Island Escapade Tour

Philippines Day 3 – Island Escapade 

Our 3rd day thankfully started a little later in the morning (I think we made it till about 5 this time haha) otherwise much the same. We killed time in the room until coffee shops opened at 7 and we headed out in search for sustenance. This time we tried a place called Tea & Shake which we liked much better as far as cost/ service/ and atmosphere.

Tea and Shakes for breakfast 

Then it was back to our room this time getting picked up shortly after 8 for the short trike ride back to the tour shack to pay and then onto our boat for the Island Escapade tour!
This time we were on the boat for like 30 minutes with just one couple so at least we weren’t crammed in waiting… but we still didn’t leave until almost 10. (*eye roll) It takes forever.

We were 3 boats back and had to cross the first 2 to get to ours

About the Tour
So today we picked the Island Escapade tour which would take us to 3 amazing beaches/ islands. (one of which I’d read was the best beach in the entire Coron area) Ordinarily the tour cost 1500 pisos (even with other tour companies) but since we booked both tours with the same company they discounted it to 1300 pisos or $25. The one thing none of the tour companies pointed out… was that these islands were 90 minutes by boat away. That was a pretty long, hot ride I’m not gonna lie but when you see the amazing beaches… you’ll probably agree with me that it was worth it. It included entry to all of the sites (3 island beaches), a full lunch at one stop with coke to drink, a snack after the last stop, and water all day aboard. For this tour, the first stop was 90 minutes away but then all of the stops after that were only 4-10 minutes apart so there is plenty of time to enjoy the scenery on the boat. Group numbers range from 15-20 but we easily had 20 people on both our tours. You have one tour guide and several boat men that operate the boat to accompany you. For a great price, this was a great tour! But know you have private options that started around 2700 pesos for 2-4 people for a full day. This cost however did NOT cover lunch OR your entry fees to all of the sites (which are around 100-200 pisos)
Maps of where our stops are in relation to everything else

Up first:

Bulog Island

Famous for it’s sand bar and next door to the most expensive resort in Coron (a couple thousand dollars a night… quite the change from our $25 a night rooms haha) The views were amazing and the color of the water.. perfection. You can snorkel, play in the shallow water, swim out a little deeper, or wander the small island. We had a little over an hour in this haven with the last 20 minutes being the only boat there. But then it was onto our lunch stop and next beach…

 Photo from our journey around the giant island of Coron
 Bulog Island’s sand bar 
 1 side of the island… 
 The other side of the small island 
 Our boat floating out on the amazing water 
 Trying to catch some air out on the sandbar that was already sinking beneath the water 
 Crystal clear water 
 Mermaiding out on art of the sandbar 
 Another mermaid photo without my crazy sun screen haha 
 A secret beach on the other side of the island

Bulog Island 😀 
Our boat and the sandbar behind me
Gotta have my “bow of the boat” photo

Cocoa Beach
Picnic tables, coconuts for sale, beach volleyball, hammocks, and most importantly: SWINGS This beach may not have been the most scenic but it was still great to hang out on the swings and not to mention eat another fantastic lunch. (pretty much the same as the day before minus the clams)

The “Swinging” Tree
Honestly the best part of this beach 
We had extra long tables on this day for lunch.
No clams, but we had pork, fish, and chicken plus Chop Suey 
Photo Op with the Cocoa Beach sign 
Pulling away from the beach and leaving the palms behind. 
After cleaning up we headed to the most beautiful of all….

Malcapuya Island
Our favorite and last stop of the day, this beach had the best and largest sandy beach, while still having coral and places to snorkel within range. There were more beautiful palm trees, the perfect depth of water, and the views from the beach of surrounding islands wasn’t too bad either. The boats park on a different side of the island, meaning you have a short 5 minute sandy walk to the actual beach (nothing that can’t easily be done in flip flops) There’s also little canoe boat men that for 100 pisos (about $2) you can hold onto as they pull you along over all the best coral spots to snorkel. This takes roughly 30 minutes and since only one of us brought goggles this day, we didn’t opt in for that but we heard it was really beautiful. Instead we spent our hour or so lounging in the shallow water and meandering amidst the palms. All in all, a great beach to visit if you have time when visiting Coron.

Loved all the colorful beach signs 

The side beach no one really swam at 
The main beach with perfecttt sand! 
And more crystal clear water of course 

Walking back to the boats 

On the way back we again had to travel around 80 minutes, this time taking a detour around part of an island and through waters so shallow, they had to kill the engines for part of it. As we glided through the shallow water, Tippe and I were lucky enough to be on the front of the boat where you could look down and there were DOZENS of giant star fish! They ranged in size but the biggest we saw must have been 10in x 10 in. It was a really cool spot to see and really ended the day on a high note… which was good since the ride back was bumpy, windy, and VERY wet. We were soaked by waves coming up and over the box, But it was worth it to see the star fish better than anyone else on the boat.
So fair warning, I recommend sitting on the front if you can but you’re more likely to get wet from waves and sunburned from sun exposure. Plan accordingly.

More views of Coron Island as we headed back to town
Did I just fall into the film Moana or what? 
Day 2 Boat selfie! 

Our boat dropped us off around 5:30 and we headed to our hotel to try to wash all the salt water from 2 days out of our hair. (it was a process for me, I probably conditioned at least 3 times.) Once we were all cleaned up, we headed back out our favorite restaurant, Island Boys Grill, for some more bbq pork. We had to be pretty economical with our dinner as both of us were running out of cash fast and the ATMs in rural towns didn’t like our debit cards, but I still splurged on two sticks this time. This restaurant’s BBQ was the best of the entire trip by far, maybe that I’ve ever had. Anyways the sun had already set on our walk over so we missed any opportunity to hike Tapyas for a sunset but I don’t think we’d have much energy after the long boating days to do it anyways. We headed back to the hotel, packed up our stuff, and prepared for an early morning rising to get back to the aiport and move onto our next island.

Day 3 Costs
Banana Bread and drink for breakfast $4.75
Island Escapade Tour- $25
Dinner- $3.60

Luis Bay Lodge – $12.50 pp

Day 3 Total Costs: $45.85

The Ultimate Coron Tour

Philippines Day 2: The Ultimate Coron Tour
Waiting for the sun to come up so we could escape our room 

This day was definitely EPIC but it was off to a slow start… Since we fell asleep so early we were wide awake around 1:30 AM with nothing to do until 8ish when the tour company would come get us. We killed time reading and chilling in our room until 6 when the sun started coming up so we threw on a cover ups and ran outside to greet the morning sun on the water. By 7, coffee shops and restaurants started opening for breakfast so we walked into town to grab some waffles! Then back for a bit more waiting for our tour.

It was a somewhat colorful sunrise…. 
The main highway into Coron town where all the cafes are

They were pretty prompt right at 8:30 and had a trike right outside the hotel door that we took on a 5 minute ride to the tour operator shack. There we paid for our tour, were rounded up with a few other guests, and transported to our boat…. which we were sitting on by 9 and waiting.. and waiting. It seemed to take FOREVER for them to gather all the guests on the boat (we were one of the first to arrive) and then get the supplies. They also didn’t tell us snorkels weren’t included in our tour so after 30 minutes of sitting there I asked if I could just go run and get my goggles that I brought from my hotel room that I could literally see from the boat! haha Thankfully I did too since half the areas were snorkel stops and it would’ve been a huge bummer to miss them! Tippe paid 100 pesos or something to rent a snorkel for the day.

Our first ride on the back of a trike
About the Tour
The Ultimate Coron Tour is very similar even though offered by multiple companies. It includes 7 sites, 5 stops, entry to all of the sites, a kayak at one of the stop, a full lunch at one stop with coke to drink, a snack after the last stop, and water all day aboard. For this tour, all of the stops were about 20-40 minutes away so there is plenty of time to enjoy the scenery on the boat. Group numbers range from 15-20 but we easily had 20 people on both our tours. You have one tour guide and several boat men that operate the boat to accompany you. For a great price, this was a great tour! But know you have private options that started around 2700 pisos for 2-4 people for a full day. This cost however does NOT cover lunch OR your entry fees to all of the sites (which are around 100-200 pisos) unlike the group tours which cover everything! 

Finally just after 10 we were off to our first destination:

First glimpse of the Twin Lagoon 

Twin Lagoons

This stop had been on my bucket list before any of the other Philippines destinations to be honest, as it was the first thing I came across. The water is a beautiful green and the surrounding cliffs have the most interesting erosion pattern. There’s a spot where the cliffs are seperated under water where you can swim into the adjoining lagoon which was really cool. (though it wasn’t as cool as the video I’d seen suggested it would be) We had 40 minutes to swim around the lagoons before we had to head back to the boat and onto our next destination:

Boat selfie
Lots of boats parked outside the lagoon. We had to walk/ swim but you can see the first lagoon tucked in there around the corner. The water was seriously perfect. 
Standing on the bow of the boat
In the first Lagoon making our way to the 2nd one. 
The first Lagoon still 
Looking over to the connection to the “twin” You can go over… 
Or you can go under to get to the twin lagoon 
You didn’t have to swim very far and head space wasn’t too bad. 
You just had to watch out for some of the over hang
Finally in the 2nd lagoon. I loved the cliff formations! 
Back to the first lagoon so we could hear the whistle warning us our boat was leaving soon 
 The water was seriously THAT color
Hanging out in the lagoon 
Back to the boat
Ready for our next stop
Skeleton Wreck

A great diving and snorkeling spot that was teeming with fish and the wreck clearly visible. (though without fins extremely hard to dive down to see) This spot is the remains of an old Japanese war ship (there are MANY around Coron Island) The only downside was that by the time we got there, it was SO busy with other boats… many of which would anchor right next to the ship and would float over it… kind of a hazard when you have a bunch of un- aware tourists with their faces down in the water… We almost got run over twice before I gave up and went to just look at the fish away from the wreck.

There were LOTS of fish in this area 
The bow of the shipwreck 
Fish were everywhere and so were the people haha
One more of the wreck 

Skeleton Beach

Our lunch stop and as you may have guessed… a beach smack next to the ship wreck. The tour lunch was great! They grilled yellow fish (tuna), pork, and chicken with tons of rice then we had bananas for desert.

Clams, pork, and fish on this day! 
The over water shack we ate our lunch on

CYC Island/ Coral Gardens/ Beach

Here we had the option of snorkeling more or just swimming over to the beach area which is what we ultimately decided to do. The beach was almost sand bar in appearance since it jutted out past the island but it felt like it was the middle of no where unlike the other beaches which are on the giant island of Coron. We didn’t do much here in the 30 minutes or so that we had, except lay in the sun.
I was pretty impressed with the enterprising guy that was kayaking around selling beer and snacks to the lazy beach goers, like how genius is that?! They seemed to be about 100 pesos? so if this is something you’d want to partake in, make sure you bring some extra pesos with you in your dry bag.

After the rapid fire of stops before here, we were excited to relax on a beach haha
GLT/ Girls Love Travel sign (how Tippe  and I met!)

Kayangan Lake

My other most anticipated stop of the day, Kayangan lake is said to be the cleanest AND clearest lake in South East Asia… I haven’t seen all the lakes but I can say it was both clean and clear. haha
The water is fresh water in the swimming area so the tour boats required us to bring out life jackets… little did they know I can easily float in fresh water just as easily as in salt water.. I’m that buoyant hahaha. But it did come in handy for towing my stuff around.
The entrance to the lake had restrooms you could use.. if you dared and really needed to, as well as other little shops. We only had 45 minutes though so we trekked up the hill to get our photos of the incredible view point, and then have a relaxing swim in the lake itself. After a full day of salt water, and just a little A LOT of sunburn, that cool fresh water felt AMAZING.
There were also really cool boulders/ rock formations to check out under the water, and a few other people found caves. I would definitely put this lake on your must do list with a visit to Coron.

More cool island formations around Coron

Heading up the stairs to the viewpoint and then on down to the lake.
There were around 300-350 steps totals 
The amazing view of Coron bay as you make your way to the lake
Highlight of the day for sure 
Right by the viewpoint there are some caves to explore! 
The lake

Heading back to our boat at the (almost) end of a terrific day! 
A boat that matched the color of the water so perfectly 
Looking back towards where the lake was on the other side of that saddle

Siete Pecados

Our final stop before turning the boat home and we almost had to miss it due to the winds picking up. The Siete Pecados weren’t even on my list of things I had to see when we set out to Coron but boy am I glad we got to check this area out! The coral gardens were incredible! Definitely the most abundant, vibrant, and beautiful we saw on our entire trip. The water was super shallow and clear so at times I was worried I was closer to them than I probably was… either way it had me keeping my body flat as we floated over the tops of them. If you love snorkeling, I would make this another must when in Coron.

So. Much. Coral

Our boat dropped us back off shortly after 5 where we had another <4 minute trike ride back to our hotel. We rinsed off (let’s be honest why would we wash our hair with another beach day the next day?) and we headed to find some dinner. We had noticed a restaurant with a heart shaped entrance when looking for breakfast and as we wandered back that way the smells coming from their grill was too good to pass up. I got a pork kebab with rice and this incredible sauce that they just called “sweet sauce” plus a hot chocolate like coffee drink called Milo? Apparently it’s a big thing in SEA.
Then we were back in our room ready to snooze again around 7:30! haha Solid day in the sun.

Day 2 Costs:
Waffles and drink breakfast: 230 php/ $4.40
Ultimate Coron tour (includes lunch and entrance to all sites): 1200 php/ $23
Dinner: 120 php/$2.30
Aloe for my crazy burned skin: 350 php/ $6.75

Luis Bay Traveler’s Lodge– $12.50 pp

Tour Company we used:
Wonderful Island Travel and Tours (one of the many pamphlets picked up from the airport)

Day 2 Total Costs: $49 pp

Philippines – Coron

So the Philippines… a place most people asked me why I wanted to go there?
Well uh let’s see: stunning beaches, warm water, incredible landscapes, whale sharks, caves, and SO cheap. So with that… let’s go over why YOU SHOULD be planning a trip to the Philippines.

View from the rooftop bar at our hotel 

The only negative: having to fly 26 hours each way (but hey it’s the same for really anywhere in South East Asia… so don’t let this scare you off!) We had about 2 hour lay overs in San Fran and in Tokyo before landing in Manila at 9:30 PM. Our only plan was to GO TO BED, and our hotel was only a mere 4.5 km or 15 minutes away. Outside the terminal they have a queue of taxis with the posted prices to make it easy for you. We hopped in a yellow metered cab and he took us right to our hotel for 140 pesos…. or $2.70.

Same view in the morning

Next morning was up and back to the airport, only this time to the Domestic terminal (which isn’t attached to the others) and was only 2 km/ 8 minutes so half the cost of previous night at 80 pesos.

The airport is SMALL and it’s important to know you need some sort of voucher, or SOMETHING that shows your flight itinerary (depending on the airline) to even get INTO the airport as they have a STAGE 1 security to get in to the airline check in desks. I’d also recommend saving them to your phone or printing them out since wifi and service is not the most reliable over there.

Smaller Islands we flew over on our way to Coron

Anyways we were checked in, grabbed breakfast, and only had to wait like 40 minutes before they boarded… 20 minutes earlier than they said they would board. So another tip: ALWAYS get to the airport 30 minutes earlier than you THINK you should get there. ALL of our domestic flights in the Philippines boarded an entire HOUR before our departure time and one even departed 20 minutes early… They aren’t messing around over there.

Busuanga Island (where Coron town is) 

So now that we’ve gotten through all the boring travel stuff, HELLLOOOO CORON, Palawan!
Immediately getting off the plane it was much hotter than Manila and the airport was SOOO small. As you leave the departure gate you feel like a celebrity as people hand you discount tour pamphlets and all the different shuttle drivers ask you where you are going. There’s no taxis, and from what I saw, few to none anything else, so a shuttle is the only way you will get from Coron airport to Coron town proper. It was a beautiful 30 minute drive and the air conditioned shuttle cost 150 pesos pp.

Outside the little domestic airport 

We got to our hotel right around noon, too early to check in so we dropped our bags, traded my socks for sandals, and headed out to explore. We had expected to take it somewhat easy on our first day but we had energy, and with a lack of beaches close to the town, we settled for our more demanding bucket list item:

Climb Mt. Tapyas
The Mt. Tayas view deck is very Hollywood. haha 

Trail Stats:
1.5 miles RT if you start down in the town. 
700+ steps and around 700 feet of elevation gain 
It’s free to climb and there are shaded benches along the route for weary travelers to take a break.

As we were doing it in the middle of the day, we had the place just about to ourselves, but boy was it HOT.

The views at the top were definitely worth it though. Incredible views of Coron bay and the surrounding islands as well as inland from Coron town.

There’s more trails around and behind the viewing deck that lead to more stunning photo spots and seating areas.

 The view looking over at Coron Island with the town next to the bay

Family pose in the pagoda with the back side of Mt. Tpayas view
Another photo of the backside Mt. Tapyas view
Heading back to the stairs

After some time hanging out we headed down to find some water and lunch. We ended up at an ok place in town where I tried chicken adobo (a popular dish in the Philippines as I’d come to find out) and cucumber lemonade.

Then it was time to finish our check in, which promptly lead to being comfortable, and thus falling asleep at a tradgically early time… of 5 PM. but hey jet lag! haha we had our tours figured out for the next day and it would be a long one so we missed out on sunset night 1 but sleep was oh so sweet.

Days 1.5 Costs:
Food on the plane and access to a lounge for additional snacks in Tokyo- free
Taxi from airport to hotel: $1.35 pp
Taxi back to airport: $0.75 pp
Seattle’s Best coffee and muffin: $3.50
Flight from Manila to Busuanga airport (Coron): $85 pp
Shuttle from Busuanga airport to Coron town proper (hotel): $2.89 pp
Lunch/dinner in Coron town: $4.00

Night 1- Nichols Airport Hotel $23 pp. Plain jane but they gave us a water bottle, had a nice view from a rooftop bar, and very conveniently located. AC and clean were the name of the game here.

Night 2- Luis Bay Traveler’s Lodge $12.50 pp Great location! Reviews were mixed on this place, and they did have cheaper non ac rooms but I’m glad we “splurged” since our room was great! We had a powerful AC unit AND a fan, TV, and really sturdy twin beds. The room was quiet from street noise although one night there was a weird dripping noise that about drove me nuts but for the price?! It was a nice location too, 2 minutes from the market and tour shops.

The view out of room’s window… we were literally over the water 

Total Costs for 2 nights and day 1: $133 and that includes 2 nights AND our most expensive domestic flight…