One Summer in Coron: Our All Girl Getaway Experience (Part 1)

Palawan is home to some of the most enchanting group of islands in the Philippines. It's where you can see the most secluded, unspoiled white beaches but down under its water, a colorful marine life thrives. So when Cebu Pacific announced one of its much awaited Piso Fare sales, I immediately texted my travel buddy MC of my plan to travel to Coron. After replying with a giddy "yes", I booked a 4 day trip set for March 2014, a 10 month advance booking.  

all girl group pic with the scenic Kayangan Lagoon in the background

MC invited her officemates as well, the same 3 girls I travelled with in Laguna and Sagada. I got even more excited knowing the trip will be filled with boisterous laughter because this group is super fun to be with. Magaan at masayang kasama. Plus it's cheaper to travel in group!

Travel Dates: March 12 - 15, 2014

Day 1: Hello Coron!

We arrived in Busuanga's Francisco Reyes airport after less than an hour flight from Manila. Before going to NAIA 3, I took a mental note to choose a window seat as I don't want to miss the aerial view of the Calamianes Group of Islands. The ocean views we saw from the plane felt like a grand welcome hug. Hues of blues and greens surrounding the many islands and islets set the tone for the much anticipated beach getaway.

aerial view of Coron

We were fetched by our hotel's van and took the long scenic road to Coron town proper where our accommodation is located. The ride took less than an hour, with views, despite the many fallen trees damaged by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) were still amazing. One cannot miss herds of cows just chilling nicely under the afternoon sun. Goodness, I haven't seen that many cows in my entire life, not even during farm visits.   

Facade: Islands View Inn beside Jasmine's Place

Islands View Inn is very strategic, smack right in the middle of town proper. It's walking distance from Lualhati Park, Corong Galeri, public market, Julie's Bakeshop, Mt. Tapyas, Lolo Nonoy's and the famous carinderia online, Tita Esh Eatery! We booked a room that's good for 5 for only Php2,800/night. That's just Php560/pax per night and we have a comfortable airconditioned room (with standby generator). The room was big and it has a fan, private toilet and bath with hot and cold shower, cabinet, tables and chairs and a balcony! They even gave us a complimentary welcome drink upon checking in. 

our room in Coron

MC and I were seriously hungry so we went straight to Tita Esh Eatery which is just a stone throw away from the inn. We both ordered their Php80 Tapsilog plus Php10 pineapple juice for our super late lunch. Satisfied, we walked our way to Corong Galeri to confirm the scheduled 2-day island hopping tours.

Tapsilog for lunch
facade of Calamianes Expeditions/Corong Galeri

It's past 4pm when we decided to take a leisurely stroll to Lualhati Park, Coron's baywalk. Here one can see boats park and those that are coming from island hopping tours. We noticed streetlights that were bent due to strong winds brought by Haiyan and the giant steel cross in Mt. Tapyas was also destroyed. The park offers a zipline ride, but it was too short and low, nothing really exciting to offer, not after I tried Lake Sebu's zipline.

Lualhati Park
Docking area beside the park

This boat has a toilet!

While waiting for our companions, I encouraged MC that we check out the market as well as Sea Dive Restaurant. This resto has been consistently reviewed online so just to kill time, we checked it out ourselves.

bridge going to Sea Dive Restaurant

Most of the customers there were foreigners. I bet price range is steep. We checked out the upper floor which we found to be the sun deck with a good ocean view. The restaurant also offers accommodation for tourists.

What I so love about this town is it's down right simple. No high rise buildings, no McDonalds, no traffic and just back to basic stuff. These are just some of the reasons why I prefer living in the province than going back to the hustle bustle, stress inducing city of the Metro. Coron, after all is an island somehow separated from the rest of the world. But with a beautiful place like this, who needs to reconnect? 

Tired from the afternoon heat, we went back to our room reunited with 3 other girls, Macy, Ghia and Anna. We chilled a bit while teasing Anna for her lack of packing skills. We then proceeded with a night walk at the docking area before getting our first dinner in Coron.

docking area by night

My first recommended choice was Lolo Nonoy's but the place was crowded when we went there so we proceeded with a nearby resto, Big Mamas Pinoy Hot Pot and Grill. Their sisig poster plastered on the wall was tempting. So we ordered that plus their mango shakes. We noticed it was humid at night throughout our stay in Coron so we filled ourselves with shakes and ice creams for evening desserts. We headed back to our room, watched tv and rest. Chillax lang ang day 1 at medyo hard core na ang activity for day 2.

Day 2: Coron Island Ultimate Tour + The Exhausting Trek to Mt. Tapyas

Our group inside Corong Galeri. Try their Free Tagbanwa Native Coffee!

Our group woke up at around 6am, prepared our things, put on our beach wears and protected ourselves with sunblock. All excited, we walked our way to Corong Galeri where we booked our island hopping tours . Kuya Vincent, the one manning the desk was generous enough to grant our request, an earlier start for island hopping tour because we want to do the long trek to Mt. Tapyas before sunset. I also asked if we can have the whole boat to our group so we can be flexible with our time, plus we plan on adding the skeleton wreck to the tour. The shop rents out snorkeling sets for just Php100.

Coron Island Ultimate Tour (B-1) at only Php650/pax
Destinations include - CYC Beach, Twin Peaks Reef, Hidden Lagoon, Bulungan Beach, Calachuchi Coral Eden and Kayangan Lake. Inclusions: Licensed Tourist Boat with Lifevest and First Aid Kit, Entrance Fees, Tour Assistant on Board, Picnic Lunch with Fruit & Drink

Coron: Travel Video, 4 Days Itinerary and Expenses

First Stop: CYC Beach. Dito daw nag-taping ang 'Dyesebel' ayon kay manong na naglilinis ng beach
With life vests? Really?

We saw how clear the water was at CYC Beach, also known as Coron Youth Club. Like kids excited for the day's first beach activity, we left the boat still wearing our life vests with water as shallow at 3 feet deep! We were the first group to arrive so we had the whole island to ourselves, except for one manong who we saw cleaning the shore. I went to his side where the mangroves are and talked to him a bit and found out that local tv show 'Dyesebel' has shot some scenes in this public beach. How cool is that!

Next activity, snorkeling!

may life vest na may life guard float nakasabit pa kay kuya! #takotlangmalunod

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

I had my fair share of snorkeling activities in the past, but snorkeling with a sunken Japanese shipwreck below us was definitely my first. We paid Php100 more to include Skeleton Wreck on our tour. I tell you, it's such a wonderful underwater activity you definitely don't want to miss when in Coron. If only I can free dive just like our tour assistant Louie who we envied for the rest of the trip. Thanks again Louie for shooting some of our underwater photos/videos!

us snorkeling at the site of a Japanese shipwreck

Check out these underwater images taken in Skeleton Wreck

seafloor: corals everywhere

For the first few seconds of snorkeling, I thought the shipwreck is eerily beautiful.  With time and the wonderful work of nature, the sunken ship now serves as a home to hundreds of thousands of marine creatures.

From one snorkeling site to another we go. Twin Peaks Reef coming up next.

We stopped in the middle of nowhere when Louie told us we're already on the area known as Twin Peaks Reef. And so we put on again our snorkeling masks and proceeded in the water. Ghia would still not go down with us. She has her fears of swimming in deep water (even with life vest on), perhaps more like a phobia that she'd sink. And knowing that we're not good swimmers added to her anxiety. I remember when we went to Lake Pandin, she just remained on the raft. But I sincerely hope she overcomes that fear someday, because really, it's a whole new world under the sea.

come here fishy fishy!

The water was a little rough here compared to Skeleton Wreck but the bottom was more colorful and alive. Alas, we weren't able to get clear underwater shots except for the hundreds of fishes swimming with us. Medyo maalon na. After drinking enough saltwater, we decided to go to our next spot, somewhere hidden.

From rough seas to calm waters, we passed through scenic limestone cliffs until we noticed the water abruptly turned from royal blue to seafoam green.

the charm nature brings with its many wonders: changing colors
Hidden Lagoon

Hidden lagoon is a refresher. It's a combination of fresh and salt water with next to nothing coral reefs below and it's just about 6-7 feet deep, I can almost touch its white sand bottom in some parts. It's a great spot for swimming and learning how to swim. The fact that it's shallow compared to our last 2 snorkeling sites, Ghia finally had the courage to go down and join us, facing the waters, facing her fears. The water's warm and it's lighter in color, very inviting. The fact that it's somewhat enclose (thus the name "hidden") and we had the whole area to ourselves, we took the opportunity to do some crazy shots (or so we tried). No we didn't jump off the boat, but we tried, no matter how foolish we may look to create our version of sunrays ala synchronized swimming. After all, it's not everyday that we get to be in Palawan. :D

Ghia, just Let it go! Let it go!

When we're finally tired of swimming and laughing, we decided it's time to re-energrize and have lunch. We can already smell the food being grilled on our boat and we didn't take a proper breakfast meal. Definitely, babawi kami sa lunch. Our boat docked in Bulungan beach where meals are served, it's a simple beach historically known as a place for healing because of a certain medicinal plant frequented by healers. It has a short shoreline adorned with kubos and calachuchi trees.

photographer-slash-photobomber in one shot! :) with my two trusty Canon cameras and calachuchi blossom

Our lunch comes in family picnic style. We had grilled fish and pork, rice, fresh seaweeds and bananas. Simple but fresh, more than enough to keep us going for the rest of the day. We rested in a cozy open hut as we admire the beach's front view with a limestone rock that serves as a landmark for yet another snorkeling site, the Calachuchi Coral Eden.

the rock that stands in front of our kubo
We're supposed to do snorkeling here but there were other groups in the area so the boatman decided we'll just go back and move forward with our journey.

Kayangan Lake: Beyond Beautiful

Kayangan Lagoon

We were all in awe as we went nearer to the lagoon's docking area, the water is so inviting, calm and clean. And then I recognized the colossal limestone cliff seen from many online Coron photos. The lake however is still on the other side where visitors need to climb up to get into the lake itself. Let's start to trek!

Wooden Gate: entrance to Kayangan Lake

sculpted staircase to the lake

I think it's a fairly easy climb with wooden stair railings you can hold on to. Halfway through, Louie, our tour assistant, took us to a viewing deck where we saw the commanding view of Kayangan Lagoon and the approaching boats.

tourist boats approaching Kayangan Lake

After a group photo op, we headed down for the lake. And there it is, hailed a number of times as the country's cleanest lake. Truly, the lake's water is a far cry from other lakes I've seen. One can clearly see the bottom of the lake. The Tagbanua tribe, having this as their ancestral domain is so lucky to be blessed with such beauty. I bet it's one of the playgrounds of many nature spirits. 

Kayangan's crystal clear water, rocks and needlefish?

We can't wait to take a swim, good thing we brought with us our life vests.

Louie joined us again in the water and gladly took us to one of the smaller caves. I was actually amazed to find out there is a "secret spot" like this in Kayangan lake.

That's the "cave" in the background
The "cave's" mini opening. We're getting in!
Anxious and curious of what could possibly be inside, we trusted our lives with our tour assistant. Haha!! It was a good decision because the water inside presented us with a mystical glow due to light from a small opening that's coming from above. The place holds a sense of mystic, it also reminded me of my trip to the Underground River in Puerto Princesa.

happy swimmers
shot with flash: We're surprised to see how this photo looks way bigger compared to the actual site

Our mini-adventure in the "underground lake" ended when Anna, right after the group shot, commented that there's something creeping into her feet. Alis agad kami dun sa bato! Takot lang! Haha. Louie told us that there are actually shrimps in the rock we're standing on (photo above). 

We decided to ditch Calachuchi Coral Eden and just spend more time in this beautiful lake and enjoy a relaxing swim. As much as I want to free dive and get a closer look of what's beneath us, I'm afraid to take off my life vest. I have my limitations, I can only swim in the pool. Gorgeous water spots like this is enough to make me want to learn threading longer in the water and free diving. Where to learn???

rocks or castles?

Kayangan is just one of the 2 lakes that are open to public. The others, well I guess Mother Nature wants to protect her other playgrounds to remain pristine and peaceful. Louie shared with us some unexplained phenomenon that happened in Kayangan and other lakes. Before leaving, I voiced out a silent thank you to the nature spirits for showing us their home. Incredibly, right after, a powerful wind swift by just before we walk past the wooden gate, the same way the wind blew the moment I stepped inside. Somehow, I felt a voice telling me to go on and seek more adventures.

We left the islands and went back to Coron town proper. After freshening up a bit, we started the long and arduous walk from Islands View Inn all the way to Mt. Tapyas.

covered roof damaged by Typhoon Haiyan

It's already 5pm when we started to ascend, the sun was still unforgiving and I already consumed my bottle of Gatorade. We we're already sweating like pigs and seeing the damaged structures and fallen trees brought by Yolanda added to our weakly climb. But we continued, nevertheless, until halfway through, we saw this sight that bought smiles to our weary and numbing legs.

there's a rainbow!
the rainbow ended at an islet beside the "sleeping giant"

Although it drizzled after, the rainbow was enough to fuel our energy back and before we knew it, we finally reached the summit. Our group conquered its 700+ steps!

summit at last!
looking back...

Worth it nga ba ang hingal at sakit sa paa?

For this view alone, YES!

we cherish the last rays of the sun

I left the group and walked to other side where I saw Coron's spectacular mountain ranges

That sums up our first and second day in Coron. From sea foam to turquoise to deep blue sea, Coron, Palawan is an excellent vacation spot to experience the majesty of the Philippines Seas. The stories behind our scary/splashy boat ride, dolphin sighting,  plus the stunning white sand beaches of Bulog Dos, Banana Beach and Malcapuya Island on my next post.


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