Guide to Coron Super Ultimate Tour
There’s no denying it. Exploring Coron, Palawan was very much one of the greatest highlights of our trip to the Philippines and I couldn’t imagine having spent our first few days there any other way! Taking the Super Ultimate Coron Tour set the bar high as we set sail to seven different extraordinary destinations enclosed within the edges of Coron Island and more of the Calamian Archipelago.
The spots on the shared tour may vary depending on the season and as the years progress, but this tour so far has been bound to these seven beautiful sights: Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, Twin Peaks Coral Garden, Beach 91, Balinsasayaw Reef, CYC Beach and Twin Lagoon. We’ll take a deeper dive (pun unintended) into each location, and look at the total cost of the tour so that you can budget for this excursion in your Coron itinerary.
Kayangan Lake is named the cleanest lake in all of the Philippines, and consists of 70% freshwater and 30% seawater. It was the first stop on our tour, but might not be for yours as the tour operators decide the sequence of stops in order to maintain a cap on visitors at each location.
With such a high concentration of fresh water, its much harder to float. So it’s legally required that you wear a life vest in the water, or that you hold onto it – or sit in it like a paragliding sack as we did – when swimming in the lake.
To reach Kayangan, your tour boat will dock at the boardwalk and you’ll walk to the entrance of the lake together. Once your guide pays for the entrance fees, you’re good to go! You’ll need to walk 367 steps before arriving at the lake, but only half of them are uphill. It was an easy and steady climb up and down, even while we were carrying our backpacks! Once we reached the massive pool, there were benches on both our right and left along a stretch of boardwalk to place our items before hopping in.
The water is a cool blue, and is so incredibly clear. There are small, pencil-like fish who hang around the shallower water by the steps, but not much more marine life that we could see. Your snorkel gear isn’t a must to wear here, but if you want to see for yourself how clear the water is, by all means wear your mask! You might be able to spot the rocks at the bottom of the lake that read “I ‘heart’ U Coron” and even more as you venture away from the edge.
We continued to admire our surroundings with the beautiful rock formations all around and the calm, clean water we floated on before heading back up the stairs to the beautiful point at the highest point along the trek.
Named after the large fish, you might be able to spot a resident barracuda lurking in the deep blue waters of Barracuda Lake if you’re really lucky – or not so lucky, depending on how you see it! Don’t worry, barracudas are vegetarian in case you cross paths with them. The lake is comprised of 70% freshwater just like Kayangan and is one of the most unique places to scuba dive due to its incredible thermocline at 14m deep. From a comfortable 28C temperature of freshwater, divers can descend into a shocking 38C where the seawater resides before reaching the cooler layer near the lake floor.
From the lake’s surface, we could see the divers quite clearly making their way down the 40m depth as the water was so clear. As swimmers, we had to wear or keep a hold of our life jacket, but one of our guide’s kept watch as I took a few shallow dives in the blue waters for a short period.
To reach Barracuda Lake, your boat might have to anchor in the open water of shallow cove as there is little real estate along the cove’s shore to dock everyone. We hopped down the ladder of our boat and swam easily to the shore to get onto the boardwalk, and once there, we had to climb a narrow staircase for about 30-some steps up and 30-some steps down to arrive at the gorgeous lake. We jumped in, chilled and swam, and marvelled at the incredibly stark limestone walls that plunged deep into the water-filled crater before hopping out of the calm lake.
Twin Peaks Coral Garden
Our first snorkelling experience in the Philippines was at the shallow reef located offshore from Coron Island. The reef is named Twin Peaks due to the the large islets that jut out of the water adjacent to the reef. It’s a stunning backdrop, but what is most vibrant is what you’ll find under water. The coral reef certainly lived up to its name as it appeared like a colourful garden of the sea. Vibrant and various types of corals populated the floor, and the edges of the reef were stunning spots you could dive deeper to capture.
It certainly didn’t host a large abundance in marine life when we visited, but there were a number of schools of small fish that would swim near the surface, especially around the boat. In spite of the lack of fauna, it felt like we ventured through an undersea botanical garden in the middle of the ocean.
After all of that swimming and hiking, our whole group was feeling famished. This next destination was where we felt the most relaxed, especially after eating to our heart’s content. Two chefs are designated for each shared tour boat to cook up the feast for your group. I don’t know how they do it, but they somehow manage to whip up the entire meal for almost 20 of us in the back of the little bangka boat. Then the boat attendants bring everything out from the boat to land and display the dishes out for us to self-serve.
Beach 91 has these large sheltered cottages on stilts for our groups to eat and rest in while we look out to the gorgeous water. The buffet-style meal included much variety, including chicken adobo, shrimp, a large tuna fish, stir-fry noodles, fresh or pickled cucumber slices, fresh fruit slices (usually watermelon, pineapple and/or papaya) and of course plain rice – which the locals like to call “Filipino power”. It’s often the same choices for each tour group, but sometimes you’ll also have the choice of pork belly, salad, and sometimes other kinds of seafood. Pop or water bottles are provided with your lunch complimentary, but if you’re craving a fresh coconut to drink and snack on, you can purchase one from a beachside vendor!
After our meal, we were pretty stuffed so we waded in the beautiful water and walked along the white sand beach until we left. Our new friends Nik & Priya took out their rented kayak to venture the surrounding areas, including just around the corner on the north to an unnamed cove. We only found out for ourselves just how beautiful the area was once we popped up our drone to capture it for us!
The clarity of the water at Beach 91 and its neighbouring beaches could honestly rival with that of the Maldives. It’s a small area that you can wade and swim in, but the crowd of us tourists was sparse so we could still enjoy our time to its fullest in the water here!
Balinsasayaw Coral Reef
Next up was our second snorkelling journey in a reef just off the shore of the Balinsasayaw Resort. If you take a look at Google Maps in satellite view, you can see the shallow reef stretch out into the Sulu Sea to a circular tip with a sinkhole in the middle. That long stretch is where we snorkelled!
It wasn’t a spectacular experience here as the waves were choppy and the water less clear than at the coral garden, but we did manage to spot some massive clams and clownfish hiding in the sea anemone with the help of our guides. Be on the lookout for them and take some deeper dives to get a closer look if you feel comfortable!
Situated on a tiny, isolated island with somewhat white sand and calm, shallow waters to dip in, CYC Beach is highly popular among locals and tourists alike. It’s covered with trees and various lush vegetation, with some small trees and shrubs actually taking root and protruding out of the shallow waters along the shore.
With many visitors coming here on their tours, there are a number of vendors on kayaks selling various snacks and drinks (beers and sodas alike), so if you’re craving a snack or a refreshing beverage, you’ll have a chance to do so here.
In our opinion, there are much better beaches near Coron that are much more worth a visit. Your tour guide might even suggest skipping it altogether to allocate more time at the other destinations. Make sure to also check out our Island Escapade Tour from Coron for the most beautiful, secluded beaches! Now those ones will make you want to never leave.
Hands down, our last stop was our favourite on the entire tour. Twin Lagoon is completely hidden away within the walls and islets of northern Coron Island’s shore. As your group’s bangka boat makes it way there and the water becomes extremely calm, protected from the winds and current of the sea, you’d never imagine what was waiting for you around the bend.
All of the tour boats arrive and anchor in the lagoon on the west side, and you have the choice of either swimming or kayaking to reach the other half of Twin Lagoon. If you swim like we did, you’ll walk down your boat’s ladder into the water and swim your way to the narrow stairway that you’ll see built into the notch between the two steep limestone rock towers. If the tide is low, you can choose to swim underneath the rock to reach the other side. If the tide is high or you don’t feel comfortable submerging yourself in the water, take the stairs. Either way is fun and rapid to enter the incredibly peaceful and serene lagoon that I’ve ever been in.
If you’re kayaking in Twin Lagoon, you’ll have to circle clockwise around the islets in order to reach the lagoon on the eastern end. It looks incredible to journey through this slice of paradise on your own accord and with few people in sight. Upon returning back to to the boat, your group will come pick you up on the western side of the boardwalk so you don’t have to come back all the way around.
But whether your swimming or paddling, you’ll find this place to be just unbelievable. The towering, jagged limestone cliffs completely envelop you in the quietest of hideaways, and even small voices could be heard echoing against the grey walls. It was just perfect for us as there were only a few other groups who visited Twin Lagoon at the same time as us, so we had all the space we wanted to float in the deep blue abyss.
Note that this conjoined lagoon is the deepest body of water you’ll swim in during your tour. Our tour guide Angelo liked to refer to it as the “donation area” because if you lose anything in the water and it falls to the bottom, none of the locals would be able to retrieve it for you, unfortunately! So keep a could hold of your belongings or you’ll have to say goodbye to them in Twin Lagoon!
How to Book Your Own Tour
The shared or “joiners” tour that we did was very easy to book. As it was our first main stop in the Philippines, we didn’t want to take the risk of waiting until we got to town in the evening prior to our preferred tour date to book our spots. So we took the safe route of booking through a third party tour company online, Travel Palawan for 1,990PHP per person. We wanted to use our credit card instead of using up our hard-to-come-by cash, but we could’ve honestly found cheaper on Klook or waited until we arrived at our accommodations.
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 could’ve paid as little as 1,700PHP per person for our shared tour had we waited or simply reached out to them before arriving had we known. They also accepted credit card as the tours we book through them would be tacked onto our final bill for our stay.
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, and you can choose to add on a kayak rental for the whole day for 1,300PHP for a regular kayak or 1,800PHP for a clear bottom, both providing a 2-person capacity. We didn’t think it was worth it as there were in reality only two spots to kayak in: Twin Lagoon and Beach 91. You can also choose to rent a kayak for a quarter of the price upon arriving to Twin Lagoon or Beach 91 if there are some available, but it’s not guaranteed. We chose to swim instead at each of the locations and still very much enjoyed being in the water. But if you’re keen to paddle, by all means, do so! Your guide will ask your group for who would like to rent a kayak prior to departing for the day.
In total, we spent 4,280PHP for the two of us, but could’ve paid a total of 3,700PHP had we booked through our hotel. All gear rentals – whether you need a snorkel & mask, a kayak, 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 Super Ultimate 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 are a huge necessity for this tour, especially when trying to get to Kayangan Lake or when swimming in the shallow waters to reach Barracuda Lake. Especially if you need to cross through other boats to reach the docks, it’s best to wear shoes instead of going around barefoot.
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 bring these items.
Here’s our list of what to pack for your Super Ultimate 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 is very 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. At some of the locations, if there is no room for your boat to dock at the boardwalk, your captain will maneuver the boat so that it connects to another one already docked and you’ll need to cross over to it and walk through its narrow space in order to reach land. There might be two boats in front of you that you’ll need to hop through. While efficient, it isn’t favourable, especially in poorer weather conditions.
If you currently have mobility issues, I would highly recommend talking with a tour operator directly about doing a private excursion. This way, you could go at hours of the day where the other visitors are few and you’ll have more guidance and assistance with swimming, hiking the stairs and boarding the boat.
That wraps up our very first and most favourite tour in Coron, Palawan! Exploring these majestic sites protected by the unique rock formations and the geography of the islands was something we simply could not miss on our trip to the Philippines. We hope you’ll have the same opportunity!