If you want to feel like you’re floating in paradise, the Palawan Islands in the Philippines is the place to be, but with miles and miles of amazing scenery, it can be hard to narrow your trip down to see the absolute best of them all. If you head over to North Palawan, you are greeted by the islands of Coron and El Nido. Both host jaw dropping scenery, however, these two islands do differ from one another. That is why it can be a little difficult to figure out which one to visit, based on top attractions, places to stay and all round best vacation.
Within this Ultimate Coron vs El Nido Travel Guide, all of that won’t be a problem anymore! You can figure out which of these islands speaks to you the most, or should you just visit both on your trip instead! Let’s start with all of the super fun things you can do on both of these islands!
Top Things To Do in Coron and El Nido
A. Experience an Island Tour
In Coron, there are a few Island Tours that take you around the entire island. The difference in tours varies based on the locations. Tours A and B are generally crowded, however offer the top tourist attractions in Coron. Tour C is more focused on visiting the beautiful beaches on the island. We had opted for a private tour to take us to the key places, as we wanted to visit different locations from each tour. If you need guidance and are looking for a tailored tour, we can help you plan out the ultimate itinerary for your vacation, feel free to get in touch with us. Here is a full list of attractions offered on each tour:
Kayangan Lake - Blue Lagoon - Coral Garden - CYC Beach
Barracuda Lake - Banol Beach - Skeleton Wreck - Twin Lagoon
Malcapuya Island - Ditaytayan Island - Coron Beaches
El Nido has four main tours that you can choose between from! A, B, C, and D island hopping tours are sectioned out so that each covers a different part of El Nido itself and each tour is approximately 7 hours long. As we were a group of 7, we booked our own private tour, and chose Tour A which took us around Miniloc Island, Shimizu Island and Seven Commandos Beach.
Through our experience, both El Nido and Coron offer amazing tours with breathtaking views, natural landscapes and water activities. We rate them both equally based on island hopping tours.
B. Snorkelling, Scuba diving, Free diving
If you are a fan of the underwater world, El Nido and Coron will live up to your expectations. On both islands, there are many areas where you can go snorkelling, free diving or scuba diving, and the experience is amazing!
There are a tonne of dive spots scattered around El Nido that offer a great experience with the marine-life. A few spots include - South Miniloc, Helicopter island and North rock.
In Coron, there are underwater spots which reach visibility of up to 30m. We free dived and snorkelled in both islands, and not being bias but Coron takes the win on this one. If you do get the chance to visit, make sure to include Barracuda lake as a part of your tour for some stunning underwater photography. For the clearest waters and diverse marine life, Apo Reef is the place to dive, although it is situated further away from the main island and will require a dedicated tour to get there. In Coron there are also a few sunken Japanese Shipwrecks from World War 2 which you can discover beneath the surface. You can find travel tours here.
If you’re keen on getting your Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) diving license, it is slightly cheaper to get it in Coron than it is in El Nido. Our close friend completed his open water PADI license in Coron with Corto divers for approximately PHP 16000 (Approx $320), this included 5 dives in total. We jumped onboard for the free diving experience, which was remarkable.
The beach isn’t the only place to take in the great views these islands offer, you can also experience some picturesque views from above. The hiking experience will slightly differ for both islands.
There are some hikes in El Nido that are slightly more challenging, however the island also offers hikes that can be experienced by all, such as the Canopy walk at Taraw Cliff. You might have seen some pictures of climbers standing on top of the jagged limestone cliffs which overlooks the bay area, this is a much more intense hike in the same location, and requires a guide. Currently (June 2022) hiking to the top of the limestone rocks is not permitted, once it opens back to the public, and if you are up for the challenge, you can guarantee some of the best views of the island.
If you enjoy waterfalls, there are some you can hike to, such as, Nagkalit-Kalita and Bulalacao Falls. They are located further out of the main town centre, and do require a fair bit of hiking to get to.
Hiking in Coron is a lot easier, so novice hikers can easily put their hiking shoes, trainers or slippers and head up Mt. Tapyas for a perfect view of the entire island. It is very well paved out, with approximately 700 steps up to the top and takes around 30-45 minutes based on your speed up. With a bit of an incline challenge, you will be rewarded with views of Coron Bay. It is renown for its picturesque sunsets of Coron Island, so an evening hike up is recommended.
As epic views go, El Nido slightly takes the win, as it provides surreal views of its surrounding limestone cliffs, but as previously mentioned, it can be more of a challenging hike.
El Nido takes the cake when it comes to experiencing the local nightlife. There are lots of local restaurants you can try out before starting your night. You can head over to Pukka Bar, Coco Bar or the Art Cafe, and end the night at Sava Beach Bar. So if nightlife is a key part of your trip, El Nido is for you.
Coron focuses a little less on nightlife overall; they’re more about getting out there during the day and seeing the island's beauty. But that doesn’t mean there are no options for nightlife adventures! You could head out in the main town of Coron Island and find chilled bars, such as the Bam Bar, the classic Hard Rock Disco Bar or The Brewhouse, which host live music on certain nights of the week.
Everything You Need To Know About Visiting the Islands
Now that you know all the fun things you can do in Coron and El Nido let’s go over everything you need to know about visiting the islands, from how to get there, to where to stay and what to eat!
> El Nido
How to get there
Getting to El Nido is fairly simple; you can travel via different modes of transportation; Vans, buses, ferries, or plane. You can customise your trip according to your preferences and budget.
If you have the budget for it, visit the island by plane on an AirSWIFT flight direct from Manila, the capital of the Philippines. A cheaper alternative is to fly into Puerto Princessa, Palawan (airport code PPS) and catch a shared van ride up to el nido town, which is a 5-6 hour journey and costs approximately PHP 600 ($12) per person. We booked our transport via Forwally Travel and Tour , another option can be to book via Klook, however availability might differ.
There are many tuk-tuks (motorised tricycles) everywhere around town for you to flag down, so you can easily grab one no matter where you are and get to your destination in no time! They cost around PHP 50-100 ($1-$2) for a 10 minute journey. If you require more flexibility when travelling around and are comfortable riding a scooter, you can rent one out for around PHP 500 (Approx $10) per day. You can find many shops in the main town centre which offer rental services.
Where to stay in El Nido
There are several types of accommodations available all around El Nido. So no matter what your budget is, there will be a great option available for you! There are two main places to stay in El Nido, either the town centre or up by Nacpan beach. The main tour operators, nightlife and tourist scene, is based in El Nido town centre. If you are looking for a more chilled out vibe, Nacpan Beach is the place to be, however do note that it is around a 45 minute scooter ride from Nacpan beach to El Nido town centre.
Here are some of the best accommodation options for every budget in El Nido:
〰️ Close to El Nido town centre
Inngo Tourist Inn was our ideal choice of stay. This was a great budget-friendly accommodation; providing hot water, a clean and large sized bed, great AC for when times were hot and most important of all, it is located within the main town centre. They do provide wifi, however it is only accessible in the lobby area.
El Nido Coco Resort is tailored for those that want to be right on top of Corong-Corong beach, slightly outside of the town centre. This is a great mid-range priced hotel that you could base your entire vacation on. Room service will have you eating the days away, and amenities like a jacuzzi and spa to keep you relaxed throughout your trip!
Vellago Resort is undoubtedly one of the best resorts on the island. This is a luxury resort where you can enjoy a relaxed, laid-back vacation on a private beach that’s only accessible via boat! There resort offers many water activities, arranged island hopping tours, a bar, and an on-site restaurant where you can have delicious meals or have them delivered to your room!
〰️ Nacpan Beach
Mad Monkey Nacpan Beach is a hostel that’s always down for a party. You can get affordable housing, and when you’re not resting, head out into the main courtyard and join in on the fun! There are even group activities like snorkeling and beach sports that you can take part in!
Seaside Hue Resort is a great budget hotel a few steps away from Nacpan Beach. They have several little colourful cottages that you can stay at and an on-site hotel restaurant. It is a convenient place to stay to spend the day soaking in the sun on the beach or as the perfect base to venture around El Nido island.
Where to eat
There are lots of fun little places you can visit in El Nido to eat! We are big fans of local food, especially Lechon Manok, which is slow roasted rotisserie chicken. You can find a few places in the main town centre that sell a whole chicken (original, spicy or garlic) for around PHP 220 (Approx $4). If you are craving pizza, you can pass by Altrov'e Express, either you love it or hate it, but they do serve the best Hawaiian Pizza in town. For a quick bite to eat or get your energy going, The Vegan Cafe PH serve delicious smoothie bowls paired with most probably the best coffees in El Nido.
How to get there
Coron is a lot easier to get to compared to El Nido. That’s because several flights operate to the island, not just one from AirSWIFT. There are options with Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines for you to choose from. Making the flight to the island a lot easier!
If you are based in El Nido and want to head to Coron, you can catch a 4-5 hour ferry from El Nido Ferry Terminal. Currently as of June 2022, there is only one company which offers ferry tickets, Montenegro Fast Ferry. You can purchase them directly at the ticket office in El Nido for PHP 2640 (approx $50) per person.
VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE, as of June 2022!!!
You can only purchase a ticket with the following:
Once you have obtained an SPASS, you will require to show it at the ticket counter and they will allow you to purchase a ticket.
Coron is fairly simple to get around; you can easily book a scooter for around PHP 500 ($10) a day or Tricycle which is around PHP 600 ($12) for a 1 hour journey. Since Coron is a fairly small town, you can still get around super easily without any vehicle at all if you're good on two feet!
Where to stay in Coron
Coron is one of the best islands you can visit, no matter what your accommodation budget may be!
TreeTop suites was our choice of stay during our time on Coron Island, which provided great value for money. The rooms were spacious, AC worked perfect and it was equipped with a powerful hot shower. They do provide a range of breakfast options which go down well, and to sum it up, the place located right in the middle of the town centre.
Dayon Hostel, is a backpackers dream, which is a low-budget hostel, but it totally doesn’t feel like it. The rooms are nice and spacious, there are amenities for days, and overall is a highly rated budget-friendly place to stay.
Jim’s Castle Inn is a great place to stay for those looking to spend a little more. This is a great hotel that’s clean, spacious, has great rooms, and because it’s so close to the main town, you can easily adventure near the hotel or in the middle of the city!
The Funny Lion might just be the perfect place to be if you want to stay in a resort-like hotel without paying resort-like prices! This is a boutique hotel nestled in the middle of the tropical forest. The rooms are clean, beautifully set up, and have a view of the amazing pool and the sea right from the windows!
Two Seasons Coron Island Resort might just be the perfect pick, if you’re the type of traveler who likes to base their entire vacation out of their resort and has a higher budget! They have amazing little cottages that are totally decked out on the inside, and the entire resort has everything you could need all in one place, allowing you to have a vacation that feels like you’re in paradise!
Where to eat
Coron has many amazing food options, but the ones you absolutely cannot miss are Get Real Bar and Restaurant that serve Filipino food with a Mexican twist, Poco Deli for a delicious breakfast and for pizza lovers, Trattoria Altrove Coron is the place to eat, it was so good, that we went back twice.
If you crave a good coffee, Epic Island Cafe serves a wide variety, the tastiest being their home brewed Tagbanua Coffee.
Coron vs. El Nido — Who wins?
Coron and El Nido are both amazing islands to visit and do have their subtle differences. Coron is more so for people that want to take it easy, relax on different beaches and discover the beautiful marine life of the Palawan islands; The scenic views of the lakes are super impressive. El Nido offers more to explore and discover on the main island, and is accompanied by a lively nightlife. As a couple and underwater lovers, if we only had one island to chose from, we would choose Coron. However, if you have the time, we would definitely recommend to incorporate both into your next vacation!
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