One of my favorite destinations in the world is located in the Palawan region of the Philippines. There are few places in the world that feel so remote and untouched. It is one of the handful of unexplored and untapped tropical paradises left on Earth. From stunning limestone cliffs to deserted beaches, Palawan is unlike any place I have explored. I love it so much I have traveled to the province on four separate occasions. There is something about the area that always calls me back. Perhaps it’s the jungle-clad mountains, pristine beaches, unspoiled coral reefs, remote lagoons, friendly villagers and magical sunsets. Palawan is such a picturesque paradise that I almost feel a bit guilty sharing it with the rest of the world in fears that it will be become the next Phi Phi Islands. Even so, it’s a magical place that must be explored.
Most travelers to the region often decide to explore El Nido which is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and serene secret coves, yet, another area definitely worth checking out is Coron. Located in the most northern part of Palawan, Coron is just as stunning as El Nido and offers some of its own unique sights which set it apart from its more popular neighbor to the south. Many also argue that the underwater life in Coron is much more impressive than El Nido’s, and I would have to agree. The paradise is home to the eastern half of Busuanga Island, all of Coron Island, and fifty other smaller islands and islets.
All the islands in the region are part of the Calamian Archipelago. This archipelago is home to some of the most impressive natural wonders in the world. From crystal clear fresh water lakes to pristine coral reefs, Coron has a lot to offer as an island destination. Most journeys to Coron begin in Busuanga at the Francisco B. Reyes Airport where the tarmac often has to be cleared of cattle. This tiny airport is the gateway to the area’s many destinations. Landing here is a unique experience and the ride to town is even more surprising. Driving along the cattle surrounded empty dirt roads, I knew I was going to love Coron.
The town of Coron is about a forty minute bumpy, yet scenic ride from the airport. The town itself is authentically Filipino, you won’t find any massive hotels or resorts here. Instead, visitors can enjoy the local culture as it was meant to be. I personally preferred the town of Coron to El Nido as it wasn’t as touristy. I really enjoyed the local vibe that could be felt in Coron. The only downside to the municipality is that all beaches in the area can only be accessed by boat. Still, most of the beaches are only a short boat ride away and there some natural sites that can be experienced right in town.
Some of the most popular places to visit in town are Mount Tapyas and Maquinit Hot Spring. Climbing Mount Tapyas is an easy endeavor as it’s more of a hill than a mountain, measuring some 680 feet high, even so, the views from the top are stunning. It’s the perfect place to photograph the town and surrounding islands. I highly recommend hiking up just before sunset.
Maquinit Hot Spring is another popular place to visit. Only minutes from town, the hot spring is the perfect place to unwind after a day of island hopping. Hidden amongst a mangrove forest and right on the ocean, it’s definitely worth checking out. I really enjoyed spending an evening here under the stars with a beer in hand and relishing in the peaceful environment.
Coron is home to numerous island hopping tours. One of the most popular and my personal favorite is the Coron Island Tour. This full day excursion makes stop at Kayangan Lake, Blue Lagoon, Siete Pecados, Banol Beach, Quin Reef, and the Coral Garden. The untouched nature and abundant sea life witnessed on this journey is unparalleled. It’s one of the many reasons why I have returned to Coron three times.
Kayangan Lake is Coron’s most popular destination for it is simply one of the most beautiful places on Earth. This hidden freshwater lake is nestled within a mountain that is surrounded by the sea. The crystal-clear water of Lake Kayangan is unlike anything I have ever witnessed. The location makes it even more magical as it seems worlds away from civilization. It’s difficult to put into words the feeling I got when I swam out to the middle of the lake and I floated on my back and gazed up at the limestone cliffs surrounding me. It was truly one of the most amazing travel experiences of my life. The underwater views are really beautiful, including a moon-like landscape and hundreds of tiny fish.
Another highlight of Kayangan Lake is the steep, yet short climb to the lake. From here, visitors can enjoy views of the sea and the stunning Blue Lagoon. This is probably one of the most photographed spots in Palawan. It’s a picture perfect sight that looks almost too heavenly to be apart of this world.
In addition to the Coron Island tour, another island hopping circuit I highly recommend is the Island Escape Tour. This excursion takes you to Malcapuya Island, Banana Island, and Bulog Dos Island. While a bit further out than Coron Island, these islands are well worth the two hour boat journey.
Malcapuya is a remote island with one of the country’s most pristine white sand beaches, easily rivaling the sand of Boracay. It is locally regarded as the “ultimate virgin beach” and it’s easy to see why; the sand is perfect and water is crystal clear. Most importantly, the island isn’t developed and you won’t have to fight others for prime real estate on the beach. It’s the perfect place to enjoy some fresh coconut juice and sunshine.
Another stop on this circuit is Banana Island. While the beach here is not as impressive, this stopover offers some spectacular snorkeling. The coral here is mostly undamaged and there is plenty of sea life to witness. Banana Island offers a few beach huts and cottages where visitors can escape the heat of the island.
Altogether, Coron is a stunning island paradise that I highly recommend exploring. The destinations highlighted above are definitely worth checking out if you’re in the region. There are plenty of options when it comes to lodging. From low budget hostels to more lavish hotels, there is something for everyone. During my visits, I stayed at the La Natura Resort and the Gran Vista, both of which I can definitely recommend. Coron will surely please and inspire any and all that visit, but remember to protect this slice of paradise and to leave nothing but footprints behind!