Time and again I have professed my undying love for the seemingly immaculate islands of Palawan in the Philippines. I have been to the region numerous times, sometimes to splurge money but more often to travel on a budget. One of my favourites remains to be Coron Island, which happens to be a perfect budget-friendly and hassle-free option for a weekend getaway. Here is how I spent a mere PHP 7000 (around 140 USD as of writing) on a three-day trip to an otherwise world-renowned coral reef paradise.
It would serve you well (mostly just to avoid confusion) to know that Coron is a municipality in Palawan which comprises part of Busuanga Island and all of Coron Island. The airport in Coron is located in Busuanga.
Travel Like Belle: 3 Days/2 Nights Itinerary
Here is a very rough breakdown of our Palawan itinerary (I went with my brother on a weekend in August). As with any trip, give ample allowance for flight changes, traffic jams, and basically anything that can throw a wrench in your plans. Three days in Coron, or anywhere else in Palawan for that matter, is an incredibly short period of time and so it is best to plan ahead and be smart about maximizing your stay. There are loads of activities available for tourists but due to time constraints, it would be best to choose just a couple so you can enjoy and take your time.
0625 Departure from NAIA Terminal 4 (Manila) via CebGo Flight DG 6041 to Busuanga (Coron)
0730 Arrival at Francisco B. Reyes Airport in Busuanga
0800 Shuttle pick up at the airport to hotel in the town of Coron
0900 Arrival and check-in at hotel in Coron town proper
0930 Nap time because we got up so early for the flight
1200 Lunch in Coron town proper
1500 Start of hike up Mt. Tapyas in Coron for the sunset
1745 En route to Maquinit Hot Springs after a long hike
1930 Back to Coron town for dinner
2100 Lights off and well deserved rest
0730 Up early for breakfast at the hotel
0800 Picked up by shuttle for the island tour
0900 – 1700 Coron Island Tour (including lunch on the beach)
1730 Got back to hotel
1900 Out again for dinner and avocado shakes
2100 Lights off and well deserved rest
0800 Up for breakfast and going around Coron town before leaving
1030 Picked up by shuttle at the hotel to go to the airport in Busuanga
1200 Arrived at the airport and checked in for flight
1340 Departure from Francisco B. Reyes Airport via CebGo Flight DG 6052
1450 Arrival at NAIA Terminal 4
Budget and Expenses
The expenses here are per person; some smaller ones such as for food & shopping are only approximations and rounded up for good measure. Obviously your expenses will depend on your activities and preferences.
A tip: There are about four ATMs in total in Coron so it would be very wise to bring cash (in Philippine Peso).
Airfare PHP 3026/60.52 USD
All-in roundtrip from Manila via CebGo (When there is a promo or seat sale this can even go lower; also other carriers that fly to Busuanga are Skyjet and PAL Express)
Accommodation PHP 2650/52 USD
For an air-conditioned room in Haven 1916 Bed and Breakfast for 3Days/2Nights with WiFi (the price already includes breakfast, the Coron Island Tour, and van transfers to and from the airport)
Transportation PHP 150/3 USD
It’s actually PHP 300/6 USD for a tricycle ride to and from Mt. Tapyas to Maquinit Hot Spring so my brother and I halved it (our hotel was really close to the foot of the entrance to the mountain). Coron town proper is walkable.
Food & Shopping PHP 600/12 USD
For lunch on the first and third day and dinner on the first and second day only (Breakfast was included in the hotel as well as lunch on the Coron Island Tour). Food options in Coron town are cheap but good. Also, grab some avocado shakes whenever possible.
Other Fees PHP 400/8 USD
PHP 100 Terminal Fee in Francisco B. Reyes (Busuanga) airport
PHP 150 Entrance Fee to Maquinit Hot Spring
PHP 150 Rental of snorkeling equipment for one whole day
Total Expenses PHP 6826/ 136.52 USD
*1 USD = 50 PHP
Hiking up Mt. Tapyas
Mt. Tapyas is located in Coron town proper and is either a short tricycle ride or a longer walk from your accommodation (if you choose to stay anywhere in town). Hiking to the top is a rather taxing activity so be prepared (especially if you’re doing this in the afternoon; don’t forget to stock up on water and some snacks). There are roughly 700 steps until you reach the top and it took us around 40 minutes to complete the hike. We were properly entertained by Pokémon Go and the sheer number of Pikachus we each caught. Anyway, don’t worry: there are benches and places to sit on the way up if you ever get tired (which I did, one too many times). I would say the view from the top is absolutely worth the trouble.
Dipping in the Maquinit Hot Spring
The perfect way to refresh after a long hike up the mountain is to submerge yourself in Maquinit, a privately owned salt water hot spring just one tricycle ride away from the town proper. It is a very therapeutic dip made even more wonderful by the sunset. Don’t forget to go to the lookout point for some of the most amazing views of Coron.
Coron Island Tour
There are lots of island tours to choose from once you get to town but our hotel booking had already included the Coron Island Tour (also known as Tour A) which makes stops at Kayangan Lake, Twin Peaks Reef, Hidden Lagoons, Bulungan Beach, CYC Island, and Coral Eden . I would say that this is the best introduction to Coron Island as it includes the highlights (such as Kayangan Lake) and does not try to cram in too many stops. A hearty seafood lunch shared with new friends from this joiners tour is set up by the guides on Sunset Beach.
The whole-day tour allowed us to sample Coron’s clear waters, pristine sands, and rich corals. Kayangan Lake might have been the last stop but it definitely tops my list. Snorkeling in some of its secret caves is easily one of my favourite travel memories ever.
If you intend to extend your trip in and around Coron Island, you will definitely not run out of things to do. Here are just some of the other [equally popular] options:
Safari Park in Calauit
This is something I want to do on a repeat visit. I’ve always wanted to feed the giraffe! Most of the animals here (offspring of those imported from Kenya back in the day) are able to run free, while there is a handful in captivity. Nevertheless, touring the place should make for an interesting history lesson. Calauit Safari Park is located in Busuanga and can be reached via shuttle either by a tour group or privately.
Other Island Tours
As I mentioned, we only had enough time for one tour (Tour A). But the alternate name itself suggests that there are other options. Here you can find a comprehensive list of offerings and packages to suit your own preferences.
How to Get to Coron
In my experience, it takes only 40 minutes flying to get from the capital city to Busuanga airport; short enough for a long nap, long enough for a short episode of your favourite TV show. Return flights are very cheap (see Airfare expense above) and plenty of seat sales take place all year. From the airport, you can take a van to Coron town. This was already factored in by our hotel for us but a one-way ticket would set you back only PHP 150/3 USD.