The title probably sums up our experience of Coron in a nutshell. The Philippines is a destination that I had never really considered visiting, let alone soon finding myself re-visiting in less than three months. Check out my wonderful experience in Bohol.
I spent a long time choosing where to stay in Coron. There is an overwhelming amount of options, but they all fell short in one way or another until I stumbled upon Paolyn Houseboats.
The pictures immediately grabbed me, as well as the uniqueness of the place. I’m always trying to find somewhere to stay that’s a little bit different in every place I visit. Like this wonderful book hostel in Japan.
I was immediately drawn in by the friendliness of the host in his description of the place. Paolo is a truly fantastic person to get to know, whether via email beforehand or in person during our stay; Paolo and his girlfriend are an absolute delight.
He explained his story as soon as we arrived, and it was a fascinating one. Paolo was an economist in Italy before his young sister tragically died. Eventually he decided that he needed a change of life and set sail around the world before eventually stopping in Philippines after meeting April.
Paolyn Houseboats was never going to be a business, simply a place for he and his partner to live. And even this plan came with its challenges. The stunning Laknisan (or Unicorn Fish) lagoon, which the boats are situated in, belong to the Tagbanua Tribe.
The Filipino law recognises the members of the tribe as descendants of the Tabon man (of whom 20,000-year-old remains have recently been discovered). Under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, the land and waters belong to them.
It took over six months of hard negotiation with the tribe for Paolo and his wife to be allowed to set up their boat here. And they’ve now been allowed a ten + ten-year contract. With conditions that they hire at least one person from the tribe and meticulously maintain the environment.
In just six months they’ve done so much more than that: they’ve hired several people from the tribe as well as local Filipino people (all the staff are incredible – we really enjoyed spending time with them) and he is able to pay them triple the national minimum wage, while ensuring that they are learning valuable skills which they can use to build a better life for themselves.
The Benefits of Staying Here
We were immediately charmed by this story, but why choose to stay here?
Let’s tackle the most obvious point first: the incredible view you wake up to every morning. Limestone of Jurassic origin and Karst rock formations surround the boats and make for a dramatic location only outdone by the crystal, turquoise waters that separate you and the rocks.
There is a menagerie of aquatic life that you can watch in their natural habitat, and there’s plenty to do even if you never leave the area.
You’re surrounded by peaceful, untouched nature. All you hear are birds, lizards, the lapping of the water, and the occasional hum of the speedboats. It’s really another way of life. You can hop straight in to the water when you wake up and you’re quickly given all the equipment you need to go out exploring the area, including the hidden and secret lagoon that so many Coron tours take you to, by yourself.
With snorkels and flippers, kayaks, and pedal-boats all provided for free to use as you wish, it’s fun and effortless to head out onto the calm, clear waters and see what you can find. It rained a few times while we were there and that is an experience in itself. Breath-taking.
Life-jackets are provided meaning everyone can have a go whatever your swimming level.
This is the next advantage; you have every tourist attraction totally to yourself. The tours which Paolyn Houseboats offer are totally customisable and include all of the usual destinations you’d find on a Coron tour, like the beautiful Kanya Lake, Baracuda Lake, Coral Garden etc. But you have these destinations totally to yourself, because there is little travelling involved.
While people staying on land nearby have a lot more preparation to do, we simply woke up at dawn, hopped in a speedboat, and turned a corner into the next lagoon. We were the first people to touch the waters of the lake and swim through with nothing but the fish and the birds present. It really was surreal, and very gratifying to leave the lake just as the throng of tourists arrived.
If you’re a photographer or videographer, it goes without saying that this makes this stay in Coron a perfect place for you.
You can take a full day tour or two half day tours. You come back for lunch and then are able to stay after any tourists have gone, catching glorious sunsets all to yourselves.
It’s worth staying here for a night or two just to do the tours. You literally can’t do better.
The food is freshly cooked and delicious. You have to give your dinner order the day before as they head to the market each morning to collect the ingredients fresh, and they appreciate if you order the same thing if you’re part of a group. The menu is wide and includes a range of Filipino and Italian dishes (you can see Paolo’s roots present in the menu – from the excellent Italian-style coffee to the al dente pasta).
You can have food delivered (by boat) to your room or you can eat in the restaurant. The restaurant is particularly spectacular at night as the boat is lit up and the fish are attracted to the light, meaning you have your own private natural aquarium to enjoy as you feast. Watching the fish get up to all kinds of tricks while we ate was one of our favourite things.
The rooms are charming, made almost entirely from bamboo, and they have a range of options to suit every budget. We were in the bamboo suite and that came with our own private bathroom, two beds, and a patio area which was great for working on and had an incredible view. The Wi-Fi is excellent considering you’re in the middle of a lagoon, and we had very little trouble with it.
You’re given a walkie-talkie to communicate with staff and they’ll pick you up whenever you need. They’ll also take you in to town for a small fee or take you around the corner to the lagoons if you don’t want to kayak by yourself.
The Philippines is a country that suffers with power outages in certain areas, but we didn’t actually experience any of these. They do ask, however, that you don’t waste any unnecessary water or electric as they rely on solar panels and all the water is brought in fresh.
It is worth mentioning that some people might struggle in this environment if they have higher expectations. There is no air-con, only fans, and the WiFi is not stable 24/7. The toilets are awkward to use and the showers are ice-cold. We do not mention these as criticisms, only as warnings for people who might be expecting the highest levels of comfort.
Another massive pro is the fact that these houseboats are totally environmentally friendly. They only use bio-degradable products and offer sunscreen to visitors that doesn’t damage the water while you swim. They also take all of the waste water out of the lagoon to be disposed of in a separate septic tank. Everything they do has the environment in mind and that is obvious from the clear, turquoise water maintained around you.
I can’t imagine staying somewhere more unique, ethical, and picturesque than this. Opening the curtains and seeing the view outside blew my mind every day of my stay. I never got used to it (I’m not sure you could).
Any cons to staying here come purely with living boat life and are to be expected. Like being careful before plugging in a hairdryer to avoid blowing the power; not tossing paper in the toilet as it’ll easily block the pipes; and being mindful with your food choices – there isn’t a local store here (because you’re, essentially, at sea). It’s very dark at night (which I thought was incredible after living in big cities for so long) so once the sun goes down you’ll be in your room or in the restaurant with little to do, but after a busy day of swimming or exploring, we were usually exhausted by then anyway.
I highly recommend Paolyn Houseboats and we would stay here again in a heartbeat.
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