In autumn of 2012 while I was living in Cebu I took a long weekend break to Coron in the north of Palawan. Palawan is starting to get well known for El Nido; it’s limestone cliffs and emerald waters offer a more unspoilt alternative to Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi but there are far fewer tourists who make the trip to Coron Town and the neighbouring islands.
One of the best things about South East Asia is the cheap and relatively abundant low cost flights. The Philippines is slightly less well connected than it’s neighbours, but as a country of over 7,000 islands domestic carriers are booming, no more so than Cebu Pacific Air. I’m not particularly interested in fights or airlines as they act as merely a vessel to get somewhere; the more comfortable the better but it’s never the highlight of a trip – but I feel the need to mention Cebu Pacific Air based on how insanely low their fares get. They have 1 peso fares – that’s 1.4p. ONE POINT FOUR PENCE FOR A FLIGHT. Even with fees added that’s less then £10 to get to some of the most beautiful and undiscovered beaches in the region. A return flight Cebu-Busuanga ended up costing me only around 850 Pesos, or £12.
As I recall I think it was only the second day of operating the route that my flight was on, and while we were travelling on a smaller passenger plane there were still some seats empty. The airport in Busuanga is tiny, and you’ll need to grab a lft in a minivan into Coron Town
While in Coron Town, the best attraction is climbing Mt Tapyas. As the highest local point, it provides a great view across the bay and surrounding islands.Going here late afternoon enables you to catch the sunset over the horizon, basking the landscape in a golden glow. Watch out, the 700 odd steps are a killer and may take you longer than expected – it’s the equivalent of climbing over 50 storeys in a building. At the time of my visit there was a giant cross at the top of the Mountain, however from what I’ve read this was unfortunately destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan
The main draw of Coron and in fact the whole of Palawan is the ability to island hop. Day tours run from the town on several different routes, while longer trips lasting several days can be booked for those into serious diving of even to visit Calauit, probably the most isolated and unexpected ‘African’ Safari park in the world.
On the normal tours you will be taken to a selection of islands, beaches and snorkelling spots (such as Siete Pecados) with lunch usually included. If your time in Coron is limited, make sure you go on a tour including Kayangan Lake, offering crystal clear water and the iconic ‘Coron Postcard View’ below.
A lot of the budget accommodation and guesthouses in Coron won’t have online booking services, so either phoning up beforehand or walking through town may be the best way to get a bargain. However, if you don’t fancy the risk or are interested in some fancier digs, here’s some options:
When Filipinos and visitors a like talk about Boracay there’s usually a caveat of “it’s a bit touristy” on whatever statement they have made. And sure, the island is small, there is a McDonalds, and it’s no where near as “undiscovered” as the rest of the country to foreigners, that’s all for a reason. When I lived in Cebu, Boracay was my favourite long weekend destination if I wanted to sunbathe, unwind and party. The island is beautiful and charming, and the powdery sand and crystal clear waters are one of the things I miss most about my time in the Philippines.
Boracay’s White Beach is currently Trip Advisor’s 19th Best Beach in the World, and while Pinoy pride can skew online international polls (like when Palawan’s Underground River was being pushed as one of the world’s natural wonders), it is the closest to beach perfection I’ve personally experienced.
For such a tiny island, the local government have done a great job of keeping the sands and roads trash free, a small miracle considering how much of a problem this can be elsewhere. Even if you get a seaweed filled tide, the seaweed is fine and softer than moss.
Station 2 and 3, where the majority of bars and restaurants are, can get crowded, especially during the day. However Station 3 and onwards past Willy Rock (a small group of rocky islands just offshore with a shrine enclosed) is usually quiet, and the beach gets broader here.
Even those who find Boracay too crowded (when in reality it’s much quieter than most of the Thai tourist stops) will find the golden sunsets hard to resist. White Beach faces directly east across a breadth of water, making evening the worst, rainiest evening beautiful.
Head further along White Beach, past Station 1, and you’ll find a cliffside walkway to the much quieter and more rugged Diniwid Beach.
Small boats and fishing nets rest in the coves leading there, and mostly Filipino families and honeymooners can be seen enjoying the beach.
I liked the colourful corks used within the fisherman’s nets, and the variety in the small boats, nestled on the rocks, and even sometimes in the trees.
Next time I’m in Boracay (hopefully this Easter), I’m considering staying at the Spider House – an open cliff-side hotel where all the rooms face into the ocean.
A great way to see more of the island is to have an a trip around it in a Banca boat (Jukung). Uusually 5 or 6 people can share the trip for the half day. In 2012 the going rate was around 1200 pesos (£16).
The boat will take you to some good snorkeling spots, and stop off at a few of the other beaches. I highly recommend spending time at Puka Beach on the Northern tip of the island. It’s not unheard of to have the entire beach to yourself, and is a great place to relax, catch up with reading, or go for a shell collecting walk.
Another great option is Bulabog Beach on the West side of the island, parallel to White Beach. This is one of the best places in the world for Kite and Wind Surfing.
What are your tips for Boracay?