Coron Palawan is home to a number of amazing and breathtaking sights. It has the best wreck diving in the Philippines and there are also fresh and saltwater lakes. SKYJET Airlines direct flights take only 35 minutes from Manila to Busuanga Coron but our flight was for almost 2 hours delayed. Even the announcement of flights information is also delayed. Would have preferred more updates to appease passengers. Delayed flight and no clear announcement is absolutely a bad first impression. Plus though is that they offered food to delayed passengers. But I would have preferred an on-time flight on a well-maintained airline than free lunch.
Travel Tip: If your luggage weighs more than 10kg, avail their prepaid baggage allowance at the time of booking up to 4 hrs before the scheduled time of departure (Gary paid P1,125 for our 7.5 kgs excess baggage (which rate 150 Php per kilo).
Upon arrival at Francisco B. Reyes Airport, we hurry to the baggage area only to wait to arrive (seems like forever) and while I was anxious and Gary is waiting patiently, walked back and forth and picked some travel and tour flyers from the reception area. The airport is small, literally, only 2 gates and everything is manual. No revolving baggage claim, no automated check-in, no jet bridges… none of that. It probably took us 30 minutes to get our luggage. We exit the airport and walked across the street to catch the waiting van. Luckily, after some negotiation, we availed Asia’s Grand shuttle van.
Travel Tip: Once you exit from the airport, some Guides are holding a board with Hotel’s name, hop into the van before it gets filled up then tell the driver where you are staying. The fare is P150 fixed. Do not need to negotiate.
The trip from Busuanga Airport to Asia Grand View Hotel takes between 30-45 minutes. Hence I was sitting in the driver’s seat, during the journey, I was busy taking pictures of Busuanga’s verdant pastures and wide open fields that captivates me with a silent “WOW, magnificent”
After a delayed flight, we were both glad to finally reach our hotel. We chose to stay at the Asia Grand View Hotel which was just far enough out of the town center to be peaceful but not too far to be inconvenient. We were greeted by friendly staff on our arrival and shortly shown to our room. While checking in, they gave us their signature lemongrass water – maybe a welcome drinks after a two-hour flight delayed. Bellboys were quick to carry our luggage down several staircases leading to the poolside view deluxe room.
Near the reception is the little library where you can notice their Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee’s which composite of two focal themes: Asian culture and stunning views of Coron Bay. Asian ornaments adorn decorated walls and corners; tropical plants fringe corridors and roofs. Thatched bamboo huts, reminiscent of rural huts in Asian villages, comprise the spa and wellness center.
A hotel built on a hill, you can expect plenty of stairs and hill climbs and the Grand View did NOT disappoint. Naturally, room service can be a little slow sometimes due to the distance of the main building to the rooms but we didn’t find this to be the case.
Disappointing Wifi Signal
Now, this is not a review of the Asia Grand View Hotel because, overall, we did like our stay there but we need to mention the wifi… I was very disappointed with their WiFi, or complete lack thereof. Their WIFI is in their reception area. I don’t think it’s fair for the hotel to advertise itself as having WiFi, as I literally was only able to connect to it twice. Sometimes, my phone doesn’t have signal at all – even using mobile data is pretty hard to connect on the internet. The front desk provides WiFi code for their guests but it is absolute garbage because when inside the rooms, we were unable to connect to wifi. One night around 8-9:30 pm, I ended up walking down the street to get the signal and internet. As others have mentioned, WiFi almost inexistent as in many other hotels in Palawan which I found unbelievable in this day and age. LOL!!!!
For a hotel this nice and these rates, I find this unacceptable. Other than this “technical part”, our stay was really nice and it was our favorite accommodation of the entire 5 days stay.
Click here to see our full review of the Asia Grand View Hotel Coron
We woke up the next morning to find we had no hot water. This was no big deal as the hot water system was gas and so the maintenance staff had it working for us in no time. We then spent some time exploring the hotel grounds and getting to know the area. Walking up and down the hill quickly sorted the men from the boys and it was definitely time for a swim.
The Coron Town Tour
Later that day we grabbed a few tour brochures both from the hotel and from local guides. We spent the rest of the afternoon comparing tours and prices. The first tour we decided to try was the Coron Town tour so we had to quickly get our things ready as the tour left at 4pm that afternoon.
This tour is a quick, easy tour to do to get to know the town (easy except for the Mt Tapyas trek). But, most of the things we visited on the tour we could have found ourselves and a number of them we passed several times during our stay in Coron.
Click here to see our Mt Tapyas Review
The Coron town tour started by taking us to the souvenir shop which is full of all the expected touristy things to spend your money on. Then we went to the Lualhati Park which is where you will find the wharf and the starting point for any island hopping trips you may take. Nice place, very scenic but not enough shade (and too many people trying to sell you sunglasses, hats and water-proof bags).
Mt Tapyas and Maquinit Hotsprings
Next was on to Mount Tapyas… We were given 45 minutes to see the sights and, believe me, it took every one of those 45 minutes to trek to the top, take some video and photos then stagger back down to the base… But it was well worth it. The views are amazing. On our return, we discovered that we were the only ones in our group to have made it to the top. The others only made it to the 200th step. So, on our return, we were told they had already eaten the tour supplied dinner and we waiting for us. We had to eat our dinner as we drove to Maquinit Hotsprings.
After a bumpy trip, which had it rather difficult to eat our meal without making a mess, we arrived at the Hotsprings. It was already dark but the springs were still busy. Sliding into the Hotsprings was like getting into an overly warm bath. After 15 minutes your body starts wanting to get out of the water to cool down.
Maquinit Hotsprings was a nice spot to spend an hour, relax and cleanse. The change area was not the best with a door for men and a door for women on either side of the same change area. There are individual stalls but I still found it amusing having to enter by different doors only to meet inside anyway.
K Tours Ultimate Tour
The Coron Town Tour was booked with “K Tours” so, that night, after the town tour, we decided to book their “Ultimate Tour”. This is where things really went bad. We gave them the name of our hotel after paying for the tour (make sure you get a receipt) and we told they would pick us up at our hotel at 8.45am the next morning.
We were there waiting at 8.20am and till 9am before we decided to call their office to see what the delay was. We were then told we were required to catch a tricycle to their office as the tour started their (they were NOT picking us up). We caught the first tricycle we saw and arrived at K Tours in not the best frame of mind. We were then told we needed to go to their office so we could get our snorkeling equipment. 20 minutes later we were in a van going to the harbor.
Once at the harbor we met two Canadians who also had been told wrongly about the tour. They were told to catch a tricycles straight to the harbor and so were there without snorkeling gear. To make it worse. the boat was tied 3 boats out from the jetty so we had to climb out over 3 boats to get there (not good when you are carrying bags and cameras). Once on the boat, we found another group who had been waiting at the harbor since 7am that morning… It was now very close to 10.30am.
Many of us were hungry even before we had left the harbor. The trip to the first location (Twin Lagoons) was going to take over an hour and a few of the kids were already complaining. The crew was given only enough food for lunch and they still had to cook it so it was hard for them to keep the hungry ones happy. 40 minutes later they were able to bring out rice they had cooked for the kids of the group that had been waiting since 7am. The rest of us looked on as our tummies rumbled.
After a long trip, we finally reached the Twin Lagoons. The Twin Lagoon area is beautiful and featured on many of the Coron photographs you see. We all hurriedly changed and took to the water. It was here that Gary blew up the GoPro Black 6 (make sure the USB cover is fully closed before diving into water).
The Twin Lagoons are a great place to visit and we fully recommend going there. We had a great time even if we did ruin the GoPro.
The Twin Lagoons is amazing… We would have loved to have gotten some great water shots but… someone couldn’t help but jump into the water with an open GoPro… Hmmm, not good.
Anyway, our next stop was Atwayan Beach where we were to have lunch.
The beach area was not large at all but, to be honest, it was a nice place to stop for lunch. The water was clean and clear and there are plenty of shaded areas to rest.
We were given a bottle of water with lunch and most of us drank it down without thinking. Later we were told that we are only given 2 bottles of water on the trip.. One was given to us before the twin Lagoons and the other was at lunch… Which meant, no more water for the rest of the tour! Now, that upset a few of us….
The rest of the tour went reasonably smoothly. The Skeleton Wreck was great for snorkeling. Plenty of fish to see as well as the wreck.
Be careful at Coral Gardens, Sea Urchins seemed to be everywhere you wanted to walk in the water. A few people on our tour stood on them… One started to get paranoid about poison and wanted the tour to be cut short so he could be rushed to a hospital. Given a little time and a few doses of vinegar on the wound and he was ok.
Arriving back in Coron at low tide meant the obligatory climb to the wharf.
K Tours had also arranged a tricycle to take 4 of us back to our hotel or resort. Now, this was 4 people with bags, cameras and stuff fitting into a small tricycle… Hmmm, not what we paid for. Gary decided, enough was enough. He turned to the operator and said: “There is no way in hell he is getting on that tricycle…”. The tricycle left with everyone else waving us goodbye… We waited another 5 minutes and K Tours organized an air-conditioned, fully paid for taxi to take us back. Sometimes complaining does make a difference.
The Rip Off
A few days later our hotel reception approaches us enquiring as to when we were going to pay K Tours as the tour operator had been calling the hotel for payment. Luckily we were able to produce the receipt and a description of the person who had booked the tour and time we had booked it. It seems this employee had been keeping the payments for herself and recording on the books that we were still to pay.
All in all, the locations made the tours. K Tours were not organized well at all on both of our tours. The town tour DID NOT have a dinner and bonfire as advertised and there was much confusion from start to finish. But, the Coron scenery and locations well and truly made up for all the mistakes.
Travel smart – Travel safe… and come back to tell us of your experiences.
Till next time… Bye from Cheche…