If you’re headed to Coron, then island hopping is most likely the top activity on your itinerary; and with world-class scuba diving, white sand beaches, and four star resorts, Coron is arguably the Philippines’ premiere island-hopping destination.
The sheer number of easily accessible sites is almost unfathomable; sunken World War II Japanese shipwrecks; vibrant, healthy reef systems (unlike much of El Nido), and remote tropical islands that are equipped to handle boatloads of tourists. Short of a little bit of late night partying, this tiny town really does have it all when it comes to eco-adventure tourism.
We are going to put together a list, to make sure that you have all the important things with you as you go out on the islands of Coron for the day. Let’s go over the essentials:
The Very Basics
These are items that we probably do not have to go over, but we will for the sake of thoroughness.
Bottled Water - Many tours will not provide you with water other than when accompanying lunch. While the cost of doing so would seem fairly small, the amount of plastic trash that it would create would greatly increase the amount of effort and work into keeping the island hopping locations free of trash.
Don’t over hydrate either! The return to Coron from Pass island, the last stop on the “Reefs and Wrecks Tour”, is nearly a two hour boat trip back to your starting point of Coron Harbor. Similarly, Malacapuya Island on the ‘Island Escapades Island Hopping Tour’ is about an hour away from Coron Harbor. You will most definitely have some long travel times while island hopping so you do NOT want to consume tons of water before these trips as there are no CR’s (comfort rooms, bathrooms, restrooms) on the boats, and sometimes even at the destination you are visiting.
Bring along large bottles of water and share them with your group in order to keep the total number of bottles low. Remember to keep them in the shade so that they don’t heat up… unless you plan on making tea. Be sure to keep track of your bottle (writing your name on the bottle with a permanent marker is always a good idea) throughout the day and dispose of it properly when you return to Coron in the afternoon.
Sun Protection - A hat, sunblock, a wrap or towel, sunglasses… whatever you need! Remember that the sun is strong out there, and standing on white sand will make it seem even hotter.
Reapplying your sunblock often will be the hardest thing to remember throughout the day. Remember to reapply each time you get in and out of the water.
Food & Snacks - Don’t worry, you will most likely be fed very well on your island hopping day trip in Coron, but you will also be burning lots of energy; therefore, it’s good to keep some small snacks in your bag. Maybe salty, maybe sweet, or both? It is really up to your own personal preference. One easy way to make friends with others on the boat is to bring along some sweets for everyone. That will be much appreciated and put you in good favor with your fellow island hoppers by the time that the late afternoon rolls around.
A Beach Towel - It would be hard to imagine spending all day on the beach and in the water without bringing a towel along. Afterall, a towel can also double as a sunshade, a beach blanket, a seat cushion (for the hard wooden benches on the tour boats) and even as protection for your water bottles. Wrapping them up keeps them cool and out of the sun, and also prevents them from rolling around or falling into the water.
Most travelers prefer microfiber towels nowadays as they are less bulky and have greater drying power.
A Dry Bag - You can purchase very tough, durable dry bags all over Palawan, but the truth is: the lighter the better. The best advice is to bring something along that doesn’t look like every other dry bag in Coron. This was quite a comical episode in El Nido when several people in a tour group got their belongings confused when they were accidentally placed in someone else’s dry bag.
Its true, you can buy inexpensive, heavy duty dry bags from 3 liters to 30 liters, in about 4 different colors… but so can everyone else. Everyone always seems to purchase the 5 liter dry bag for its convenient size and they typically select blue or gray. The result is dozens of the exact bag all over your tour boat. Buy a lightweight bag elsewhere and bring it with you!
The Luxury Items
OK these items are being classified as luxury because they take up space, weight, and are not totally necessary, but it would seem highly improbable that you would get the full Coron island hopping experience without any of the following must have luxury items:
Cameras - whether you are toting a small, portable GoPro or something a bit more complex like a Sony mirrorless camera, visiting Coron without one would seem like a huge oversight. Even just a handful of amateurish photos and videos can help memorialize and explain the experience to friends and loved ones for years to come. Even if traveling to Coron as a professional photographer , it is often the quick cell phone clips and snapshots that end up defining your experience in the long-run.
Don’t underestimate the high end action cameras like those made by GoPro. These small, lightweight devices take up almost no room in your bag and have a wide assortment of accessories for whatever type of trip you plan on taking. Plus, the biggest advantage of all is that they can work underwater. Considering that a significant portion of Coron’s beauty lies beneath the sea, bringing along an underwater capable camera seems like it should be high on the list of luxury items!
Expanding a bit on the list of both cameras and luxury items, it would be hard to imagine leaving out a photography capable drone. Stunning aerial views and breathtaking land and seascapes await the brave pilots willing to fly in ‘less than ideal’ conditions. Even though tall limestone cliffs can make line of sight difficult to maintain, it can most certainly be done safely. The most difficult task for inexperienced drone pilots to get used to is hand catching from the deck of a tour boat, which is often mandatory due to the lack of takeoff and landing areas on land. Despite the difficulties of avoiding natural obstacles and hand catching; the lack of manmade structures actually makes flying in Coron easier than many other places. Furthermore, pilots enjoy interference free flights because of the lack of wifi networks, and cellular / radio / television towers. On a clear day, drones can often push the limits of their range while in Coron.