It was exactly a week after my trek to Sagada when I packed my bags again and flew to this majestic island. Perks of being a Filipina travel writer is that you get to hop from one island to another without the hassle of passports and VISAS. Coron is an hour flight from Manila via Busuanga, and to make the most out of your stay, it is best to take the earliest flight. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and Skyjet flies to the island of Busuanga by schedule, and if you are lucky, on some seasons, these budget airlines offer seat sales if you book in advance.
Located in the Northern shores of Palawan, Coron is another island in the Philippine archipelago that is perfect for solo backpacking. A 4-Day stay can cost you less than P10,000 ($270 AUD), including airfare, accommodation, tours, and food. Budget backpacking is also possible, and if you are going solo, being a joiner is the most suitable.
Traveling Solo is a Good Thing
The moment you step outside the comfort of being with other people when you travel, the more you will realize that solo traveling is a liberating experience. It may be scary for a first-timer, but then again, there are times when you need to get out of the box and try something new for yourself.
I started traveling solo ever since I was in high school, as I was raised by my Mom to be independent. I don’t have any siblings to travel with, and my Mom was busy at work. So I go around Manila, alone most of the time. The moment I learned how to catch buses and trains and cabs, I knew that eventually, I would go places further than Manila on my own. Traveling solo wasn’t a new thing to me, until I had to ride a plane and go to some island for work.
It’s a different feeling, no matter how independent you think you are. But there things that you only learn along the way when you are on your own.
Things I’ve Learned in Coron
You never really travel alone. The world is full of friends waiting to get to know you. I have met a lot of people in Coron, and most of them I still get in contact with. Best part of traveling is getting to know the people beside you regardless of the gender, the age, and the race. Some may be solo backpackers like you, and some maybe be spending holidays with their family and friends. You never know until you take the initiative to smile and chat. A simple gesture can take you a long mile. (But, not a creepy kind of way, please. LOL.)
Mt. Tapyas will teach you a great deal of patience every step of the way. Whether it’s a morning climb or a sunset climb, the 724 concrete steps to get to the peak of Mt. Tapyas would definitely get you whining the whole time. The steps are easy to climb, as the local government has already developed it into a stress-free trail or “patag” as mountaineers call. Do some cardio before you start your trek or else you’ll be huffing all the way through. It’s an easy climb as long as you have enough water with you. The peak will give you a 360 panoramic view of Coron with the lakes and surrounding islands as backdrop.
The climb is a struggle, but the best view is always on the top when you reach Kayangan Lake. Just like Mt. Tapyas, you have to climb a good 300 steps before you reach Kayangan Lake. It’s about 20 to 30 minute climb, where rocks could be a little slippery at times. Reaching the viewing deck is a fruit of your achievement, as the mesmerizing view of the islets would leave you in so much awe.
No matter how your day went, at the end of it you’re still given the chance to relax at Maquinit Hot Springs. This is how your day-to-day life works. It’s rough, it’s winding, it’s tiring. But, you will always be given a choice on how to cap it off. Maquinit Hot Springs is the perfect way to conclude a long day of island hopping, diving, and snorkeling. For some, it is the best way to relax after a long trek at Mt. Tapyas. Coron is not just about the dive spots and the lakes. This gem will give you just about the same excitement as the islands could give you. It’s a 30-minute ride from the main town proper, but the saltwater pools of Maquinit Hotsprings is definitely worth the bumpy ride.
Never trust people when they say there’s no Barracuda in Barracuda Lake. I was snorkeling peacefully at the clear waters of Barracuda Lake with some divers on the lower ground. Suddenly, one of the boatmen yelled, “Barracuda! Barracuda!” LOL. Knowing the guy was a joker, no one moved, until I saw the silver barracuda with my very own eyes swimming lightheartedly. I panicked of course! I didn’t want my story to end with being bitten by a barracuda while I was snorkeling. This got me thinking. I’ve got no right to complain. I am just a human, stepping into some other creature’s own habitat. So dear readers, never complain when you see snakes in the forest, or stone fish in the sea, or sharks in the ocean… it’s THEIR home in the first place.
No water is too deep for an everyday diver. I love diving, especially when it’s in Coron. But, I am not a licensed scuba diver, so the only thing I can do is free dive. I did a lot of free diving, checking out ship wrecks and coral gardens. I met really nice people along the way, and some of them showed me how it is like living beside the sea. Because of this, my love for the ocean definitely grew stronger and it got me thinking a lot about my advocacy. For some people, diving is an enjoyable form of leisure, and for others, it is where they get their livelihood to be able to serve food on the table for their families.
Never underestimate the power of a first-aid kit. Some of you may not know the story behind my first-aid kit which I would probably have to tell in some other post. In Coron, it came in really handy as I got myself sick during my solo travel. I experienced food-poisoning and I had to deal with it on my own. It was around 9 in the evening when I started vomiting and I had to cope with a really bad diarrhea. It was daunting, as I do not have anyone beside me to get me some water or even medicines. This is where my first-aid kit came in. What’s inside my kit would always be paracetamol, allergy tablets, a couple of loperamides, flu tablets, and even some medications in case of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. I even bring a pouch of vinegar sometimes when it’s a beach travel, in case of jellyfish or sea urchin stings. Yes! I am paranoid like that and my paranoia paid off. I was so weak, I couldn’t bring myself to the hospital. All I had was my first-aid kit, water, and the hopes that it would work. I took 1 allergy tablet, in case it was a severe form of allergy and at 3 AM, I took 2 Loperamides. My flight back to Manila was at 3 in the afternoon, and I was still lying alone in bed at 9 in the morning. It worked somehow, at least I was OK during my flight back. It got me going in one way or another, or else I could have ended in some hospital bed somewhere in the island.
Every island has its own story, just like every traveler you meet. Whether it’s a story about a tourist getting killed by a stone fish, or a multi-billionare buying an island, or some fairies showing up in the mountains and lakes, every corner has its own amazing piece. Likewise, I have realized that solo traveling has allowed me to discover the stories behind every backpacker I meet along the way. Adventure stories, mishaps, life lessons, it’s what you truly acquire more than the experience.
Coron Itinerary 3D2N
As I have said, it is best to fly to Coron as early as possible.
- 6:50 AM Depart Manila
- 7:50 AM ETA Busuanga
- 8:40 AM Arrival Hotel/Inn (Check out Palawan Hotels here.)
- 9:00 AM Start TOUR B
- 5:00 PM End of TOUR B
- 7:00 PM Dinner at Lolo Nonoy’s.
- 8:30 AM Start TOUR A
- 5:00 PM End of TOUR A
- 6:00 PM Maquinit Hot Springs
- 7:30 PM Dinner at Santino’s Grill
- 5:30 AM Sunrise Trek at Mt. Tapyas
- 7:30 AM Breakfast at Town Proper
- 8:30 AM Pasalubong Center
- 10:00 AM Prepare for flight back to Manila
- 11:00 AM Early Lunch
- 12 NN Travel to Airport
- 3:00 PM Depart Busuanga
- 4:00 PM ETA Manila
What about you? What have you learned from your solo travels? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂