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El Nido vs Coron – A Better Philippine Islands Trip?

El Nido vs Coron – El Nido and Coron are two separate islands in the Philippines, a country in Southeast Asia, but both are part of the province of Palawan. Both islands have incredible nature and are considered both a paradise of their own El Nido is popular for its island hopping experience and with a more active food and nightlife scene than Coron, Coron is better with underwater explorations, smaller tour activities has an incredible coral reef and more quiet town.

Planning a vacation to Palawan often goes down a choice between El Nido and Coron because while both are in Palawan and both have incredible limestones and cliffs, amazing beaches and island hopping activities, and incredible nature, incomparable to many in the world, these two islands are hours away from each other.

Let’s look at how to choose between El Nido and Coron when visiting Palawan, Philippines, or how to even visit both!

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Comparing El Nido vs Coron El Nido

El Nido vs Coron - A Better Philippine Islands Trip?

When comparing these two beautiful islands, the choice usually goes down to the length of vacation you have, the type of experience, and how remote and exotic you want your trip to be. For shorter vacations of like 2 days, Coron is the better choice. You fly direct from major airports (Manila, Clark, and Cebu), then spend your days on private trips to exquisite lakes and coves, with beautiful blue waters and incredible diving and snorkeling. Coron is ultimately better if you want to spend more time exploring, diving and snorkeling as it has more to see in these terms compared to El Nido.

On the other hand, if you are planning to do incredible island hopping, have views of giant limestones and cliffs, have options to have night parties and bars visits, and meet more people, El Nido will be the better choice for this kind of trip.

The biggest caveat of El Nido is time, because usually, you fly to the island’s capital, Puerto Princesa, and take a 4-5 hour van or bus to El Nido. It can take a huge chunk of your time if you only plan to have a short trip.

If you’re planning to visit other places like Port Barton, Taytay, Puerto Princesa, and Balabac, you might want to be connected from El Nido. As they are all part of one land.

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Getting There – El Nido vs Coron

With the out-of-this-world vacations you can experience with both Coron and El Nido, the only caveat of El Nido is the time it takes to get there if you’re arriving from Puerto Princesa. A 4-6 hour ride takes a huge chunk of someone’s trip if they only have 2 days or less, so that’s a big thing to consider.

Getting to El Nido

El Nido vs Coron - A Better Philippine Islands Trip?
The classic El Nido shot, once you leave your bigger boat, you use a kayak boat to enter the lagoons.

If You’re Taking a Flight

There are various ways to get to El Nido. The fastest and most comfortable is by plane from Manila, albeit not the most popular option. Direct flights from Manila to El Nido are not very common (not daily), and more expensive because it goes to El Nido’s private airport.

If You’re Coming from Puerto Princesa

The most popular way to get to El Nido is arriving from Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s capital. Puerto Princesa has daily flights to and from Manila and Cebu. Flights cost around $30 USD one way. Once you are in Puerto Princesa, you need to get a bus to El Nido for 5-6 hours or a van for 4-5 hours if you go direct to El Nido.

Book Online Transportation from El Nido to anywhere

If you decide to stay in Puerto Princesa, you can visit the UNESCO Underground River. Another popular stop is Port Barton, 3 hours by van from Puerto Princesa, another of Palawan’s amazing island with quieter beaches and laid back trips, and way less touristy than El Nido and Coron.

If You’re Coming from Coron to El Nido

If you’re coming from Coron, and have more days for your trip, you can also get to El Nido by boat. There are two boat options, the slow boat for 7-8 hours and a fast boat for around 4 hours. The slow boat is the cheaper option and good if you’re not pressed with time, but the fast boat is of course a popular option, since it’s only 4 hours.

Click this link to make sure you book in advance!

Coming back to Coron from El Nido, there is a daily slow boat in the morning. The ferry leaves around 730 – 830 am. It will have around 80-100 passengers so make sure you go early to the port, or at the very least, come on time. You can’t book an online ticket for this trip.

RELATED TRAVEL GUIDE:  Full Guide on How to Get to El Nido

Getting to Coron

Because of El Nido’s additional travel time from Puerto Princesa, travelers who have fewer days for vacation, or are interested in more underwater activities like scuba, snorkeling, and diving go directly to Coron. And in terms of being in a more quiet town, smaller and with having more private and smaller tours, and better diving and underwater scenery, Coron wins over El Nido.

If You’re Flying to Coron

The fastest way to get to Coron is by taking any of the daily direct flights from major airports from Manila, Cebu, and Clark.

There are also flights from El Nido and Puerto Princesa but there are no daily flights. So make sure that you book in advance. Flights from Manila and Clark are so affordable and you can get a return ticket for $100 USD.

Read here how to get from Puerto Princesa to Coron!

To go from Coron Airport to downtown Coron, the Francisco B. Reyes Airport in Busuanga is only 20 minutes ride to Coron town. To get to Coron town from the airport you have to go by van and it costs 150 PHP per person. 

If You’re Flying From Manila to Coron

To get to Coron from Manila fastest way is a direct flight to El Nido. It will take only 1 hour. There are daily flights with Cebu Pacific and SkyJet and prices are around 3000-4000 PHP one way. 

Read here how to get from Coron to Manila by ferry!

If You’re Riding the Ferry From Manila to Coron

You can also take a ferry to get to Coron from Manila. The ferry leaves on Fridays at 7 pm and it will get to Coron at 6 am. Prices are around 2200 PHP. There are other companies J.V. Serrano Shipping Lines and Atienza Shipping Lines that offer services on other days of the week with the different schedules but schedule changes depending on the season.

Click here to book your flight to Coron

If You’re Coming to Coron From El Nido

One of the main routes of travelers in Palawan is going from El Nido to Coron. There is a few options for fast and slow boats with different schedules and prices. You can get the slow boat for around 1300 PHP and it takes 6-7 hours. And you can get the fast boat for around 3-4 hours for 1800 PHP.

Read here for the full travel guide on How to Get from El Nido to Coron

The fast boat from to Coron from El Nido leaves at 6 am and it will get to Coron around 10 am. When we did this trip, we chose this way with Montenegro Shipping Lines. We didn’t have a lot of days to spend in Coron, and we wanted to make the most of our day there.

If You’re Flying from El Nido to Coron

There are also flights going to Coron from El Nido but you have to book in advance and prices are around 2500-3500 PHP so it can be a great option if you want to save time, and are not worried about prices.

How to Get to Coron if You’re from Cebu

How to get to , El Nido vs Coron - A Better Philippine Islands Trip?
Snorkeling in Coron, Palawan

There are daily flights from Cebu to Coron with Philippine Airlines. The flight will take 1 hour 15 minutes and it will cost around 5000-7000 PHP for one way. There are also flights with Cebu Pacific but prices are expensive, starting from 7000 PHP and you will have to stop in Manila.

How to Get to Coron from Puerto Princesa by Boat

If you want to get to Coron from Puerto Princesa, it’s doable. There is a weekly trip every Sunday leaving at 7 am. It will take 11 hours and prices are around 1250 PHP for the Super Value Class.

How to Get to Coron from San Jose Mindoro

There are daily boats from Montenegro Lines leaving San Jose Occidental Mindoro at 7 am and getting to Coron at noon. The trip will take 5 hours and it will cost around 1200 PHP economy class.

Things to Do – El Nido vs Coron

Termed the last frontier in the world, Palawan, the municipality that houses both El Nido and Coron islands, is breathtaking and otherworldly. It feels touristy and not touristy both at the same time.

Traveling to these islands, there’s a mixed feeling of hoping it’s more commercial, because some of the things are slow-moving, and the evenings can get quiet at least compared to how you’d expect a vacation island should be. However, at the same time, you wish it continues to be this way so that some parts of the world can keep their natural beauty.

Both El Nido and Coron are uniquely lined with towering limestones, and in short boat rides, you can experience incredibly blue beaches. While El Nido has incredible island hopping to exquisite beaches and lagoons, and limestone cliffs, Coron has the advantage of underwater beauty, with shipwreck diving, and vibrant snorkeling activities.

Let’s dive deeper and see the experiences, beaches and tours that you can do in Coron vs El Nido.

Things to do in El Nido: Beaches – Coron vs El Nido

Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Book El Nido Tours here and get detailed information on all tour itineraries and inclusions. 👇🏽👇🏽

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Tour A – El Nido vs Coron

To make things easier with regard to what areas of El Nido and the other islands you can visit, group tours are divided into A, B, C and D, each going to a different route. Group tours allows you to be a part of a proper island boat that can fit 10-15 (can be more or less) people, and you spend almost a day (from morning to afternoon) on the tour. Each of the El Nido tour hops will have about 4-5 stops, beaches, lagoons, some snorkelling area, and a lunch stop with free lunch.

Tours A and C are the most popular ones, as they are both with beautiful destinations with the standard of what you’d expect from an El Nido Tour – Limestone lagoon visits and beaches. Tour B is a farther than A and C, so there’s a little bit of boat driving time to reach the first destination, but equally exquisite. While Tour D is more just around El Nido town so unless you book this one in advance, you can’t just join in as less people take this tour.

We have all done these tours and they are all beautiful. Apart from joining group tours that can cost about $20-25 per person, there are companies that offer fast boat tours, or private normal local boats, in case you want to go around on your own time. If you have more budget, want a more private experience and don’t want to be a part of a bigger tour (also known as “joiner” tour), you can do these private ones as well.

El Nido Tour A includes the following destinations:

Big Lagoon

El Nido lagoons gives you a dramatic view to the islands outside of El Nido downtown. You will usually come on a big boat, and will transfer to small yellow kayaks to enter the lagoons. The areas can get quite touristy, so that’s a big caveat of El Nido. That can take away some of the magic of the experience, nevertheless, it’s still incredible to see these parts of the island.

Kayaking towards blue lagoons, with lowering limestones surrounding you is a surreal experience.

Secret Lagoon

Secret lagoon is smallet than the big lagoon and part of Tour A.

El Nido vs Coron - A Better Philippine Islands Trip?
Secret Lagoon in El Nido, Philippines

Additional island stops included in Tour A are the Shimizu Beach and Seven Commando Beach, and Corong Corong Beach or Las Cabañas for last stop.

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Tour B – El Nido vs Coron

Tour B which is the farthest of all the 4 tours include Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Entatula Beach, Cudugnon Beach and Cathedral Cave.

Entalula Island in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Tour C El Nido

Tour C includes Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Hidden Beach and Star Beach. If you like to stay with more swimming activities, this is the best tour to get.

Tour D

Tour D in El Nido includes Cadlao Lagoon, Pasandigan Beach, Natnat Beach, Bucal Beach and Paradise Beach. This is the least common group tour because these beaches are all from the El Nido main island, which means your boat doesn’t go far to the ocean unlike the first 3 tours.

For example, the Cadlao beach below can be seen from El Nido town itself. We took Tour D when we wanted a slow day to get more views and photos of El Nido, as this is more laid back than Tours A, B and C that all take the whole day.

El Nido vs Coron - A Better Philippine Islands Trip?
Cadlao Beach in Palawan, Philippines
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Things to do in Coron: Beaches and Tours

Coron is the less touristy brother of El Nido, but equally more beautiful, if not more. Outside more options for restaurants and parties here and there in El Nido, Coron offers you an incredible underwater scene with clear waters for snorkeling and World War II shipwreck dives. The colors are deep blue and greens around the island, it feels even more raw than El Nido (if that’s even less possible), and with less tour packages to choose from.

Check the itineraries below for Coron Ultimate and Super Ultimate tour, and the Escapade Tour. And of course, just like in El Nido, you don’t have to be a “joiner”, as you can get an option to have your own boat and explore Coron on your own. Joiner tours in El Nido and Coron have the advantages of having an affordable cost with a proven itinerary, and if you want to meet people, this the best way to do tours. If you want a more private exprience, you can rent the whole boat, or get fast boats of your own.

Coron Ultimate Tour and the Coron Super Ultimate Tour

The itineraries of both Coron Ultimate and Super Ultimate are the same, apart from the additional stop to the infamous Barracuda Lake with the Super Ultimate Tour.

Coron’s Twin Lagoon, Coron’t most popular stop.

All of Coron tours take the whole dear, from morning 8am til end around 5pm, and includes free lunch. You can either bring your own snorkelling gear, or pay a small amount about 2-3 USD to rent these during your tour.

The destinations of the Coron Ultimate Tour includes the following:

  • Kayangan Lake
  • Barracuda Lake
  • Twin Lagoon
  • Twin Peak Coral Garden
  • Balinsasayaw Reef Garden
  • CYC Beach
  • Beach 91

Kayangan Lake in Coron – Coron vs El Nido

Kayangan Lake is one of the highlights of your visit in Coron. Dubbed as Asia’s cleanest lake, the views from the point of view is ecstatic. What you see in the photo below is what you get. There is a line to get here, but it’ll be worth it. Just as you see in the photo below, the water is emerald color and the limestones towering around it just makes the views even more beautiful and exotic.

Riding the boat here is quite an ecstatic experience as well.

El Nido vs Coron - The Kayangan lake is in Coron, Palawan in the Philippines.
View of the Kayangan Lake, one of the main things to visit in Coron, Palawan

Barracuda Lake in Coron

The Barracuda Lake is Coron’s unique underwater experience. It’s a freshwater lake 40m deep, and a unique dive site in Coron, famous for the Thermocline. Thermocline is the abrupt change in temperature of the water, a unique thing to experience here. You can swim and relax in Barracuda, or do a free dive and snorkel.

You can also do diving activities in Barracuda, another must do in Coron if you like diving.

Twin Lagoon in Coron

Another of Coron’s must see is the Twin Lagoon. The aerial views of this lagoon is otherworldly and paradise-esque. The surrounding see is deep blue, with waters that change to a magnificent light blue once you enter the lagoon. You’ll have to swim here as you can’t dock your boat inside the lagoon, but worth it.

Coron Escapade Tour

Once you’ve done Coron’s Ultimate tour, it is very much worth it if you have another day to do the Escapade Tour. Compared to the Ultimate day, Coron’s Escapade’s Tour is a laidback Coron visit to its beautiful beaches, lounge around and witness some of Coron’s best island stop, white sandy beaches and incredible blue beaches. These are jaw dropping stops and an experience in itself.

El Nido vs Coron - A Better Philippine Islands Trip?
Kayaking in Coron – See that blue water?

Coron’s Escapade Tour includes the following stops:

  • The Escapade Tour of Coron’s best beaches: Malcapuya Island, Ditaytayan Island, and Bulog Dos Island
  • Walk along the powdery white sands of Malcapuya Island with snorkeling experience
  • Lounge around Ditaytayan Island
  • Visit Bulog Dos Island

Look at some of the photos of the islands below.

Bulog Dos

Sandbanks are the best for photos, swim and lounging around. Bulog Dos has a beautiful white sand bank and blue waters for swimming.

Ditaytayan

Ditaytayan Beach is another popular stop, with incredible blue water – your own paradise!

More Beaches and Other Things to See and Do in Coron

Other beaches in the island that you can visit outside of the two tours, and you can visit on your own with boats you can easily hire or with tours are the following.

Pass Island

Pass Island is a beautiful private island with blue waters and white sand in Busuanga, and a couple of hours away from Coron.

Banana Island

Beautiful island, sandy white beaches and clear blue waters. Paradise!

Banana Island Coron, Aerial View, Philippines
Banana Island Coron, Philippines

Black Island / Malajon Island

Another incredibly beautiful island out of Coron, it’s usually booked as part of Calauit Tours in Palawan, and can be done in Busuanga and Coron.

Dumunpalit Island

Outside of Coron and one of the most off the beaten places to visit is Dumunpalit Island. The waters are incredibly blue as you cross to another island for this, and can’t be visited all time of the year, as it will only depend on the strengh of the water. If you can visit, Dumunpalit is a once in a lifetime experience. The blue is incredible.

Philippines off the beaten track, off the beaten path philippines, Dumunpalit Island, El Nido vs Coron - A Better Philippine Islands Trip?
Dumunpalit Island in Philippines, off the beaten and outside Coron

Food and Restaurants

As both El Nido and Coron are touristy and main points of Palawan that travelers expect to visit, you’ll definitely have various options for food. When you go for full day tours, there will be lunch served which will include island food – fish, sea food, some meat vegetables and fruits. If you are vegan or vegetarian, let your tour know so they can prepare more options for you.

El Nido Restaurants

There are more variety of El Nido Restaurants compared to Coron, as El Nido is more commercial. If you want to stay local and off the restaurants, there are still a lot of options. We find both islands quiter than the usual party island so make sure you know that. Coron is quieter than El Nido.

Some of the popular restaurant and food finds in El Nido are:

The Nesting Table El Nido

Nesting Table on Facebook, Phone Number: 0920 606 1186, Location

Please note: We are unsure if the restaurant re-opened or is fully functional since after the pandemic. They are definitely in operation in some way, so please contact them before going to this location as it’s off the beaten path, and about 15 minutes from the road.

A hidden gem in El Nido, the Nesting Table has some of the best food in the island, if not in the world. Cuisine is a mix of local and mediterranean and international cuisine with vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options available. If you find it difficult to locate, check The Nesting Table’s location here.

The Nesting Table has recently gained popularity for its good food and the views that you can get from the restaurant’s location. If you can find a space to eat there during the sunset, do it. Nevertheless, the island restaurant has a great vibe and incredible food offers.

The Nesting Table also has a Yoga Place in Baquit Bay and a Hotel.

Happiness Beach Bar

Happiness Beach Bar on Facebook, Phone: 0948 716 2518

They also have a property in El Nido – Happiness Hostel, a Sustainable Hostel in El Nido.

Address: Serena st. el nido palawan, El Nido, Philippines

Another favorite Middle Eastern Restaurant in El Nido, this one by the Beach in Serena St, is the Happiness Beach Bar. Laid back and closer to traffic of people and in El Nido downtown. Food here is highly rated with their

Coron Restaurants

Pacifico Coron

Pacifico is the typical restaurant with pizza, grilled food and a lot of international cuisine choices. They have vegan and vegetarian options as well, and it’s a pretty well tested restaurant in downtown Coron. The good thing is that Pacifico has good wifi, so if you’re in search of a place you can eat and get good wifi as well, you can get it here!

Pacifico on Facebook Phone: (048) 553 1631

Location

Image via Pacifico’s Facebook Page

Image via Pacifico’s Facebook Page

Where to Stay – El Nido vs Coron

Best Time to Visit – El Nido vs Coron

The best time to visit Coron is from December to May when it’s the dry season. Just expect the prices to be high and more crowded because it is peak season. From June to November will be the rainy season. Coron will be less crowded and prices will go down.

Click here to know more about the weather in Coron!

ATMs in El Nido vs Coron

Coron is far from the capital city of Palawan which is Puerto Princesa. There are a few ATMs in Coron and places where you can exchange your money.  We recommend for you to bring cash just in case ATMs are not working or not nearby. The current exchange rate is $1 USD = 57 PHPClick here to know the exact exchange rate.

Click here to have an idea how much money you need while travelling in the Philippines.

Internet and Wifi Connection – El Nido vs Coron

If you are going to visit Coron WIFI is not the best but it works great we would say than better than in El Nido. If you have 4G in your phone will be great and you can catch up with work online not the fastest but it works.

You can find the cheapest Filipino eSim with Airalo Philippines eSim prepaid for $4 USD with 1 GB data valid for 7 days (USING DISCOUNT CODE GAMINTRAVELER 10%). For $9 USD with 3 GB data, for $13 USD with 5 GB data, for $21 USD with 10 GB data and for $32 USD with 20 GB data valid for 30 days.

Nomad eSim Philippines for $5 USD with 1 GB data valid for 7 days. For $10 USD with 2 GB data, For $13 USD with 3 GB data and for $15 USD with 5 GB data valid for 30 days. MTX Connect eSim Philippines for €24 with 4 GB data valid for 14 days. Holafly Philippines eSim for $44 USD if you use our code GAMINTRAVELER coming with 8 GB data valid for 30 days and you can activate with QR Code.

Final Thoughts – El Nido vs Coron – A Better Philippine Islands Trip?

You can’t go wrong with either choice because both El Nido and Coron are paradises. In this comparison, Coron is the winner for us! A super hard choice because El Nido is as breathtaking and otherworldly as the next beach paradise is, but Coron even adds to that with its beautiful snorkeling, beautiful sand bank beaches, and underwater scuba diving activities!

If you have the chance, choose both! Tell us what you end up choosing, and if you have questions, let us know because we’re happy to help. We’ve been to Palawan a few times, and have been lucky enough to see and experience Palawan in different ways.

Thank you and have fun in your trip!

Ruben Arribas is the co-founder of Gamintraveler and a Spanish traveler who has traveled to more than 100 countries around the world. He is now a full-time digital nomad.