At the northeastern tip of Palawan is the Calamianes group of islands, whose major islands include Busuanga, Coron, Calauit and Culion. Coron town is in Busuanga, about 30 minutes from the airport and where most visitors will base themselves; Coron Island is where the most popular sites are found, such as Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoons and Barracuda Lake. Off the island are a dozen Japanese shipwrecks between 10m and 40m deep that make for some fascinating diving.
As in El Nido, you can opt to do any or all of the three island-hopping tours. The most popular spot is Kayangan Lake, with its crystal-clear waters and viewpoint of Coron’s most iconic lagoon scene. This is a magical place for swimming and snorkeling, and even freediving with its incredible underwater rock formations. However, after two tourists died while freediving in the lake in 2017, visitors are now required to wear lifejackets when swimming in all the lakes.
Certified divers who are also history buffs will waste no time getting to the shipwrecks of Coron Bay. These supply ships were laid to waste by an American squadron of dive bombers during a sustained air attack on the Imperial Japanese Navy on September 24, 1944. The exterior of the wrecks are encrusted with corals and teeming with marine life, while penetration dives deep into the boats will reward you with machinery and other artefacts. One wreck, the Lusong gunboat, is shallow enough for snorkelers to explore, with one end of the boat breaking the surface at low tide.
Wrecks are not the only diveable sites. Barracuda Lake, inside a former crater, has unusual rock formations and a thermocline — you just have to trek to the area for 30 minutes with all your gear on. For more traditional diving, Coral Garden has some of the best visibility in a marine protected area, while Siete Pecados will bring you encounters with huge schools of tropical fish.
Want to see Coron in a way that’s light on the environment? SUP Central, a newly launched tour group on the island, offers guided stand-up paddleboard tours for all levels of paddlers. Taking off from Bacau Bay Resort, just 10 minutes from Coron town proper, paddlers are led through the verdant mangrove forests that surround the shoreline. SUP Central co-founder Michi Calica Sotto considers this island her second home, after retiring from a 30-year career in fashion in Manila. In Coron, she is a certified SUP (stand-up paddle) instructor and a rising star in the arena of competitive SUP — on her free days, she uses the board to paddle out and buy seafood from the local fishermen.
Palawan is often branded as a huge resort paradise, but it’s important for visitors to realize that the province is also the home of several indigenous groups. The Tagbanua have lived on these islands for thousands of years. Though they have ancestral domain over Coron, mass tourism has led to their marginalization over the years. Many of the sites here are sacred to the ethnic group and aren’t accessible to the public, but the pressure is on for them to open up more areas to tourism. A few tours do offer interaction with the Tagbanua people by taking visitors to see where they live and to experience their culture, music and even enjoy their special coffee. This way, the Tagbanua get to participate in the tourism boom, while telling their own stories.
Where to Stay
- Bacau Bay Resort: An 80-room resort with a private pier from where you will launch your island hopping and diving adventures. Governor’s Dr, Sitio Jolo, Poblacion 5; bacaubayresortcoron.com
- Busuanga Island Paradise: Located in a 21ha protected forest some miles from downtown, this property is ideal for families and groups who want to retreat into nature. Km 12 Coron-Busuanga Highway; busuangaislandparadise.com
Where to Eat
- Pedro’s Gelato: Summer, in the Philippines, is not a season but a state of mind. Which makes any day a great day for home-made gelato. Busuanga Rd, Coron Town; +63 917 523 4356
- Om’s Thai Restaurant: This vegan-friendly kitchen headed by a Thai chef serves a variety of Thai and Vietnamese dishes in big servings and at fair prices. In the evenings, head to the second floor for some live music. Bancuang, Coron Town Proper; +63 906 372 4001