article in Conde Nast Traveler appears to be playing favorites, as it placed Palawan even to top spot.
I would not disagree with that. When I myself, together with my husband, finally came to visit Palawan (Coron in particular), we’re obviously impressed and believed that Coron is a natural paradise on earth.
It’s no wonder Palawan ranked as the most beautiful island in the world this year, as the clear aquamarine water, limestone cliffs, and lagoons of the island province of the Philippines are only the most basic highlights. Palawan is home to nature reserves on both land and sea, with dolphins just offshore, marine gardens of giant clam, sea turtles nesting on white-sand beaches, 600 species of butterflies, and lush palm forest like a Gilligan’s Island fever dream.
– Cynthia Drescher, Conde Nast Traveler contributing editor
Palawan: The Last Frontier
Dubbed as the last frontier of the country, Palawan is the largest island in the Philippines located between the South China Sea and the Luzon group of islands.
Barely developed and untouched as of this writing, Palawan counts around 1,780 islands and islets, featuring astonishing seascapes.
Stunning white beaches and turquoise lagoons, unique limestone rock formations, mountains, jungles, and diverse wildlife…
All of these make Palawan a dream destination for scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, island hopping, snorkeling, or just even chillaxing in this tropical place.
Coron and El Nido are the two major places in Palawan that the majority of all travelers want to visit. Given that Palawan constitutes many islands, the sea actually divides Coron and El Nido. These places are not as easily accessible as everyone would think.
Both Coron and El Nido host limestone cliffs that create a wonderful karst scenery similar to Halong Bay in Vietnam.
The difference here is that Coron is more laidback and famous particularly among the scuba diving enthusiasts for its well-preserved Japanese shipwreck. El Nido, on the other hand, is becoming more of a go-to place for beach party-goers (the next Boracay or a better version, so they’d say).
The photos we took cannot serve much justice on the pristine beauty of Coron. All I can only say is then — it’s better to see Coron for yourself!
Coron is considered a municipality in Palawan that consists of a town sharing the eastern part of Busuanga Island, an island that is really called as Coron. It also consists of over 50 islets in the Calamian archipelago, which stretches from Tara island in the northeast to Canipo island in the south.
Coron mainly thrives on fishing and tourism nowadays. It had former industries such as manganese mining and rattan and basket-weaving that had gradually declined due to the ensuing depletion of its natural sources.
Currently, tourism is the top industry, thanks to its local beaches, dive sites, and other natural tourist spots. With a dozen sunken Japanese warships at depths between 10 and 40 meters, Coron is becoming a favorite diving destination in the world.
The Tagbanwa, Calmiananen, and Cuyonon tribes are the original Coron inhabitants. The Tagbanwa people, in particular, is one of the oldest ethnic groups in the country. It is believed that they descend from inhabitants who lived over 20,000 years ago (called the Tabon man).
An ancestral domain over 22,000 hectares of land and sea in Coron island was awarded to the Tagbanwa people in 1998. It gives them the right to manage the area and preserve its rich marine and land resources. At the same time, they continue to live their lives according to their culture and traditions.
There are actually 13 lakes in Coron island but only 2, the Kayangan and Barracuda Lakes are open for public. The indigenous Tagbanwas are very cautious as they consider Coron island as sacred ground.
Aside from fishing and tourism, thanks to the entrance fees they earn, the Tagbanwas also gather Balinsasayaw nests, which is made of the bird’s saliva that can be found from cliffside caves. These nests are an important ingredient for the expensive and rare bird’s nest soup.
Coron Town Tour
A half-day tour, this first package we took gives an option to explore Coron town by visiting its landmarks such as Mount Tapyas and Maquinit hot spring.
Lualhati Park and Coron Town Proper
The tour started in the afternoon by exploring the town center and visiting Lualhati Park. Bancas for island excursions are normally docked in this bay walk area.
Then, we went on to take over 700 steps to reach the viewing deck in Mount Tapyas. Mount Tapyas is the second tallest mountain and one of the most dominant land-features around the town of Coron in Busuanga Island, Palawan.
The timely ascend to the top on late afternoon rewards the successful climber with a view overlooking the town and enchanting Coron island from afar, along with a dramatic sunset stealing the show.
It is a predictable and supposedly easy climb, but due to humid heat, I cannot bear myself from sweating a lot. Conquering Mount Tapyas was surprisingly too much for me. I stayed behind somewhere halfway, at the nth step, waiting for hubby as he continued on.
Good for him for chasing the sunset view over that mountain top!
Maquinit Hot Springs
The next stopover is what I’d consider the highlight of the tour. It could have been my favorite, only if it wasn’t crowded and we spent a bit longer.
The unique and natural saltwater Maquinit hot springs provide a charming setting along the mangrove forest and shore, as well as a relaxing effect on the mind and body.
Maquinit hot springs is a two-tiered circular pool whose waters are said to be fed by volcanic activity. As one of the world’s few saltwater hot springs, the water here is hot, running as high as 104 F.
Beach Hopping Tour
The neighboring islands of Malcapuya, Banana and Bulog Dos boast a beautiful scenery of clear waters and white sand beach. This is what you’d expect from this tour—nothing else.
The tour started early morning at the Lualhati bay view. From there we took our tourist boat to set forth for a 2-hour journey to Malcapuya Island.
Malcapuya Island consists of a long stretch of white powdery sand with shallow crystal blue waters stretched for a few meters into the sea. The snorkeling area of Malcapuya is a bit far off from the shore. It makes an ideal destination for swimming and just lounging under the hot midday sun.
With rest huts and an air-conditioned bungalow available, it is possible to stay on the island at least overnight.
It is quick to compare the Malcapuya island to Boracay, particularly its unspoiled beauty before the modern development and madding crowd.
By noon we left Malcapuya island and went on for a 30-minute boat ride heading to Banana island.
Banana island is privately owned but open to tourists. It has better amenities and overnight accommodation options available through the several cottages scattered around the island. Compared to Malcapuya, Banana’s beach is shorter and the waters, though also as clear, are deeper. Officially the island is called Dicalabuan, but its shape resembles a banana, hence its other name.
The scorching heat allured us to take a dip into the waters, but then the hammock seemed to have been calling me to take a nap instead. I love taking naps by the beach!
If not for hubby taking candid shots of me lounging away in the hammock and waking me up, I would have slept away and stayed on that island overnight. Of course, we had to leave and visit the last island on our itinerary.
Bulog Dos Island
Just five minutes away, we headed off to Bulog Dos Island. The word “bulog” means bald, which aptly describes the bulge/viewpoint on the island that resembles a bald head.
A beautiful snorkeling spot with a myriad of colorful fishes along the ridge also has a sandbar that connects to the Two Seasons Resort, which occupies the other part of the island. This quick 1-hour visit to Bulog Dos island ends our tour.
Coron Island Ultimate Tour
After the beach hopping tour, we went on for another one. This, my friends, is the highlight of our entire vacation in Coron. At last, we’re off to “pay tribute” to the infamously enchanting Coron island.
As expected, we took our boat at the docking site in Lualhati park and set off to the first stop of the tour.
Siete Pecados Marine Park
The Siete Pecados Marine Park is not only a go-to snorkeling site due to its shallow waters and rich marine life. It also has a story to tell. Legend has it that there were seven sisters who went swimming against their mother’s wish. As a consequence, all sisters drowned, and afterward, seven islets sprouted from the sea.
After snorkeling at Siete Pecados, off we went to the most famous, postcard beauty in Coron—the Kayangan lake.
Kayangan lake is much sought-after by most travelers, motivated to capture this most photographed scenery that can only be found in Coron. Standing at the viewpoint, the shot that is actually being taken here is Coron bay, which serves as the majestic gateway to this secretive-Kayangan-lake-no-more.
On the way to the lake, islets of limestones in different shapes and sizes welcomed us. By the time the boat docked along with the bamboo stilts, a small group of Tagbanwas was also there.
We’re quite unsure though as to whether they’re warmly welcoming us, or they’re meant to be stern gatekeepers keeping a sharp eye on every tourist coming in and out of their ancestral territory. Either way, we quietly thanked them for allowing us to visit their paradise that they’ve indeed protected well.
A 10-minute climb took us first to the viewpoint. Then another steep step down, we got our way to the crystal-clear waters of Kayangan lake nestled into the mountain walls.
Kayangan lake is touted to be the cleanest and clearest not only in the country but also in Asia. As we stood close at the stilt, we can already see its surface plenty of interesting rock formations, teeming with small fishes awaiting eager swimmers.
The lake is a cunning mix of both fresh and salt waters. Diving into the deep gives a rather surreal experience. If you’re a good diver, you’d come across the Awuyuk Kayangan Cave. This cave would lead you to a narrower entrance into the heart of it with a small opening at its ceiling allowing the sun to take a peek.
We could only spend a few hours here, as the lake cannot accommodate a huge stream of visitors as well. It was then almost lunchtime when we went on to our next hang out.
Banol Beach consists of a small stretch of sandy white beach with aquamarine water and surrounded by a splendid background of limestone cliffs.
The beach is open for the public and a popular stop for lunch during island tours. It is another ideal place for snorkeling and kayaking. Just like us, after a sumptuous seafood lunch, you can also just opt to swim or wade along the shore.
Twin Peaks Reef and Barracuda Lake
After Banol beach, we sailed away and anchored off somewhere around in the middle of the sea. We apparently stopped by at Twin Peaks Reef, another snorkeling and diving spot that is teeming with colorful corals and a variety of reef fishes.
After that short snorkeling in Twin Peaks reef, we went to our next stop. The Barracuda Lake is a freshwater lake taking place in a former crater 4o meters deep, surrounded by sharp limestone cliffs.
It is named after its elusive resident barracuda fishes. The lake is also famous for its thermocline, thus making it known as an unusual dive site.
We’re definitely not divers, so I suggest you check out this blog post to see stunning photos that captured the deep.
Not so far from Barracuda Lake, off we went to our last destination. The Twin Lagoon coastline is splendid and its bay mystifying as you approach.
The first lagoon is where the boats dock. The way to the second lagoon is accessible through a small crevice underneath the rock, or a ladder over the rock.
The waters in the twin lagoons may sometimes be blurry due to the mix between salt and freshwater. The water temperature in the lagoon also changes, a similar phenomenon we experienced in Barracuda lake.
My Travel Notes
Interested to include Coron on your travel bucket list then?