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El Rio y Mar Resort 3.5

Coron, Palawan, Mimaropa

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Remote beachfront location in a roadless area of Busuanga Island
  • Spacious, semi-unplugged rooms with panoramic ocean views
  • Small infinity pool overlooking the ocean, complete with a kiddy section
  • International restaurant serving buffet and a la carte options with a view
  • Quiet bar with sunset and ocean views
  • Excellent spa with indoor and outdoor massage cabins
  • Free non-motorized water sports and hiking trips
  • Motorized water sports and island-hopping tours available for a fee
  • Small fitness center with a handful of machines and natural light
  • One meeting room with audiovisual equipment
  • Game room and library with books, movies, and pool and ping-pong tables
  • Free Wi-Fi at the restaurant

Cons

  • Some bathrooms could use an update
  • Rooms lack Wi-Fi and TVs (a pro for some)
  • Poor mobile service (a pro for some)

Bottom Line

With a remote location in Busuanga Island, limited Wi-Fi access, spotty mobile service, and no TVs in rooms, El Rio y Mar Resort is a good upper-middle-range pick for those looking to get away from it all. Its 31 units come in a variety of styles and layouts, from stand-alone huts full of traditional details to more standard hotel guest rooms. All have furnished balconies overlooking the ocean, as well as minibars stocked with sodas and water, safes, and thermoses with purified water. Although secluded and tranquil, the property offers a lot to do on-site, including free non-motorized water sports, hiking, and island-hopping tours. For something a bit more luxurious and less remote, the Busuanga Bay Lodge is a good alternative.

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Scene

Secluded resort with a serene vibe and a long, sandy beachfront

After a 50-minute flight from Manila, a 30-minute (sometimes bumpy) shuttle ride, and a 25-minute boat transfer, El Rio y Mar appears in the distance nestled among green hills and a sandy beach dotted with palm trees. On either side of a long pier jutting out into the clear bay waters, several wooden huts with pitched roofs, and a couple of larger open pavilions lend the property a tropical paradise vibe. A small platform with white curtains and a thatched roof floats in the middle of the bay. Here, guests can get massages while peeking through holes in the floor that show the seabed and the rich marine life that can be found in this part of the island.

Once on solid ground, the staff welcomes guests with music and a refreshing welcome drink. Check-in is done is a small, simple lobby whose walls are covered with photos of nearby islands and their fauna. Traditional details such as straw walls and wooden furniture give the space lots of local charm. Outside, the atmosphere is quiet and relaxing, with most guests either out for the day exploring the nearby islands, or lounging by the pool and the lovely sandy beach. At the back of the property is a hiking trail that leads to the top of a hill with stunning panoramic views.

Location

Remote location on a beach in northern Busuanga Island

The resort is located in a remote area of Busuanga, an island part of Coron situated between Mindoro and mainland Palawan. There are no roads in this part of the island, and the only access to the hotel is via boat. There are no restaurants, bars, shops or cultural attractions nearby, but the location is great for those looking to stay active or simply sunbathe. The area around the hotel is known for its clear waters teeming with fish, and there is a shipwreck a short boat ride away popular among local divers. There is also a hiking trail right outside the resort, and a range of island-hopping tours can be booked directly at front desk. Tiny Francisco B. Reyes airport, located in central Busuanga Island, is a 30-minute boat ride plus a 30-minute shuttle ride away.

Rooms

Semi-unplugged stand-alone huts and hotel rooms with expansive ocean views

El Rio y Mar has 31 rooms divided into three different categories: Casa units, Cedar Cabanas, and Native Cabanas. All are built directly on the sand overlooking the bay and have panoramic ocean views. Casa units are standard hotel rooms housed in small two-story buildings. They are clean and airy, but also the simplest in terms of decor style, with white tile floors, cream-colored walls, white linens, and traditional wooden furniture. Cedar and Native Cabanas are stand-alone units with high pitched ceilings and dark wood furniture. Some have tile floors and a couple of pops of orange, while others have more local charm, with wooden floors, walls and ceilings made of natural fibers, and straw hammocks on the terrace. All units are equipped with lightly stocked minibars, safes, ceiling fans, air-conditioning, and thermoses with purified water. Wi-Fi and TVs are not available, and mobile service is spotty to nonexistent. Some bathrooms are contemporary and stylish, with oval sinks over dark counters, and walk-in rain showers. Others feature older fixtures and basic wet-room-style showers, and are in need of an update.

Features

Water sports, infinity pool, restaurant, spa, fitness center, and Wi-Fi

The hotel is located on a long sandy beach dotted with palm trees, loungers, straw hammocks, and umbrellas. Non-motorized water sports are available free of charge, including snorkeling gear, paddleboards, and sea kayaks. Motorized water sports, diving trips, and island-hopping tours can be arranged for a fee at front desk. Adjacent to the beach is the hotel's small infinity pool, featuring panoramic ocean views and a shallow kiddy pool. The games room has a few shelves with books, a TV area, and pool and ping-pong tables, but there is no full kids’ club on-site. 

The restaurant is housed in an open pavilion overlooking the bay, and serves an international menu and a buffet that gets mixed reviews. Located directly over the water in a quiet part of the beach, the bar is a popular spot for sunset drinks. The spa has a couple of massage rooms, including one on a floating platform in the middle of the bay. A handful of cardio and strength-training machines are available at the fitness center. Free Wi-Fi can be spotty depending on weather and is only available at the restaurant.

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Address

San Jose, Coron 5316, Philippines

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