Post summary: El Nido vs. Coron – a breakdown to help you decide which island you should travel if you can only choose one!
When people have to decide which destination to go to, it usually means they either have a limited amount of time or budget for a specific trip.
And I’ve faced this decision making several times before, where I had to choose one destination over the other due to schedule or budget constraints.
Unless you have a substantial amount of days (and budget) to explore El Nido and Coron, you will ask yourself: which destination is better, El Nido or Coron?
In this post, I broke down different categories for El Nido and Coron to help you decide which destination you should prioritize.
Looking for Accommodations? Check out these luxury resorts in El Nido
Staying a few days in Manila? Check out this wellness resort The Farm at San Benito
Getting to Coron and El Nido From Manila:
Manila to Coron – You can fly to Coron from Manila using AirSwift. They have daily flights to and from Manila, and the flight is usually 45 minutes long.
Manila to El Nido – AirSwift and CebuPacific offer daily non-stop flights from Manila to El Nido, an hour flight.
Coron to El Nido – Alternatively, if you are thinking of traveling to both islands, there is a speed boat service between the two islands. It’s a daily service, and the total travel time is usually around six hours.
El Nido vs. Coron: Island Hopping Tours
Island hopping is the highlight of both El Nido and Coron. Exploring secret beaches and massive lagoons are the reason why Palawan is named the best island in the world.
But between El Nido and Coron, which is better? Let’s take a look below.
Island Hopping Tours in El Nido:
There are four island hopping tours that you can take in El Nido, each having its itinerary.
Below are the names and the highlights for each tour:
Tour A – The most popular of the four island hopping tours, Tour A explores El Nido’s most iconic sites. In this tour, you will see the Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Seven Commandos Beach, and Miniloc Island. I particularly like this tour because it combines Lagoon exploring and relaxing at the beach.
Tour B – Tour B doesn’t get as much attention as Tour A or Tour C, but it’s one of the most scenic and unique islands hopping tours in El Nido. An added benefit to Tour B is that it’s less crowded considering that many tourists opt for Tour A and C. Some of the highlights you’ll visit on Tour B are Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Cathedral Cave, Entalula Beach, and Cudugnon Cave.
Tour C – Another crowd favorite, Tour C, explores some of the most stunning beaches in El Nido. In this tour, you spend ample time exploring some of these hidden beaches, where you also get to snorkel and explore some of the aquamarine life on the surrounding islands. Highlights include Helicopter Island, Secret Beach, Star Beach, and Hidden Beach.
Tour D – Along with Tour B, Tour D is another island hopping adventure that is less popular than Tour A and B. This is a perfect tour for those who need more beach time but also prefer avoiding the crowd. Some of the highlights of this tour are Ipil Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, and Bukal Beach.
Island Hopping Tours in Coron:
Before we go over on my experience with island hopping in Coron, you should know that each island hopping tour in Coron varies from one tour operator to another. It’s not quite the same as El Nido, where you get the exact itinerary depending on the tour that you choose regardless of the tour operator.
There are two types of island hopping tours in Coron: the Ultimate Island Hopping Tour and the Coron Island Escapade Tour. Both tours leave Busuanga island at 9 am and return before 5 pm.
We signed up for the Ultimate Island Hopping Tour, where we visited five to six spots for snorkeling, swimming, and even a bit of hiking. Everything that you’ll be needing can be rented from the tour operator, including snorkels or water shoes.
Coral Gardens, Coron Youth Club (CYC) beach, Twin Cove, Hidden Lagoon, then Last but not the least, Kayangan Lake. All of the spots that we went to were very beautiful. The corals were all lively and had tons of colorful fishes swimming around. The CYC beach was calm and swam out from the boat into the beach and enjoyed the whole island by yourself. Twin cove was beautiful; our guide says that a Napoleon fish frequents that spot, and if we’re lucky, we get to see it swimming around. This is where we had our picnic in the boat as well. It was a nice buffet-style lunch, came with bottled water. After lunch, we did some diving off the roof of the boat. That was some good fun. We went next to hidden Lagoon to experience some Thermaclimb. Kayangan lake was a fitting end to a beautiful day snorkeling and island hopping.
El Nido vs Coron: Beaches
If finding the perfect beaches is the determining factor for your decision to Coron or El Nido, then read below.
We went over on the island hopping section on the different stops and locations on all El Nido and Coron tours. From that list, we can see that there is a lot more opportunity to spend time on the beach in El Nido.
For the most part, getting access to a beach is not the easiest in either Coron or El Nido. In most cases, you would need to either hop on a boat to get a remote island with a beach or ride a scooter 45 minutes away from town.
In general, El Nido has a lot more beach options, both on and the surrounding islands.
Nacpan Beach, in particular, is one of the most stunning beaches not just in El Nido, but in the whole country – and you can easily access this beach without having to take a boat out of El Nido. If you can drive, we recommend renting a scooter for a day to get to Nacpan Beach. The scooters usually cost around 350 to 400 pesos per day, and it will help you get around places on the island.
Other notable beaches on El Nido Island in Las Cabanas. This beach reminds me of a similar vibe that you get when in Boracay – restaurants, and bars right on the beach with bean bags, music in the background, and people lounging waiting to watch the legendary El Nido sunsets.
The last beach on El Nido that I would recommend is Lio Beach. This beach is rather new since a luxury resort, and a few shops were built around the area. I like coming here because they have a restaurant and bar right on the beach, which we all need, especially if lounging under the sun for a few hours. In comparison to Nacpan Beach, Lio Beach is a lot closer to El Nido town proper. It is only a fifteen-minute scooter ride away, right next to the airport.
The beaches on Coron, on the other hand, are a lot more challenging to access. Unlike El Nido, there aren’t many (if any?) stunning beaches right on Busuanga. Usually, you would have to get on a boat and explore the surrounding island to access the beaches.
However, the sheer beauty of the beaches in the surrounding islands of Coron is just breathtaking. Because of the clear azure waters that you will find in Coron, you will see some fantastic corals and the aquamarine life that Coron is so famous for. The diving sites in Coron are also some of the best in the world, frequently recognized by major international publications as top dive destinations.
Banol Beach is probably one of the better-known beaches in Coron. It is a peaceful, small white sand beach that is perfect for those looking to bum around the beach for the day. Banol Beach is also widely famous for snorkeling, and only a short distance away from the sunken Japanese shipwreck from WWII that Coron is famous for.
Overall, below is my take to help you decide which beaches are better between El Nido vs. Coron.
If you want a beach that you can easily access and get to without taking a boat, then El Nido is perfect. It has enough beaches on the island (highly recommend Nacpan Beach) without having to rely on a boat.
However, if you are looking for some of the best aquamarine life and don’t mind taking a boat, I recommend Coron.
El Nido vs. Coron: Town Proper
Tourists usually don’t travel to El Nido or Coron to visit the town proper. After all, the selling point of El Nido and Coron are its majestic islands, stunning beaches, the gorgeous azure waters – not so much the town proper.
But for islands like El Nido and Coron, town propers are also an interest for many travelers.
After all, much of the island hopping activities only happen during the day. Once you are back in town after a day of exploring islands, you still want to have dinner or grab a drink somewhere near your hotel.
El Nido Town Proper
El Nido town has come a long way since my first visit in 2013. Back then, there weren’t many shops, restaurants, or even banks and ATMs on the island. Today, there are many dive shops, massage parlors, bars, and endless nightlife that keeps the town alive well after hours.
I particularly enjoy wandering around El Nido town during the day when much of the tourists on the island are out island hopping.
Coron Town Proper
Compared to El Nido, Coron’s main town lacks things to do, places to eat, and a general sense of nightlife.
There isn’t a “central” town in Coron like you would see in El Nido. Much of the general interest in the main town are scattered throughout, with the majority closing early in the evening.
El Nido vs. Coron: Accommodations
In terms of accommodations between El Nido vs. Coron, it should be no surprise that you have more options available in El Nido.
El Nido has every accommodation you can consider, from low budget hostels to world-class luxury resorts.
El Nido Accommodations
Spin Designer Hostel (budget) – This hip and modern hostel is located in El Nido’s most central location, a short distance away from Corong Corong, the beach, and El Nido’s main town. The rooms are clean and well kept and provides a great vibe for their guests.
Nacpan Glamping (mid-range) – Nacpan Glamping is a unique accommodation in El Nido that started in 2019. It’s right on Nacpan Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches you’ll see in Palawan. The glamping sites are comfortable and spacious and feature a swimming pool and an onsite restaurant and bar.
El Nido Pangalusian Island Resorts (luxury) – One of the few five-star resorts in El Nido, Pangulasian, is a perfect resort for those looking to get luxury treatment and service while in paradise. The resort is exclusive and private and everything you’d want in a luxury resort.
Hop Hostel (budget) – One of the best hostels in Palawan! The rooms are well kept, and the beds are spacious and very comfortable. Hop Hostel also has a roof deck bar featuring stunning views of Coron.
The Funny Lion (mid-range) – This hotel is elegantly furnished and features a swimming pool and modern amenities.
Club Paradise Resort (luxury) – Club Paradise is set in Coron’s stunning location, where it feels like you have your own island. The location is a little bit far from the main town, but worth the trip given the location and the service.
The Verdict: El Nido or Coron?
As I write this, I find that it’s impossible to give a straight answer.
I personally enjoy Coron more for snorkeling and exploring the islands, while I love coming back to El Nido because of the overall vibe of the island.
When it comes down to it, I think you should base your decisions on what type of experience you want. Are you looking to prioritize staying on the best resorts, or experiencing some of the best snorkeling in the world?
Regardless of which island you choose, there is no doubt you’d make the correct choice!