There’s something about flying on jets that makes every trip so much smoother… and traveling to Coron (Busuanga Airport) from Manila (NAIA Terminal 4) was a breeze, just a short 35-minute flight via SkyJet Airlines. At the beginning of this trip, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The town looked sleepy, and didn’t really seem to have much to offer. But that was before we jumped onto a boat and started coasting around the countless islands in this paradise. Holy smokes!
Coron, Palawan, CVMN’s Most Beautiful Paradise in the World of 2018, is like a God-made amusement park that has something for everybody. From hidden lagoons, to immaculate lakes, secret caves, breathtaking coral reefs, historic Japanese shipwrecks to Jurassic Park-looking islands, the list goes on. Definitely not a Boracay that has some of the best beach bars and restaurants and a long stretch of fine white sand, but that’s like comparing apples to oranges. Sometimes you like apples, and in this case I’m salivating on a beautiful bunch of oranges.
With over 1,780 islands, Palawan has the most number of islands and islets in all of the Philippines (that has over 7,641 islands as of last count). Nature spoils you here with crystal-clear waters making visibility for what is under the sea even more eyegasmic and magnificent rock formations made of Permian limestone (of Jurassic origin), making this the ultimate destination for thrill seekers who are into underwater adventures and activities such as scuba diving, freediving and snorkeling.
We had planned a jam-packed schedule in Coron, so booking a nice, peaceful and premium resort seemed a perfect complement to this filming trip. And so it made sense that the first leg of our tour around the Philippines was in collaboration with Coron Soleil Garden Resort, a holiday accommodation complex that comprises a 4-star resort, a 3-star budget hotel and a sophisticated restaurant, located at the foot of Mt. Tapyas, the center of the Coron island.
Coron Soleil exudes a cosmopolitan resort vibe, with a vastly spacious center that houses its gorgeous, massive pool (that shows off a chic light play at night), surrounded by its numerous rooms, each having its own mini veranda, the charming bar and the restaurant that has both indoor and outdoor areas.
The rooms are spacious, neat and sport warm tones that are pleasing to the eye. Comfy beds, air conditioning at full blast—perfect and hella relaxing after a whole day of island hopping and water activities—and my favorite: small eats and treats that get sent to your room (different variations of almonds—plain, candied and salted—something the city has an abundance of) are the perfect combination for an excellent stay in a beautiful island like Coron.
The dining experience is equally delightful as well, with its formidable selection of Filipino and international dishes. (They’ve got vegetarian and vegan options, too; I personally got to sit down with the chef upon check-in to discuss my meals throughout my stay—now that’s impeccable service.) On our last night, our friends at Coron Soleil treated us to their lovely Filipino-set dinner and it was almost dreamlike.
721 Steps to Mt. Tapyas
Our tour, carefully arranged by Luminous Travel and Tours, began with a hike to the top of Mt. Tapyas, where the iconic cross and Coron sign (à la Hollywood) lie. It takes 721 steps to get to the top, and it’s best to do it around 4:30 or 5PM to enjoy the view just in time for sunset.
Bro tip: just like when joining a marathon, your body will need a bit of conditioning (before the trip) to get through such activity—especially if you don’t have an active lifestyle or exercise regularly. Knowing beforehand that your itinerary will include such activity should get you to do some preparation for it.
Due to the seemingly unending and steep steps trekking up Mt. Tapyas, half of our team had to stop midway due to exhaustion, but the rest of us managed to reach the peak, see the cross up close and enjoy the beautiful sunset from the summit. You can just imagine how tired we were after the descend; and while we wanted to pass by Maquinit Hot Springs for some relaxation (luckily I’d at least tried this during my visit in 2013), we opted to head straight to dinner for our first proper meal on the island.
Dinner at Get Real Bar & Restaurant
Get Real came highly recommended when we were planning this filming trip, and boy did this café not only come through but exceeded our expectations. The food, the cozy vibe and the staff were all fantastic—you could see from the faces of our team and fellow travellers that we were all loving the friendly atmosphere and what the café had to offer.
This island favorite boasts local and modern cuisines like their nachos (perfect as appetizer), eggplant salad, salmon, Sinigang, Kare-Kare and Adobo. But the real champ are their sliders—so damn good. We devoured this entire feast accompanied by fresh juices and of course, ice-cold beer. Talk about island life!
Open daily, 10AM to 2PM, 5PM to 12AM | Facebook: Get Real Bar & Restaurant | Contact: 0998 568 1791/0932 530 8028
Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake and Twin Lagoon
Coron is all about island and underwater adventures, so hopping from one island to another is how you will truly get to know and enjoy this place—that’s non-negotiable. We kicked off our island festivities by visiting some neighbouring lakes, Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake and Twin Lagoon.
To get to Kayangan Lake, you’ll have to climb a few steps (not as high and rigorous as Mt. Tapyas), and then descend to the lake. Although usually populated by countless tourists, it almost looks unreal to be here—especially if you find your own spot and take photos where fellow travellers can’t be seen. Very paradise-like.
Barracuda Lake, now called the Luluyuan Lake, is basically a smaller version of Kayangan Lake—with no hiking involved. Very similar waters to Kayangan, but nothing much to see here.
It took our whole morning hopping on the first few lakes and islets and come lunch time, we were making our way to Isla Cueva.
They call it Coron’s very own Secret Beach, a private and unfrequented island that has recently opened its shores to tourists, with plans to create a unique accommodation experience on this site and away from Coron’s town proper. (More on this soon—stay tuned only on CVMN for the developments.) Known as Isla Cueva due to its formidable limestone cliffs that possess a cave-shaped entryway, this hidden gem will greet you with its soft white sand, cute nipa huts and its towering mountain in the background.
It’s an island to watch out for in Coron—a private, secluded island that will open its shores for tourists in the future, with plans to create a unique accommodation experience away from Coron’s town proper. (More on this soon—stay tuned only on CVMN for the developments.)
After feasting on our sumptuous lunch, prepared by the guys at Luminous Travel and Tours, we got to have some chill time by the beach, doing absolutely nothing and just enjoying the beauty that surrounded us.
It was an honour to have been in the presence of SkyJet President Dino Reyes-Chua, who flew in just to show us around Isla Cueva and many other sites in Coron.
If there’s one thing that Coron has an abundance of, it’s their historical sights. With more than 10 Japanese shipwrecks spread out around Palawan waters, there’s plenty of mystical sites to view and search for underwater, which is part Coron’s character that you’ll get to know as you experience their island tours.
Come sunset time, we were fortunate enough to see the Sunset Beach, which proudly exhibits Coron’s gorgeous sunset against its limestone cliffs. A pretty surreal view; it was the perfect way to wrap up our island adventure for the day.
See more of our Coron journey and the rest of the sights we visited here:
Produced by Dan Buenaventura (@danbuen)
Directed by Stephen Ku (@stephen_ku)
Drone videography by Struan Wallace (@struan)
Videography by Stephen Ku, Struan Wallace and Ryan Covarrubias
Video editing by Ryan Covarrubias (@ryancovarrubias)
Music by Flight Facilities