Island adventures in the Philippines continue as we take flight to the northern province of Palawan.
It was a short half an hour flight north to Busuanga Island and the Francisco B. Reyes Airport, with stunning views from our small jet plane of the area and surrounding ocean greeting us upon our descent. Another half an hour ride from the airport through idyllic countryside and cows happily grazing in pastures brings you to the small town of Coron. After a mixup with our hotel that had overbooked rooms, Mike and Annie came to the rescue and found a vacancy at a resort right across the street from their own. We thankfully settled in to our new accommodations and relaxed the day away by the pool.
The following day, we started bright and early with a motor-tricycle hilariously fitting all five of us and heading to the local Coron Public Market. Mike, acting as our local guide and speaking Tagalog, managed to talk to his driver the day prior and booked us a private boat tour of the islands for far cheaper than we would have managed with a travel agency. So if you’re looking to book a private boat yourself, make sure to ask around and talk to locals before heading to the group tours. The day trip also included lunch cooked right on the boat and served on a small beach. Heavenly!
I’m Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay
After our boat captain checked in with the coast guard, we departed from Coron Bay Harbour and were off galavanting to our first destination. The vistas of limestone rock formations were stunning and not unlike those found in Hai Long Bay, with the main difference being that the horizon wasn’t littered with cruise ships upon cruise ships of tourists.
The Cleanest Lake in Asia
Our boat glided across blue waters and lazily docked at the entrance of Kayangan Lake. After a short hike up to a viewpoint to snap photos of the surrounding area, it was another short hike down to the lake itself where we enjoyed the scenery and some snorkeling. It’s easy to see how Kayangan Lake is considered to be one of the cleanest lakes in all of Asia after swimming in its pristine, crystal clear waters.
Life’s A Beach
A quick swim in the beautiful Twin Lagoons and it was nearing lunch time. Our boat made its way to CYC Island where we enjoyed a traditional Filipino meal in a hut along the picturesque beach. Thanks to our very own fish deboning expert, we dived into our delicious lunch that included grilled pork, two types of fish, rice, and mangoes for dessert. I’m fat, let’s party!
Under the Sea, Under the Sea
After lunch, we enjoyed more snorkeling at a Japanese shipwreck site leftover from World War II and an expansive coral reef containing some of the largest clams I’ve ever seen. Palawan is a popular scuba diving destination and many divers visit to receive training and certification. As for us, all of the swimming and snorkeling tired us out well before the 4pm end time and so we headed back to Coron for some rest and relaxation.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
As exhausted as I was the following day from our nautical adventures, I decided to join Mike and Annie for an afternoon hike up Mt. Tapyas. Even though the heat was high and the humidity was real, the views of Coron and its neighboring islands once we reached the top were more than worth it. The huge white cross and letters that spell the town’s name light up at night and I wish I was able to capture them later on that evening.
That Slow Island Life
Hiking back down Mt. Tapyas wasn’t so bad as it was going up, but we definitely worked up an appetite. Luckily, Lolo Nonoy’s Food Station was only about a 10 minute walk away. We ordered an obscenely large plate of pancit palabok– a noodle dish with shrimp sauce and boiled eggs, sprinkled with tinapa fish flakes and crushed ground pork rind. Also on the menu was refreshing a refreshing glass of halo halo (a popular Filipino dessert of shaved ice, condensed milk, coconut, and fruit), grilled pork skewers and seafood sinigang.
The Night is Dark and Full of Hot Springs
Our last night in Palawan was spent visiting the Maquinit Hot Springs, which is a bumpy half an hour motor-tricycle ride away. Our driver sped along through the main street of Coron, pointing out new hotels under construction that gave way to rural neighborhoods and eventually receded into sparsely lit dirt roads. Our arrival at 7:30pm was ideal since many of the crowds began to filter out around 8pm (the cutoff time when they no longer allow visitors in). So we had about an hour in the nearly empty hot springs to enjoy beers in the quiet, relaxing atmosphere of the night.
From Palawan with Love
Coron is still under the radar of most tourists and so can be enjoyed without all of the huge crowds that fill the more popular nearby islands of Puerto Princesa and El Nido. That being said, the island is definitely experiencing development and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the tourist scene exploding within the next 5-10 years. So if you want to check out this island paradise for yourself– go sooner rather than later!