10 Reasons Why Coron is such a Charming Destination

For the annual trip with friends, we chose Coron as our destination. Coron is part of Palawan, Philippines. Previous destinations of my trip with friends were Naga, Sagada, Ilocos and Cagayan Valley.  For this June trip, we started booking for Coron last November.  We had time to prepare and gather friends to join us. The wait was long but it was all worth it.

My words may not be enough to describe the beauty of the place. You have to visit Coron and bring friends along.  Let me try to convince you to take a trip there.  Here are 10 reasons why Coron has charmed its way to my heart:

1. The sunset is glorious.

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I know that there are many glorious sunsets in the country.  I have seen many but this is the first time I experienced the sunset from the top of the mountain. We climbed the 700 steps of Mt. Tapyas.

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It was an easy climb so you do not have to worry about not being a mountain climber.

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2. Coron Town is very accessible. Our hotel was a few blocks away from the port so we mostly travel on foot.

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3.  The boat ride was an experience itself. We had a double decker boat equipped with toilet and kitchen.

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From the second deck, it was possible for me to take this photo of my friends.

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My favorite part of the boat is the netted outrigger.

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Photo by Bong Flores.

4. I love snorkeling.  I learned how to snorkel in Apulit, Palawan in 2012.  The corals there were amazing. Coron is known to have same beautiful corals and colorful marine species. This is why me and my friend, Gail, were the first few off the boat to snorkel. This photo is proof that we would rather snorkel than pose for a photo. On the top right, you can see me too busy to be bothered by a camera. Hehehe!

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Photo by Bryan Edulzura.

Coron corals broke my heart.  Although we saw healthy and colorful ones, many were in a sad state. Coron was hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013 and we witnessed the damage it had on the marine life while snorkeling.

5. We enjoyed rafting at Kayangan Lake.

This area in Kayangan Lake is the what we often see in postcards. I think this is the most popular spot in Coron.

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The actual lake is this.

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We stayed on the raft for a looong time. We laid on our back. We laid on our stomach and bent over with our goggles to view the world underneath.  Our time in the lake was one of my favorite activities in Coron. Kayangan Lake is known to be the cleanest lake in the country.

Photo by Bong Flores

Photo by Bong Flores

6. Hidden Lagoon is a quiet sanctuary. We visited the site before lunch. We were already hungry but when the boatman approached the area, I momentarily forgot about lunch and posed for photos.

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Me and my friend, Gail.

I took this diving photo of my cousin. Look at the clear water!

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7. Barracuda Lake is serene yet eerie underneath.  I swam (with lifevest, hehehe) in the middle of the lake and put on the goggles to see what is underneath. I saw nothing.  Just deep blue water.  I swam to the sides and did the same, I saw jagged rock walls underneath similar to walls in this photo. It looked like there is another kingdom underneath.  It was in this lake where we saw some people being taught how to scuba dive.  Must be that deep.

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8. Swimming time at Banol Beach was fun. The sand was soft on the feet.  Water is clear. What is not to love about this beach? The beach was not really part of the package we chose but when my cousin saw a photo of Banol beach in the wall of Coron Village Lodge, he asked to include it to the itinerary. We just have to pay the entrance fee.  We enjoyed our time here. Swimming here was the best way to end our Coron tour.

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We really enjoyed the beach!

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Photo by Bryan Edulzura.

9.   We never stopped laughing. Well… unless, we were eating or sleeping.  My friends are cool people who can take a lot of our ribbing. We had bullies who never stopped teasing their targets but all is well. Look at four of my friends who wore shirts of the same color as the tour guides on two different days.

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10.  I have wonderful friends. The most number of friends I have traveled with before was 8.  In this trip, we were a group of 14 – a mix of new and long-time friends.  We all had a great time. No one had tantrums. No petty quarrels. No little arguments. No heavy discussions. All were game. Each had fun. Even the quiet ones had fun. No one was left out. We had so much fun in this trip that we are all looking forward to the next trip together.  Say hello to my wonderful friends.

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Photo by Bong Flores

I know that the 9th and 10th reasons had nothing to do with Coron but with the people I was with. Thus, I recommend traveling with friends. You will get to know your friends better when you travel with them.

Consider Coron for your next vacation destination.

For our Coron trip: We flew via Cebu Pacific. (Cebu Pacific has multiple flights to Busuanga from Manila every day. Philippine Airlines also flies to Coron.) We book our tours through Coron Galeri. We stayed at Coron Village Lodge.

Why an El Nido Resorts Vacation is Worth the Price (and some ways to get it cheaper)

There are four island resorts under the umbrella of El Nido Resorts: Lagen, Miniloc, Apulit and the newly-opened ultra-luxurious resort in Pangulasian.  Three of the resorts are in El Nido while Apulit Island Resort where I went is in Taytay, Palawan.

If you look at the best available rates in their website, a room for two per night ranges from P14,500 to as much as P26,500  (when you stay in Lagen). It is pretty expensive. But let us break down the costs to understand the value of a P14,500/day accommodation. I hope you understand this one. This is my attempt at creating an infographic.

You really get value for money because you can join one island hopping tour in the morning and another one in the afternoon.  If you’ve read my entire El Nido Resorts experience, the impeccable service and the warm reception we got inspired me to work harder to be able to afford another trip there.

A 4D/3N stay in the resort will cost 7,575 x 3= P22,725 per person. If you have traveled abroad, this budget is way cheaper. If you can justify an expensive international trip, why not spend the same amount in your own country? Moreover, the P22,725 is way cheaper than a 4D/3N night stay at a 5-star hotel in Metro Manila.  Get some fresh air, visit the province  and experience this 5-star service.

Here are my suggestions in getting discounts for you El Nido Resorts vacation:

1. Like their Facebook page.  I got the vacation because I won their Facebook contest.  You will also get updates on their different promos.

2.  Avail of their promo rates. El Nido Resorts often joins travel fairs and offers packages at a discounted rate.

3. Look out for airline promos. Direct flights to El Nido is expensive and are not part of the resort rates.  Try flying to Puerto Princesa and take a bus/van to El Nido or Taytay.

4. Book with Agoda. Agoda has a rewards program where you earn points whenever you book with them. The points have monetary values which you can redeem in your next booking.

Whether you stay in El Nido Resorts or not, you must visit Palawan at least once in your life.  Palawan is a proof that the Philippines is indeed a beautiful country. I saw this video and I am inspired to explore this country more.

 

P.S. El Nido Resorts did not ask me to write the series of blog posts about them. I enjoyed my experience in their resort that I felt the need to share the experience in this blog.

Where to Stay in Puerto Princesa

The Palawan trip  required me to find accommodations in Puerto Princesa: one night before we proceed to Taytay and another night after leaving Taytay.  My trusted site when it comes to online hotel booking is Agoda. I booked with them early this year with our Malacca trip and the process went smoothly.

What I like about Agoda is that I can arrange my search according to hotel ratings based on user reviews.  Casitas de Az is one of the hotels that often showed up in my search. It is actually a pension house and judging from the photos, the place looks new. I especially like the white linens. I like white hotel linens because it makes the room look clean. Besides one can easily determine if the sheet is clean or not when it is white. What seals the deal for  Casitas de Az is their free airport shuttle. It eliminates the hassle of having to haggle with a taxi, tricycle or jeepney drivers.  Two weeks before the trip, I already booked this accommodation.

When we arrived Puerto Princesa, I was expecting someone carrying name will be waiting for us.

Alas! No one came. The tourist assistance desk came to the rescue and paged the driver for us.  Still, no one came.  I looked for a phone and it was suggested that I should ask assistance from  the tourist assistance center. The person manning the area was kind enough to dial the pension house for me. It took several tries before the call went through.  Thanks to the assistance of Puerto Princesa tourist desk, we finally arrived at our home for that night. I guess you need to call them the day before as a reminder. I thought the flight number I typed in the my booking was enough.

The room is pretty basic but it had everything we need: air-conditioning and a bathroom.

The bathroom door squeaks though but it was not a bother.  The room comes with free breakfast for two. Because we were leaving early the next day, we arranged that our breakfast be served early at around 5:30 AM. When we woke up the next day, breakfast was already waiting for us outside. (The late airport pickup was forgiven. hehe!)

The pension house is located in a residential area. When we first arrived, I remembered passing by ABS-CBN station.  When we went home that night from Robinson’s, we told the driver that we were going back to Casitas de Az and mentioned the street name. The driver asked if it was the one near the cemetery. Huh? I did not see any cemetery so I quickly replied that it was near ABS-CBN.  The following day, when we were picked by our tricycle driver, we saw a wide open area near the pension house.  The entrance caught our attention because there was some kind of sculpture. Tantananan! It was a cemetery! My aunt exclaimed that had she known that the night before, she would not have slept well.

Would I recommend the pension house to others? Yes.  It is clean and very accessible.

I was supposed to book another night in Casitas de Az since we need a place to stay after our trip to Taytay but the rooms I wanted were already booked so I looked for another hotel.  I picked the cheapest accommodation I can find that is near the airport. Palawan Village Hotel came up in my search results. I already read the reviews so I knew the place is quite old but as long as it is clean, I will be fine.

This is how the standard room looks like.

The bathroom is clean but the tiles are old and I can hear the sound from the neighbor’s television.

That locked door is scary. It connects to the executive room beside our room. We made sure it is locked and bolted. 😀

The actual door is really a sliding french door attached to this window covered with this pink curtain shown by my aunt.

All rooms open to this garden.

Would I recommend the place to friends? Yes,  especially those who want just a clean place to sleep.

For those who might not like these accommodations, there are a lot more hotels in Palawan. Just go out and travel!

The Palawan Diary

We went to Palawan primarily to enjoy my El Nido Resorts prize. The prize has a 6-month validity and I chose October because I already have plans for November while December and January are monsoon months in Northern Mindanao.  The prize did not included airfare so I was on the lookout for promo fare.  The ITI flight from Manila to Taytay was out of the question. The alternative was fly to Puerto Princesa.

I took the Butuan-Cebu-Puerto Princesa route:

We arrived at Puerto Princesa around 12 noon and we were able to settle to our home for the night at around 1pm. One can go around Puerto Princesa by hailing a tricycle. We hopped to the nearest Jollibee but changed our minds and went to Chowking across the street. We missed Chowking because the branch in Butuan closed down.

We had orange chicken lauriat and chinese sausage chow pao.

We had an afternoon to spare because we were scheduled to go to Taytay town the following day. I have done a little research so I already know that tourists can hire a tricycle for a day tour around Puerto Princesa  for  P600 per tricycle.  We did not arrange this tour beforehand so we just went by gut feel. A tricycle passed by and the driver sounded nice so we decided to hire him. We learned that tricycle drivers in Palawan are also trained as tour guides. They know where to bring tourists for day tours. Our tricycle driver was Reygen. (You may call him at 0999-5667658) He brought us to the Crocodile Farm, Mitra’s Ranch, Baker’s Hill, Butterfly Garden, Binuhatan crafts and Immaculate Conception Church.  In transit, he would share anecdotes and information about our destination.

These are the photos from our half-day city tour.


We asked that we be dropped at Robinson’s for our dinner. Reygen offered to wait for us so he could bring us to back to the pension house. We declined even if it was part of the tour fee so he could go home. It was a long afternoon for us. We like Reygen. He is a nice young man so we decided to hire him to fetch us from our pension house and bring us to San Jose Terminal for our van to Taytay early in the morning the next day.

I have already reserved van seats with Lexus transport. We took the 7am van ride from Puerto Princesa to Taytay.

At the agreed time, Reygen was already waiting for us outside our pension house. Four hours later, we reached Taytay.

Taytay has this hollywood-ish sign.

Taytay is a port town where Apulit guests are fetched. Several other boats were docked at the port.

Its main attraction is Fuerza de Sta. Isabel, a fort, which we were able to visit after spending 4 nights and 3 day in Apulit Island.

After roaming around this area, we were ready to go back to Puerto Princesa. We made reservations through Lexus. We also called Reygen to fetch us up in the terminal when we arrive. He was already waiting for when we arrived at the terminal.

I love Palawan. I will be back for Honda bay, the fireflies, Iwahig, the underground river, Coron, Calauit and El Nido.  I don’t know when. I hope soon. 😀

10/23/2012: My friend reminded me about San Vicente, Palawan.  How can I forget?

Source: google.com via kat on Pinterest

10 Things I Love About the Buffet Meals at Apulit Island Resort

My friends on Facebook are often bombarded with my food photos. It is a good thing they have not blocked me yet. Haha! No, I do not have Instagram. (Do I hear cheers?) I have not yet littered spammed graced the world with food photos. Well, not until now. This post is all about the food we ate at El Nido Resorts’ Apulit Island Resort.

Apulit Island Resorts’ rate include buffet meals. I got a 4 days- 3 nights prize so I counted 9 buffet meals. (This is how I applied my math degree. Pretty handy, eh? hehe! 🙂 ) We were scheduled to be fetched at the Taytay port at 2pm. So, we ate lunch at this nice restaurant near the port. This is also where we were asked to wait for the boat when I called the resort two days prior to our arrival.

We had squid for lunch, by the way. For its P50 price, our tummy was filled.  Plus, we ordered crab and corn soup which I forgot to take a photo.

In the middle of our lunch, Aris, our guide for that trip already approached us.  Their boat was already docked hours before because they brought some guests back to Taytay earlier. Remember that I counted 9 buffet meals? We arrived in the resort at around 1pm and the buffet lunch was still served. I figured we were not entitled to this lunch. However, one staff cheerfully invited us to lunch.  We told him we had lunch already. He further convinced us, “There are desserts.  Besides, lunch is free.”  We gladly welcomed the idea.  This was my simple lunch plate.

Instead of documenting every plate we had, I will only show my favorite dishes.  Again, if we put to good use my math degree and count plates, we will get: 2 people x 9 meals x 3 plates per meal (at least) + 2 plate for that extra lunch=56 photos! And I did not even count the number of  angles I shot. Ha!

I’d be lying if I say that all the food in Apulit is delicious. There were some dishes that I did not like. Eggplant lasagna for one because I do not like eggplant. hehe! The pasta dishes are not “filipinized” (meaning, not a lot of meat, sauce and cheese) so they did not tickle my “uncultured” palate.  😉

Here are the ten things I love about the buffet meals in El Nido Resorts’ Apulit Island Resort:

1. The salad bar.

I do not eat vegetables a lot but I like lettuce, cucumber and carrots in salads so I ate those with every meal in the island. I switched between two dressings: thousand island and calamansi.  I topped the salad with lots of parmesan cheese. 😀

There were prepared salads. They offered different choices every meal.

My aunt even noticed that she had better bowel movement digestion process while on vacation.

2. Bread station. A toaster was placed beside the different breads so we had the option to heat our bread.

During breakfast, there were 4 types of marmalade to choose from.

I only tried the mango marmalade. Where was my adventurous spirit? My friend pointed that out when she viewed my photos on Facebook.  I must remember that next time. I guess I feared not leaving with empty plates. I got used to Filipino “eat-all-you-can” places where you get fined when you have unfinished food.  😀

We have not tried all the different breads though.  We wanted to leave space for the main course. 😀

3. Breakfast is love. I love their breakfast because it was where I got to eat my favorite dishes: tocino, bacon, pancakes, spanish sardines, salted egg, longganisa.  Yumyum.

There were cereals, too! I mixed cornflakes, muesli, banana clusters and dried mango in this one. <3

4. Dessert station. Guests from other countries trooped to the fruit selections: watermelon, mango, pineapple, papaya and melon. I am proud of our Philippine mango. I don’t know how many times the resort replenished their mango platter. Mangoes are crowd pleasers.  I also saw guests enjoying the self-service halo-halo station. I chose only ube and nata de coco (I don’t like beans) for my halo-halo and topped it with mango.  I  took a slice from mango plate and scooped out the flesh. 😀

There were other desserts like cakes, cookies and tarts which I gladly tried. They were not as memorable as the desserts I tried in other bakeshops in the country but they were enough to add sweetness to my meals.

5. The grill station. We got grilled sausages, pork, fish, beef and shrimps. We just pointed what meat we want and asked the cook to grill for us. We did not even have to wait for it to be grilled. We went to our table and the waiter brought the dish to us.

6. The open space.  I love that restaurant area is large and allows guests a panoramic view of the place.  It also showcases ingenious Filipino architecture: straw roofing and ample ventilation.

It is clear that I focused on eating and food photos because I have no photo of what the restaurant area looks like.  Anyway, it is built like their bar and game area.

7. The view from the restaurant area is spectacular. We often sit where there is no distraction from seeing the beautiful landscape.  It is pretty when the sun is up and even when it is raining.

8. The staff is wonderful. I already wrote in the previous post that our water goblets are refilled before we even realize we need them refilled.  The moment we set foot on the restaurant we were ushered to our favorite seats without us telling them. They pulled our chair and help us carry our plates (yes, plural).  They removed our plate once we are done leaving no proof of our bottomless appetite. 😀

Look! No proof that we have eaten… a lot!

9. Chit-chatting. We paced our food intake. We spent around an hour eating our meals. In between bites we talk about how beautiful the island is and how exciting the different activities for the day.

10. Entertainment. During our last dinner in the resort, we were lucky to be entertained by talented Apulit staff. Music was a mix of popular OPM music and mainstream American music.

Sorry for my blurry photos:

We really enjoyed Apulit’s buffet meals.

Please don’t judge me by what I ate. HA!