Busuanga is the largest island in the Calamian Group of islands located within the Palawan province of the Philippines. Many visitors are drawn to the island for aquatic adventures thanks to thriving coral reefs and rich World War II history. Fun fact: the Busuanga coastline is the permanent resting place of twelve World War II Japanese wrecks that were sunk by the American navy in the 1940s.
This article focuses solely on things to do on mainland Busuanga Island. Despite the island’s popularity for diving and island hopping, tourism is largely confined to Coron Town in the south, the commercial center and gateway to well-known destinations like Twin Lagoons and Baraccuda Lake.
The northern portion of Busuanga is relatively unfamiliar to the world of tourism, in other words, it is an untouched paradise ready for hiking, kayaking, swimming, and otherwise exploring. As adventure seekers, Scott and I were obligated to venture north and discover all of the best things to do on Busuanga Island.
Is Busuanga in Coron? I’m confused.
I was confused too, don’t worry. If you Google search for images of Busuanga Island, it is likely that 90% of the photos are actually of Coron Island. They don’t make it easy to understand so let me help.
Coron is a protected island inhabited only by the indigenous Tagbanwa people.
Coron is also a municipality covering the southeastern side of Busuanga Island.
Finally, Coron is also a town (often called Coron Town Proper), located within the larger Coron municipality. So technically, when you are staying at a hotel in Coron Town, you are on Busuanga Island not Coron Island. You would need a Bangka (Filipino boat) to get from Coron Town to Coron Island.
Hopefully, that helps. Now that we are all clear, let’s explore the top things to do on Busuanga Island!
Things to Do in Coron (Southeastern side of busuanga)
Enjoy a day of Island Hopping
If you are wondering what to do in Busuanga, the first obvious choice is island hopping. This region of Palawan is noted for its pristine beaches, turquoise lagoons, and enchanting lakes.
Hop on board a traditional Filipino Bangka boat and glide through the waters while stopping at some of Palawan’s most beautiful places including Coron Island, Barracuda Lake, Twin Lagoon, and Kayangan Lake.
Although island hopping tours can be booked through any hotel on Busuanga island, Coron Town is the primary hub for all water tours including island hopping and scuba diving.
Climb the 721 steps of Mt. Tapyas
Mount Tapyas is one of the two hotspots in Coron Town that most tourists place on their “to-do list” during their stay. (The other being Maquinit Hot Springs). When you are walking around Coron Town you might notice a giant hill in the distance with the letters C-O-R-O-N and a large white cross situated at its peak. That hill is Mount Tapyas.
This popular viewpoint offers a beautiful view of the surrounding hills and an unimpeded look toward the beautiful Coron Island. If you wish to add this to your itinerary, be prepared to climb 721 steps in direct sunlight. The path offers little shade and takes about 30 minutes to climb.
If you make it all the way up, the view is well worth it, especially during sunset. You can find the trailhead located next to K-Heights Inn.
Enjoy the view from the top of Mount Tundalara (Durala)
If you are looking for a hike that is a bit more challenging than the steps of Mt. Tapayas, then Mt Tundalara (also known as Mt. Dalara) is a great choice. Simply tell any tricycle driver you would like to climb Mount Durala in Mabingtungan. They are your best bet in finding and getting to the trailhead. I would also suggest arranging for the driver to pick you back up.
Starting off from a small cemetery, the path passes through shaded woods only for a short distance before opening up onto an exposed trail. There is no cover and the sun can be harsh. Come prepared with a hat, sunblock, and plenty of water.
The upward climb requires about 2 hours of trekking, steep inclines, and a bit of rock scrambling. The extra work of this climb is well worth it for the view at the top. Depending on your level of fitness and how often you stop, the total hike can take anywhere between 3 and 5 hours.
Take a dip in Maquinit Hot Springs
A visit to Maquinit Hot Springs is a perfect way to end a long afternoon of hiking Mt. Tapyas, island hopping, and otherwise exploring. Located just 25 minutes from Coron Town, it is relatively easy to get to either by motorbike or tricycle (about Php300 or $6 round trip).
We recommend booking a walking tour of Coron Town combined with a trip to Maquinit Hot Springs, as round-trip transportation is included.
Maquinit is one of the few saltwater hot springs in the world making it a must-do during your Busuanga Island visit. The water is about 40 degrees Celsius which can be pretty toasty in the middle of the day, however, if you visit at night it can be quite relaxing.
Many recommend visiting during the daytime so that you can appreciate the surrounding mangrove trees and open view to the ocean, others recommend visiting at night when you can take in the beauty of a thousand twinkling stars and the cool night air.
Whatever you decide, allow yourself to sink into the hot therapeutic water and experience complete relaxation. The hot spring is open from 6 am – 10 pm with an entrance fee of Php150 (or $3) per person.
Snap some photos at Mt. Talapay
Mt. Talapay is an elevated viewpoint located in eastern Busuanga that was developed to attract tourists. Although the grounds are still undergoing construction, there are plenty of Instagram-worthy photo opportunities.
The property is decorated with strategically placed swings, a whimsical seating area shaped like a wind-swept heart, and a human-sized bird’s nest for you to climb into and watch the sunset.
A small restaurant offers local cuisine and fresh coconut wine to enjoy during your visit. Mt. Talapay is a beautiful place to spend the afternoon away from crowds to enjoy panoramic views of the ocean and surrounding islands.
Experience the magic of fireflies and bioluminescent plankton at Kingfisher Park
If you are still wondering what to do in Coron, don’t miss out on the incredibly unique experience of boating through the glowing waters of Kingfisher Park.
Kingfisher Park is known as a haven for vegetation and animal species that are endemic to only Palawan, however, the Starry-starry night tour is without a doubt the main attraction. A boatman takes you through the mangrove forests to view thousands of fireflies twinkling in the trees like glowing embers while bioluminescent plankton illuminates the water below. When the dark sky is filled with shimmering stars, it all comes together as this magical and sensory experience.
You can contact Kingfisher Park directly through their Facebook page to book a tour, or alternatively, you can work with a local tour agency to assist in your booking.
Where to stay in Coron (Southeastern side of Busuanga)
Busuanga Bay Lodge – This elegant resort is self-described as “where luxury meets adventure”. You will be blown away by the infinity pool which provides unimpeded views of the bay and surrounding islands. On-site dining options are farm-to-table with ingredients sourced locally. This Busuanga, Palawan resort has been awarded a Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award for six consecutive years.
Bacau Bay Resort – If you are looking for one of the best places to stay in Coron, look no further than Bacau Bay Resort. This 4-star resort is rated highly by visitors due to its upscale facilities, friendly staff, and delicious dining options. The complimentary breakfast includes a selection of traditional Filipino foods and international dishes. It was one of the best meals we had during our stay on Busuanga Island! In addition to a fitness center and spa, this resort has a kids’ club making it a great family-friendly option for your stay in Coron. Bacau Bay is conveniently located just 1.1 mi from Mount Tapyas and 1.6 mi from Coron Town Proper.
The Funny Lion – This boutique hotel makes for an excellent home base after a day of island hopping. It is a bit smaller than Bacau Bay Resort, but maintains the same excellent quality in food and customer service. Funny Lion is located about 0.9 mi from Mount Tapyas and 4 mi from Kayangan Lake in Coron
Things to Do on Busuanga Island (Western Region)
Play on the rope swing at Concepcion Falls
I was pleasantly surprised by Concepcion Falls. Many reviews say that it is unremarkable and not worth the visit. In full transparency, we only went because it was so close to the Sanctuaria Treehouses where we were staying. Within 2 seconds of seeing the falls, we were so thankful we decided to go.
The trail opens up into this beautiful natural pool surrounded by giant trees, wet moss, and greenery. Rays of the sun peak through the trees illuminating the bluish-green water and causing everything to shimmer.
The winding roots of the trees are exposed by erosion and extend into the water below. To the left of the falls is a small grotto with an orange rope swing. I spent a few minutes here swaying back and forth listening to the sounds of water dripping. While the falls themselves are not very tall, it is the experience of the surroundings as a whole that make Concepcion Falls worth the visit.
Take a Busuanga Island Tour by Scooter
There are several locations throughout Busuanga Island where you can rent a scooter. These rentals are fairly cheap and give you the freedom to explore the island on your own terms.
Be mindful that gas stations are not abundant. Keep an eye on your gas tank, or you will end up running out of gas on the side of the road as we did. Luckily, Filipinos are incredibly helpful and assisted us in finding some fuel.
Hike up to Salvacion Mountain View Deck
This hiking trail in northeastern Busuanga takes you through forested pathways and past a manganese mining tunnel dug in 1938 during World War II. Continue along this trail until you reach the Salvacion View Deck, an ideal resting place to enjoy panoramic views of Busuanga Island.
Explore the Busuanga River
North of the highly trafficked waters of Coron Bay is the Busuanga River, a destination well-known to locals and rarely visited by tourists. The river winds through the northwestern portion of the island, past inland villages and forests of mangrove trees.
You may venture to the river on your own or as an alternative, many hotels located along the northwest coast offer a tour of the Busuanga River. For example, Busuanga Bay Lodge offers a slow sunset cruise along the river and; the River House will take you upstream on a small banka stopping at the village of Panggawaran.
Where to stay on Busuanga Island (Western Region)
Sanctuaria Treehouses – This one-of-a-kind treehouse resort is for guests seeking an authentic Palawan adventure. Secluded within a lush jungle, you will feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Coron Town. Climb up into one of the treehouses and suddenly the views open up to the mangrove forests, waterways, and Busuanga Bay below.
At night, the blanket of stars shines brilliantly above and a faint glow from Coron Town can still be observed in the far distance. Enjoy a delicious Filipino meal prepared by the wonderful staff, cool off in the pool (one of the only pools in the area), explore the mangrove forests by kayak or paddleboard, or perhaps let Buhay (Sanctuaria’s four-legged tour guide) lead you down to Concepcion Waterfall. Our stay at Sanctuaria Treehouses was perhaps the most memorable part of our trip to the Phillippines.
Cocovana Beach Resort – If the lack of air conditioning at Sanctuaria Treehouses is a deal breaker, Cocovana is a great alternative. This rustic bungalow-style hotel is located on its own private beach, creating a relaxed and serene atmosphere.
Guests have the option of staying in a private room, or in an 8-person mixed dormitory room. All accommodations are air-conditioned with scenic views of the ocean and surrounding mountains. Given its central location on the island, Cocovana is a great option for accessing many popular Busuanga tourist spots.
At one point, this region used to be the farthest distance from the Busuanga airport (Francisco B. Reyes Airport). Thanks to a newly constructed road cutting through the middle of the island, both Cocovana and Sanctuaria treehouses are less than an hour from the airport.
Things to Do in New Busuanga (Northern Region of Busuanga Island)
Relax on Ocam Ocam beach
Busuanga is not generally known for having pristine white-sanded beaches like neighboring Coron island. One exception to this is Ocam Ocam Beach.
Located along a small peninsula on the northwestern part of Busuanga, this beach is off-the-beaten-path. It is frequented by locals but few tourists making it an ideal location to relax. Swimming is not advised due to the coral reefs, but you can certainly wade in the water and enjoy a nice Buko (coconut) on the soft sand.
Other notable Busuanga beaches include Rio Playa and Palatpat Beach on the western coast, and Lakdayan Beach on the eastern coast.
Feed Giraffes at Calauit Wildlife Park
Visiting Calauit Wildlife Park is one of the most popular things to do in Busuanga. This wildlife park was originally created in 1976 by former president Ferdinand Marcos as a game reserve for large African mammals. As expected, many of the original species that were transported to this Philippine island did not adapt to their new environment and eventually died out.
In the 1980’s local officials revived the park as a conservation initiative to revive indigenous species including the Calamian deer, Palawan bearded pig, Philippine porcupine, and Binturong or “Beat cat”.
Visitors are generally escorted around the park in a safari-style vehicle to view the free-ranging animals wandering throughout Calauit Park. There are additional opportunities to feed the giraffes and deer and porcupines. You must book a tour in order to visit Calauit Wildlife Park.
Swim with Dugong, the mermaids of the sea
The Dugong, once believed to be mermaids, are herbivore mammals residing in warm coastal waters from the western Pacific Ocean to the eastern coast of Africa. Often referred to as sea cows, these gentle creatures bare a strong resemblance to their pleasantly plump cousin, the manatee. Unfortunately, fishing-related fatalities, habitat degradation, and hunting have led the species into extreme vulnerability.
Some organizations have begun conservation efforts to stem the rapid decline of the species. The Dugong was in fact the first marine mammal to be protected in the Philippines, where they can still be found swimming around the waters of Northern Busuanga.
If you are interested in seeing these peaceful creatures, the eco-friendly Dugong Dive Center in North Busuanga is your best starting point. As environmentalists and members of the Philippines Coast Guard Auxiliary, this team offers the opportunity to get up close to the Dugong in their own habitat.
Where To Stay in New Busuanga (Northern Region of Busuanga Island)
Miley Lodge Paradise – Miley Lodge is one of the northernmost hotels on Busuanga Island, making it a secluded and relaxing getaway for those visiting the island. It is only a few miles away from Calauit Wildlife Park, however, transportation to the park must still be arranged via a private tour. Guests can expect private balconies, 24-hour service, and quiet relaxation.
The Beach House Ocam Ocam – If you want to visit the white-sanded beaches of Ocam Ocam, then we recommend staying at the Beach House Ocam Ocam. It is often difficult to secure a reservation at this 5-star resort as it is smaller and more intimate, but very highly rated. The nearest airport is Francisco B. Reyes, 22 miles from The Beach House Ocam Ocam, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service.
La Estancia Busuanga – Depending on your budget and preferences, La Estancia has available both budget-friendly rooms as well as more luxurious suites. Although all rooms are nicely decorated, the Deluxe Rooms and King Suites stand high above the rest as some of the nicest accommodations on Busuanga.
With over 7,000 islands to choose from, nailing down a solid Philippines itinerary may seem like a daunting task. We hope that this list inspires you to venture outside the ordinary to experience northern Busuanga, Palawan’s unexplored gem.
Have you had the opportunity to explore Busuanga Island? What kind of adventures have we missed? We would love to hear about your adventures on Busuanga island in the comments below.
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