Always a sunny day at Paoay’s lovely Baroque church

It’s hard to imagine Paoay Church—or San Agustin Church—in Ilocos Norte under bad weather, when the skies would be gray and gloomy, clouds nonexistent, no schoolchildren sauntering the grounds.

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The long road to Kapurpurawan, Ilocos Norte

So this is what the fuss has all been about: huge waves crashing against jagged cliffs, some coming ashore to fill a busy network of canals at the base, no doubt shaped through time. And this has been what we walked an hour for under the 12 noon sun.

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Camping fun in Zambales

Zambales has been enjoying its fair share of the tourist pie for some time now, and for good reason: its natural beauty guarantees to offer something for everyone—the camper, the not-so-happy camper, the mountaineer, the photographer, or the one who just wants to get out of the slick city and into the peace and quiet of the mountains.

What’s more, it can be as cheap as you want and is very accessible. Hop on a couple of buses, a tricycle, and a boat, and you’re there (in the Philippines, that kind of commute is pretty uncomplicated). So we decided to give camping a try and packed fork and spoon for the first time.

Two2Travel zambales

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Five reasons to visit Calaguas in Bicol (GMA News Online)

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

Days are slow and hot, the nights short and cold. Shortly after five in the morning – when elsewhere it’s probably still pitch dark – Mahabang Buhangin (Long Beach) is already a pale turquoise, the sky a faint hue of pink and blue. It’s difficult to stay asleep once sunlight streams through your tent. Besides, daybreak in this island is, like a child awaiting a candy treat, something you’ll look forward to day after day. Ah, mornings in Calaguas.

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

Getting to the Calaguas Group of Islands in the frequently storm-ravaged region of Bicol is no mean feat, at roughly 12 hours by land and sea from Manila. But this relatively quiet beach off the northeastern coast of Camarines Norte province makes all the travel through winding roads and open seas worth it.

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

Here are five reasons why you should spare a weekend (or maybe more) in this quiet, happy beach before the rainy season comes.

Please read the full story on GMA News Online.

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

Calaguas, Camarines Norte, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

TWO2TRAVEL | Calaguas

Travel tips and directions:

1. Bring a tent, mosquito repellent, cooking and dining utensils; candles, lamps, or flashlights; and a first-aid kit.

2. Wrap your belongings in drysacks or sealed plastic bags as waves can get a bit rough.

3. If you don’t want to lug around everything during the trip from Manila to Bicol, source your food and drinking water from Daet. Plan your supplies well ahead to make sure these are sufficient for your needs.

4. Bus trips need prior reservation. Manila-Daet buses of Superlines and Philtranco are mostly regular airconditioned buses starting at 500 pesos and are found at the Araneta Bus Terminal in Cubao. Alternatively, you may take a sleeper bus bound for Naga at P1,000 (lower bunk) or P1,200 (upper bunk) just like we did and get off at the intersection in Calauag town (Isarog has daily 9 PM trips from Cubao). This way, you can sleep throughout the trip in time for the remainder of your land and sea transfers.

5. If you wish to take the train, call the PNR for reservations at (02) 319-0044 & 48 and visit www.pnr.gov.ph for trip schedules. However, note that the Bicol Express train can only drop you off at the Naga station, which means another two-hour van ride back to Daet.

6. Similarly, you can hop on a flight to Naga and head to Daet on a van.

7. To take the Vinzons route, take a 15-minute tricycle ride from the Daet bus terminal to the Vinzons fishport and get a boat from there.

8. For the Paracale route, get off at Brgy. Talobatib in Labo town (for Manila-Daet buses) or Calauag intersection (for Manila-Naga buses) and take another bus for Paracale. Proceed to the fishport (5 minutes by tricycle) and get a boat. Our boatman there was Mang Roberto (09108460639)

The long road to Calauit and back

A month ago, we found ourselves in our longest traveling day yet, where every single minute felt like a long grueling hour, and a supposedly two-hour road trip stretched to five and a half.

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When the map says ‘NO DRIVING DIRECTIONS TO BULUANG’, what would you do?
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Captivated by Coron

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One word: paradise. Coron in Busuanga Island is nothing short of beautiful. Crystal clear waters on lakes and beaches, marine life bursting with color, rugged vistas inland that are difficult to navigate, plus giraffes and zebras and wild boars who know how to open faucets—Coron has them all.
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Tips for your trips: Coron, Palawan

We’ve always believed Coron was an expensive destination, much the same way as El Nido, also in Palawan. But more than a year of being on the road has taught us to ditch hearsay and do what most of us hate: research.





Thankfully, that’s not too much to ask anymore with Google and with the countless independent travel accounts online that have all made us realize that Coron–or any other destination for that matter–could be as cheap as you would allow it.

So if YOU would allow us, we’re giving you a rough guide on the expenses you’re going to have in a typical three-day two-night stay in this island. One thing’s for sure: it doesn’t matter whether you spend an arm and a leg or go on a budget; Coron is worth your every penny.

coron map two2travel

How to get to Coron

Fly directly to Busuanga; from there, take a van from the airport to downtown Coron. From downtown Coron, spots are reachable by foot, by rented motorcycle, or your friendly neighborhood tricycle. You can fly to Busuanga via Airphil Express, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, or Zest Airways.

1. From Busuanga airport to Coron town proper: P150 per person per way

Travel time: 30 minutes
You may check with your hotel if they can arrange a van pickup for you (as well as return trip on your departure date). If you don’t have reservations yet, there are vans right outside the airport willing to take you in for the same price. The P150 fare is a standard in Coron.

2. Around Coron town proper: zero to P500

Coron’s town proper is where hotels and establishments are, so most probably it’s where you will be based as well, except if you’re staying in one of the nearby islands.

Coron, Palawan, Philippines | Two2Travel.com

The town proper rests at the foot of Mt. Tapyas, which explains the hilly terrain which people from Baguio will find familiar and easy to navigate.

You’ll find the town proper very convenient especially for emergency needs. There are at least two banks (BPI and Landbank), courier services, clinics, drugstores, souvenir shops, restaurants, a market, and hotels of every price range.

Tricycle rides go for P10 per person, though drivers would be happy to take just P15 for two people (but, as we always practice when traveling, do what little you can to help the small communities of the place you’re visiting, even if it means giving only the extra P5 for your trike ride).

If you want to have your own pace and go somewhere farther than your feet could take you without sweating it out, hire a motorcycle from one of the numerous rental shops in town. Boyet’s (contact number: 09282929884) is rather well written about, though we found transacting with the owner, who by this time you might have correctly guessed is named Boyet, a tad less straightforward than expected.

To cut the story short, don’t settle for anything less than you expected, whether it’s an automatic ignition or a scooter instead of a semi-automatic unit. Try to haggle with the price as well. We had rented one scooter on our first day for P400, from 4 PM to around 8 PM only. The next day, we rented an XRM unit for P500 from 8 PM to 11 AM the following day. You’ll also be shouldering the gas: one afternoon of touring the town could cost you about 1 liter at P56.

Coron, Palawan, Philippines | Two2Travel.com

Where to stay in Coron

Travel with Airbnb

Coron has accommodation options for all types of travelers, from the nitpicky to the extreme backpacker. Rates can go as high as P5,000 per night per room and as low as P300 per night per person for a dorm-type accommodation.

Mt. Tapyas Hotel, where we stayed, charges around P1,300 to P1,600 for two occupants in one room.

Most hotels are within the town proper so it’s not difficult to scout should you want to just walk in.

Other hotels and inns:

Rudy’s Place Lodge | KokosNuss | El Rio Y Mar | Divelink | Coron Hilltop View Resort | Coron Village Lodge | Asia Grand View Hotel | Centro Coron Bed and Breakfast | Islands View Inn | Princess of Coron | Coron Gateway Hotel and Suites | Sunz En Coron

What to do in Coron

Coron is an island off the coast of the bigger Busuanga Island in northern Palawan. Busuanga is where you land; Coron town is part of Busuanga island.

Join in daily tours and other groups; book thru your hotel; or do your own island hopping tour.

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1. JOIN OTHER GROUPS

(Our most recommended. The most affordable option too if you’re a small group)

Coron, Palawan, Philippines | Two2Travel.com

We had availed of a day tour island hopping package via Coron Galeri [see: http://www.corongaleri.com.ph], one of several local tour operators in Coron.

Its bestselling tour–the same one we had–costs P650 each plus a P100-rental of snorkel gear, which is optional. The P650 per person fee already includes boat rental, your lunch, all entrance fees to the islands, and the services of a tour assistant. The tour we availed of took us to the following spots: Kayangan Lake, the Twin Peaks Reef, Atwayan Beach (where we had our lunch), a snorkeling spot that was off an unknown island that had the richest underwater environment we had seen all day; the CYC Beach, and the Twin Lagoon.

Coron, Palawan, Philippines | Two2Travel.com

Going this way is the best for travelers who come in pairs (like us) because we were grouped with others (who, like us, also came in pairs. We even had a male solo traveler in our group). There are other packages to choose from as well, including tours to Culion Island and Calauit. Click this link for a full list of their tours. Be sure to reserve a day in advance if you’re availing of their daily tours (their office is at the town proper and is fairly easy to find. Just ask for Coron Galeri or Mae Linsangan). Island hopping starts at about 8 AM and ends at about 4 PM.

2. BOOK A TOUR WITH YOUR HOTEL

(Most expensive; itinerary and food are set; but most convenient especially for the very busy among us)

Hotels offer package tours along with board and lodging, and while this isn’t exactly more expensive, it does tend to limit your options especially when it comes to food (imagine yourself having to eat something you don’t quite like for the next three days only because you’ve already paid for it).
Coron Village Lodge, for instance, charges more than P5,000 per person for a 3-day 2 night stay, including meals.

Most 3D2N packages also come with town tours at P500 per person, which we think is too expensive for a place that’s so close-knit you can practically walk from one spot to another and rent a trike to other far-off spots like Maquinit Hot Springs. In our case, we were really too tired from climbing Mt. Tapyas so we decided not to go to Maquinit Hotsprings afterward. If you availed of a town tour, though, you will have to go there after your climb (all packages follow this sequence). Though we thought taking a dip in the hot water could be nice after a long day, we thought we could do with pizza and beer instead. :)

3. DO YOUR OWN TOUR

(Recommended for big groups, but you will have to put together everything including your lunch)

Here is the breakdown of costs:
*Standard rate of boat rental: P1,500 for a whole day, good for up to 10 people
*Entrance fees to the islands (per person):
Kayangan Lake: P200
Twin Lagoon: P100
Atwayan Beach: P100
Siete Pecados: P100
Malcapuya Island: P150
Banana Island: P200*
Barracuda Lake: P100
Twin Peaks Reef: Free
CYC Island: Free

UPDATE (As of October 13, 2012)

Coron has reportedly come up with a one-time entrance fee of P250 for every tourist going on island hopping instead of the old system indicated above. Payments will be collected at the municipal treasury office with the appropriate receipt.

Aside from this, Coron has also decided to close some spots: Tangingi Beach, Twin Lagoons, Smith Point Beach, Kaliwantay Beach, Banol Beach 1 & 2, Atwayan Beach, Malwawoy Beach, & Skeleton Wreck. The areas covered by the P250 fee system are: Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, Twin Lagoons,  Beaches,  Caves (both above and underwater), Ship Wrecks, and  Coral Reefs. [See: Source 1 & Source 2]

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Since you’re doing your tour on your own, you will have to prepare your packed lunch as well. There are restaurants around town (though finding one that opens before 8 AM is another matter) and the market is nearby should you want to cook your own meal, but thinking about all that effort you would have to put on defeats the purpose of being on holiday, doesn’t it?

If you’re staying more than three days in Coron, spread out your island hopping destinations since a whole day is good for around five spots only. Islands located farther off, like Banana and Malcapuya, are 2 hours away from town. Other spots, such as Kayangan Lake, Atwayan Beach, CYC Beach, Twin Peaks Reef, Twin Lagoon, and Siete Pecados belong to the Coron Island Loop and are a short distance from one another. The first spot is usually within 15 to 30 minutes from downtown.

*You may opt to stay the night at Banana Island at around P1,000 per person per night (contact the owners at 09292082363). It’s 2 hours by boat from downtown Coron, and though we weren’t able to see the island firsthand, we’ve read about superlative accounts of its white sand beach and snorkeling spots. Electricity is scheduled though (can’t have too much of a good thing, eh?).

Where to eat in Coron

Island = cheap food. Don’t expect fine dining in Coron, otherwise you’d be disappointed.What it does have, however, is this.

Bistro Coron is rather popular for its Bistro Pizza, shown below, which has onions, tomatoes, mushroom, garlic, ground beef, and cheese. Their smallest–10 inches–costs P299, while bigger sizes cost P399 and P599. Bistro Coron is a bit on the steep side, with dishes amounting to an average of P300, but their menu is  very extensive. You can have lobster, cocktails, prawns, pasta, etcetera.

Bistro Coron, Coron, Palawan, Philippines
Looking for more pictures? We’ve prepared an e-book especially for that. We’ve included some essential details as well. You may download Part 2 of our Life’s a Beach Series featuring Coron here:

TWO2TRAVEL’S LIFE’S A BEACH SERIES
Coron
Bantayan

Life’s a Beach Part 2: Coron

To experience all the goodness of Coron, you have to get wet, because all the action happens underneath.

An island north of mainland Palawan, Coron is a known shipwreck diving site. Diving enthusiasts rave over the World War II shipwrecks underneath its waters, but its rich marine life—one of the most diverse in the Philippines—gives inexperienced swimmers a chance at a blockbuster underwater experience all the same.

Coron, Palawan, Philippines | Two2Travel.com

Continue reading “Life’s a Beach Part 2: Coron”