Coron is confusing: It encompasses a town (on Busuanga Island), an island (Coron Island), and over 50 minor islets in the Calamian archipelago.
Say its name to Filipinos in Manila and you’ll see their eyes light up like kids on Christmas morning. That’s because Coron is arguably the most picturesque part of Palawan, which has been voted Best Island in the World by Travel + Leisure readers several years in a row.
We recently had the pleasure of spending a week in Coron, bookending our time teaching a workshop at TBEX Manila. From gorgeous beaches and dramatic limestone landscapes to exquisite Scuba diving and all sorts of wildlife, it was an extraordinary experience that left us eager to go back and spend more time in the Philippines.
What follows is our picks for the Top 7 Things to Do in Coron, from climbing scenic mountains and swimming in Asia’s cleanest lake to soaking in hot springs and snorkeling with Dugongs.
Climb Mount Tapyas
Imagine it’s 3PM on a 93ºF day, with 97% humidity. You’re on a beautiful tropical island (Busuanga) surrounded by brilliant blue waters. Climbing to the top of a mountain whose summit stands 700 feet above sea level is probably not going to be at the top of your “must-do” list. But it should be!
The second-tallest mountain in the town of Coron, Mount Tapyas is the most distinctive landmark in Coron. The Hollywood-style CORON sign and white cross at its summit can be seen for miles around, looming large over the bustling port town.
There are steps – 723 of them– that take you to the top, with plenty of shaded benches and scenic viewpoints for photos along the way. I’d torn a muscle in my calf the week before we left for the Philippines, so we had to go slow and steady, stopping frequently to rest and hydrate.
But the 360º view from the top is spectacular, with pastoral scenes of the surrounding hills on one side and gorgeous blue/green ocean and neighboring Coron Island on the other. I’d recommend going a little later in the day than we did to watch the sunset from the summit. But even with a hurt leg, this was still among my favorite things to do in Coron.
Get Away from It All at Club Paradise
The resort so nice we stayed there twice, Club Paradise is located 40 minutes by boat from Busuanga on its own private island (Dimakya). You can see Busuanga from all sides of the island, but Dimakya feels blissfully remote: The only boats we ever saw belonged to the resort.
Though the island is small, Club Paradise offered such a diverse array of activities that we spent six days there (before and after TBEX Manila) and never got bored. Sunrise Beach, Sunset Beach, and Hidden Beach are all gorgeous, tranquil and uncrowded. The traditional Hilot massage at their Glow Spa (which we got 3 times) was the perfect de-stresser.
For wildlife, there were hundreds of massive Fruit Bats in the trees above the spa, flying to the mainland every night to feed. We saw Monitor Lizards and Herons daily in the lagoon across from our Garden View Suite. And the snorkeling was exceptional: We saw Sea Turtles, Giant Clams, Black-tipped Reef Sharks, Porcupinefish and Octopus right offshore (video coming soon).
If you do get tired of staying on Club Paradise property, they also offer tours for Scuba diving and island hopping (more on that below). You can also arrange an all-day trip encompassing many of our other favorite things to do in Coron!
Go Island Hopping
Our favorite Club Paradise excursion was a half-day Coron Island Hopping Tour that took us to three different islands in the area. Each offered compelling arguments for why the Palawan archipelago has been voted Best Island in the World so many times.
The islands change slightly depending on weather, but we started out on Diatoy (see photo at top of page). Uninhabited and as tranquil as you can imagine, the island’s pristine white sand didn’t have a single footprint on it when we arrived. The picturesque view was equally stunning above and under water, where we saw Clownfish, Angelfish and Parrotfish less than 20 yards from shore.
The snorkeling was even better at Dimalanta Island, which boasted a stunning coral reef system. The crystal clear aquamarine waters were teeming with marine life, including an intensely colorful Mantis Shrimp that hid before I could snag a photo. As colorful as the myriad fish were, this was one place where the coral itself was even more impressive.
We finished our tour on Malpagalen Island, a.k.a. the Island Without Trees. The closest island to Club Paradise, this striking sandbar features fascinating rock formations and dramatic limestone cliffs. At low tide its small sea cave makes a great selfie spot, with the beautiful blue ocean and rolling hills of Busuanga’s coast in the background.
Hike to Kayangan Lake
We loved what is widely considered the cleanest lake in Asia so much that the fact that it rained the whole time we were there did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm. It was the last stop on our Coron Island Tour (which can be booked through Club Paradise), and also our favorite.
Coron Island is part of the ancestral domain of the indigenous Tagbanwa people, who are known locally as Calis. They protect the pristine fishing grounds around the island, including the gorgeous cove pictured above, which you enter to reach the hiking trail to the lake.
The rock-strewn trail is steep and extremely slippery, but there are railings to hold onto as you ascend and descend. The heat and humidity conspire to leave you sweaty and winded, but the world-class views will truly take your breath away.
My only regret is that we didn’t have more time to savor the lake’s cool waters and dynamic karst landscape. It’s the sort of place you could take a picnic and easily spend the whole day. But I’d advise going early morning or late afternoon. When we passed by at lunchtime, the cove was swarming with tourist boats that would’ve ruined the serene vibe we ultimately savored.
Search for Dugongs
The Dugong is a massive marine mammal (averaging 600-800 pounds) found in warm coastal waters from East Africa to Australia. They’re closely related to Manatees, but with a dolphin-like fluked tail and a sharply downturned snout made for feeding on seagrass.
Legend has it that it was Dugongs that sea-worn sailors often mistook for mermaids. In fact, the word Dugong is derived from the Tagalog language word for “lady of the sea.” It’s an apt description, as Dugongs tend to be smaller, slimmer and more shy than Manatees.
We booked an all-day Scuba diving tour to search for Dugongs off the coast of several small islands north of Club Paradise, whose seagrass beds they often visit. But in the end we found them while snorkeling closer to the shore of a larger island (which we won’t mention to protect them from poaching and mass tourism).
Dugongs are frightened by loud noises and surprisingly fast. The murkiness of the water from storms the previous day only enhanced the sense of mystery. We watched in stillness as this endangered animal fed in the depths below, then swam along 20 feet beside it as ascended for breath. If you’re an animal lover, this arguably the most magical thing to do in Coron.
Snorkel Twin Lagoon
Unlike nearby snorkeling sites such as Siete Pecados (which missed this list due to being crowded and having garbage floating on the water), Twin Lagoon isn’t a must-see for its marine life. In fact, the coral here is still recovering from years of dynamite fishing. But it still ranked among our favorite things to do in Coron due to the stellar scenery.
As our boat pulled into a lagoon, we were surrounded by on all sides by dynamic karst landscape. Our guide pointed out a cave in the water, which you could either swim through or climb a ladder over to reach a hidden lagoon on the other side.
There wasn’t a single soul there when we arrived, and the view when we made it through the hole was truly jaw-dropping. Dramatic limestone cliffs loomed large above us, and there were fish to be found near their base (where the coral is starting to recover).
For my money, this area ranks right alongside Kayangan Lake among the best views in Coron. The only downside was the huge crowd of loud tourists that arrived just as our time in the lagoon was winding down. Unfortunately, not all tour groups are as nature-reverent as we would like, but it didn’t spoil the serene majesty of the setting.
Soak Your Stress Away at Maquinit Hot Spring
It’s customary to visit Maquinit Hot Spring at the end of the day after climbing Mount Tapyas, which is precisely what we did. One of the world’s few saltwater hot springs, Maquinit is a two-tiered circular pool (with a small waterfall) whose waters are said to be fed by volcanic activity.
Fair warning: The water here is HOT, running 102-104ºF. It felt scalding at first touch, and even after I grew accustomed to it I only went in up to my knees. But it worked wonders on my aching leg muscles after the 723-foot climb, and Mary (who doesn’t get overheated as easily as I do) found it delightfully therapeutic.
For me, the best part was watching the sun set over the ocean, with the sounds of birds in the Mangrove forest and the smell of barbecued meats wafting through the air. It was a wonderful way to wind down after a day of adventure, and arguably among the most relaxing things to do in Coron. –Bret Love; photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett
Our Coron, Palawan trip was sponsored by Club Paradise and the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines. But we will never compromise our obligation to our readers. Our opinions remain our own.
The co-founder of Green Global Travel and Green Travel Media, Bret Love is a journalist/editor with over 21 years of experience. He’s been published in over 100 publications, including American Way, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, National Geographic, Rolling Stone and Yahoo Travel. In recent years he has emerged as an in-demand public speaker and teacher, covering topics from branding and content marketing to responsible travel and how DMOs can work with travel bloggers. He’s also a prominent travel industry marketing strategist, managing content, social media and influencer marketing for companies such as Discover Corps and International Expeditions.
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