Scuba diving Coron is a mind-blowing experience! Located in visually stunning north Palawan, Coron is hailed as the best shipwreck dive destination in all of Southeast Asia.
On September 24, 1944 ten Japanese Imperial Navy ships stationed in Coron Bay were sunk by the third air fleet of US Task Force 38.
Lying at depths of 33 – 141 ft (10 – 43m) and ranging in lengths of 98 – 525 ft / (30 – 160m); these wrecks are encrusted with hard coral on the outside that’s home to a myriad of marine life.
But it is within that the real adventure lies; most wrecks take the entire duration of a dive to explore; with many decks, hallways and rooms to drift through and tight spaces to squeeze between.
You can see anti-aircraft guns, boilers, engine rooms and even an air-pocket at 65ft / 20m deep. It’s a truly thrilling experience to explore these wrecks as well as a step back in history.
In this guide, I’ll tell you all you there is to know about diving Coron; based on my own trip there over May 2023; we’ll cover the best accommodation, diving season, other things to do and more!
There’s a total of ten shipwrecks in Coron Bay within recreational diving limits – all are awesome yet quite unique in their own way. Most are for divers with decent experience (you need advanced open water training plus wreck training…being Nitrox certified is not essential but it’s a big plus!).
That said, a couple of the wrecks (Teru Kaze Maru & Lusong Gunboat) are fairly small and lie in shallow waters which make them great options for less experienced divers looking to get their first taste of wreck diving!
Below, I’ll list some of my favourite wrecks in Coron – but bear in mind there are more! To discover them all, you’ll have to go there yourself ;).
#1 Akitsushima Maru
One of the largest and most popular wrecks in Coron, this is one of the few true “warships” that was sunk (the rest being auxiliary cargo-ships and the like).
The Akitsushima Maru served to deploy a seaplane from it’s large crane and deck. It is the only wreck in Coron with any remaining anti-aircraft guns – divers can see several three barrelled AA being present at the front of the flying boat tracks!
The starboard hull lies at 72ft (22m) deep and the wreck itself measures 289 t (118m) long. Penetration is possible for advanced open water divers who can explore several decks as well as the engine rooms which houses four large diesel engines.
#2 Morazan Maru
Perhaps my favourite wreck in all of Coron! An auxiliary cargo vessel, Morazan Maru lies at 82ft (25m) deep and is 367ft (111m) long.
This wreck is a lot of fun to explore; there are several different routes through it, four large and easily penetrable cargo holds, a boiler room and even a room with an air pocket at 65ft (20m) deep, where you can actually stick your head above the water (although keep your reg in your mouth, that airs almost 80 years old so you don’t want to breathe it!).
There are many large spacious decks in Morazan Maru with shoals of small silvery fish swimming through them as well as various crabs that live inside and also portholes illuminating bright turqoise light.
#3 Olympia Maru
Measuring 305ft (93m) long, the Olympia Maru was an English built (1908) freighter-liner that was seized by the Imperial Japanese Navy in Shanghai in 1941 and then promptly put to use as an auxiliary supply (cargo) vessel.
With its shallowest point lying at just 40ft (12m) in calm conditions and having large, easily accessible penetration points, this is an excellent wreck for those new to wreck diving. That said, it does drops down to 82ft / 25m and is a large wreck at 426ft / 130 meters long, meaning there is still a good amount of it to explore for more experienced divers.
For experienced divers, Irako is a somewhat more challenging wreck on account of the fact that she has narrow entry points, lies at 108 – 138ft (33-42m) deep and is within an area that sometimes experiences medium to strong currents.
Therefore this a wreck for confident divers and should ideally be dived on Nitrox. Visibility can be very poor; especially if there are multiple divers in the wreck as due to the narrow passageways and small entry points, all it takes is for one moron to kick up a load of silt and cloud the waters for everyone else.
However, if you’re up for an adventure, Irako is a cool wreck to say you’ve dived – it’s the deepest of all Coron’s (recreational dive) wrecks and is both exciting and somewhat challenging to explore on account of the narrow passages and tight corners to squeeze through and around. Divers can see an engine room, cargo hold and a transmission room.
I bet you weren’t expecting Dugong aka Sea Cows! But if you don’t mind a 4am start, a long van ride and a somewhat expensive day (around 10,000 PHP / $180), it’s totally possible to see Dugong around Coron.
This involves travelling to north Busuanga, followed by a 60 minute boat ride to visit known Dugong feeding grounds; where you generally have a 50/50 chance of seeing Dugong (no money back if you don’t!).
Most dive centres (I recommend Umali Dive Centre) can arrange this with a minimum of four people required to go. You can also stay at Dugong Dive Center in north Busuanga to avoid the early start and van ride, but then you’ll be far away from all the wrecks which is still the highlight of diving Coron in my opinion.
#6 Freshwater Lake
You can also dive barracuda lake; a freshwater lake surrounded by epic limestone cliffs. There’s not much animal life to see within the lake but there are some truly increidbly underwater rock formations.
There’s over a dozen different dive centres and dive resorts to choose from in Coron, most are located within the town centre and offer fairly similar prices; that said generally the resorts are a little more expensive than the centres.
I dived with Umali Dive Centre; the dive guides were a really experienced and hilarious bunch and they also take small groups of just four divers to one guide. Every part of the day was extremely well operated and we always got invited out for drinks afterwards. I’m really glad I chose these guys!
I actually wrote a separate article on the best accommodation and dive resorts in Coron. I most heartily recommend you go check it out to find special deals, insider-tips and more!
You can dive Coron all year round! That said visibility varies at different times of year:
I will say that compared to some other parts of the Philippines, the water visibility in Coron is usually not so good. Only from December – March do you have the chance of vis being high enough to fully see the wrecks from the outside – and this is still not a guarantee. Visibility is generally better before high tide and can be 25 – 66ft (8-20m) but much lower after.
There’s only two ways to get to Coron. You can either fly into Busuanga (aka Francisco B.) airport and then catch a roughly 50 minute van drive into Coron town, or you can catch a ferry to Coron Port from El Nido (a little further down south in Palawan) which takes around 4 hours. The choice is yours!
Coron is one of the most beautiful parts of the Philippines with mighty limestone cliffs, turquoise freshwater lakes, lagoons white beaches and a few other hidden gems. It’s definitely worth taking a day or two to explore Coron in between scuba diving. Here’s some of the other things you can do (and how to do them):
#1 Kayangan Lake
A crystal-clear freshwater lake surrounded by incredible limestone cliffs, you may well recognise Kayangan lake from travel photos as it’s an iconic part of Palawan. Like several of the other sights, I’m about to mention, you can visit it as part of a tour.
I’ll tell you now, that when you go, you will find scores of other tour groups here; there’s usually a couple of hundred travellers in this lake (!) – so go ahead and ditch any goals of using it as a quiet place of solitude – those moments for Kayangan Lake are long gone – but it’s still a kickass sight to behold and the tours are a great way to meet people!
#2 Barracuda Lake
Similar to Kayangan Lake, and so named because of the fact that the huge skeleton of a truly massive barracuda was found here. Some say that every full moon, the bones rise up and it drifts through the water, mouth agape, empty eye-sockets aglow…ok I made that last part up but they really did find the huge skeleton of a giant barracuda here!
In my opinion, barracuda lake is perhaps not quite as impressive as Kayangan lake but it is still very cool to visit and most tours combine both lakes together. You will see many other travellers here as well.
ALSO, worth noting is that you can scuba dive barracuda lake! There’s little in the way of animal life besides a few shrimp and small fish, however the rock formations are meant to be pretty incredible. There’s also an extreme thermocline in which the water temp abruptly changes from 38 to 28 degrees Celcius which makes for an interesting sensory experience.
#3 Twin Lagoon
Like the lakes, twin lagoons is surrounded by epic towering limestone cliffs with crowns of neon green forest atop. You can swim, kayak (for an extra price), snorkel or even grab a beer from the “floating 7/11” (a dude on a kayak with a cool box containing drinks and snacks). Because it’s saltwater there’s also some pretty nice shallow coral around here.
Once more this is done as part of a tour, which usually includes a visit to the lakes, lagoons and also several beaches and snorkelling sites.
#4 Mount Tapyas Hike
This one you can do on your own. It’s hard to miss Mount Tapayas – it’s the big, 210 meter high hill with the cross atop it in the centre of Coron Town.
Hiking up the viewing deck at the top takes about 20 – 40 minutes (depending on your level of fitness); you have to ascend 700 steps to the top but it offers amazing panoramic views of Coron Town and bay along with other beautiful islands off in the distance. No guide needed. This is best done during sunset for the best red sky view… and to avoid the heat!
#5 Old Abandoned SeaPlane
I don’t know what the official name for this is; few people seem to know about it; I only heard of it from a friendly wanderer who appeared out of the blue and whispered me of its whereabouts.
To get there, to grab a scooter and take the immensely scenic ride out from Coron town for about 35 (if you me) – 60 minutes (if you a sensible driver) to Puerto Del Sol resort. You pay 500 pesos to rent a kayak (and this also gives you something like 200 pesos off any meal or drink you order).
Make your way down the steps to your kayak and head to the seaplane which is just a ten minute paddle away. And there you’ll find the mysterious, partly submerged seaplane. Noone knows how it came to be there. It’s been lost in the ages…
At any rate, it’s surrounded by calm waters (but don’t swim, apparently there’s box jellyfish!) mangrove forest and is a truly chilled place to pass the afternoon. Leave your kayak within the plane (make sure it’s at an angle that it can’t drift out!!!), go into the cockpit and climb up on top here. The tail offers some decent shade from the sun; but still take suncream!
I really enjoyed my time on the seaplane. I spent a whole afternoon there. The first 3 hours it was literally just me; it was a great time to get away from all the fuck*ng noise of so-called civilisation and finally hear my thoughts which were mostly “I want some weed”.
Eventually, the calm ambience came to an abrupt halt when no less than five other travellers turned up at once, complete with a drone, scrambled aboard the plane and proceeded to loudly talk/shout about being in the moment and how to get bigger on social media whilst taking endless selfies. Ah well. Omnia ad finem.
Generally, Coron scuba diving prices are no more expensive than other parts of the Philippines.
However, it’s worth noting that when wreck diving, because the boat has to travel to dive sites for up to an hour, it doesn’t return to the port until completing 3 dives so unless you wanna spend a tedious hour sitting around on the boat, that’s how many you’ll pay for. If I recall correctly, the price of 3 dives is around the 4000 PHP / $72 mark.
The Dugong diving is indeed expensive; 10,000 PHP / $180 for a day of two dives.
A few of the shallow wrecks of the Coron are suitable for beginners.
However, most wrecks are for advanced open water divers with wreck diving. However, so long as you do have these certifications, you’re good to go – you don’t need to be a grizzled pro with ten years diving under your belt. (Nitrox training is not essential but a plus!).
Without a doubt, the Japanese Shipwrecks are the highlight of diving Coron. My three personal favourites would have to be Morazan Maru (top fave), Akitsushima (second fave) and Olympia Maru (third fave).
Other notable experiences include Dugong diving (a long day trip and expensive though) and freshwater diving in barracuda lake.
I heartily recommend signing up for a day tour to see the lakes, lagoon and also various beach hopping and snorkeling spots. Eveywhere you go will be crowded, but you’ll meet plenty of other cool travellers and it’s a really fun day out. You can bust out the seaplane and Mount Tapayas yourself in just one day without a guide.
Some dive centres and resorts offer discount packages when you sing up for X number of dives all at once. Or discounts on accommodation when you pair it with diving. For more info, check out my main page on the best Coron accommodation and dive resorts in the link at the bottom of this article!
The best months to go are generally between December – March when visibility is at its best and water conditions at their calmest. If you plan on diving the deeper wrecks, I heartily recommend that you get your Nitrox training – it only takes a day! Or you can do your Nitrox training in Coron.
Looks like you’ve dived all the way down to the Diving Squad dive page on diving Coron. Bloody good diving job!
We’ve covered a lot in this article. First we went over what makes scuba diving Coron so unique and I mentioned some (but not all!) of my favourite shipwrecks to dive there.
Afterwards we went over the Best Coron Accommodation & Resorts for Divers, which I’ve written an all-encompassing article on here.
Next, we went through when is the best time to dive Coron, then how to get there and after that a general travel guide at other things to do in Coron.
Finally we rounded off this article with a handy Divers FAQ Section and after that came the debriefing where I summarised everything that’s been covered – that’s the bit you’re reading now!
Now all that remains is for you to check out the list of Best Coron Dive Resorts & Accommodation, book your stay there and prepare for the wreck diving adventure of a lifetime. Far out!