A Different Type of Beach Getaway
To say Ocam Ocam is off-the-beaten-path would be a lie. The path is definitely beaten, but it’s beaten by the elements, not by tourists. Indeed, Ocam Ocam is so un-touristed that the town itself is misspelled and mis-located on Google maps (see screenshot below).
Ocam Ocam is no idyllic beach getaway, but it is most certainly an escape from the stresses of modern life. Before you go, there are some things you might want to beware of. Here they are.
Tip #1: Prepare to Disconnect
There is no cell reception in Ocam Ocam, the only food in town is either caught by the fisherman, rice, or comes from a can, electricity is more of a rumor than reality, and you may well be the only tourist in town like we were.
So bring a good book, a flashlight, batteries for your phone, and some cash. And if you want to have any veggies with your meal, bring them with you from town. Then disconnect.
To get an idea of just how deserted Ocam Ocam beach can be, watch this quick video:
[Update: Ocam Ocam now has a couple of basic but good restaurants and you can get pay-by-the-day WiFi.]
Tip #2: Only Go if You’re Comfortable Riding Your Motorbike
If you’re uncertain about your motorbike riding ability, ask about the road conditions before driving one to Ocam Ocam.
Around the rainy season, when we went, the road from the highway to Ocam Ocam was treacherous. On a few occasions, Kim had to get off and walk while I carefully maneuvered our bike up and down steep and heavily rutted dirt and rock roads.
And it wasn’t just us; We passed by some locals having just as much difficulty. If locals are having a hard time with the road, you know it’s rough.
[Update: The road from the highway to Ocam Ocam is now mostly paved. It’s still a decent way from Coron Town, so you only have to be moderately confident in your motorcycling ability (and your travel insurance) to get there.]
Tip #3: If You Want Beer, You Better Bring It
There’s no beer at Ocam Ocam. Apparently some missionaries came to town and succeeded in banishing alcohol and tobacco.
Well, almost all of it.
Call us alcoholics if you must, but we managed to find a local alternative: coconut wine, or as the Filipinos call it, tuba (too-BA). Ask anyone in Ocam Ocam and they’ll point you to the family that makes it. That’s right, it’s a family business – kids and all. The stuff is made right in their crowded house off the beach.
We bought the coconut wine off a 10 year old kid. I asked him how much. He said, “100”. I thought, “100 pesos [$2]. Not bad”, then asked how big it was. His reply made me laugh out loud. Even compared to the other super-cheap prices in the Philippines, this was ridiculous. For 100 pesos he said I’d get 1 gallon of coconut wine. We settled on 1.5 litres for 50 pesos.
Kim wasn’t super fond of it, but I liked it. Sure it would’ve been nicer if it were cold and it was a bit vinegary. It was still the best homemade coconut wine I’d ever had.
[Update: Beer is now readily available at a few locations in Ocam Ocam. While we consider that welcome news, we still recommend the coconut wine experience!]
Tip #4: Hire Saldi For Your Black Island Tour
Black Island is Ocam Ocam’s one-and-only tourist activity. It looks like a mini version of Coron Island, but with a big soft sand beach and caves that have swimming holes in them. A half hour boat ride away, it’s worth checking out.
Go with Saldi. He doesn’t talk much, but he’s got a good, big boat, offered the best price in town (believe us, we asked literally everyone, which is not saying much given the size of Ocam Ocam), and his wife Grace prepared us an excellent lunch with a freshly caught fish (by Saldi) the evening before.
You can find Saldi at the big green-roofed house at the south end of the beach.
[Update: According to a helpful reader who visited in 2020, Black Island tours cost 2,500 pesos for four people. For 500 more, you can visit a second island.]
Tip #5: Try the Dough Balls
On the way in to Ocam Ocam we missed the turn-off from the highway not once but twice. So finally we stopped at a little shop to ask for directions.
The shop sold the same packaged crap as everywhere else in the Philippines, with one exception. A couple containers had round sesame-covered mounds of dough the size of baseballs we hadn’t seen before. Neither the person running the store nor her three customers/friends knew what they were called. Since we never saw them anywhere else either (despite searching), they must have been some homemade recipe.
Well these no-named home-made dough balls were delicious. They were hard and crunchy on the outside, soft and dense on the inside, and not too sweet. Five pesos well spent.
So make sure to get the dough balls — and directions to the turnoff — yourself. The store is on the right side of the highway heading towards Ocam Ocam a couple hundred meters past the high school.
[Update: Dough balls are still there and still really good.]
Experience Ocam Ocam Yourself!
Our experience in Ocam Ocam was most certainly one-of-a-kind. It ended up being one of my top 5 experiences in Coron (read the others here). Hopefully these tips will encourage you to go and help you enjoy it just as much as we did, if not more.
Discover what else we most (and least) enjoyed around Coron Town and Busuanga Island by completing our 4-part Coron Getaway Guide: