Summer Trip to Coron (Day 1): Island and Beach Hopping

Blue Lagoon at Coron, PalawanMy friend, where is your dream summer destination?  For me, I have nothing in particular.  For as long as it’s a beach with fine white sand and crystal clear water, I’m good with it.  I am very lucky for I live in a country full of wonderful beaches!  The Philippines has so many of that which confuses me where to go first!

From the research that I have, Palawan seems to be on top of the list for most of the people I asked and that wonderful province is rich with it.  Far too many that the next thing to ask is, “Where exactly in Palawan?”  A part of my decision is the feedback I got from foreigners who travelled the Philippines.  Foreigners who have been to Coron fell in love with the place that they keep coming back there! Hmm… So that was the reason why when PAL Express have a promo, my friends and I booked to go there.

When planning for our itinerary, we put the island-hopping on the first day since  we want to hit the beach immediately.  The struggle was, majority of us came from the night shift.  Sir Romie, Marie and I are from the same department with confusing shifts changing from morning to evening depending on the work we need to do.  So when we finalized our tour, I don’t know if we will enjoy our first day.  As the assigned travel planner, I took the risk and prayed.

After logging off from work, we went straight to NAIA Terminal 3 for our trip and as usual, PAL Express was on time.  We arrived at Francisco B. Reyes Airport in Busuanga also on time.  Good thing, I was a member of PAL’s Mabuhay Miles Club that my baggage was dropped first since I was a “priority” (Moral of the story:  Signed up on airline’s membership clubs).

Touchdown: Francisco B. Reyes Airport.  Also known as Busuanga Airport

Touchdown: Francisco B. Reyes Airport. Also known as Busuanga Airport

Since we’ve made an arrangement for airport pick-up/drop-off from our tour guide, we travelled from Busuanga Airport to our hotel via a comfortable van.  While travelling, you will be amazed with the mountains and ranch along the road that you will really feel the laidback life of Northern Palawan.

Greenery on our way to the town of Coron

Greenery on our way to the town of Coron

Checking-in at Mount Tapyas was also a breeze.  When we arrived, Kuya Vincent (our tricycle driver) and Kuya Allan (the Captain of our boat) was already waiting to pick us up to start our tour.  So we hurriedly drop our bags to our room, changed our clothes and rode the 9-seater tricycle. Yup!  9-seater.  The drivers there tries to maximize it since it’s their main ride.  Since roads in the town of Coron is small, tricycles are more reliable.  I have not seen any public jeepneys during our stay.

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That’s our ride with our friendly driver, Kuya Vincent

We passed by Coron Public Market and Lualhati Park which are all a few steps from Coron Port.  Since the tours we booked were solely for our group, we have the boat all for ourselves to enjoy.

Originally, here’s our itinerary:

Day 1: Coron Eco-Tour  (This tour costs Php 1300/pax.  This includes entrance fee to each island/beach, food and boat fee)

–  Siete Pecados Marine Park (Entrance Fee: Php 100/pax)

–  Kayangan Lake (Php 200/pax)

–  Twin Lagoons (Php 100/pax)

–  Barracuda Lake (Php 100/pax)

–  Banol Beach (Php 100/pax)

–  Smith Point White Beach (Php 100/pax)

–  Atwayan Beach (Php 150/pax)

Why are there any entrance fee to each destination?  Because the islands above were either privately-owned or the Government granted the island to the local tribes in Palawan that gives them jurisdiction to the place.  A humble fee will help them spend to take care of the island for everybody to enjoy the place.  I listed the fees here so that you can customize your tour depending on your budget.  Coron Galeri gave us the liberty to do that based on the DIY Tour I have chosen for our group.

Does Coron Galeri offers tours where you can join with others? – Yes.  And it is way cheaper than what we availed.

Since joining other groups was cheaper, why did you choose a tour solely for your group?  Your group must have so many money. – The last statement was sooooo not true!  We just spend wisely. Haha!  Got two reasons: (1) Usually group tour starts at 7:00 AM.  Based on our flight plan, we will arrive in Busuanga by 10:00 AM, too late for us to join the group tour, (2) My boyfriend B and I had an unforgetable experience when we joined a group tour at Puerto Prinsesa.  That was in 2011 with a different travel agency.  We joined a group tour since it was a very cheap deal for Php 1100 where a part of it was touring 4 islands, lunch, snacks and a snorkeling activity in one marine sanctuary in Puerto Princesa.  Since other group was with us, we have to wait for everybody to arrive before we start.  Two members of the other group were super duper late that we lack time and skipped one island and the marine sanctuary that we were so pissed off with that 2 “maarte” group members! GRRR!!! I HATE PRIMADONNAS!!!  Since we don’t want to have the same experience and do not want to miss any chance again, we opt to shell a little more than gamble on joining other groups that may have another member that’s insensitive with time.

Back to our trip.  Since it was almost lunch time when we started the tour (I believe it was almost 11:00 AM), Kuya Allan and his apprentice Ramil suggested that we go to Atwayan Beach which is originally our lunch time destination.  Since we were hungry, we all agreed to it.  So we sailed the sea as manned by Kuya Allan while Ramil grilled the porkchops and fishes at the back of our boat for us to munch for lunch.

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That’s Chantal, our boat

Kuya Allan (in green shirt) our Captain and Ramil (in yellow shirt) grilling pork and fish for our lunch

Kuya Allan (in green shirt) our Captain and Ramil (in yellow shirt) grilling pork and fish for our lunch

While traversing the sea, we were already amazed with the black limestones and clear waters we saw on our path!  That makes us all giddy to hop on the beach and try the waters as soon as possible.  And that’s what we did upon arriving on our first destination: Atwayan Beach.

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It has a small shore, fine white sand but clear waters.  There were cottages for travellers to rest.  So when our group of 5 landed our feet at Atwayan Beach, we immediately grabbed our camera and take pictures as if this is the only place we have for the day!

Me at Atwayan Beach

Me at Atwayan Beach

Watch out for the rocks at the left side of the picture.  Jellyfish thrive on that area!

Watch out for the rocks at the left side of the picture. Jellyfish thrive on that area!

The place was memorable because of two things.  First, B got stung by a jellyfish along the rocks he visited.  When he felt the sting, he got off the water and rubbed his right leg with sand to scrape off the tentacles left by the jellyfish.  Kuya Allan was to the rescue and hand Ramil vinegar to pour on B’s leg to see the tentacles to remove them easily.  My friend, remember that as those were the first aid treatments for jellyfish sting.

Clear jellyfish that stung B.  It was caught by Ramil

Clear jellyfish that stung B. It was caught by Ramil

Ramil was a professional.  He removed the tentacles of the jellyfish.  Its head was left and he said it is now safe to hold it and can also be cooked and eaten!

Ramil was a professional. He removed the tentacles of the jellyfish. Its head was left and he said it is now safe to hold it and can also be cooked and eaten!

Second jellyfish caught by Ramil at Atwayan Beach

Second jellyfish caught by Ramil at Atwayan Beach

That's Marie holding the head of the second jellyfish after Ramil remove the tentacles

That’s Marie holding the head of the second jellyfish after Ramil remove the tentacles

Second reason why the place was memorable is because there were native dogs roaming around that place that were super friendly.  The aspins or askals (Filipino term for wandering dogs) even allowed me to pat them and even shook hands with me!

One of the friendly stray dogs on the beach who shook hands with me :3

One of the friendly stray dogs on the beach who shook hands with me :3

After resting and swimming, we enjoyed the lunch prepared for us.

Seaweed salad, grilled fish and pork for lunch

Seaweed salad, grilled fish and pork for lunch

A few more minutes of resting then off we go to Banol Beach.

Banol Beach

Banol Beach

Banol beach was another white sand beach good for snorkeling.  Unlike in Atwayan, the limestones here were at the shore which is good for camwhoring.  HAHA!

Our group with one of the limestones at Banol Beach as our background

Our group with one of the limestones at Banol Beach as our background

Our guide said the place is good for snorkeling.  Since were did not see that much fish, we asked Kuya Allan if we can go to our next destination.  He said the next was Smith Point White Beach.

From afar, we saw that it was quite similar to Atwayan Beach but with smaller beachfront.  So we asked Kuya Allan if we can skip it and go to our next destination.  So we did not dock there and just head to Twin Lagoon.

Between two rocks, you will notice a line.  That's the bamboo barricade we saw at Twin Lagoon :(

Between two rocks, you will notice a line. That’s the bamboo barricade we saw at Twin Lagoon 😦

Prior to going there, Kuya Allan mentioned to us that he will try to have us visit it since it was informed to him that it was temporarily closed due to some misunderstandings by the tribe members who “owns” the place.  Too bad for us.  Entrance to the Twin Lagoon have barricades which means it is close.  So our group just marvelled the place from afar.  Sad.

Next on our list was the Barracuda Lake.  According to my research, it was named as such because the natives there saw barracudas on that place.  I did not mentioned it to my friends cause they might get scared and asked to skip it.  Hehe!  So we docked and marvelled at the clear shallow waters.

Ramil docking our boat at Barracuda Lake entrance

Ramil docking our boat at Barracuda Lake entrance

Bamboo path and stairs leading to Barracuda Lake

Bamboo path and stairs leading to Barracuda Lake

Upon arrival, you will not see any beach front but instead a bamboo bridge.  The bridge will lead you to a series of stairs that will bring you to the lake itself.

B going up the wooden stairs leading to Barracuda Lake

B going up the wooden stairs leading to Barracuda Lake

The lake was deep that my friends just enjoyed the view.  For me and B, we were not satisfied by just looking at the place but rather we put on our snorkeling mask and swam the lake.  Yes, the water was not salty so it will not hurt your eyes.

The place was so serene.  We enjoyed it even more because our group were the only ones there.

A view of Barracuda Lake

A view of Barracuda Lake

Enjoying the waters of Barracuda Lake

Enjoying the waters of Barracuda Lake

We stayed longer here to absorb fully the beauty of the place.  Since we can’t stay till sundown at sea, we were called by Kuya Allan to go back to our boat to go to the famous Kayangan Lake.

Kayangan Lake info

Kayangan Lake info

You have to do a short trek in order for you to reach the lake cause it’s in the middle of the surrounding limestone mountains.  It was a bit hard for the steps are made up of unpolished stones.  Since it drizzled, the path was a bit muddy and slippery.

Entrance leading to the slippery stairs leading to Kayangan Lake

Entrance leading to the slippery stairs leading to Kayangan Lake

Be careful.  Path was muddy and slippery

Be careful. Path was muddy and slippery

Upon reaching the top, you have 2 paths to go to.  The first we took was the one going to the fantastic view of the popular Blue Lagoon.  This is the most photographed part of Coron and the view is breathtaking!

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

Group pic overlooking the Blue Lagoon

Group pic overlooking the Blue Lagoon

After a few camwhoring events, we went to another path to reach the lake.  The water is clear but really deep.

Kayangan Lake

Kayangan Lake

We did enjoyed our stay here but it was a bit crowded when we went here and prefer to have a peaceful venue.  After a good hour of stay, we went back to our boat and went to our last destination: Siete Pecados Marine Sanctuary.

The place does not have a beachfront but rather it is a diving and snorkeling area surrounded by seven islets.  Legend said that it represents the seven sisters that was cursed to become stones.

One of the rock formation at Siete Pecados Marine Sanctuary as taken from Marie's phone

One of the rock formation at Siete Pecados Marine Sanctuary as taken from Marie’s phone

When we put on our snorkeling mask and went into the waters, lots of color fishes greeted us.  Corals were alive and colorful that you will really enjoyed the view below.  The fishies surrounded us.  Our boatman gave us bread for us to feed the fish and they become a bit excited that some of us felt that we were bitted by them!  Too bad we do not have any protective gear for our cameras nor an underwater cam to document what we saw.  I guess it’s time for me to save up and buy one.

Did we enjoyed the tour?  SUPER!!!  We thought we will only be exhausted and sleepy but rather we were awaken by the beauty that nature had in store for us in Coron.

This is just the first part of our tour.  We still have 2 more to go.  Till my next post!  By the way, a little reminder everytime you travel which we saw on our way to Kayangan Lake:

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“Keep nothing but memories”

*Tinakits*

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Summer Trip to Coron: Planning Stage

Our group photo overlooking the Blue Lagoon in Coron, Palawan

Our group photo overlooking the Blue Lagoon in Coron, Palawan

My friend, how was your summer?  How did you enjoy it?  Regardless of your location or the seasons in your country, summer is the happiest season for most.  This is where students end their school year and when the working adults create so many reasons to go on vacation.  In a tropical country like the Philippines, it is the best season to enjoy the best of our country.  That is, exploring the beaches.  So if you are one of those who want to plan out any vacation in Coron in the future, readout this series for your guide.  Of course, I will start my Coron Trip Series with the Planning Stage:

TIP #1:  PLAN WHERE YOU WANT TO GO AND WAIT FOR ANY PROMO RELEASES FROM DIFFERENT AIRLINES ONCE ITS AVAILABLE AND BOOK IMMEDIATELY

My friends in my previous Department, my boyfriend B and I share the same passion for exploring the wonderful beaches in the Philippines and because of this, we always in constant search for our next destination.  And I tell you, we have a lot on our list!  Just like last year, B and I were reminisced the wonderful vacation we’ve had in Puerto Prinsesa, Palawan in 2011.  Since we felt that the time we spent for snorkeling was short-changed on our last vacation, we agreed that we will explore the beauty of Palawan next year.  I guess PAL Express (new name for Airphil) heard our conversation that they decided to have a Piso Fare November of 2012!  Since Coron was on our list, we decided to book a round trip flight to Busuanga (gateway of Coron) for 2 intended for June of 2013.  The price?  Php 1,500 per person, ALL-IN (“All-in” means the price already includes the base fare, travel tax, fuel tax, surcharges, etc.)

Excited as I was, I told my friend Marie about our plan and she got envious because she heard Coron was full of beaches and we bought a roundtrip ticket for a very low price.  So I booked one for her and she availed of the discount we had.  A month after, one of our friend named Jill heard from Marie about our adventure for 2013.  Since June was her birth month and all her planned vacation for that year was cancelled, she sent me a message saying she wants to join us, too.  And off I go to my lappie and booked another ticket for her.  The price?  Around Php 2,000 roundtrip.  Now that makes us 4.  Another friend of ours, Sir Romie, heard about our planned adventure.  Since he’s very stressed with some personal matters and he hasn’t gone on a real vacation, he asked me to book a ticket for him so that he could join us!  He asked me that favor last December.  I booked the ticket but it cost him around Php 3,000 which is double the price of my ticket for the same destination.

What’s the moral of the story?

Have a list of the places you want to go.  So that once airlines starts with their promotion, you already have an idea what’s your destination will be for your trip.

– Sign up on different airlines news feed for you to get notifications about their upcoming promotions so that you won’t miss any of their deals.

– Make sure you always ALWAYS save money so that once a promo becomes available, you have the money to book for tickets and other expenses for the trip.  Really, it pays a lot if you save.

– Once an airline promo becomes available for the destination you want, BOOK IT!

– Be aware of the holidays in your country so you can plan out your vacation.  You may click here for reference.

Map of Calamines Group of island as posted in Coron Galeri's office in the town of Coron,  Northern palawan

Map of Calamines Group of island as posted in Coron Galeri‘s office in the town of Coron, Northern Palawan

TIP #2: RESEARCH ABOUT YOUR DESTINATION

Since we already have tickets, the next thing is plan for our itinerary.  I have not been to Coron nor any of my companions.  For this, I have 2 options for researching:

1.  Fire up Google and search for blog entries and travel agencies that features Coron

I know there are fellow adventurers that have been to the Northern part of Palawan that were eager to share their experiences to others.  They will provide details of their planning, their activities, suggestions and hands-on experience which you need to consider in planning your itinerary.

Based on my research, here are some of the things I’ve learned in Coron:

– Coron is a part of the Calamines group of islands.  There’s a lot of small islands there mostly with white sand beaches.  Good for beach bumming.

– The seas of Coron were protected with diverse marine life.  Which means the place is good for snorkeling and diving.

– During World War 2, Northern Palawan was one of the sites for war battles with ships falling victim to bombs.  That is why Coron is a very known for shipwreck diving.

– Palawan is a well-secluded area and far from the city which was considered in building projects like the Iwahig Penal Colony in Puerto Princesa and Tala Leprosarium in Culion, Palawan – a place for those suffering from leprosy.  Culion is a part of Calamines Group.  Due to the social stigma about people suffering from leprosy, Culion was not a popular destination and was secluded from development which preserved its environment, monuments and ancient Spanish architecture.  Therefore, it is a great place to travel back in time and see Palawan during her younger years.

– Due to its diverse flora and fauna, the island of Calauit became the area for African animals purchased by the late President Ferdinand Marcos which was now called the Calauit Safari Park.

2.  Ask a friend you know have already visited the place

Lucky that I found a friend who visited the place last year.  Rommel, a friend and co-worker whom I share the same passion for cheer dancing, told me of his experience.  There’s nothing like getting tips from someone you completely trust.  Based on his first-hand experience, he said that it is best to hire a travel guide to arrange all the tours for our group.  He said touring the islands of Coron is a bit complicated since we need to pay a certain amount every time we enter an island or beach since some were protected  by the different tribes in Palawan, some were privately owned and a few were  no longer open to public for conservation reasons.  He also suggested to hire the services of the company named Coron Galeri to arrange everything for us.

The great thing about Rommel’s suggestion is that Coron Galeri has their own website where you can see all the available tour packages they offer.  He also gave me tips on arranging our itinerary:

– Among all of the Coron tours you can avail in an agency, do not choose to avail of their Coron Town Tour.  Why?  It is expensive and you can do it on your own. He was right about this and I will provide you details on my next entry.

– Hop all the islands you can for the entire duration.  But always check on the news in Coron for the islands that are not for touring.

– to get to another island, it requires time and boat ride.  Choose well on which island you want to go.  For our group, we chose to go to Calauit for their safari rather than going to Culion.

– There are no food nor convenience store chains in the town of Coron.  But they have Sari-sari Stores and eatery or calinderias around.

– Coron is a province.  Do not expect that their nightlife is like in Manila or in Boracay that it is open till sunrise.

– Roads are small.  Mode of transportation there is Tricycle.

– ATM Machines are not easy to find.  Better have cash in hand for your spending’s.

TIP #3:  RESEARCH ON THE BEST ACCOMMODATION THAT WILL FIT YOUR BUDGET

There are so many options on room accommodation.  Agoda, Hotels.com and Palawan-resort websites provides you with lists to choose from.  Research well on their amenities and their proximity to the places you want to go.  Since a part of our agenda is to go to Mount Tapyas and I am obsess with a good view but with affordable rates, we chose Mount Tapyas Hotel for our temporary home in Coron.

Facade of our home in Coron - Mount Tapyas Hotel

Facade of our home in Coron – Mount Tapyas Hotel

After our deliberation and agreement, we came up with this itinerary.  By the way, we have 4 days for this trip:

Day 1: Island Eco Tour. This means island-hopping to Siete Pecados, Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoons, Barracuda Lake, Banol Beach, Smith Point White beach, Atwayan Beach

Day 2: Calauit Safari (travel via boat) & Black Island in the morning.  Mount Tapyas climb and Maquinit Hotspring in the afternoon.

Day 3: Beach-hopping to Bulog Island, Banana Island and Malcapuya Island

Day 4: Catch a flight going back to Manila

NOTE:  This itinerary was not followed.  Hihihi!  More on that on my future post.

Everything is set on our trip! Hope I helped you in planning for your future trip in Coron.  How was our vacation?  It was memorable!  I’ll post our 4-day adventure next.

My friend, any questions about planning for your Coron Trip?  Let me know so that I can help you.

-Tinakits-