DIY Coron: A 4-day adventure

Coron-10-24-13 (55 of 177)

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS. (From top) Sheh, Mae, Mike and I pose for posterity at the opening of Kayangan Lake.

My friends and I visited Coron, Palawan last October (before typhoon Yolanda struck a few weeks after 😦 ) and it was one of the most marvelous adventures that that I had in all my years of travelling. While Coron was more provincial than its neighbor Puerto Princesa, the island had a natural charm about it that drew tourists — both local and foreign. As a matter of fact, staying in the island for four days was hardly enough because I just wanted to stay there and never leave. People have called Coron paradise, and I couldn’t agree more. I survived four days without television, if you could imagine, and I hardly felt deprived. That’s a lot to say for a boob tube freak like me.

CHILLIN' AT SHIRLEY'S. Mae (top, right), Mike (on the floor) and I document our accommodations with Sheh behind the camera.

CHILLIN’ AT SHIRLEY’S. Mae (top, right), Mike (on the floor) and I document our accommodations with Sheh behind the camera.

Our first day in Coron was allotted to simply get a lay on the land. We didn’t have any adventures planned because we had to book different flights, the last one arriving at 4 pm to Busuanga, the earliest leaving at 12 pm from Manila (that was my flight). This is one of the drawbacks of booking during a seat sale. Your booking is dictated by the availability of seats. Well, that’s something one needs to deal with in hunting for travel tickets. You save a bundle of course, but there are drawbacks.

Being the first one to arrive, I spent my time watching episodes of Breaking Bad on my tablet while waiting at a local carinderia at the side of the airport. As my friend from the next flight arrived, we took a van to the town proper (which dropped us off at the pension house we were going to stay in) where we waited for our other companions to arrive. It took roughly 30 minutes from the airport to the town. After we were all assembled, we just walked around the place to check out possible places to eat that were cheap (we’re not all that picky when it comes to food) and clean.

Our second day was when our adventures truly began because we booked a boat for two entire days to take us island hopping. We had to check out from the pension house first at around 7:00, and do some market shopping for our food at the Coron Public Market. Surprisingly, unlike regular wet markets that open at the crack of dawn, at 7:30 am, the Coron market was barely open and there was only a limited variety of seafood we were able to choose from. It was a bit of a disappointment seeing as how I was expecting a lot of yummy and fresh seafood to be available because seafood was one of the highlights of my Palawan trip several years back. Still, armed with our purchases, our bangkeros Kuya Hajie and Kuya Rey helped us on board to take us to the beautiful islands. surrounding Coron.

Helpful tip: Buy a lot of bread at the market. These will help attract fishes when you go snorkeling and man, Coron fishes are the best. They don’t shy away from humans at all.

FRIENDLY FISHIES. Bread can get you a long way in befriending the fish in Coron. Forget about 3D, this is nature interaction at its finest.

FRIENDLY FISHIES. Bread can get you a long way in befriending the fish in Coron. Forget about 3D, this is nature interaction at its finest.

Be reminded that there are entrance fees for most of the islands (and other sites) so you have to set aside a portion of your budget for this. You don’t have to go to every one. Just pick and choose where you want to go. Here’s the list of fees (I’ve checked off the areas that we visited)

  • Banol Beach: P100/ person ✔
  • Banana Island: P200/ person ✔ (just dropped by for pictures)
  • Barracuda Lake: P100/ person ✔ (just dropped by for pictures)
  • Bulalacao Island: P200/ person
  • Calauit Wildlife Safari: P250/ person
  • Calumbuyan Island: P150/ person
  • Coral Garden/ Lusong Sangat Gun Boat: P50/ person ✔
  • Culion Museum: P250 local/ 350 foreigner
  • CYC Beach: no charge
  • Dalawang Isla: P100/ person
  • Ditaytayan Island: P200/ person
  • Kayangan Lake: P200/ person ✔
  • Malaroyroy Island/ Bulog Island: P100/ person
  • Malcapuya Island: P150/ person ✔
  • Maquinit Hot Springs: P100/ person ✔ (went in Day 4)
  • Pulang Lupa: P100/ person
  • Sangat Island: P200/ person
  • Siete Pecados: P100/ person ✔
  • Skeleton Wreck: P100/ person ✔
  • Smith Beach: P100/ person
  • Twin Lagoon: P100/ person ✔ (just dropped by for pictures)

Since we had the boat for two days, we decided to spend the night at Malcapuya island where we had the most awesome experience of staying at a private beach. Of course, it wasn’t really private. It just so happened that nobody was staying the night so we had the beach all to ourselves. We brought a tent but since they were charging the same for renting a cottage and for pitching a tent, we decided to rent a cottage as well. We just laid down the tent’s canvas and spent the night staring at the stars snuggled in our sleeping bags. Well, it was marvelous, and we had the caretaker’s dogs to keep us company but pretty soon I was out like a light. Aaaah, paradise.

MUKHASIM. Kuya Chris (2nd to the left), shows us how to make the Datu Puti face. We're doing pretty well, I think, except for Sheh, who must not have gotten the memo.

MUKHASIM. Kuya Chris (2nd to the left), shows us how to make the Datu Puti face. We’re doing pretty well, I think, except for Sheh, who must not have gotten the memo.

The next day, I woke up early to bond with my furry buddies for a bit and just take in the magnificent sunrise. We decided to chip in for a short tour of the islands near Malcapuya. Our tour guide was Kuya Chris, the chatty caretaker of the island who also won as a runner up of the Datu Puti challenge years ago. He showed us around Campel island and the natural mangrove plantation — he also took us to a sandbar for the requisite jump shots. The water was really clear and you could literally see the bottom of the ocean, which of course gives you the feeling that the water is shallow. It’s not. I never once took off my my life vest the entire time we were on the boat. I may have mentioned in my previous posts that I’m not a really strong swimmer so my motto is better to be safe than sorry.

For our detailed island hopping adventures, check out my post Island Adventures in Coron: 7 sites you don’t want to miss

VFF. My very Furry Friend Red Horse, the caretaker's dog, woke me up from peaceful slumber in the island paradise of Malcapuya.

VFF. My Very Furry Friend Red Horse, the caretaker’s dog, woke me up from peaceful slumber in the island paradise of Malcapuya. What a great morning.

We left Malcapuya later before lunchtime but we already had a modest brunch, which our bangkeros prepared for us. These bangkeros are all around helpers and they were awesome. Here’s Kuya Hajie’s contact information so you could book them beforehand (+639091267321) We headed off to a couple more islands before we were ready to head home to the Coron port. We made it back at exactly 5 pm. We returned to our pension house several minutes later and scouted for a place to eat. We ended up at Lolo Nonoy’s Food Station where we feasted on sinigang, sisig and chopsuey. Yum.

For our last day in Coron, we woke up at the crack of dawn to hike and see the Tapyas Cross, which of course is situated at the top of Mt. Tapyas. Luckily, it was not a rough trail as stairs have already been constructed to make the journey easier for people like me who are not as fit as we should be. There are 700 steps in total and by the time I reached the top, I was trying to catch my breath so hard. The view was magnificent though so it was well worth the effort. See my detailed account here: Conquering Mt. Tapyas. Sadly, the Tapyas Cross is no more after it was toppled by supertyphoon Yolanda several weeks after we left 😦

After completing the challenging climb (my friends breezed through it with no problems. I have healthy friends), we decided to go to the Maquinit Hot Springs for some relaxation. It was a little far from the town proper so we had to barter with the tricycle driver for some discount (P300 round trip). On the way, we also stopped by the famous Cashew Nut store to purchase pasalubong. We only stayed at the hot springs for a while because damn, the water was scorching. It was cool though, because there was a natural mangrove plantation where the spring flowed to. It was awesome.

We returned to the pension house to check out at around lunchtime, then we headed off to the airport, also by van. Unfortunately though, our flights were delayed slightly but we still arrived in Manila safe and sound, which is a good thing. We commuted back by bus. But definitely, I would choose to return to Coron soon if the opportunity presents itself.

For the itemized itinerary and budget, check out this post: Coron: 4 day itinerary and budget. And feel free to ask questions if you have any at the comments section.

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