Kayangan Lake and the Twin Lagoons Revisited

view of the entrance to Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan

We’ve been here before. On a cloudy June day with the heavens releasing its gentle showers every now and then while our outrigger carefully navigated its way past towering karst formations. And with almost nary a soul in sight. Now more than ten years later a different sight greeted us as our motorized outrigger glided slowly into the entrance to mystical Kayangan Lake in Coron, Palawan.

boats moored at the entrance to Kayangan Lake
The cove at the entrance to Kayangan Lake can get crowded with motorized
outriggers during peak season for tourists.

Kayangan Lake

What used to be an almost deserted cove when we first docked here 11 years ago is now a crowded parking lot for almost two dozen boats taking tourists on island-hopping tours. These boats practically blocked the view of the cove at ground level – a mild disappointment. The docking area has also been graded and paved to allow easy access. And they are now charging an entrance fee to the lake although that was already included in our island-hopping package. These packages are offered by tour operators who will team you up with other visitors in one boat good for 10-15 people. Lunch was also provided as part of the package.

Some things haven’t changed, though, and just as well. More than halfway up the steep slope from the docking area towards Kayangan Lake we could still stop at a view deck and look down at the beautiful cove from where we came with its towering karst formations and turquoise waters (see top photo). And then it was on to old Kayangan Lake, said to be the cleanest in the country and among the cleanest in Asia.

Kayangan Lake’s crystal-clear waters
Kayangan Lake’s brackish water is so clear one can easily spot fishes and other marine life.

And clean it still is. A mixture of salt and fresh or brackish water, Kayangan Lake is still a sight to behold with its crystal-clear waters offering up to ten meters visibility. Although equipped with masks and snorkel, we didn’t really need them to observe fishes swarming playfully around us. Here and there we would also spy a shrimp or small crab hiding amongst the rocks. Fortunately the pristine beauty of the lake has not changed much over the years. Perhaps the only noticeable difference from the last time we were here is the wooden platform emplaced on the banks of the lake by the native Tagbanuas (keepers of these parts) that serves as a launching and resting pad for swimmers and divers.

swimmers and snorkelers enjoying Kayangan Lake’s waters

Coron Island’s Karst Topography

What attracted us initially to Coron was its karst landscape. More than 10 years ago we were simply awed by the surreal sight of the primeval towers of limestone that dominated Coron Island. Just the sight of those karst towers surrounded by aquamarine waters was reason enough to visit here but Coron has other attractions in the form of coves, hidden lagoons, inland lakes, white sand beaches and coral reefs containing a wide diversity of marine life.
karst tower in Coron Island, picture 1
karst tower in Coron Island, picture 2
Coron Island is characterized by its karst topography.

On our way towards our last destination on this first day of island-hopping, we passed by several interesting karst formations. Given the choice we would have liked to get closer and observe them from up close. But it was beginning to get late and we had to make it fast to our last stop for the day: the Twin Lagoons.

Twin Lagoons

As its name implies, the Twin Lagoons are actually two bodies of water separated by a wall of karst. Entering this body of water your boat will stop at the edge of the outer lagoon. The latter is surrounded by sheer cliffs of karst and it is easy to assume that the lagoon ends here. That’s until you discover a hole in one of those cliff walls that leads on to a second, inner lagoon. The hole is completely submerged underwater at high tide. A wooden ladder has been placed above this hole to allow visitors to climb up the rocks and view the second lagoon. However, during low tide the hole is visible and one can swim right through this narrow opening just big enough to allow two or three swimmers at time.
view of the outer lagoon of the Twin Lagoons
Inside the outer lagoon of the Twin Lagoons.

We did not see the inner lagoon the first time we came here, so Leo did not waste his chance this time. Most of our boat mates and other guests had life vests on throughout as the lagoon is quite deep. This lagoon is not as large as the outer lagoon but its size is still considerable and is difficult to negotiate from end to end for average swimmers. Like Kayangan Lake, the waters here are also brackish – a combination of salt and fresh water.

karst formation on the way to the Twin Lagoons
One of the karst formations on the way to the Twin Lagoons.

The Twin Lagoons was the last stop for our first day of island hopping which included Coron Island’s destinations of Kayangan Lake, the Twin Peaks, Banol Beach, CYC Beach and the reef off Balinsasayaw Resort. It was nearly sundown when we arrived at the pantalan or pier at Coron town – tired and hungry but with our eyes well-fed by the veritable feast of natural scenery that had just unfolded before us.

Getting to Coron, Kayangan Lake and the Twin Lagoons Plus Other Travel Tips

Coron Island, the island with karst topography lying immediately to the southeast of Busuanga Island is geographically separate from Coron town proper. Coron town is actually a part of Busuanga Island. It covers the eastern part of Busuanga but also includes Coron Island. The moniker “the Philippine’s last frontier” usually given to Palawan might give the impression that Coron is remotely accessible but the opposite is true. Cebu Pacific and PAL Express (formerly Air Philippines) have flights from Manila to Francisco B. Reyes Airport in Busuanga. Cebu Pacific has 2 daily flights to Busuanga (and back) and also have additional flights that go to Cebu first then to Busuanga. We booked flights with Cebu Pacific months ahead of time and were able to get a good discount.

From Francisco B. Reyes Airport one can take a van (P150 per person) to get to Coron town proper and its resorts. Alternatively you can pre-arrange with your resort for an airport pick-up. We thought the latter was more expensive but to our surprise our resort (Apartelle de Gabrielle) offered the same rate of P150 per person for the pick-up (same rate applied to our return trip).

view of Coron Island from the writers’ resort near Coron town
View of Coron Island from our resort near Coron town proper.

There are several resorts in Coron town proper and its immediate vicinity. You may have to book well in advance though if you’re planning to stay here during the peak season. Our top 3 choices were fully booked by the time we started to call them. We ended up at Apartelle de Gabrielle, a relatively new structure which was still a pretty good choice for us. While it is not in the town center it was still a short tricycle ride away (on some occasions we simply walked the distance to town for a good exercise). Rides are P10 per person regardless of the number of passengers per trike.

To get to Kayangan Lake, the Twin Lagoons and the other destinations in Coron Island, you can contact any of the tour operators in town. (Or search for them in the Internet.) We chanced upon one while walking in town (Nice in Paradise) and immediately booked with them for our Coron Island Loop tour – P650 per person inclusive of the boat rental, entrance fees for the destinations (yes baby they are charging entrance fees for Kayangan Lake, the Twin Lagoons and the like), and lunch. Snorkels and masks are not included and should be rented separately. Nice in Paradise’s online cost for this tour was set at P850 – but we later learned that this was for a buffet lunch that included crabs. Ours was just a set meal with no crabs (it was still good and filling though) so maybe that was the reason why it was P200 cheaper? We did get a sumptuous buffet lunch for our Day 2 island-hopping tour to Bulog Dos, Banana and Malcapuya Islands – for P1,200 per person. The tour operators’ boats are usually docked at the pier in Coron town proper. It takes less than 30 minutes to get to Coron Island from this point.

These tour operators will usually group you with other people to fill up the space on their boats (usually good for 10-15 people). That’s an advantage if you are traveling alone or part of a small group as it results in a lower price per person. If you’re part of a group of 10 or more however, it might be better to hire a boat privately since you will be able to select the places you want to visit. We personally wanted to see Barracuda Lake, not having been to that destination during our first trip, but we had no choice but to stick to the itinerary of our group tour.

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