Waves crashing onto a sugar-white beach, palms swaying, a gentle breeze, and the most stunning blues you’ve ever seen… That’s the stuff our daydreams are made of – and exactly what’s in store for you when you visit Coron, one of the amazing destinations that have made Palawan the world’s best island* year after year.
(*Palawan is actually an archipelagic province composed of roughly 1,780 islands and islets. #knowitall)
But for all its natural beauty, Coron is more than just a pretty tropical paradise. It has a rich marine biodiversity, its share of underwater war tales as told by shipwrecks, and – possibly its most important asset – dedicated locals who untiringly protect most of the islands against destructive tourism. The result is a destination that has managed to keep up with the tourist crowds with its upswing of resorts and restaurants, but at the same time has kept pieces of paradise unspoiled and intact.
Here’s a little downside to all that regulated tourism though. Coron isn’t like most laidback beach destinations where you can just show up. It can get pretty expensive if you try to wing it (last-minute flights and hotels can cost a fortune, if at all available), and waking up at 9 AM (like a proper beach bum) and looking for a boatman to take you to sea may leave you disappointed and stuck in Coron town for the day. Going pretty much anywhere requires money (for transportation and entrance/environmental fees), but keep in mind that it’s a small price to pay to keep the islands pristine. A visit to Coron requires a little bit of planning and research, but I promise you, it will be worth it.
That said, here’s a quick guide to Coron that will have you planned and booked in 30 minutes tops.
Coron travel guide
- Best things to do in Coron
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
- Essential information – getting there, getting around, group tours
- Map of essential sights, hotels, and restaurants in Coron
- Beyond Coron – exploring the Philippines
- Download the travel guide
Swim in Kayangan Lake
Kayangan Lake is definitely one of the highlights of our Coron holiday. Gorgeous emerald waters surrounded by towering karst formations – it’s certainly a treat to effortlessly float around in its crystal-clear brackish waters.
Kayangan Lake is probably one of the best examples of how the locals’ diligence has managed to keep the negative effects of tourism at bay. Sure, the multitude of tourists and boats that flank the gateway to the lake block the view and ruin the pictures – but what could you expect? Kayangan Lake has been plastered on plenty of travel websites and Instagram accounts; it’s understandable that the crowds have come.
What’s surprising, though, is that despite the deluge of tourists, the Tagbanuas – the indigenous group who take care of Coron, which is part of their ancestral domain – have kept Kayangan Lake the “cleanest lake in the Philippines.” So if you can get over the “overtourism” and climb the 300 steps that lead to the lake, paradise will certainly be yours.
If you have time, also check out the nearby Barracuda Lake, which is also a great dive spot.
Relax in Banol Beach
There’s really not much to do when you’re in a tropical paradise but to swim, eat, and sunbathe. And there’s no better setting for a seafood fiesta followed by a siesta than the beautiful Banol beach, one of many white sand beaches in Coron. The island’s limestone walls give a bit of protection from the noon sun, making it perfect for a lazy afternoon.
You can go around Coron Island’s lakes and beaches by chartering a boat or joining this tour.
Snorkel and dive to reefs and wrecks
Coron’s reefs and wrecks tell plenty of stories. In September 1944, during the World War 2, the American navy attacked Japanese ships in Manila Bay, causing some of them to withdraw to Coron Bay where they thought they would be out of the US Navy’s range.
It wasn’t long after that the Americans discovered the ships and launched a surprise aerial attack on 24 September. It took 45 minutes to sink at least 11 ships and severely damage more. Now, the wreck sites offer great aquatic views for divers of all levels. You can check out one of the dive tours here.
For non-divers, there are plenty of coral gardens to explore around Coron Island.
Enjoy Malcapuya island
Most of the destinations listed so far can be reached within 30 minutes by boat from Coron town. But the Calamian Islands’ best beaches are a little farther – about 90 minutes’ boat ride away. Wake up a bit earlier to join a tour to Malcapuya Island, and spend the day beach bumming in the island’s long stretch of powdery white sand beach. Bring your snorkeling gear as plenty of coral gardens surround the island. If you’re particularly crowd-averse, you have more chances of finding a secluded spot here than near Coron Island.
A visit to Malcapuya Island is best coupled with a trip to the nearby Banana Island and the Bulog Dos sandbar.
Watch the sunset from Mt. Tapyas
This is how most trips to Coron start – a trek up Mt. Tapyas’ 700 steps to look out to the sea. The view from the 210-meter mountain is certainly amazing, and even more so if you can wait for the sunset. Afterwards, head over to the Maquinit hot springs for a relaxing evening.
Visit the Calauit safari park
Last on this list is perhaps Calamian Islands’ most shocking and controversial destination: the Calauit Safari Park.
On one hand, we get to experience a piece of the African safari – a sight that you most definitely won’t find anywhere else in the Philippines. The 3,700-hectare sanctuary houses giraffes and zebras, whose ancestors were shipped from Kenya to Calauit Island in 1977 after then President Marcos proclaimed the island a game preserve and wildlife sanctuary. They share the park with local animals like the Calamian deer, the Philippine crocodile, and the Philippine porcupine, and offer an undeniably novel and exciting safari experience.
On the other hand, you can’t help but ask why they were brought there and what the consequences have been. As it is with tourism and politics, there are always several versions of a story. Was it established to assist in wildlife conservation and to offer international assistance? Or was it created to serve as the dictator’s friends’ lucrative tourism business and his son’s hunting grounds?
The long-term consequences of the experiment are also ambivalent. Threatened endemic animals like the Calamian deer appear to have thrived under the island’s conservation program. But the African animals living in isolation are dying out due to inbreeding and poaching, as well as budget cuts and territorial disputes. And then there are the locals who were forcibly displaced in the 1970s in favor of the animals and now are staking their claim on the land.
While we certainly won’t be able to get to the bottom of the “why” and the “what now” in a single visit, a deeper insight into the animals’ plight may hopefully inspire everyone towards a more responsible and sustainable tourism going forward.
Now that you’re officially hooked on the idea of a perpetual summer in Coron, it’s time to talk logistics.
Here’s something you need to understand about the place we call “Coron” first. When we talk of traveling to Coron, we actually mean traveling to the Calamian Islands, a group of islands in northern Palawan. All of the destinations I described above are in Calamian Islands, but not necessarily in Coron. And “actual” Coron can mean either the island or the municipality. To make it just a bit more complicated, Coron town is not in Coron Island.
But let’s simplify. The most common gateway to the Calamian Islands is Busuanga airport. From there, Coron town is about a 45-minute ride away, which in turn is the best base from which to explore the rest of the Calamian Islands, usually by joining a tour group (you can see your options here) or by chartering a private boat. Coron town itself does not have a beach.
Now that geography is all sorted out (I hope – or you can check Wikipedia for more information), let’s look at our accommodation options.
First up: the good news. Hotels and resorts in Coron span the whole spectrum of budgets – from the super budget backpacker to the luxury traveler. But, if you’re traveling on a budget, you need to temper your expectations. Budget to mid-range accommodations in Coron aren’t beachfront, they’re located in Coron town. But if you absolutely must wake up to the sound of the waves and step out and feel the sand on your toes first thing in the morning, Coron (as in the Calamian Islands) has plenty of luxurious beachfront resorts as well.
Here are the best places to stay in Coron for every budget.
Budget accommodations in Coron – PHP 1,000 or USD 20/night or less
- Travelers’ Pick: Happy Camper Hostel – This one is for the solo budget traveler, as they have dorm beds at PHP 350 (USD 7)/night. And it’s not too shabby either. They’ve got comfortable beds and friendly hosts, and besides, you’re in Coron for the beaches right?
- Apo Pension House – For duos or groups, you can save more here with their double rooms starting at just PHP 650 (USD 13)/night. They even offer airport transfers and car rentals if you want a more convenient stay.
Mid-range accommodations in Coron – PHP 1,000-3,500 or USD 20-70/night
- Travelers’ Pick: The Bay Area Coron – One of the best mid-range options in Coron! They’re relatively new and modern, in a central location near the restaurants, with comfortable beds, great views of the sea, and friendly staff. Double rooms start at PHP 2,400 (USD 50)/night.
- Coron Villa – This is definitely one of the best-value accommodations in Coron. They have nice, clean rooms, friendly staff, and an in-house restaurant. Double rooms start at PHP 1,750 (USD 35)/night.
- Haisa Apartment – For families and big groups, Haisa apartment is a great affordable option. They have fully-equipped apartments, they serve breakfast, and can organize island tours for you. Apartments for 4 start at PHP 3,500 (USD 70)/night.
Boutique hotels and resorts in Coron
If you want a little extra comfort and ambience, these slightly higher-end hotels and resorts in Coron may be what you’re looking for.
- La Natura Resort – This resort is a bit on the high-end side, but if you want to be away from the Coron town crowd, it might be worth shelling out PHP 4,500 (USD 90)/night. You can hike in the surrounding forest, hang out at the resort’s swimming pool, and enjoy wonderful service all around. They also have family rooms, so this is particularly great for bigger groups.
- Coron Soleil Express Hotel – This is another hotel that is a bit on the splurge side, but it’s one of the more modern hotels in Coron. They have an outdoor pool and bike and car rental services, so it’s quite easy to enjoy the town from here. Check out their double rooms starting at PHP 4,500 (USD 90)/night.
Luxury beachfront resorts in Coron
For the ultimate tropical paradise experience, check out these beachfront resorts in Coron. You’ll have a hassle-free vacation as they offer airport transfers, private tours, and a private beach area to lounge as much as you please.
- Travelers’ Pick: Two Seasons Coron Island Resort and Spa – Two Seasons is in Malaroyroy island, which is definitely one of the most beautiful spots in Coron! Everything is amazing – the rooms, the resort amenities, and the endless views of the sea. It’s a great spot for a honeymoon and other special occasions. Bungalows start at PHP 27,000 (USD 530)/night.
- Club Paradise Resort Palawan – This is another great and slightly more affordable beachfront resort. It’s in its own secluded island so it’s a perfect place for just relaxing on the beach. If you want to go on tours, the resort can arrange that as well. Suites start at PHP 13,500 (USD 270)/night.
You’ll find plenty of restaurants in Coron town. For comfort Filipino food like sisig and bulalo, head to Lolo Nonoy’s Food Station. For other Filipino favorites like sinigang, kare-kare, and lechon kawali, check out Kawayanan Grill Station and Balinsasayaw Restaurant.
For seafood dishes, head over to Lobster King. Just check out the fresh seafood first before ordering– sometimes the oysters aren’t so fresh. I’d suggest you stick to the lobsters, which is their specialty.
If you’re looking for international fare, check out Altrove Coron for Italian dishes then head over to Pedro’s Gelato for dessert.
From Manila, Clark, or Cebu
Flying – If you’re coming from Manila or Cebu, the easiest way to get to Coron is via the Busuanga airport. Cebu Pacific Air, Philippine Airlines, and Skyjet all have flights to Busuanga and it’s worth checking out those three airlines to see which one is offering the cheapest or more convenient flights on your dates.
A tip for choosing the time of your flight in: note that most island tours begin early morning (like 7 AM or 8 AM), so it’s not really worth getting an early morning flight. You most likely won’t be able to go on an island tour in the morning of your first day anyway, and most hotels in Coron town will only let you check in after noon. While you can go on a town tour on your first day, this usually takes only 3-4 hours, so most operators advise to start at around 3 PM or later, which is just in time to catch the sunset from the peak of Mt. Tapyas (more on the tours here). Bottom line is, if you think it’s a chore to get ready for your flight so early in the morning (who doesn’t?), you wouldn’t miss a lot if you take an afternoon flight instead.
When choosing your flight out, though, try to get an afternoon flight. Most hotels will request you to check out by 12 noon, and then it’s a 45-minute ride to the airport, making a 2 PM flight or later the ideal flight out. This allows you to squeeze in one last half-day island tour before leaving paradise.
From Busuanga airport to Coron town – You’ll see lots of vans immediately outside the airport’s arrivals area and someone will definitely offer you a ride to the town. Let them know which hotel you are headed so they can bring you to the appropriate van. As of writing, the fare is PHP 150/person and travel time is 30-45 minutes. The great thing about Coron is that they have standardized rates (and in my experience, they all keep to it), so don’t stress yourself haggling.
You can also arrange your airport transfers with your hotel in advance. For those staying in the more high-end hotels and resorts, this will likely be a complimentary service. Your guide will be waiting for you at the arrivals.
From El Nido and Puerto Prinsesa
Here are the ways you can travel from the other Palawan destinations.
From Puerto Prinsesa to Coron – 2Go Travel offers ferries from Puerto Prinsesa to Coron every Saturdays and Wednesdays, with a usual travel time of 27 hours. You can check the schedule here.
From El Nido to Coron – Montenegro Lines has a fast craft ferry that plies daily from El Nido to Coron (6 AM to 9:30 AM) and back (12 NN – 3:30 PM). You can get in touch with them here.
Getting around – public transportation, boat charters, and group tours
Public transportation around Coron town – You can get around Coron in tricycles (as of writing, the fare is PHP 10 per person if riding within the town proper; it can be more expensive when going to the port or farther). If you’re traveling with a big group or visiting several destinations, it may be more cost-effective to charter a tricycle or a van for the day. Your hotel can usually arrange this for you, or you can hail and negotiate with a driver yourself.
Chartering a boat – To get around the islands, you’ll either have to charter a private boat or join a group tour. Chartering your own private boat may be a bit more expensive than going on tours, especially for smaller groups, but it’s great if you want to take control of your schedule and avoid the crowds. It’s also good for half-day island tours – if you want to go around in the morning before flying out, for example. To charter a boat, go to the Calamian Tourist Boat Association office (see map).
Group tours – If you prefer a hassle-free vacation, all-inclusive group tours can save you from stressing over logistics. They’ll take care of everything – transfers to and from your hotel, your meals for the day, and entrance and environmental fees to all the destinations. If you factor all that in, this can come out cheaper. If you’re traveling in a big group (8 or more), you can even ask the tour operator to make the tour exclusive to your group, which then gives you more flexibility with your schedule.
You can scout around for tour operators once you’re in Coron or ask your hotel to set you up, but if you want to take care of it in advance (especially if you’re visiting on a tight schedule), here are our recommended tours.
- Coron Island tour – This tour brings you to most of the best spots around Coron Island, including Kayangan Lake, CYC Beach, and Coral Garden.
- Malcapuya, Bulog Dos, and Banana Island – This tour brings you to another set of islands a bit farther.
- Reefs and Wrecks Dive – If you’re up for a dive, Coron has plenty of reefs and wrecks to check out.
- Calauit Safari – Enjoy the safari and learn about the island’s conservation efforts.
- Coron Town tour – This is another popular organized tour, but personally, I’d do this DIY. What we did was to charter a tricycle to bring us to Mt. Tapyas and then to Maquinit Hot Springs. We skipped the other town sights.
The usual 4 days / 3 nights itinerary would go like this:
- Day 1 PM – arrive in Coron, go to Mt. Tapyas and Maquinit Hot Springs
- Day 2 whole day – Coron Island tour
- Day 3 whole day – Malcapuya, Bulog Dos, and Banana Island tour OR Calauit Safari (or both if you have an extra day)
- Day 4 AM – private boat to other spots around Coron Island; PM – flight out
Use this map to find your way around Coron!
Of the many amazing destinations in the Philippines, Coron certainly is fast becoming the most popular. But while pristine islands and sparkling seas are indeed the Philippines’ biggest draw, there’s a lot more you can do in the islands.
- Exploring Manila – I know. It’s not quite the tropical paradise holiday you signed up for, but if you’re passing through anyway, why not keep an open mind? This article will help you navigate the crazy-chaotic-confusing city that is Manila.
More guides coming soon, so be sure to check back often!
Most of Coron is managed by the Tagbanua tribe – which means you have them to thank for keeping Coron pristine. Read more about their sustainable tourism efforts, which hopefully inspires everyone to travel more responsibly (and stop griping about the entrance fees).
A fascinating account of a day with the Tagbanuas. This is Coron beyond the tourist trail.
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I hope this guide helps you navigate the beautiful islands of Coron! If you’re heading there soon, you’re in for a treat. You can download the travel guide here.
If you found this useful, please share with your friends and family who might be heading to the Philippines soon. Or even if they’re not, the sky and sea blues will definitely cheer them up.
Thank you so much for reading and have a fantastic holiday in the Philippines!