Coron: The best of Palawan’s thousand treasures


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The best view of Coron’s waters and limestone cliffs is from the steep path going into Kayangan Lake, which is on the other side of this cliff. Kayangan is said to be the cleanest lake in the Philippines and Asia. Below the water’s surface are unusual rock formations. Photo by Tanya Lara

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Parallel parking, island style. Photo by Tanya Lara

Siete Pecados or Seven Sins is indeed a strange name for a marine sanctuary, even though it really is seven islands scattered in the waters of Coron. But why not a more pleasant name like Seven Mermaids or even Seven Monkeys?

Like every bizarre thing in this country, there is a legend attached to this name — two legends in fact. One says the seven islands are the seven daughters of a fisherman who went with their seven suitors to another island against their father’s wishes. A terrible storm descended during the night and when the fisherman woke up in the morning, he saw seven islands that weren’t there before and the wreckage of seven boats. Another is of a mother with seven daughters who didn’t take care of her when she was sick. Instead they went swimming and drowned, and afterwards the seven islands appeared.

The gods of our islands and legends are very unkind. But what they take away with a curse and punishment they give back with an embarrassment of riches. In the case of Palawan, the gods gave the province 1,780 islands and islets and a 2,000-kilometer coastline. And for Siete Pecados, it’s countless coral reefs and fishes in high-definition color.

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Reflections on the water and a time to reflect on one’s life and choices. Photo by Tanya Lara

This is the place to snorkel in Coron (diving is not allowed in Siete Pecados — there are many other sites for that around the islands including for wreck diving). There’s a section where you can’t even see the sea floor, it’s covered with hard and soft corals looking like an underwater succulent garden, the tips luminescent and swaying with the current.

Interspersed between these shallow, warm-water species are the “brain corals,” looking exactly as their name suggests. They’re quite intelligent species, too, using their tentacles to catch food at night and protection during the day.

And then there are the fishes. Yes, we found Nemo, and Dory, too, swimming and hiding between the corals along with thousands others.

Apart from Siete Pecados, there are the white-sand beaches of Coron that you can make a stop at for lunch or swimming. There’s Smith Station, and farther (around an hour and a half boat ride) are Banana Island, Black Island and Malcapuya Island.

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Sunset descends on Coron Bay with the perfect view from The Funny Lion’s Pride Rock Rooftop Bar. Better yet with a mojito or a the bar’s own Caluit Cooler.

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The swimming pool with jacuzzi at the boutique hotel The Funny Lion in Coron, Palawan, a property that’s surrounded by lush greens.

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The Funny Lion prides itself on personalized service and attention to detail.

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The Pride room of the safari-themed hotel

Two other places one must not miss when in Coron: the Twin Lagoons, where you swim in the second one surrounded by towering limestone cliffs; and Kayangan Lake, said to be country’s most beautiful and cleanest lake.

Kayangan has one of the best views in all of Coron, but to get there one must climb up steps that can get slippery when it rains, and then down again on the other side of the cliff to get to the lake itself.

For divers, Coron is the best place for World War II wreck diving because the shipwrecks of 24 Japanese ships that were sunk by the American forces on Sept. 24, 1944 are preserved on the sea floor. Some of them are located in shallow waters while others are much deeper, and advanced divers can dive inside the wrecks.

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Coron is located in the northern tip of the narrow province of Palawan and part of the Calamianes group of islands (Busuanga and Culion are the two others). Its airport in Busuanga is the nearest one to Manila (45 minutes on a twin-prop plane) and is actually closer to the mainland than to the provincial capital Puerto Princesa.

Coron is much more rural than Palawan’s other seaside towns such as Puerto Princesa and El Nido and I hope it remains that way.

The roads in town are very narrow, just enough for two tricyles on each lane. As tour guide Andy of Coron Expeditions explained, no one expected for Coron to become a tourist destination and it was only in year 2000 that tourists from around the country began exploring it — and we have to thank the divers for that.

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The poolside Hunt restaurant is decorated like a safari lodge.

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Catch of the day with mango salsa at The Funny Lion’s Hunt restaurant

In keeping with the town’s charms and local flavor is the boutique hotel The Funny Lion of the One Of Collection.

How did it get its name? CEO Nikki Cauton III once told me the story when we were in Bohol. He and his wife Ria took their family to Calauit Safari Park in Palawan. Their son Emilio, then four years old, was looking for a lion and when he was told there was none in the 3,700-hectare game reserve, he said, “That’s funny there’s no lion here.”

The phrase just clicked in Nikki’s mind and so there is now one lion in Palawan — and the 36-room hotel takes safari as its theme in the design details. The very comfortable rooms are divided into three categories — Cub, King and Pride rooms — and have leather folding seats as the ones you pack on your jeep when for a safari.

The hotel has two dining outlets — Hunt restaurant, which is open all day, and Pride Rock Rooftop Bar, which serves the most delicious cocktails.

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Coron has many small beaches (without accommodations) for swimming or picnics. Photo by Tanya Lara

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Boatmen prepare lunch for their passengers. Seriously, their boats are equipped with a grill where they cook right before lunch. The seaweed (green plate) was sooo fresh and good with tomatoes, onions and chilis.

Hunt restaurant is very popular with locals, who like to spend special weekends with family eating out. Some nights are barbecue nights while others are pasta and pizza nights. It’s a la carte menu serves special Filipino dishes and fresh seafood.

For sunsets, go to Pride Rock Rooftop Bar. Better yet get into one of the two huge Jacuzzis with a drink and watch how Palawan’s sun sets with pink, orange and blue battling it out on Coron Bay.

The Funny Lion also serves a specialty coffee that you won’t find anywhere else except in communities of the Tagbanua people, one of the oldest ethnic groups in the country.

It’s popular knowledge in Palawan that the Tagbanuas make one of the best coffees in the country but very few people outside their communities have tried it — until now because it’s available at The Funny Lion.

Resort manager Michael Mahinay was able to persuade the Tagbanua chief to blend the coffee beans for the hotel. Tagbanua coffee is very strong but doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste. Instead, it is smooth from start to finish — and will keep you awake at night. But then again, that’s how one must roar when in Coron — with an open heart for adventure.

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(I am so in love with Coron I’m going back and will be updating this story with more pictures and anecdotes.)

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The way to the Twin Lagoons. Swimming is in the second lagoon, which is accessible by swimming through a crevice. The lagoons have two different temperatures — cold on the surface, warm under. Photo by Tanya Lara

Categories: ASIA/MIDDLE EAST, HOTELS/RESORTSTags: , , , , , ,

9 comments

  1. Loved Coron too, Tanya! I would go back. Hopefully I/we get enough courage (and training) to do shipwreck diving. Part of me feels the Coron experience won’t be complete without it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A piece of heaven on earth! Love this, Tans!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You write so well! Everything is so detailed. I enjoyed reading it! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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