Coron, Palawan: Paradise found

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – They say that a picture paints a thousand words, but all true travelers know that nothing compares to seeing and experiencing a place in person. To my surprise, I was at a loss for words during my recent trip to Coron, Palawan, deemed the most beautiful island in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine.

I had always loved looking at the pictures and postcards of Coron — the clear beautiful waters, the vibrant greens of nature, and the hidden sanctuaries that remain untouched. As I browsed through the pictures of my friends’ recent trips to the island, I would often find myself envying them.

Coron lies like a jewel in the midst of the sea. This first-class municipality in the eastern part of Busuanga is said to be the “Island Hopping Capital” of the Philippines, as it connects travelers to other islands in the area.

With each island being different from the other, a visit to each one is an adventure by itself. Enticed by such a promise of exploration and discovery, I, along with my friends Rhoda and Minnie, set off for Coron.

While boarding a SkyJet aircraft, I was a little hesitant at first — even fearful — because based on the stories of other travelers, a lot of turbulence was expected on a small plane. Any anxiety I had before boarding immediately melted away with the kind and courteous staff. We were all treated to a “first-class” experience.

As I peered out the windows and revelled at the clear blue skies, I started imagining the amazing days ahead. My companions and I had spent weeks planning our three-day retreat. We were to trek Mt. Tapyas, chill in the Maquinit Hot Springs and take the “small city tour” covering the public market, town plaza, San Agustin church, Coron baywalk, harbor center, souvenir shop visit  and the cashew harvest factory. There were so many things we wanted to do, and we wanted to make every minute count.

Before we knew it, we had landed at Francisco B. Reyes Airport, formerly Busuanga Airport, and were picked up by the hotel. The staff of Coron Soleil Garden Resorts — our home away from home for the next few days — gave us such a warm welcome, treating us more like family than mere guests.

From the windows of our van, the comforting scene of nature and gentle lifestyle of the people enticed us. Coron — even just from our short car ride — was an idyllic paradise.

Not as over commercialized as Boracay and Bohol, Coron retains its quiet, “virginal” beauty. Rustic and serene, there is beauty in its untouched simplicity. The scenes of Coron were devoid of the normal daily stresses and “hurried” fashions in Manila. The gray roads soon gave way to rich earth and green paths, and the true luxury of the island was immediately felt in the generosity and hospitality that welcomed us at Coron Soleil Garden Resort.

The four-star luxury hotel didn’t disappoint. It has modern comforts and luxuries such as spa treatments, access to the pool bar, an impressive roof deck bar and penthouse, free Wi-Fi and an expansive swimming pool. From our rooms, we were treated to a wonderful view of the majestic Mt. Tapyas.

The town of Coron was nothing less than picturesque with its gracious people and small town vibe. We were happy to buy trinkets and treats at each stop. We were like children happy to find a bit of our youth in this family-friendly place. Unfortunately, the bad weather and rains prevented us from taking the trek up Mt. Tapyas.

The next day, thanks to the improved weather, we were able to come back and experience the miraculous healing hot springs. We took a long, relaxing soak; it was a truly refreshing experience. At 39 degrees, the water from the natural hot spring made it feel like we were in the sauna, enveloped in a little cocoon of steam. Our pent-up stress immediately melted away,  and was replaced with a peaceful warmth that could be felt down into our bones.

While the first day was dedicated to touring the town proper, our second day was for exploring the different beaches and islands of Coron. We enjoyed snorkeling and discovering the bright corals and colorful schools of fish at the marine park at Siete Pecados and Kayangan Lake, relaxing on the white sand of Beach 91, feeding the fish at a real-life skeleton wreck, and snapping more photos and memories at the beautiful waters of Malwawey Coral Garden and Cyc Beach. But nothing compared to the view of the Twin Lagoons.

A must-see and a natural marvel in Coron, the Twin Lagoons is a unique beauty. You enter on a boat and as you gently cruise into the peaceful waters, you are able to take in the awe-inspiring view of limestone rock formations, the braid of lush greens at the top, and the clear blue skies. From a visual treat, it became an all-sensory one as we took a dip into the crystal waters. Beneath the gentle, lapping waves, there are currents of fresh water mingling with saltwater, and so you enjoy the alternating sensations of cold and warmth on your skin. This marvelous sight reminds me that this is God’s gift to mankind. They say that this is the greenest and cleanest lake in the Philippines, and I don’t doubt the claim.

At end of our incredible afternoon, we were happy and tired, and not to mention hungry! Coron Soleil Garden Resort had anticipated our hunger and welcomed the “weary” tourists with a sumptuous spread that immediately brought back our lost energy. A feast of fresh seafood, perfectly cooked vegetables, and other delectable dishes whipped up by its Filipino and Chinese chefs awaited us at the table.

We were greatly honored when the owner of Coron Soleil Garden hotel no less, Johnson Sy, served us, offering us more and more wonderful bites of savory crabs and seafood.

Post-feast, as my friends and I watched the beautiful sunset, we agreed that this had been the most perfect day. It dawned on me, more than its beautiful scenery and its immaculate beaches, Coron had become such a great second home because of the overwhelming generosity and the warmth of the people.

The friendly people, the beautiful water sanctuaries, the amazing natural-scapes — these were what I had always imagined when I looked at postcards and photos of Coron. This idyllic paradise is simply  a dream, and no postcard,  no filter, no snapshot on Instagram can ever truly capture the amazing beauty of this island.

You must see Coron, and you should visit if you want something more lasting and more powerful than a photograph in your album.

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