I have to admit that we had our share of ups and downs in the Philippines. Most of the disappointments were related to the overcrowdedness in most places, the chaotic tourism that seems to be taking over this fantastic archipelago. But we also had beautiful surprises. We found areas which we didn’t want to leave, where we could have stayed forever and not care about time. Such was the case in Busuanga Island, home of Coron Town and Coron Island. Where we set our minds to find the best beach in Palawan. We wanted a peaceful beach, with no bars and no tourists falling all over each other. A quiet beach ours alone. And we managed to find it – the Ocam Ocam beach.
To be honest, we weren’t actually looking for a perfect beach like the ones you see in commercials, with white sand and turquoise water (although we did end up finding that in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago). We just wanted to get away from all the hustle and bustle of Coron. All we wanted was peace and quiet (it might sound like a point on a retired person’s bucket list, but we enjoy quiet places). We are not the number one fans of beaches. We would trade a beach for a mountain trek anytime. As such, when we find ourselves on beaches, we either try to find ones that are good for snorkeling or that are good for enjoying a book. However, in Coron, it was pretty tricky to find such places.
That moment when you get tired of too much holiday
Busuanga Island with its amazing Coron Island should be on everybody’s to-do list when preparing for a Palawan trip. It’s actually competing with El Nido for the best place in Palawan. We have to say that we enjoyed the island hoppings on Coron more than the ones on El Nido. And it seems that we aren’t the only ones, saying that Coron is a better alternative.
So we totally understand why when you type on Google where to go in Palawan, El Nido and Coron are the first results. They are almost always the highlights of lists of best places to visit in the Philippines. However, when we decided to book our stay in Coron Town we surely didn’t think we would end up chasing the best beach in Palawan. But given the low amount of quiet we had in El Nido, we felt the need to disconnect.
After a few days of island hopping, we felt the need to take a break. I sometimes feel slightly ashamed for saying this, it feels like saying that we got tired of too much holiday. But this is precisely what we were feeling. And during our long-term traveling, we often felt the need to just take a break.
The quest to find a quiet beach
But let’s return to our beautiful beach. We were in Coron, on the Busuanga Island, an island in northern Palawan. All the tourists and the activities seemed to be focusing on island hopping and various sightseeing in and around Coron. But we decided that there must be more to Busuanga that this. There must be a hidden beach, one that we could call our best beach in Palawan. So we decided to start exploring. Vlad got his favorite tool, the map, and I began searching wise old Google. And we both found clues leading us to a place called Ocam Ocam. But there wasn’t that much information on the internet about it – the perfect reason for us to check it out.
How do you reach Ocam Ocam, our best beach in Palawan?
Our hosts in Coron widened their eyes when hearing that we wanted to get to Ocam Ocam:
“Why do you want to go there? It’s far!”
“I don’t think that riding a bike for 75km can be considered too far.”
“But there is nothing to do at Ocam Ocam!”
“Well, we actually want to find the best beach in Palawan!”
“(laughing) For sure you won’t find it at Ocam Ocam, it’s just a secluded beach.“
“Actually for us, that’s the definition of a perfect beach!”
After the dialogue with our hosts, something that by that time had already become a classic with locals – one where they think we are a bit crazy or lost – we skipped to important details. We wanted to know exactly how to reach Ocam Ocam. They actually told us that we could take the bus there. There was a daily bus leaving each morning at 10 and it would drop us in New Busuanga after a three or three-and-a-half hour ride. From there we would take a bike. But I didn’t need any other details. Knowing that it could take us so long to get there was enough to decide to rent a bike.
Yet another bike ride
So, after a not so fiery fight between the bus and the bike, of course, the bike won. The next day we waited for Boyet, the rental shop, to open and then we hopped on our bike and off we went. I could spend hours on end riding a bike and holding close to Vlad. To be able to enjoy the captivating scenery around us, to forget everything else. And when traveling on islands, this is what we enjoy the most. To ride a bike or a scooter and explore and discover. And in the Philippines, we were actually quite lucky because the roads are in a reasonably good condition. We kept on stopping to admire the views, how the greenery of the hills was contrasting with the blue of the water. So yes, the trip took longer than we expected, almost 2 hours and a half.
Finally, after around 70 km, the map indicated to turn left on a dirt road. We were a bit skeptical at first, but we slowly made our way, and after around 2 km we saw two locals on a bike. We waved and smiled at them, asking for Ocam Ocam beach. They told us to follow them and after a few minutes, they showed us a small house with a courtyard.
Amazing Filipino hospitality
Too shy to enter the courtyard with the bike, we parked it on the road. But instantly a lovely and smiling lady came to greet us. We told her that we were there to see the Ocam Ocam beach. She politely invited us to leave our bike in her courtyard and showed us the way to the secluded beach. Yet again we met the Asian hospitality when she asked us whether we would like something to eat. And to be honest, we were starting to get a bit hungry. So we happily accepted her lunch invitation.
However, I was running out of patience. I wanted to see if we could actually include the anonymous Ocam Ocam beach on the list of things to do in Palawan. On our way to the beach, we couldn’t ignore the serenity around us. All we could hear were children giggling and women cooking. Scents of raw coconut and fried fish were floating in the air. I closed my eyes and told Vlad that if we find a lot of tourists on this beach, I am done talking to the Philippines, I give up! But somebody up there must love us because we got to the beach and there was no sign of tourists. Only later did we notice a man lying under a tree.
Face to face with tranquility!
Finally our long-dreamed-of tranquility! Was it the best beach in Palawan? For us it undoubtedly was. We quickly dropped our backpack on the sand and jumped into the crystal clear water. We knew that we only had time for a quick bath and a lunch. Because we had agreed to return the bike at 6 pm. And we hadn’t thought that it would take us so long to get there. But we both knew that we would come again.
We tried to do a bit of snorkeling, but we could only find a few fish. So we just enjoyed the tranquility of the beach. We couldn’t believe our eyes that we had managed to find in the Philippines, especially in Palawan, a deserted beach. As we waited on the beach to get dry, we saw a small fishing boat reaching shore. A cheerful fisherman hopped out the boat with a net that seemed to hide something inside.
The perfect lunch
When we got back for lunch to the sweet lady, who introduced herself as Pops, we found out that the fisherman was actually her husband. And he had caught a small octopus. So Pops prepared a hearty meal, with octopus chopped in small pieces and cooked in soy sauce, with black pepper, garlic, and onion. Next to vegetables and fried rice, it was a delicious meal. Pops told us that there were actually only a few tourists that would come from Coron to Ocam Ocam. But for her, they represent a source of income. She would cook something for them and some of them would even stay overnight.
The problem with apples
When talking to Pops we were both surprised by her question whether we have apples in Romania. Because they just love apples, but they can barely afford them as they are too expensive in the Philippines. We smiled and explained that in Romania we have tons of apples and when we travel we never eat them because we are sick of them. So we prefer fruits that we know we cannot find back home, such as the delicious small bananas so abundant in the Philippines. But it is interesting when we have this type of conversations because they make us realize the differences between us and how the regions of the world complete each other.
We left Pops promising her to return, but at an earlier hour, to make sure we enjoy more time on our perfect Palawan beach. She was also smiling when she heard us describing it as a perfect beach. Most likely she, as well as our hosts, couldn’t understand how one can fall in love with a beach that is not picture-perfect. And how we can call it the best beach in Palawan. But for us, it was a hidden gem for sure.
We couldn’t stay away from our beach
After two days we decided to return. This time we left Coron at 7 am. We had already talked the day before with the guys from Boyet to get our bike very early. But this time we weren’t feeling like tourists, we were no longer carrying a map with us. And we were riding confident and eager to reach our destination. We surprised Pops who couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw us parking the bike. As such we were sure that there aren’t that many tourists that return to Ocam Ocam beach. But we found it difficult to stay away from our beautiful beach. And this time we didn’t go empty-handed, we bought Pops and her family a bag of apples.
What the future might bring
We had breakfast together with Pops and her husband. And this is how we found out some sad news – apparently, the authorities are planning to build a paved road all the way to Ocam Ocam. As usual, this kind of news is both good and sad. For the locals, it is good news because the area will flourish and it will develop. Actually, Pops was already dreaming of building a small guesthouse and having a lot of tourists. But surely the environment will be the one suffering; we will no longer be able to name it our best beach in Palawan. It will be just another beautiful beach in the Philippines, full of tourists. However, we were glad we had the chance to see it unspoiled.
Talking about spirituality with the locals
Taking advantage of their excellent English, I couldn’t possibly avoid bringing my favorite subject into the discussion – religious curiosities. For me, it is fascinating to discover the religious diversity in the world, to find out more about people’s beliefs and to let the locals introduce me to their spiritual world. And here is where Pops’s husband intervened. He told us that the village school had been built by Christian missionaries. And thus all the locals soon became Christian Evangelicals and strongly believe in God.
“We believe in God with our soul and in His creation of the world, the Creation of Adam and Eve. How could one believe in such nonsense as the ones preached by ones like Darwin and his theories?! You also believe in the Bible, don’t you?!”
Seeing his powerful faith, I didn’t want to start a debate with my kind of atheist beliefs. So we smiled and simply asked him whether in a village filled with such faithful people there are any scandals of thefts. He shook his head surprised I should be asking such a stupid thing! He told us how they leave the doors of the houses opened, and they never had one incident. It was always peace and quiet. Everybody was getting along and each Sunday they go together to Church. As such, we did not only stumble upon the best beach in Palawan. We also found a united and peaceful community.
A perfect day at the best beach in Palawan
We left Pops and her family and headed to our quiet beach. Given it was Saturday, we were pleasantly surprised by children laughing and playing. It was now their beach. There were a couple of them that were trying to bury themselves in the sand. So I gladly offered my help. They only knew some phrases in English. This didn’t seem to stop them laughing from my efforts of trying to cover them with sand. On the sea, there were the future fishermen of the village. The boys were actually wandering around and trying to catch something. They finally did catch some small fish and you could read pride all over their faces.
We lied down under a palm tree and read. But it was difficult not to get swept away by the incredible view around us. The children playing, the perfectly clear sky and the calm, bright blue water. I felt that I didn’t want to leave that place. How not to be fascinated by a place where people help each other? Where they smile all the time and live surrounded by perfect scenery? But we finally left our amazing beach, for us the best beach in Palawan. And went to enjoy one more lunch at Pops’.
How much did it cost us to enjoy our secluded beach?
1400 pesos for the bike for both days, gas included
430 pesos our delicious octopus lunch for the first visit
700 pesos for both breakfast and lunch for our second visit at Pops’
150 pesos for the apples we bought for Pps and her family
Total = 2680 pesos to get away from the hectic Coron and enjoy what we call our best beach in Palawan