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.
If you are looking for more information on diving and island hopping in Palawan, you won’t find that here. We recommend heading over to the Travel Quandary where they have outlined some essential tips for selecting the best island hopping tour.
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 there is to do on Busuanga Island.
But first, is it Busuanga or Coron? I’m confused.
I was confused too, don’t worry. Google search images of Busuanga Island and 90% of the photos are actually of Coron Island. They don’t make it easy to understand so let me help. Coron is an island (where all those pretty Instagram pictures are taken), a town (also called Coron Town Proper), and it is also a municipality on the southeastern side of Busuanga Island. 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 on Your Own on Busuanga Island
Relax on Ocam Ocam beach
Pristine white-sanded beaches are not as prevalent around northern Busuanga as they are on 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.
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.
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 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). 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 to visit during the day time so that you can appreciate the surrounding mangrove trees and open view to the ocean, others recommend to visit 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 6am – 10pm 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 birds 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.
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.
Related Content: “Sanctuaria Treehouses: A Unique Ecostay in Busuanga, Philippines”
Things to Do with a Tour Group on Busuanga Island
Because attractions in northern Busuanga do not capitalize on tourism, it is often difficult to find visitor information nonetheless a website. It is recommended that you go through a tour agency to plan your visit to the following locations. Most hotels work with preferred tour agencies to assist in booking your adventure, otherwise a quick trip into Coron Town will place you in the hub of tour agencies ready to assist you.
Feed Giraffes at Calauit Wildlife Park
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. For more on this specific attraction, our friends over at The Poor Traveler have done a great write up on their experience.
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.
Explore the Busuanga River
North of the highly trafficked waters of Coron Bay is Busuanga River, a destination well known to locals and rarely visited by tourists. The river winds through the north western 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.
Experience the magic of fireflies and bioluminescent plankton at Kingfisher Park
Kingfisher Park is a 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 illuminate 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 on Busuanga Island
As an added little tidbit, we want to provide you with two recommendations for your stay in Busuanga. Both are eco-friendly “off-the-grid” experiences with breathtaking views of Busuanga’s natural beauty. If you are familiar with our tastes, you will know that our lodging recommendations are usually not for those with a taste for luxury, but rather for eco-conscious travelers in search of an adventure to remember.
The Garden of Eden is an eco-friendly farmstay located along the eastern coast of Busuanga, near the small town of Santo Niño. Accommodation is simple, a triangular bamboo bungalow with a 2-story loft. Vistors are welcome to wander around the farm freely appreciating the lush garden and abundance of free roaming animals including pigs, goats, dogs, cats, turkeys, and ducks. All animals are known to have a personality of their own and are likely to approach you for cuddles. The owners, Eden and Gunther, are happy to help arrange a number of activities including horseback riding (about 1,000 PHP), kayaking in the bay, scuba diving, and island hopping.
Sanctuaria Treehouses is a one of a kind treehouse resort 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 shine 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. For more information and to learn about our stay, check out our article “Hideaway among the trees at Sanctuaria Treehouses”.
We hope that this list inspires you to venture outside the ordinary to explore 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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