Guide to Coron’s Island Escapade Tour
Up for a tropical beachside getaway to remote islands near Coron? These three islands are some of the Philippines’ most pristine with some of the clearest waters we’ve ever seen! After getting out and exploring the gorgeous limestone cliffs and freshwater lakes of Coron, it was time for us to enjoy a little bit of calm in the sand with the Island Escapade Tour.
With this shared excursion, you’ll be able to visit three gorgeous spots in the Calamian Islands of Palawan, about a 1.5-hour boat ride away from Coron’s port. Though sometimes the three destinations might change, the current Island Escapade Tour includes Bulog Dos Island & Sandbar, Banana Island and Malcapuya Island. In this post, we’ll take a deeper dive into each stunning location, what you’ll get to do there and end with a cost breakdown of what this day entails.
Bulog Dos Island
Connecting the island of Bulalacao to the Malaroyroy peninsula, this sand spit consists of a small island with a reef on both sides. If this is your first stop on the tour – as your boat crew will arrange their own order of destinations for the day to make it most ideal for your visit – your bangka boat won’t be able to dock right onto shore but will allow to climb down into the shallow, crystalline waters of the Sulu Sea.
You’ll be welcomed by the warm waters as you wade your way to shore, and once you reach it, make sure to take off those water shoes and allow your toes to sink into the soft, powdery sand! There’s quite a stretch of beach to explore as you venture in both north and south directions. To the north, you’ll find yourself on the footprint of Cauayan Island and viewing the standalone Malacory Island in the distance. To the south, you’ll see in close proximity the northern point of Two Seasons Coron Island Resort situated on mainland Bulalacao. You can also venture upwards in elevation by climbing up the rocky and grassy hill that gives Bulog Dos its name, meaning “round two”. At the top of the hill, you can acquire a vantage of Coron Bay to the East.
Now the hero of this first destination is not only the white sand you can grasp between your toes or the calm, clear water you can snorkel in, but a combination of both. During low tide, a serpentine sandbar makes an appearance out of the shallow water that makes a bridge from Bulog Dos to the Two Seasons property. It’s a short walkway and you won’t be actually cross over to the private resort, but so worth dragging your feet through it with the views of the sea on both sides. You might even spot a few baby reef sharks making their way up to the sandbar like we did!
Named after the shape of its reef viewed from a satellite is Banana Island, locally known as Dicalubuan Island. It’s only a 10-minute – or less – boat ride away from Bulog Dos and evokes true island serenity. This slice of paradise and the couple of hours you get to enjoy being here is enough reason for you to embark on the Island Escapade Tour.
From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, it was truly reminiscent of Maldives. Just the softest and brightest sand you could imagine, a dense and luscious forest enclosed in the centre and nothing but the calmest and clearest crystal waters to cool you down in the beading sunlight. I could float on the water for minutes at a time the waves were so calm, with nothing but the sound of the ocean twinkling in my ears.
Banana Island isn’t always the middle stop on this tour. Sometimes, the guide and captain will take you over to Ditaytayan Island instead, which is still extremely beautiful and home to a highly sought after sandbar. Since a few tours went there instead, we practically had Banana Island all to ourselves. Only two or so other groups shared the beach with us, so it felt extremely secluded with tons of room for each of us to enjoy our own space no matter where we escaped to on the beach.
Banana Island is where we enjoyed our feast of a Filipino lunch in an open cottage located in the park just steps from where we docked. It was the quietest destination we’ve visited on our entire trip to the Philippines, in spite of it being midday, and if I could camp out on this beach for days I would have.
Completing a “golden triangle” of top notch island hopping, your final destination will be Malcapuya Island. Bask in your final moments of tranquil island getaway and grab your goggles or snorkel gear to swim with swarms of fish in the coral gardens right off the shore.
Your boat will arrive and dock on the northwestern side of the island where you could hang around for a quieter time at the beach, but the good stuff happens on the other side. Just a 3-minute walk on a wide, dirt trail leads you to a large beach park and beachside cottages. You could grab a snack here, play some volleyball or soccer on the field or get onto the fine white sand for some time in the sun. It does get a little busier on this island, especially in the afternoon, but there’s plenty of space to make your own. The beach is wide and relaxing, but we encourage you to get into the water along with your snorkel gear.
One thing the locals offer here is to take you to a snorkel spot where you can swim with and feed the schools of fish. For 100 PHP per person, a small bangka boat will have you and other guests hold onto the outrigger while the boat slowly makes its way to the snorkelling area. At the spot, the guides will give you food for the fish so you can feed them yourself and then they will also get into the water to show you around the ecosystem. Sometimes they’ll take a short dive to wave their hands around big clams on the ocean floor or lightly tickle sea anemone to say hello to the tiny clownfish hiding inside. There’s so much marine life you don’t realize is just below you if you’re not looking out for it!
The guide will also offer to take a bunch of photos of you with your underwater camera if you have one with all the colourful fish swarming around you and the boat. We decided to venture on our own, so in lieu of taking the boat to the snorkel spot, we just followed it by swimming over. It was really a short swim even without fins on our feet. We loved having the little fish all over us, and honestly had we known what the experience entailed, we would’ve paid the small fee to have the guides take us there and show us around. Once we left the boat, we still had a great time snorkelling and spotting different fish and coral, but it wasn’t as abundant on our own.
How to Book Your Own Tour
The shared or “joiners” tour that we did was very easy to book. It can be reserved online through a third-party local tour company or through sites like Klook, in person directly with a tour operator or through your accommodation. We booked it with our hotel which was definitely preferred given our circumstances (more on that later).
Our hotel, the Coron Bancuang Mansion, made it very easy to book any of the available tours through them as they are partners with JY Travel and Tours. We paid as little as 1,500PHP per person for our shared tour which is the same price as booking directly with the tour operators. The advantage of booking with our accommodation was the ability to use a credit card, as any tours we booked through them would be tacked onto our final bill for our stay.
In addition to that, booking with our hotel allowed us to pay later without deposit, so if the tour got cancelled, all they had to do was let us know and we could make a quick switch to do another tour. Thankfully, even though the 4+ days prior to us going on this tour had strong winds and the tour had to be cancelled, the morning we got up for ours, Front Desk confirmed with us that the coast was clear and we could still go on the tour if we wanted to!
Not all accommodations have the option of booking through them directly, so contact your hotel, hostel or bed & breakfast to see what they offer prior to arriving. In the case that they do not provide tour bookings, it’s incredibly easy to find the tour operators along the streets of Coron Town Proper. You can also negotiate with them directly on the pricing, especially if you plan to do more than one tour with the same company. They’re always willing to hear your offer.
If the shared tour is not something you’re looking for, a private tour is always an option and you can book this online or directly with a tour operator. I would recommend chatting with your potential tour company prior to booking with them and discussing your wishes for the excursion as well as negotiating the pricing for the day. With a private tour, you’re essentially chartering your own boat for a day and can leave in the earlier hours of the morning to avoid the crowds and get more out of your time. You can mix and match various destinations as you are not bound to the locations listed above. If you want to explore more of the Calamian Islands, you certainly could, weather permitting! It’s worth noting that none of the entrance fees would be included in your private tour price and would need to be paid for at each location.
Inclusions & Exclusions of the Tour
You need not worry about your pick-up and drop-off provided that your accommodation is within Coron. A shared van will get you to and back from the boat dock. All permits and entrance fees to each of the island hopping locations are included in the price of the tour, as well as your buffet lunch. The environmental fee for Coron is something you’ll need to pay for upon arriving in Busuanga, either at the airport or at the port. This 200PHP fee covers all of your activities during your stay but you don’t have to worry about presenting the paid fee slip to anyone while you’re here.
Snorkel gear rentals were an extra 150PHP per set which was worth having for our final stop. If you’ve purchased your own, all the better! In total, we spent 3,000PHP for the two of us. All gear rentals – whether you need a snorkel & mask, fins or aqua shoes – need to be paid in cash to your guide, but the tour itself can be paid with credit card depending on who you book through.
What to Pack for Your Island Escapade Tour
Make sure to bring your own towels with you as the tour operators don’t provide them. Some of the higher-end accommodations in Coron will have beach towels for use on the tours, but we always make sure to pack our light and thin, quick-drying microfibre towels wherever we go.
Water shoes aren’t a huge necessity for this tour, but would be good to have when disembarking into the waters at Bulog Dos and Malcapuya since there might be sharper rocks where you land. It would also be convenient to wear water shoes when exploring the rocky terrain of the Bulog Dos hill and walking the path over to Malcapuya Beach. But unlike the Super Ultimate Tour, this excursion doesn’t get half as busy so there’s never a time where you’ll need to cross over from one boat to the other, especially since all destinations are calm beaches with low tides.
Lastly, a waterproof phone case and a dry pack are optional but recommended for you to bring to keep your valuables safe from water damage! There are plenty of vendors who will visit your boat before you embark on your island hopping journey you can buy from if you forget to pack these items.
Here’s our list of what to pack for your Island Escapade Tour:
- Snorkel gear – mask & snorkel
- Water shoes
- Large dry bag
- Waterproof phone case
- Beach towel
- Waterproof action camera + case + floating handle
- Reef-safe sunscreen
- Rash guard
- Insect repellent
Does the Tour Accommodate for Accessibility?
It can be difficult to go on the tour as someone with limited mobility. When you board your boat – a motorized version of the traditional bangka, which is a double outrigger watercraft – you will often need to reach far with your legs on a swaying boat. Climbing down the narrow wooden plank that acts as a ladder even takes a bit of caution for us and we might need a hand if we’re carrying gear into the water.
One of the guests who was on our shared tour, an older woman in her mid-seventies, required assistance from two of our crew members but did quite all right in spite of her limited mobility, but there were times where it was very hard for even some of the rest of us passengers to make the leap from boat to dock, or boat to sand.
If you currently have mobility issues, I would highly recommend talking with a tour operator directly before booking the tour. The boat crew are always there for assistance in any way you need, but in order for you to get a good picture of the boarding/disembarking process, it would be best to chat with them first.
That wraps up our most relaxing tour in Coron, Palawan! We hope you’ll be able to explore and bask in the pristine island vibes that the Philippines has to offer on some of the country’s most remote and beautiful islands nestled in this archipelago!