El Nido, finally

Sleeping on the floor of a hut on an uninhabited island was a new thing, and we did it in El Nido.

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

Earlier that night, our group of five tourists and three boatmen dined on an assortment of grilled and fried things; our only source of light was a piece of cloth stuffed inside a bottle of Coke filled with gas. There was a guitar, and the guys who were steering our boat earlier were now belting out Freddie Aguilar songs over copious amounts of rum coke. One of them was marrying the love of his life soon and seemed jittery about it; the other one kept poking fun at him. Our guide also told eerie tales from the islands (“May araw talaga na mangunguha ang dagat“), and one of my friends got help finding her way to the bathroom from somebody who looked like one of our other friends.. who happened to have been somewhere else at that time. We stayed long enough to see the moonrise, until the sky went completely dark and we decided it was time to retire to our hut. That was Owen’s birthday salubong, the end of the only sunny day we would have in El Nido.

And we didn’t have a single photo to show for it.

So it probably did not happen, depending on your life’s beliefs. After all, this was fabled El Nido, where anything from the mundane to the magical to the eerie can happen.

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

You may also want to read:
Drenched Tales from El Nido
Moody Bacuit Bay
Also check out:
Hotels in El Nido

~
Words by Nikka, Photos by Owen

Drenched tales from El Nido

So how is El Nido, that fabled place north of Palawan, when it decides to rain?

First, it doesn’t, and you are hopeful.

After all, you did sit through the eternity that it took to reach this place. You’ve read all there is to read online about it. Everyone wants to be here. Everyone who’s been here wants to return. A lucky few who visited have never left. So yeah, you’re damn optimistic and you can blame everyone but yourself for it.
Continue reading “Drenched tales from El Nido”

Moody Bacuit Bay: El Nido, Palawan Timelapse

Of the six full days we were in El Nido, we had only one—yes, one—sunny day. And that was Friday the 13th.

We’ve been carelessly optimistic about this trip, having been reassured countless times that heavy rains do not usually plague this part of the country. Not Palawan, a dreamy island forever sun-kissed. And definitely not El Nido, the dreamiest of them all.

el nido palawan two2travel.com
Continue reading “Moody Bacuit Bay: El Nido, Palawan Timelapse”

Alone with a bowl of Chaolong

A friend told me I should NEVER MISS—yes, in all caps—Chaolong in Puerto Princesa. Since I had a lot of time to kill before my flight back to Manila, trying Chaolong didn’t seem too bad an idea, even if (or especially because?) I was alone. I decided to forego Ka Lui and Kinabuch’s as I have been to them on a previous trip, plus I thought going there solo would be so awkward (tamilok all alone? NO THANKS).

bona's
Bona’s employee on the loose!

Continue reading “Alone with a bowl of Chaolong”

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?
Continue reading “The long road to Calauit and back”

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.
Continue reading “Captivated by Coron”

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”