Review by Philippa Langrish
Why you’ll love the Funny Lion
The Funny Lion is an awesome little resort. This boutique hotel is home to just 32 rooms making it very homely and very family-friendly. Set just outside Coron Town in Palawan, this cosy hotel offers families a peaceful retreat with some stunning views over a tranquil cove with mangrove and kayak trails. The hotel only opened at the end of 2014, although the group behind it are responsible for a number of equally lovely hotels including Amorita Resort, where we previously stayed and had a wonderful time.
The hotel gets its name from the safari park on the nearby island of Calauit, which opened during the Marcos years when Imelda and Ferdinand decided to import African animals to The Philiippines. The animal sanctuary remains today and is home to animals including zebras and giraffe, but no lion! Hence the name of the hotel… As you might expect from such a moniker, the hotel decor is safari-Inspired; brown stitched leather upholstery, old globes, framed maps, curved chrome light fixtures, and chunky wooden furniture. The overall aesthetic is gorgeous.
We went to The Funny Lion with my mother and step-father who were visiting us. This globetrotting pair of intrepid travellers (aged 69- and 80-years-old!) love a new adventure as long as there is a comfy bed and a G&T waiting for them at the end of a long day – fortunately the hotel offered both!
Given the age range of our group (aged 1-years to 80!), we needed to organise tours to suit everyone’s needs and the Funny Lion’s staff were brilliant at tailor-making trips for our group, including an amazing boat ride. Despite my initial reservations about bringing Gillan (the 1-year-old) on a boat for an entire day, we had an amazing time. Our private tour took us to spots within 20-minutes of the mainland (meaning we could get back whenever we wanted, and quickly!) and Gillan was lulled to sleep by the engines meaning we could stay out for the whole day.
Our day of island hopping was utterly brilliant, so much so that we went again the next day. The highlight for me was visiting the Twin Lagoons, which you enter through a natural gateway of jagged rocks that soar above you. Once in the first lagoon there is a little cave you swim through to enter the second. This secret world felt like the Narnia of the tropics – deserted with only the creeping vines clinging to the rocks that rose up like daggers from the turquoise waters.
Back at the resort mellow piped jazz music welcomed us home. The soft rustle of bamboo offered shade, while the evening chorus of frogs gave this quiet little pocket of Coron its unique character. The resort also has a fabulous sky deck overlooking the lagoon with two bubbly plunge pools. The Pride Deck was a great place for us to share a few cocktails while the kids had dinner. When Gillan began to flake I was able to take him to the room where Arlene the baby sitter was waiting. She made sure Gillan was happily sleeping while I snuck back for some long overdue time with my Mum.
Why the kids will love the Funny Lion
My two children Maya and Gillan had a great time at The Funny Lion. The kids’ pool is lovely and shallow with bubbles for them to play in. The hotel has big safari sculptures of lions, tigers and a giraffe at the entrance way which Gillan and Maya made a ritual of greeting daily. There are games such as Jenga, Scrabble and Boggle in the dining room, which were great for block building with baby Gillan after his evening meal. However the highlight for both kids was exploring the fantastic beaches by boat that dot the waters around Coron.
We took the kids to CYC Island on the first day, which was practically deserted with a lot of lovely shade. Gillan and Maya built sandcastles in the soft white sand, collected shells from the shore line and played in the water.
The next day we left Grandpa at the resort while Maya, Gillan, Granny and I went to the wet market to buy lunch for the day. Loaded with supplies including, charcoal, water, chicken legs, a parrot fish, calamansi (a type of orange), tomatoes, apples, soya sauce and a few cartons of milk we set out on a Banca Boat to Atwayan Beach.
The beach had a few banana leaf and bamboo cabañas where we set up camp while the crew cooked the BBQ of goodies we had bought from the market. We had the beach to ourselves for the most part. Gillan and Maya discovered the thermo-clime where the cool waters from the underground lakes seeped out through the rocks and created little rivers which met the warm sea. The children spent hours playing in the sand, looking for clams and paddling in the waters. Once our tummies started to rumble a beautifully cooked BBQ was presented by our crew, which was complete with tomatoes carved in the shape of roses!
It’s well worth brining rubber shoes with you; Palawan has poisonous stone fish and you really don’t want to step on one in the sea! It’s also worth brining life vests for your kids, even if they can swim well it makes snorkelling that much more relaxing and fun for the entire family.
The Funny Lion has created a wonderful safari theme throughout, which gives guests a taste for the adventure lying beyond the islands’ shores. The rooms are beautifully designed with dark brown leather furnishings, chunky wooden stools, neutral sisal style rugs and large nautical barrels.
There are three category of rooms at The Funny Lion:
King Room: Maximum Occupancy: 2 adults & 2 children 6 years and below, or 3 adults
Amenities: 1 king-sized bed, individually-controlled air condition unit, mini bar, in-room safe, cable television, hot and cold shower, coffee and tea making facilities
Cub Room: Maximum Occupancy: 2 adults & 2 children 6 years and below, or 3 adults
Amenities: 2 twin beds, individually-controlled air condition unit, mini bar, in-room safe, cable television, hot and cold shower, coffee and tea making facilities
Pride Room: Maximum occupancy: 2 adults and 2 children, or 3 adults
Amenities: Choice between 2 Twin-sized beds or 1 King-sized bed individually-controlled air condition unit, mini bar, in-room safe, cable television, hot and cold shower, coffee and tea making facilities
We stayed in the Pride Room and had a great view over the bay. The huge desk by the window which was the perfect spot to read while the kids were sleeping.
Best Rooms for Families: The best rooms for families are the ground floor rooms by the pool. However, our room on the 1st floor had a great view and pull out bed for Maya as well as lots of space for a cot.
In keeping with the safari theme, the hotel restaurant is called Hunt. The menu is gastro pub meets island flavours and the food is very good. There is a themed buffet some nights along with a weekly BBQ.
If you are into spice the kinilaw salad (Philippine Sushi) I had on the first night was delicious. We also tucked into cashew encrusted jumbo prawns, Dory marinated in soya sauce lemon and ginger and meat loaf and mash for my step-father who likes to champion UK food no matter which corner of the globe he is in!
On the second day the hotel hosted a BBQ with a scrummy spread of Lapu Lapu, Parrot Fish, Liempo and Chicken. The pasta and pizza buffet was a big hit with the kids as they could choose their own variety of pasta, toppings and sauces and then the chef would whizz up a perfect al dente portion in a few minutes. I concocted fettuccine with fresh Dory in a creamy alfredo sauce with garlic and parmesan.
The resort try to source as much local produce as possible for a sustainable kitchen. The menu reflects this marvellously while also retaining a diverse menu which pleased our little tribe. On the last night I was torn between a healthy garden salad and pork belly although it didn’t take long before my guilty pleasure won over, with the justification that I had spent half the day burning calories in the sea with Maya. Next time we visit I will be keen to try the hanger steak and Thai chilli wings.
For Kids: There is no kids menu as yet but the hotel were incredibly accommodating and made smaller portions on request or kept roast chicken for the kids, which Maya and Gillan shared for dinner and had as cold cuts for lunch then next day.
Coron is a gateway to adventure. If your family loves to explore, swim, climb and hike this is the best place to be. We tailor made our island hopping day tours to be baby- and grandparent-friendly. Thanks to the calm seas this area is perfect for little swimmers as they won’t get bashed about by waves.
Island Hopping: We spent two days exploring the neighbouring islands by boat. Destinations we visited inluded:
- The Twin Lagoons – excellent spot for little swimmers
- CYC Beach – baby friendly with lots of shade
- Siete Pecardos – snorkelling site of a Japanese Wreck
- Atwayan Beach – perfect for a secluded shady BBQ.
Coron Town Tour We also took a tour of Coron Town although there is not a huge amount to see. The highlight was definitely the Hot Springs which are beautiful and rejuvenating although they are not so suitable for young kids due to the heat of the water.
Other destinations to visit from here include:
- Kayangan Lake
- Twin Peaks Reef
- Hidden Lagoon
- Bulungan Beach
- Calachuchi Coral Eden
- Barracuda Lake
- Dimanglet Island
- Lajala Cultural Village
- Coron Coral Triangle
- Coral Garden
- Decalve Reef
- Ruyukan Mangrove Channel
- Malcapuya Island
- Kingfisher Park
- Lunes Santo Mt. Trail
- Malbato Mangrove
- Calauit Safari Park
- Black Island Caves
- Panlaitan Village
Activities at the hotel include: Swimming Spa Board Games Activities for Kids: Swimming Board Games
A/C, babysitting available for an additional charge, common rooms, handful of baby cots available, doctor on call, there is a clinic 10 minutes away in Coron, the nearest large hospital is two-hours away by boat, 1 extra bed permitted in each room, dedicated kids’ pool, laundry, pushchair-friendly (on the ground floor), shop selling local crafts and Funny Lion branded items, spa, swimming pool, travel desk, WiFi (complimentary and available throughout the property).
Environmental & Social Responsibility: The resort is owned by the One Off Collection who also own Sta Monica (Dumaguete) and Amorita Resort (Bohol). The One Off Collection are committed to sustainable environmental and cultural measures. I was really impressed to hear about Project ECO, which is looking towards protecting the environment, culture and heritage of the Philippines. The water is solar heated, they have a sewage treatment plant, the shop sells local crafts and the restaurant sources locally. They also have a new initiative in Bohol which is supporting an artists’ village by helping their craft.
When to go:
The best time to visit the Philippines is between December and February in the cooler months. The wet season is from June onwards. Be careful travelling in the months from September to December as this is when the typhoon season is. However, I often travel in these months and it is ok as long as you don’t mind a bit of a downpour in the afternoons and you check the weather for Typhoon warnings.
Average temperatures range from 27 – 40C+. Avoid travelling in the busy holy weeks of Easter and Christmas.
Location & Travel:
The Funny Lion is located is located in Coron Town at Sitio Jolo Brg, Palawan. For international travel fly to Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport, then a local flight to Busuanga. The hotel will pick you up from Busuanga and it takes about 40mins by van to get to the hotel.
1) Bring cash! All excursions need to be paid directly in cash. The town’s ATM swallowed my stepfather’s card too so we were relieved that we had enough money on us.
2) Eat deep fried potato skewers by the bay side. There is a food hawker selling them from her trolly by the boat docking point.
3) Either book a beach tour with a BBQ or buy your own at the wet market and take it on the boat for an al fresco dining experience in Paradise.