4 days in wreck wonderland

4 days in wreck wonderland

Explore sunken ships—the ugly beautiful allure of Coron, Palawan.

Coron, Palawan, the wreck diving capital of the Philippines, is known for its 13 World War II Japanese shipwrecks all lying within depth enough for them to be explorable by underwater addicts—the divers— from the Teru Kaze at a minimum depth of 4m, to the Irako with a maximum depth of 42m.

These wrecks offer great views from the outside and excellent routes on the inside for experienced divers and those with the right certification levels. Most of Coron’s dive operators in town, including our own Reggae Dive Center, typically offers three daily dives.

If you only have a few days in town, try this itinerary.

Day 1

Swimming in Barracuda Lake.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Start your diving holiday with some shallower check out dive in Barracuda Lake, known for its thermoclines and temperatures reaching 39 degrees Celcius—a perfect warm-up for a stunning dive on the Morazan Maru, which offers great diving both for experienced and entry-level divers.

Morazan Maru was originally built in 1905 in England but was sunk in September 1944 along with the other wrecks. She has since turned into a home of an abundance of species like lionfish and giant trevallies—and sometimes even turtles.

The beginner-friendly (and eerie) Teru Kaze.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Cap off your day with a shallow dive at Teru Kaze located a stone’s throw away from the Morazan Maru, for some reef and wreck diving. This wreck is good for snorkeling as the shallowest part is only 4m below the surface. On most days, Teru Kaze will offer good views from below as well as from above the surface.

You’ll be back in Coron later in the afternoon with ample time to climb Mount Tapyas for a view of beautiful sunsets and of Coron Island. Enjoy a refreshing fruit shake or a cold beer at the newly opened Tapas Lounge before you continue further down the hill and out into town.

End your day by stopping at Coron’s many bars and restaurants. You can have the bistek and menudo at Lolo Nonoy’s or vegan pesto pasta and veggie sticks at Le Voyage. For something off-track, walk off the main street and venture into Coron’s side streets with its eateries and restaurants catering to all tastes.

Day 2

Experienced and certified divers can upgrade their depth limits with dives to the Akitsushima.

The Akatsushima.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

This wreck’s location between 23 and 35 meters under the sea makes it not suitable for entry level divers but it remains to be one of the most popular dives in the area as it’s the only wreck left with its guns mostly intact. The guns are dislodged from the gun turrets and are currently standing upright on the seabed next to the wreck, with three barrels raised toward to surface.

It’s a just-barely-doable for entry-level divers: the Okikawa Maru.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

After spending some time on the surface, have your second dive at the Okikawa Maru, an oil tanker that holds the distinction as Coron’s longest and widest shipwreck at 160 meters in length and a 20-meter span across the beam. Her shallower part lies above the depth limit for entry level divers.

This wreck is located in a passage that from time to time creates strong currents. Due to the relatively shallow depth and the current, the Okikawa Maru teems with marine life—groupers, snappers, crocodile fish, triggerfish, and more. Those with keen eyes will find this wreck good for macro diving.

Cap your day’s dive series at Lusong Gunboat, one of the last unidentified wrecks in Coron. The Gunboat took direct hits and had its wreckage spread over a wide area, though the hull is generally intact. As with the Teru Kaze, this gunboat was also sunk in very shallow water—so shallow in fact that this wreck pokes out of the water at low tide.

The Lusong Gunboat is perfect for all levels of divers—from those getting into scuba diving, experienced divers who want to chill a bit after some great dives, and macro enthusiasts.

End your day with a dip at Maquinit Hot Springs with its natural saltwater springs, or a full Italian meal at Altrove.

Day 3

This day will be your last diving day in Coron since divers are advised not to fly within 18 hours of going underwater. Finish off in style at the Irako, Coron’s deepest and darkest shipwreck.

The beauty of the Irako outweighs the risks for experienced divers.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Irako was a refrigerator ship in the Japanese Navy. She has tight compartments and storage rooms, and her starting depth of 30 meters means only the most experienced of divers dare to take her on. Currents can change in a heartbeat and visibility ranges from a few meters on a bad day to magnificent ideal months. Her upright position with masts still poised makes it easy to see why she has become part of many divers coming to Coron’s bucket lists.

The eerie compartments of the Kogyo Maru makes for one daring dive.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Another deep dive is on the cards for your last dive day: the Kogyo Maru, an auxiliary construction supply ship, which went down with her load. One can still see the toppled construction machines in her cargo holds, with belt tracks and hundreds upon hundreds of bags of cement. Like the Morazan Maru, this wreck is widely covered in corals and marine life, from schools of seabreams to circling big-eye trevallies, to huge numbers of scads and fusiliers.

Make a final dive in one of Coron’s reefs or one of the shallower wrecks to make this trip one for the books.

Head back town for some tasty ramen and a cold beverage at Buzz. You can also visit Tita Esh for a more low-key vibe and some filling pansit canton or a heart-warming bowl of mami.

Day 4

It’s island hopping day! Make sure not to leave Coron without taking a trip to Coron Island. Rent a private boat with a tour guide or book a tour through an operator.

Kayangan Lake, but not from the usual viewpoint. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Coron Island offers a lot of white sand beaches and clear waters, with lunch that’s served in one of the small huts they have set up for the same purpose on the beaches. Do not miss out on Kayangan Lake or Twin Lagoon; go snorkeling in Siete Pecados or Twin Peaks.

A stand-up (or in this case, sit-down) paddle boat is a good way of exploring Coron’s neighboring islands. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Rent a kayak or a standup paddleboard in town if you’re feeling edgy before leaving and explore the island as you paddle along. This is a great opportunity to experience the beauty of the island in a very eco-friendly way.

Relax and enjoy the evening with a good view and a cold gin and tonic from either the View Deck or Suites 4:13 before heading out for dinner and summoning a good night sleep.

Who is Lisbeth Jensen?
Lisbeth is an instructor at Reggae Dive Center in Coron for over four years now. She is passionate about the environment and has used her work to participate in conservation efforts in Busuanga.

The Basics
Get there. Skyjet Airlines flies from Manila to Coron three times daily. Flyskyjetair.com

Dive tours. Reggae Dive Center offers fun dives to Coron’s many shipwrecks as well as PADI dive courses.
Mobile: +63928 835 5657, +63906 316 1454
Reggaedivecenter.com

Head to Freediving Coron if you want to enjoy these same dive spots without the need for heavy scuba gear.
Mobile: + 63915 172 6809
Freediving-coron.com

Words: Lisbeth Jensen; Photos: Catalin Craciun & Daniel Soriano
Featured photo by Catalin Craciun

Tiki cocktails ‘til dawn at Coco Bar in Coron

Tiki cocktails ‘til dawn at Coco Bar in Coron

Heads up, dudes and dudettes! There’s a new tiki bar in Coron, and it promises a vibe as chill as the cocktails they serve.

Yes, there are bars in Coron that stay open well into the night, but they’re what we would call “classic” bars: good bar chow, beers, and a couple of drinks here and there. While these places are great, it’s hard to find a place in town that serves cocktails you’d normally find in tiki bars (they’re normally on the islands well outside of Coron)… that is, until you come across Coco Bar along Calle Real in downtown Coron.

Welcome to Coco Bar, your tiki bar hangout in Coron. Photo from Coco Bar PH

Walk through the doors of Coco Bar and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped away from town and onto an island. You’re welcomed with a combination of thin bamboo, thatch, and wood, with small tables and high chairs that encourage standing more than sitting. They want you to socialize and move about the restaurant, hence the set-up.

It’s like seeing a nipa hut with spirits galore. Photo from Coco Bar PH

The cabinet-behind-the-bar is similar to something you’d see in Manila’s bars, lined with the many spirits they can use to either make your night more interesting or put you out of commission for the rest of the night.

Eat

A good way to start (or sustain) your night at Coco Bar: Wings & Mojos. Photo from Coco Bar PH
Or you can engulf this: a Coco Burger. Photo from Coco Bar PH

As with most Coron bars and restos, they give you their best interpretation of what goes well with their drink menu. The stands outs? the Coco Burger and the Loco Moco. These use the same homemade pure beef patty that’s sure to satisfy any burger lover’s palate, whether it’s in a bun or on top of rice.

It’s a staple in Hawaii, but not so in the Philippines: a Spam Musubi. Photo from Coco Bar PH

In the hunt for something interesting? Try their Spam Musubi, a sushi-style treat from Hawaii that combines the ever-reliable Spam with Japanese rice and nori.

Drink

Tiki bars are known for chill drinks that reflect the very essence of island living: laid back with a sense of community. This is where Coco Bar shines, thanks to its lineup of tiki cocktails.

The Adonis. Photo from Coco Bar PH
Palawan Sling. Photo from Coco Bar PH
Malajon Martini. Photo from Coco Bar PH

A couple of their best picks (as of now) include the Adonis, the Palawan Sling, and what might possibly be an island exclusive: the Malajon Martini.

The Basics
About Php520 (USD10) per person; tiki cocktails start at Php220
FB: Coco Bar PH, IG: @cocobarcoron

Dashing Spot: Pass Island, Coron

Dashing Spot: Pass Island, Coron

In Coron, Palawan lies this tiny island with a beach that will stun its visitors, whether they’re staying for the night or only stopping by. We highly recommend it if you’re after Coron’s unique beauty but want total detachment.

Crystal clear waters, stunning surroundings of Pass Island

If you could choose to get washed up on the shores of an island after venturing headlong into a storm, where would you like to end up in? We won’t want that in general but with enough food and water supply, Pass Island, a tiny island hours away from Busuanga Airport, in the middle of Coron, is not a bad place to be stuck in for a while.

It’s an interesting name for a three-hectare island that’s often thought of as nothing more than a lunch stop for island hopping tours. The name comes from the island being the only island that you’re 100% guaranteed to pass through on your way to distant towns like El Nido and Culion. The best parts of Pass Island are its crystal-clear waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling and a beach with sand that’s so powdery white you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s Boracay. It also has unimpeded views of the sunrise and sunset along with so many places for selfies (get the hammocks!) that you’re bound to run out of storage space on your phone or SD card.

Get there

  • Board a Skyjet Airlines flight to Coron from Manila, which takes about 35 minutes.
  • Once in Coron, take a ride to the Coron Port, roughly 45 minutes to an hour from the airport.
  • Get on a boat to Pass Island for around Php6,000 (you’ll have to rent the whole boat) . You can also book a Reefs and Wrecks tour in town for anywhere between Php1,400-Php2,000 per person. Entry to the island for the day is at Php200 per person.

Stay

Pass Island offers beach huts at Php1,000 per person per night. You can also bring your tent or sleeping bag for Php500, while renting one of their own tents is at Php750. Pass Island Palawan. 

Words and photo: Andrew Del Rosario

10 affordable & charming resorts for couples

10 affordable & charming resorts for couples

Some of our favorite holidaymakers Levy Amosin, Carla Araniego, Christian Sangoyo, Celine Murillo, and Darwin Cayetano, pick the most gorgeous resorts they’ve been to that don’t break the bank and are perfect for you and your love.

Urban Sands Resort, Iloilo

Mixing modern urban sophistication and beachside ambience, the Urban Sands Resort at the heart of iloilo brings the sea closer to the city. Levy Amosin of Hugging Horizons describes it as “a paradise within the heart of the city.” Using real sand and pebbles in the landscaping, the focal point is the pool, which, according to Levy, brings a “coastal feel to it.”

From Php3,250 (USD60++); Urbansandsiloilo.com

Loboc River Resort, Bohol

Imagine staying in this room with a view of the Loboc River. Photo by Christian Sangoyo

Away from the usual island resorts in Bohol, Carla Araniego of Blissfulguro recommends the Loboc River Resort in Tagbilaran as an alternative place to stay while in the land of the Chocolate Hills. situated right beside the Loboc River, their cottages replicate the feel of traditional nipa houses. “Having coffee on the balcony with a view of Loboc River was the most memorable part of my stay. Away from the beach crowd of Bohol, its seclusion is perfect for those who are looking for tranquility amid the busy goings-on of city life.”

From Php2,500; Lobocriverresort.com

Casa San Miguel, Zambales

A hidden gem in the town of San Antonio in Zambales, Casa San Miguel is a rustic retreat intertwined with art and culture. Besides hosting guests, the casa is actually a local school for music. Carla recalls her stay, “waking up to the charming voices of kids having their weekly voice and violin lessons truly separate this resort from the rest.”

From Php4,000; Facebook.com/casa.sanmiguel.zambales

Crosswinds Resort Suites, Tagaytay

It’s not really a stay in chilly Tagaytay without the sight of pine trees and beautifully-colored houses. Photo by Christian Sangoyo

The Crosswinds Resort combines the feel of charming swiss-inspired chalets with the mildly chilly environs of Tagaytay. Carla says “walking along its winding roads, the scent of pine in the air, and passing colorful chalets, transport you to another place.”

From Php3,700; Crosswindsresortsuites.com

Casa San Pablo, Laguna

It looks old, but we’re willing to bet you’d find more than gold here. Photo by Christian Sangoyo

Brightly painted walls mixed with vintage furniture and on point accessories are the charm of Casa San Pablo, a bed and breakfast near Sampaloc Lake. Each nook and cranny has a surprise. Somehow, the craziness of the place works with the peaceful ambiance of its location.

From Php2,900; Casasanpablo.com

Moon Garden, Tagaytay

Remember what we said about colorful settings in Tagaytay? Photo by Christian Sangoyo

Best for a romantic weekend in Tagaytay. situated on the quieter side of the city, its rustic stone casitas are overgrown with vines and has open hut lounges surrounded by ponds. Overall, the place has the vibe of a secret garden and forgotten places.

From Php2,600; Facebook.com/Moongardentagaytay

Coco Grove Beach Resort, Siquijor

Imagine having a drink or dining here. Photo by Christian Sangoyo

With almost a kilometer-long shoreline, three swimming pools, three restaurants, and garden and pool bars, Coco Grove Beach Resort is one of the bang-for-the-buck luxury places in Siquijor.

From Php3,500; Cocogrovebeachresort.com

Luljetta’s Place Garden Suites, Antipolo City

A scenic eight-hectare property is carved along the ridges of a cliff and overlooks Antipolo, Laguna de Bay, and Metro Manila with a very relaxing infinity pool with views.

From Php4,000; Luljettas.com

Sophia’s Garden Resort, Coron, Palawan

Celine Murillo of Celenism.com recommends the Spanish-style villas of Sophia’s Garden Resort, an actual garden with a wonderful El Comidor restaurant that looks like it’s straight out of historic novel Noli Me Tangere.

From Php3,300; Facebook.com/sophiasgardenresort
SkyJet Airlines flies from Manila to Coron

Sand and Stars Beach Resort, Baler, Aurora

See the sand and stars at night, enjoy the beach in the day. Photo by Darwin Cayetano

For convenient beach camping, Darwin Cayetano of Tracking Treasure says Baler’s sand and stars Resort has huge tents. “Other than the convenience of having actual beds, the floor is carpeted􀈀 it has a sitting area􀈀 and every corner is Instagramable,” adds Darwin.

From Php2,500; Facebook.com/sandandstarsdinadiawan

Our Dash Sources

Words by Christian Sangoyo

10 weird and adventurous things to try now

10 weird and adventurous things to try now

Not-your-usual adventures of real travelers, rounded up.

Have a Kawa Hot Bath in Antique

Carla enjoys a hot bath in a cauldron. Photo by Christian Lucas Sangoyo

If weird is your thing, the Kawa Hot Bath in Antique tops the bill for Carla Araniego of Blissfulguro.com. “It felt weird at first, thinking about the steaming water and an actual fire under the giant cauldron I was sitting in, like I was being cooked alive! But a few minutes after, I simply enjoyed the soothing effect of the water.”

Book at Katahum.com

Cliff Dive in Siquijor

Not quite a leap of faith, but close enough. Photo by Christian Lucas Sangoyo

Carla suggests a much more fun thing to do at Siquijor’s Salagdoong Beach: cliff-jumping! “The key to conquering the 35ft jump into the water is to not to think twice. I just went for it and jumped! It was exhilarating!”

Book a tour with Dennis Caspes, Tel: +63947 789 8337, +63936 110 7863

Do Lambaklad fishing in Antique

Gives a new meaning to “do as the locals do”. Photo by Christian Lucas Sangoyo

Try Lambaklad fishing in the town of Tibiao in Antique where fisher folks allow visitors to catch fish with them on a huge bamboo raft. Carla says “balancing skills is a must, but once you get into the groove, it’s actually an enjoyable and unique fishing experience. We even got to grill and eat our catch!”

Book at Katahum.com

Ride an ATV up Mayon Volcano

Hard to leave Albay without trying this. Photo by Christian Lucas Sangoyo

Ride a mini 4×4 along the slopes of the volcano, splashing through streams, lahar-laden landscapes and dense foliage until you reach the midpart of Mayon. The panoramic view of Albay from up high is breathtaking.

Book at Mayonatvtour.com

Climb the Taraw Peak in El Nido

El Nido’s not just about the big blue. Photo by Elal Jane Lasola

El Nido, Palawan’s Taraw Peak right at the town center offers a beautiful challenging climb. The limestone karsts rises to a height of more than seven hundred feet, and travel blogger Elal Jane Lasola recalls her grueling experience. “It took us an hour to climb all the way to the top of the Taraw Ridge. The view from above was so worth it—the town with the azure waters of Bacuit Bay and limestone karsts jutting out of the water.”

Book at northernhopetours.com

Zip bike over the Chocolate Hills

Test the limits of your fears with this bike. Photo by Christian Lucas Sangoyo

Try one of the more unique ziplines in the Philippines: zip bike in Bohol! However perfectly safe as you’re harnessed, pedaling a bicycle across a thin steel rope over the famous Chocolate Hills is a knee-weakening experience.

Book at Chocolatehillsadventurepark.com

Canyoneer Kawasan

It’s only relaxing AFTER you jump in. Photo by Shugah Gonzales

Not for the faint of heart, and more importantly, knees, John Marx Velasco of Marxtermind.com recommends canyoneering along the bluish waters of Kawasan in Cebu. “Our adventure started with a jump from a waterfall, traveling downstream along the canyon. We walked, we swam, and we jumped some more, eventually finishing the course in four hours.”

Book at Kawasancanyoneering.com.ph

See Caramoan’s sacred fish

Somewhere in here are the sacred fish of Caramoan. Photo by Christian Lucas Sangoyo

A rock wall in Matukad Island in the Caramoan Peninsula in Camarines Sur presents a different kind of high. Scale the craggy rock wall and be rewarded with the lagoon’s hidden gems—two giant milkfish, which locals believe to be sacred.

Book at Kaddlangan outdoor adventure, Facebook.com/joseferdinand.villareal

Compete at the JEST Hunger Games

Will you volunteer as a tribute? Photo by Christian Lucas Sangoyo

Subic’s JEST Camp can let your Hunger Games fantasies come true. At the camp, you get to play in an actual forest, hiding and camouflaging, squirting water guns, and hurling water balloons in an intense match to snatch ribbons from other tributes.

Book at Jesthungergames.com

See the bioluminescent planktons in Coron

Darwin Cayetano of Tracking Treasure took the usual firefly tour in Coron and got more than what he paid for. “We started with a dinner on a floating restaurant while being serenaded by a local artist, then we rode a speedboat to the mangrove forest to see the fireflies. Our boatman got off the boat and started to stomp on the water and it lit up! The bioluminescent planktons were like pulsating brain neurons illustrated right on the water!”

Book at Coron-travel.com. Skyjet Airlines flies daily from Manila to Coron; book at flyskyjetair.com.

Our Dash Sources

Words by Christian Sangoyo

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