Black Island, Coron - our favorite island in the Philippines

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During our time in the Philippines, some of the most famous landmarks ended up being a bit underwhelming for us. They all required taking a boat to get there which was either very expensive or shared with 10-20 other tourists. After several of these experiences, we decided to get off the beaten path and explore some secluded beaches and islands. In our search for some out of the way places, we found ourselves on the beautiful Black Island in Coron. We had the island to ourselves for an entire day and it ended up being one of our favorite experiences of our entire time in the country!

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How to get to Black Island

Black Island is just off the west side of Busuanga Island, the main island of Coron. It’s 2 hours away from Coron Town via scooter or car. There are 2 main options to get yourself to Black Island:

Join a group or private tour from Coron Town

You can join a tour that includes Black Island as a stop. It will likely include several other islands and lunch as part of the tour. Tours typically leave around 9am and return around 5pm. Expect to spend most of the day on the boat, as the journey to Black Island takes 2-3 hours.

You can also choose to hire a private boat. You’ll be able to set your own itinerary, choosing to add or remove stops from the route, and also decide how long to spend at each stop. Private tours usually won’t include lunch but the boat captain will take you to the market in the morning and you can buy fresh meat, seafood, and/or vegetables that they’ll cook on the boat for you (lunch on our Coron Island private boat cost $8 for 2 people). You’re also required to pay entrance fees to each place you visit which are included on the group tours and can add up depending where you go! This option requires a little more planning and is more expensive but is definitely more relaxed.

Unfortunately, you can’t leave much earlier than 8am, even in a private boat, because the boat captain has to check in with the Coast Guard before leaving. However, even leaving at 8am will give you an hour or two of a head start on the other tours, which will let you have a more peaceful experience at your first few stops of the day. This is more of an issue for Coron Island tours than Black Island in our experience as we were pretty much the only ones there all day.

 
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Make the trip to Ocam-Ocam beach and hire a boat captain

We opted to make our way to Ocam-Ocam beach on the west side of the island ourselves, where you can hire a private boat captain to take you the 20 minutes to Black Island. To get to Ocam-Ocam beach, you should rent a scooter in Coron Town and ride all the way there. There’s also a shared van to Busuanga, 45 minutes from Ocam-Ocam beach, but you will still need to rent a scooter there so the van ends up being more expensive overall. The drive is paved and the roads are good besides the last 15 minutes which are on a smooth dirt road that most people will be comfortable driving on.

It’s possible to make the trip in a single day, but it would be a lot of scootering. We recommend staying on Ocam-Ocam beach in a bungalow for a night to break up the trip. More on this below!

What to do on Black Island

Black Island is quite small, but there are still a few interesting attractions besides the strip of glistening white sand. There are two caves set into the side of the island to explore. We clambered around for a few minutes and then went back to enjoy our time in the sun.

 
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There are also the remains of a small shipwreck in the shallow water just off the shore. If you bring snorkeling gear (you can rent it in Coron Town for around $2 USD), you can explore the shipwreck and the small reef just off the beach. We saw lots of vibrant coral, many small fish, and a school of cuttlefish!

Be aware, there’s not much shade on the beach itself besides some cabanas and benches that cost money to rent so be sure to bring sunscreen.

Where to stay near Black Island

We decided to stay in a bungalow on Ocam-Ocam beach for a night in order to break up the scooter journey and add to the experience. There are 2 or 3 places to stay on the beach, ranging from a normal homestay down to a bamboo hut with a mosquito net. Cell signal on the beach is limited or nonexistent so be sure to download offline maps before you go. There are power outlets available and a few small restaurants serving local food.

We also read online that alcohol (besides locally made palm wines) was illegal on the beach, but that may have changed in the past few years. Bring your own if that’s a concern!

You can’t book any of the accommodations online but it’s extremely unlikely that they will be booked when you get there. Be sure to bring enough cash to pay for your accommodation as well as food and activities.

In Coron Town

  • Apo Pension ($): where we stayed - the WiFi doesn’t reach all of the rooms, only some of the showers have hot water, and it’s a walk from the center of town, but it’s extremely cheap!

  • Hop Hostel ($$): set on the hill just above the main strip in Coron Town. Hip and good vibes!

  • The Funny Lion ($$$): extremely nice pool, and the highlight is a rooftop bar with 2 jacuzzis that serves great food and drinks! Worth visiting for dinner even if you’re not staying there.

Cost of Black Island

  • Private boat from Coron Town: 5000 PHP (fixed price, cheaper per head if you have a group!)

  • Group tour from Coron Town: ~1500 PHP/person (be sure to book in advance. We didn’t see any tours when we were there so they may not run every day)

  • Scooter rental: 700 PHP/$14 USD per day

    • Van to Busuanga: 150 PHP/person (don’t make the same mistake as us! Just scooter or drive the whole way.)

  • Bungalow on Ocam-Ocam beach: 500 PHP/$10 USD

  • Private boat from Ocam-Ocam beach: 1500 PHP/$28 USD + 200 PHP/person entry fee

 
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