Philippines

Kayangan Lake

Kayangan Lake is on Coron Island, a short boat journey across the bay from Coron Town.
There are so many beautiful natural sights around Coron, but Kayangan Lake is arguably the most famous, along with the Twin Lagoons. Kayangan Lake is an exquisitely beautiful place. When the sunlight is right it’s hard to believe your eyes.

Turquoise lagoon
Turquoise water in the lagoon near Kayangan Lake
Boardwalk and boats
Boardwalk and boats on the approach to Kayangan Lake. The shallow water is so clear it looks like there’s nothing there.

Glimpsing the view at Kayangan Lake was one of those rare times for me when Instagram comes to life and touches reality. I was climbing the steep steps from sea level up the rocky pass that leads towards the lake. Focused on the climb and the people in front, I didn’t think about the famous viewpoint until I happened to turn around, and glimpsed it through the trees. A thrill ran through me – it looked just like I’d seen in countless photos, except I was now standing there right in front of it and seeing the view with my own eyes. I’ve been hooked on the scenery of northern Palawan for a long time, and seen posts on Kayangan Lake for years. It was magical when those moments turned into reality.

Viewpoint through the trees
My first glimpse of the view through the trees

The famous view often associated with Kayangan Lake is actually not of the lake itself, but from a viewpoint behind it. This viewpoint looks north over a sea lagoon, towards Coron Bay. To reach the enchanting Kayangan Lake, you turn around from here and head down a set of stone steps.

Kayangan Lake steps
The pathway down to Kayangan Lake

Swimming in Kayangan Lake

You can swim in Kayangan Lake, but everyone has to wear a buoyancy aid while swimming. This means you can’t exactly glide through the crystal clear water, but continually bob around on the surface like a cork. It can be a little frustrating and I heard a couple of visitors complaining. However the rule was instigated in response to a drowning accident at Kayangan Lake a couple of years before. The lake is very safe with still, clear water, so nothing to worry about, but two Czech free divers got into problems several metres underwater, so now no-one is allowed to dive. Most of the lake has been roped off and made inaccessible for swimming as a further safety measure, and there are also attended lifeguard/security stations. These security stations can be handy if you want somebody to look after your stuff while you swim in the lake.

Swimming in Kayangan Lake
Swimmers enjoying Kayangan Lake
Kayangan Lake
Most of Kayangan Lake is roped off, but the alloted area is still big enough to find some space to swim around in.
Blue water of Kayangan Lake
No editing has been done to these photos – the water really is this blue!
Kayangan Lake surface
The clear water of Kayangan Lake
View of swimmers in Kayangan Lake
There are steps into the water and a boardwalk around the edge
Swimming in clear water at Kayangan Lake
Swimming in Kayangan Lake is special because the water is incredibly clear

Beautiful Kayangan Lake

Kayangan Lake is still a truly magical place despite the security measures, and the crowds. I’d seen a lot of photos of the viewpoint on Instagram before going, but when I went there and found the same view for myself – it was amazing. The first thing I realised was that the view from Kayangan Lake does look in nature exactly how it looked in the photos – in fact the reality was even better. Completely unedited – this is raw nature at its most beautiful. Breathtaking!

Kayangan Lake view close-up
Close-up of the view

Kayangan Lake is very clear, so it’s fun to snorkel and look underneath the surface. Visibility underwater is excellent so you can see right down. There are a few fish and some interesting rock formations underwater. The area permitted for swimming is large enough that you’re able to find your own space even if there are quite a lot of people in the water.

One of the only downsides of my visit is that it was too brief. I could happily have spent most of a day there. I was on a group tour, which is great as a budget-friendly opportunity to experience as many of the amazing places around Coron as possible. The compromise is that you have a fixed itinerary and limited time in each place, often with other groups there at the same time.

Kayangan Lake view
Reefs and shallow water surround the islands of Coron Bay
Sea lagoon near Kayangan Lake
View across the sea lagoon

How to visit Kayangan Lake

I joined a tour of about 20 other people, with Calamianes Expeditions & EcoTours. They run the Coron Island Ultimate Tour every day; it costs 950 pesos per person. There are many other companies in Coron who run similar tours, from 900 pesos. I liked the tour company – they were well organised and it was a good experience. I would have done more tours with them but the Coron Island Ultimate is the only one they guarantee to run each day, so I switched to JY Tours for other tours.

You can also visit Kayangan Lake and other sights around Coron Island by arranging a private tour through a tour company or a hotel, or by chartering your own boat at the harbour. Chartering your own boat for a day (or more) seems like it would be fairly straightforward. I haven’t done this myself but when I was down at the harbour walking around, crew members on boats asked me if I wanted to hire one.

Which tour is best for Kayangan Lake and Coron Island?

There are slight differences between tour companies offering tours A, B, C, D etc. They may provide different lunches, and have more or less efficient ways of getting their passengers to and from the boats in time. With some companies you can have a prompt 8am start (as I did with the Calamianes tour), while with others you could be waiting on the boat for a couple of hours before even setting off, which eats into your time at the sights. Unlike the El Nido ABCD tours, which are the same across the board, tours from Coron differ in itineraries according to the company. One tour company’s Tour A might look quite different from the Tour A of another company.

Going on a general group tour is a good way to see as much as possible as a budget traveller, particularly if you’re travelling solo or in a couple, when getting a private tour would be proportionately more expensive. Normally a group tour option is fine for me, but for Palawan I feel that the natural sights are just so wonderful that it would be worth paying significantly more to have a more relaxed visit, second time around. So if I was going again I’d aim to travel with family or friends and arrange a private tour for a small group of us. However the tours I took were great for getting me to the awesome places on a low budget.

Boat outside Kayangan Lake
Boats on the amazingly clear water outside Kayangan Lake
Lagoon outside Kayangan Lake
The lagoon outside Kayangan Lake

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