Summer has come to the Philippines and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. When I think about where I can enjoy the sun and go for a paradise escape in the Philippines, the first thing that comes to my mind is Palawan. Oh beautiful and majestic Palawan! Trust me, it’s paradise.
Palawan is no doubt one of the top destinations in the country to seek the paradise vacation that we are all looking for. Considered as the last frontier of the country, it is home to dozens of gorgeous islands, hundreds of beautiful beaches and countless top diving spots. Coron and El Nido are the two favorite destinations for both local and foreign tourists and I promise that neither should be missed.
But if you had to choose between the two, which one really is better than the other? If you are about to go on just a weekend getaway, which one is the best option? Considering the small amount of time you may have and also thinking about your budget, which one is much more worth it? Or, maybe just out of your curiosity, who wins as the best in Palawan overall?
Those who have been to both will tell you different answers. I personally don’t think there’s an answer to which is better than the other, because in the end it’s all about each of our own personal experiences and interests. Now, to try to help you decide between the two, I’ll compare them by considering a few factors.
There are frequent flights to Busuanga from Manila with Cebu Pacific Air, Sky Jet Airlines and Phil Air Express. It costs 150 pesos (US$ 3) per person to get to Coron town from the airport by van. You can also go to Coron by ferry from Manila with 2Go Ferry.
There are charter flights that goes straight to El Nido from Manila but the costs are higher than flying to Puerto Princesa Airport which has a lot of budget airline flights coming from Manila, Cebu and other parts of the Philippines. To get to El Nido from Puerto Princesa, you have to take a van that takes about 5-6 hours and costs 600 pesos (US$ 14) per person or a bus for a slightly cheaper price. There are boats also available from Coron to El Nido and takes roughly 8 hours.
Coron is a lot more easily accessible than El Nido and for not having to take an additional 6-hour journey in a van, it can be cheaper too. So if you’re looking for a weekend getaway and by having only a short amount of time, I’d choose Coron as you can get there much quicker.
There are plenty of budget accommodations in Coron town and as well as middle end hotels. We stayed in Coron Backpackers for only 500 pesos (US$ 11) for a double room and they had a kitchen that is free to use for guests. Other budget accommodations in Coron are Marleys Guesthouse, Krystal Lodge, Patrik & Tezz Guesthouse, Sea Dive Resort, Villa Hermosa Bed and Breakfast, and KokosNuss Resort. The prices start from 400 pesos (US$ 9) on some of these budget sleeps. The rooms are pretty basic and for the cheapest rooms, you will get a fan room and shared bathroom.
There are exclusive resorts in El Nido that are pricey but in town, you can easily find budget-friendly accommodations from 300 pesos (US$6) to 1000 pesos (US$ 22) per night, some are even beachfront and are easy to find (Biolinao Guesthouse, Cliffside Cottage, Francisco Inn, Lualhati Cottage, Marina Garden Beach Resort, and Mountain Side Inn). After walking around and asking a few hostels/guesthouses for a room within our budget (600 pesos max), we finally found Anang Balay Turista who gave us a nice en suite bedroom for only 500 pesos (US$ 11) which I haggled from it’s original price of 1000 pesos (US$ 22) only without the use of A/C. Our room was nice and clean, they had free wifi and the staff were really kind. It’s one of the first guesthouses you will find if you are walking from the pier. El Nido doesn’t have a 24 hour electricity so having to pay extra for AC wasn’t really worth it, unless we weren’t on a budget and probably wouldn’t mind it. Accommodations further from the beach can be cheaper but it doesn’t hurt to ask around first and bargain.
Accommodation prices in Coron and El Nido are pretty much the same. During low season, haggling is a must to find a cheaper price for your accommodations.
The town of Coron, as tiny as it may be, is quite bustling and has a lot of restaurants and eateries to be found. There are lots of shops, a few banks and ATM machines. The restaurants can vary from local to international cuisines, with prices of all sorts. The markets have a lot of seafoods which you can cook if you have a kitchen in your guesthosue to use. There is no beachfront in town and I found the water nearby to be a little bit dirty so definitely no swimming in that area for me or for anyone. Coron town is surrounded by limestone cliffs and mountains which have resorted the residents to build homes and establishments above water. Mt. Tapyas which is next to Coron town can be reached by foot and offers amazing views of Coron and Busuanga.
El Nido town is a lot more laid-back and it’s beach is a major plus. Aside from hotels and guesthouses, restaurants can also be found by the beach. They offer good local and international food but the prices can be quite expensive for the budget travelers. Walk further away from beach and you will find cheaper alternatives and small food stalls that sell burgers or crepes that are very affordable. There are barely any cars or tricycles that go about town which made it much quieter than Coron. It is also surrounded by towering limestone cliffs and the view of Bacquit Bay from the shoreline has made it very picturesque.
I much prefered El Nido town because it was quieter and cleaner. The easier access to beaches in El Nido adds up to my liking of this place more than Coron (but not a great deal more).
Beaches and Island Hopping
Coron island tours usually starts at 650 pesos ($17) and that includes lunch on the boat or on one of your island destinations. Coron’s main island tour sights include Kayangan Lake, Twin Peaks Reef, Hidden Lagoon, Barracuda Lake, Bulungan Beach, and some WWII Shipwrecks diving.
It was shockingly so much more expensive to purchase the tours in El Nido as prices started from 1200 pesos ($25) per person. The main island tour destinations were Miniloc Island, Simizu Island, Snake Island, 7 Commando Beach, Matinloc Island, Helicopter Island and the secret lagoons. Same as in Coron, the tours also include lunches of seafood and BBQ meat.
Coron wins hands down when it comes to diving so if you love fish and underwater activities, then I can’t blame you for liking Coron more. The shipwreck diving are cool and fun too. The reefs seemed to be much healthier and the marine life more abundant in Coron than in El Nido. But I enjoyed El Nido more for it’s beaches and it’s easier acces for me to swim (as there wasn’t a crazy amount of fish and I am terrified of fish).
In all honesty, Coron has much better island tours and since it’s more budget-friendly, you can afford more than just one or two tours, making the most of your trip if you are on a budget. But I love the island and beach setting more of El Nido even if the diving isn’t as great as Coron.
It’s cheaper to get to Coron because all you need is one flight from Manila and an airport transfer to Coron town. A ferry is also cheaper since it’s location is closer to Manila. There are lots of cheap options for food like the restaurants where the locals eat and the supermarkets where you can buy your dinner to cook. You will also find tons of cheap accommodations and the tours are half the price of what you will pay for in El Nido.
A flight straight to El Nido might cause a backpacker an arm so that’s probably never going to be an option. A flight to Puerto Princesa and an extra 6 hour journey by land costs extra. The restaurants I found on the beach of El Nido town were too pricey and for a cheap eat, a longer walk away from them is required. The tours are mega expensive compared to Coron which gives you much less island hopping to do.
So, which is better then?
Both Coron and El Nido are gorgeous places and it’s up to you which one you think is better (so there really is no answer). You pick which of the two you want to go to depending on your budget, the amount of time you have or what things you prefer.
I personally pick El Nido because I’m more of an ‘over the water’ person than underwater. I mean I prefer relaxing or frolicking on beaches more than diving and mingling with fish. El Nido’s limestone cliffs and islands are much more memorable for me and the lagoons are great for easy swimming and kayaking. There are more beaches to choose from too.
Coron is more for diving and underwater activities. It’s also great but if you’re not much of a swimmer, you’re probably not going to be into Coron. But, I will still give Coron a chance when I get better into my diving and swimming. In the end though, it doesn’t really matter which is better (if there is one better than the other). Just go to both and enjoy!
Have you been to Coron or El Nido or both? I wonder which you prefer or from what I’ve shown you, which would you be interested in going to?
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