Island hopping in Busuanga

Ever since our holiday in Palawan in 2016 we’ve wanted to see more of the spectacular paradisal island surrounding Busuanga, or often referred to as Coron. The island of Busuanga lies between Mindoro and Palawan and is part of the Palawan province. The most popular town on the island is called Coron town and actually the island opposite of this town is called Coron. Do you still follow me? It’s complicated.

The only thing that makes Coron town popular as it is, is because here you can arrange any tour you want for a reasonable price. That must be the only attraction here, because after two days in this noisy, smelly and dusty town we were VERY eager to get away.

Fortunately there are other options. The island Busuanga is easy to explore by scooter and there are a few other towns that might not offer the same tours but are much more attractive when it comes to enjoying the island life.

Busuanga Airport

After a long flight from Amsterdam transferring in Hong Kong and arriving in Cebu we have already booked a continuing flight to Busuanga, because well… Cebu is not the city where you’d want to stay longer than a few hours. We had about 2 hours tranfertime in Cebu which we knew would be tricky after a long flight. And yes, after a short delay in Hong Kong we only júst catch our flight by running all the way from the plane to the gate at the other terminal. This is not that far, but still… quite an achievement with a backpack and a jetlag 😉

Busuanga airport is small but expanding as we speak to handle the many tourists arriving here every hour or so. There must be a hundred vans waiting outside so it doesn’t take long before we’ve found our transportation.

Quickly we get our first Philippine Pesos from the ATM, what?! Yaiks, we pay €210 for 10.000 Pesos… that is about €25 exchange fee! FAK!

The vans have a set price of P150 (€2,65) per person for half an hour ride and drops us off at our hotel in town.

Coron Town

When we arrive in Coron town from the airport of Busuanga we check into our hotel with a jetlag waiting to happen. We’ve traveled for 35 hours to get here from Amsterdam and although we feel quite fit at the moment we know what awaits us. Luckily it is around 15:00 when we arrive so by the time we crash it’s bedtime anyway.

We booked a room for two nights through Airbnb at R2R Bayview hotel, and it is actually quite nice. The hotel has a pool and a rooftop terrace with a great view over the bay, facing the west so within a few hours we enjoy a super duper sunset.

As said, Coron is quite noisy and dusty so after a 13 hour coma we rent a scooter for some slow and easy exploring of the nearby beaches.

We drive to the east of the island and pass some highlights like the pier to Siete Pescados, a place that is excellent for snorkeling and the Maquinit Hotsprings.

After this the roads get worse and worse, the driving is slow and I could say it’s becoming more and more an adventure. The gravel turns into a rocky pothole hell and although the scenery is magnificent, we have to turn back. We take a long break at Cabo beach and enjoy the peacefulness, until a few Philippino families come and turn our pristine paradise into a loud Karaoke festival. Our brain just isn’t able to handle the noise yet. Ugh jetlag… let’s go back.

Although we really wanted to go to Coron Island, opposite of the town, we’ve underestimated our jetlag. We don’t want to stay in this town much longer but if we move to another part of the island it will be more difficult to get to Coron Island. Choices choices.

So, we choose to go. At Angel Motorcycle in Coron town we rent a scooter for our remaining four days and pay a total of P2000.

Some nice bars and restaurants in Coron:

Island Brasserie, fantastic Veggie Curry!

Reggae bar, beers and snacks and live music.

Bluemoon Restobar, no culinaire highlight but a nice place to hang.

Kong Coffee, good coffee, nice pastries.

Levine’s Eatery, again no culi-greatness but a view to die for.

Concepcion town

Two hours by scooter to the west, you’ll find a small town called Concepcion. There are a few tiny guesthouses and three restaurants. We stay at Concepcion Divers Lodge which appears to have nothing to do with diving, unfortunately.

They are able to arrange a dive tour with a dive center in a resort nearby but the prices are double of what we would pay in Coron. Hmmm we’ll think about it.

The lodge has a fantastic garden and a not so fantastic beach. The water is shallow and grey and does not look inviting for swimming, but the view is amazing. We face the west so the sunsets are spectacular especially when millions of fruitbats rise up from the opposite island and swarm over our heads to descent on Busuanga to feed on the fruit here. It is impressive! The sky, while turning red is filled with huge bats. Never seen anything like it.

The lodge has a restaurant and some connected cabins with paper thin walls in between. There is only one bathroom to share between the six or seven cabins. There is no wifi and very limited internet so we spend our time reading in one of the hammocks facing the beach.

The lodges restaurant has a few meals on the menu and a dish of the day that always appears to be finished. The meals are quite pricey and so we decide to broaden our horizon and search for another place to eat. Lucky for us, next door is a tiny restaurant called Ann & Mikes and is immediately our new fav! Breakfast, lunch and dinner, all great!

Daytour by boat

Meanwhile we want to do an island boattour which they can arrange with their own vessel. The costs are P3000 for a private boat and some fees for the island of about P300 per person. There is a German couple who asks us if they can join and share. Fine!

Actually we would love to go to Black Island, which is supposed to be undiscovered and pristine. It’s a bit farther and so the price is somewhat higher, but who cares… now that we share with another couple it’s cheaper anyway!

Eventually we end up doing the boat tour with six people and pay P1000 per person. This does not include lunch, which we order at our lodge to take away.

Black Island

Our first destination is Black Island, after a one and a half hour boatride we arrive at a large and blinding white beach with a black limestone decor. Although there are a few other boats, there aren’t too many tourists around.

There are small bamboo huts that you can rent for the day for P150, so we split the costs between our group and pay P50 per person.

From the beach the water looks incredibly blue! We take our snorkel and go for it. The corals disappoint a bit, but this is supposed to be a fantastic dive spot and as we can see a deep slope down we believe this must be true! Too bad…

The island has some caves in one of which you can swim. The water is really cold so after ten minutes we’ve had enough. But it’s cool indeed! Lets jump back into the beautiful blue sea again…

After a few hours in this paradise we are ready to go the the next stop.

Debotunay Island

A half hour ride from Black Island we moor at the gorgeous beach of Debotunay Island. Absolutely amazing. A small island mostly surrounded by a white beach, some palmtrees and nice tropical vegetation. While our group walks to the left we explore the right side of the island an immediately find a colorful coral garden.

There are a few locals having a family picknick and some af the kids try to make a conversation. It’s always so much fun to talk to children. After a while they ask us if we are rich. Haha, no… we don’t even own our own boat. Ahh this is a satisfying answer. With our ‘borrowed’ GoPro we take some pictures of the Filipino kiddos and have fun with them under water. What a magnificent day this is!

We want to see a bit more of the island so we say goodbye and go for a walk. There are some tables on the grass that are free to use and there is plenty of shade under the trees.

On the other side of the island there is not much to see while snorkeling so the others in our group are not as charmed by this island as we are. We love it here! Glad we went right…

Ocam Ocam beach

Back at the lodge we have a few more days to fill. There is still so much more we would like to see of this beautiful island and we have a scooter of course so we go for a ride!

About an hour and a half from Concepcion there is Ocam Ocam beach. A supposedly idillic town with a nice vibe and a beautiful beach.

The road is good, paved until we get to New Busuanga town, after this we see a dirt road on our left with a lot of restaurant signs, this must be it. The road is not comfortable at all but when we arrive we see it is more than worth the effort.

The town consists of wooden and straw huts and is surrounded by green. As we follow a tiny path to the beach we see there are a few guesthouses and rental cabins. The mobile connection is zero and the vibe is equally easygoing. We spend the day at the beach and chill in a bamboo cabana. The food is cheap and the locals are incredibly welcoming.

From here you can do a day trip to Black Island as well, it’s probably cheaper as Black Island is just around the corner from here. Ah well…

Concepcion Falls

Close to the lodge there is a nice natural spring, we take the scooter and drive about two kilometers. We leave our scooter at the entrance and walk about ten minutes until we find some steps down to the oasis in the midst of nature. It looks lovely and there are only a few local boys there. We pay a voluntary fee to the supervisor and drop our stuff on one of the benches before we take a jump into the icy cold mountain water. OOOMPHHH… very refreshing.

Close to Concepcion Falls there is a restaurant called Bella Louise. It has a nice view over the bay and the most delicious tunasteak I’ve ever had.

Unfortunately our week in Busuanga is finished. We haven’t seen as much of the surrounding islands and the underwater world as we planned, but the more we’ve gotten to see of Busuanga and that was far from disappointing. We are eager to come  back to see more of the surrounding islands but for now, we’ve had a fantastic time!

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