CORON, Palawan – For the most part, Busuanga island, the small land mass that is home to the town of Coron, which is the major gateway to the world-renowned Coron Island, looks ill-prepared for international guests.
Roads even on the small downtown district are narrow and sidewalks are barely there, leaving pedestrians on their own to defend themselves from dozens of motorbikes and tricycles driving by.
The lack of proper infrastructure does not discourage adventurers from visiting though. Many from far and wide are attracted to the natural mystique of Coron Island that is often touted as one of the best places in the world. There is no doubt about Coron Island’s beauty and I applaud the local government for protecting it by disallowing overnight stay on the majestic destination.
But that leaves visitors with not much choice but find a place to sleep at Coron town.
At this first-class municipality, crowds are generally divided into two: the high-end market which can afford to stay in more expensive hotels like Two Seasons and Funny Lion; and the many backpackers who just need a bed and a shower area.
The middle ground of the spectrum, however, has fewer choices until in recent years. And this underserved, middle-income market is something that a series of establishments along Calle Real are trying to address.
Calle Real or Real Street is located just a few blocks from the foot of Mount Tapyas. It’s a 5-minute walk from the town’s main plaza which makes it accessible to most banks, the market and the port.
But it also offers a quick escape from the hustle and bustle. It offers budget hotel options that attract the less rowdy crowd. The Coron Ecolodge, with its 22 no-frills rooms, is as basic as it can get. Across it is the newer, Treetop Suites, a boutique-style hotel that has an outdoor lounge pool which is not a very common find in the vicinity. There is also the Casa Coron which, as its name implies, gives guests the feel of staying at a real house.
The short strip is also home to dining establishments that offer meals and beverages most millennial travelers have grown accustomed to. There’s the popular Poco Deli branch, a Mexican-inspired bistro, a resto-bar, and a proper café for espresso enthusiasts. And for those looking to explore the island, there is a nearby eco-adventure tour operator that can arrange travel packages like hiking, paddle boarding and more.
The developers behind these affiliate establishments dub El Real as the "Bonifacio High Street" of Coron. After all, it’s one of a few areas that offer top-notch food from day to late night, and attracts a crowd that has spending capacity to wine and dine.
Truth be told, El Real is still far from the original High Street in Taguig City. But in the context of this tourist town, I will have to agree.