Having spent the last month travelling around the island of Palawan in the Philippines (recently voted the best island the world!) I’ve hit up two of the most popular destinations in the country at the moment – El Nido and Coron.

Both are equally stunning and a quick google image search will have you quickly scouting out flights to get to both.

So after exploring what they both have to offer which one would I recommend if you could only visit one and is there actually one that I prefer over the other!?

 

El Nido

travelling backpacker the philippines palawan coron el nido

Crystal Clear Waters In Coron

Situated in the north west of the main island El Nido is accessible either via a 6-8 hour mini bus journey from Puerto Princesa (which has an airport) or via an 8-10 hour boat journey south from Coron Island (which also has an easily accessible airport).

It’s a beautiful little beachside town which has become increasingly popular for travellers over the past few years and as a result there’s a large amount of guest houses, a couple of hostels, heaps of dive shops and a variety of restaurants and bars on offer.

 

Coron

Coron on the other hand sits further north of Palawan on Busanga Island which can be accessed either by air into Coron Airport or via boat – either from El Nido or a longer passenger ferry from Manila or Puerto Princesa.

Again situated on the coast (although lacking a beach as part of the main town) it too is geared up for travellers with a large variety of hostels, guesthouses and hotels as well as restaurants and bars.

 

Lets get into the nitty gritty of it now you know roughly what they’re about…which one fits your travel plans?!

 

Location

When it comes to location El Nido definately wins out, having a beach as part of the main town means you’re never more than a few minutes stroll from the ocean and beachfront – where you can grab a cheeky beer, swim or simply sit down and watch the sunset. Just a short tricyle ride south lies Las Cabanas or Sunset Beach which offers palm trees, sprawling sands and even a trans island zip line to keep you busy.

Coron on the flip side overlooks the water but lacks the beach – so although you can still dine and drink ocean front you don’t have the convenience of a quick dip or still along the sand. On the plus side though Coron is much easier and comfortable to get to, so if you’re short on time or don’t fancy a hectic boat ride this may well be a huge positive.

Both locations are however slap in the middle of a huge array of islands – meaning both are perfectly situated for island hopping and scuba diving and you’ll capture the beauty of the Philippines whichever you choose.

 

 

El Nido Costs and Budget

travelling backpacker the philippines palawan coron el nido

Big Lagoon, El Nido – Not Bad Hey?!

When it comes to cost I was actually really shocked at how much El Nido ended up smashing my budget! There are plenty of blogs which tout a short trip to El Nido under 7,000PHP (about £100) however I have no freaking clue how they managed it, and they certainly didn’t have a nice place to stay or eat if they really did!

Most travellers I met in El Nido or have been to El Nido also share the same viewpoint too – it’s not the most budget friendly place to be.

90% off the accommodation costs around 600PHP-800PHP (£8.50-£11.50) for a fan room and you can easily end up spending around 2000PHP (£28) for an air con room.

In comparison to similar spots in Asia accommodation in El Nido is more than double what I paid for an A/C room in Bali where I got a much nicer setup including breakfast and a pool! In Thailand that kind of cash would easily have you in a hotel!

I actually lucked out in El Nido though with Biolina Guesthouse, great family run place, clean, tidy room and the couple that own it are amazing! Just book in advance and say hi from me!

travelling philippines palawan coron el nido

El Nido – Paradise But With More Of A Price

There is a good variety of hostels, guest houses, hotels and bungalows in El Nido though – they just aren’t light on the pocket!

Food was also a budget killer in El Nido too and I really struggled for variety as a vegetarian. If you’re eating in a local restaurant expect to pay 150PHP (£1.75) minimum and you can easily smash 300-400PHP (£4.30-£5.70) for a main.

Some of the best value spots I checked out where the Reggae Bar, Squids with Lucky Alofas being my spot of choice for quality and price! You can get a solid feed at Lonesome Carabao, Mezzane, Arts Cafe and V&V Bagel but they aren’t as budget friendly.

Day trips (such as Tour A, B, C & D) will set you back around 1,400PHP (£20), but these do include a hefty lunch (be aware that veggie aren’t massively catered for – but if you like fish you’ll love it!) and the surrounding areas are great for the photographer in you!

The costs in El Nido probably wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the town actually had a cash machine! In fact I had planned don staying longer, but ran out of cash sooner than expected!

My advice is to take waaaaay more cash than you plan to spend, just in case, or be prepared to bounce out of there prematurely.

CEB - BackpackerBanter 1200x208 (2)

Coron Costs and Buget

travelling backpacker the philippines palawan coron el nido

Well Hello There Coron!

On the flip side Coron is MUCH more budget friendly and it’s easy to nab a double fan room for around 400PHP, with plenty of hostels and guesthouses to choose from.

In Coron we lucked out again when it came to accommodation and stayed at Marleys Guesthouse (aka the reggae hostel) which was full of good vibes and good times…as well as being a bargain! This place is always heaps busy so once you know your dates reserve your room!

UPDATE (Feb 2017) – my buddy just stayed at Marleys and it had some hectic bed bugs, so I’d stay elsewhere!

Eating out is a much more varied affair and cheap on the wallet too. You can eat as cheap as 60PHP (90p) for a huge plate of fried rice and chicken (check out Seaview Resort for that deal) and most places you can grab a solid main course for around 150PHP (£1.75). For veggies there’s also a much bigger selection too and I can highly recommend you check out Brujita restaurant – epic food if you’re veggie or not!

Budgetting continues to be easier in Coron with island hopping day trip being nearly half the price at 600PHP (£9) and to be honest it’s even more beautiful than El Nido too! The snorkelling is nothing short of epic as well and on our day trip with JY Travel I encountered some of the most pristine coral reefs I’ve seen since being in Western Australia!

 

So Which Do I Prefer?!

travelling backpacker the philippines palawan coron el nido

Coron – Stunning Views On A Backpacker Budget

For me this is a pretty easy decision – despite the lack of beach in the actual town I much preferred Coron to El Nido as a travel destination. The variety of food and accommodation coupled with the much more budget friendly costs and ease of visiting make it an ideal base for exploring this part of the world.

Yes El Nido is stunning – however I feel it’s slightly over rated in comparison to the less hyped Coron. In the end, although I stressed out slightly with my dwinlging cash and had to cut down my time in El Nido it proved to be a blessing in disguise as I got to enjoy Coron for longer…which ultimately also kept my monthly budget much more in check!

If you have the cash to splash I still recommend hitting up both locations (you can easily get the ferry between the two) they’re both worth a visit, but if you really have to pick one or the other Coron would be my suggestion!

…however despite all that I personally think that Siargao Island is my favourite island  in the Philippines so make sure you chuck that in your plans too!

Looking to explore more of The Philippines and not sure where to go and how to get around? Check out the range of Philippines group tours and surf camps over at RTW Backpackers!

 

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36 Responses

  1. Kate

    Hey Chris,
    Really enjoying the site! I’m off to the Philippines by myself in March and just wondered if you’d been to Panglao island on Bohol? Any recommendations of places to stay? It all seems pretty resort-y there and not so many backpacker places..

    Really good to read your thoughts about Coron – will definitely check out Marleys Guesthouse.

    How are you finding the Philippines for meeting people? It doesn’t seem as popular for backpackers as other parts of Asia.
    Enjoy your travels!
    Cheers
    Kate

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Kate,
      Unfortunately I haven’t been able to visit Bohol yet but I hear good things about it!
      If you head to Coron Marleys is a great place, really enjoying my stay here!
      Indeed the Philippines is definitely less travelled than many surrounding Asia countries so there have been spots where we’ve met less people. It’s good fun all the same though!

      Reply
  2. Neve

    hey Chris!
    thanks for the recommendations you’ve made.. I’m on my way this summer to Palawan and your blog helped me out to pick between coron and el nido. :)

    Kate: yes! Bohol is a nice place and I love their people and Panglao beach.. not too crowdy unlike Boracay. By the way, I am a Filipina.. We brag to be hospitable and friendly especially to tourists. Enjoy your stay! :)

    P.s. you can check out also some place like Sagada, caramoan, ilocos and other places from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.. i will suggest some link that you may find interesting..
    https://lynevedg.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/sagada-a-total-adventure/

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Neve, glad the post helped you decide…did you opt for Coron by any chance?!
      Thanks for the other recommendations, I’ll check them out!

      Reply
    • Martin

      Hello Neve

      Yes your right the Philippines is a very nice country, was been in diffrent Place. My wife is from the Philippines.
      Next time we will go is Decembre 16 and we look go to Palawan again is very nice there. this time by Iland hopping from el nico or Coron.
      Last time we was in end of 2012 in North by the Rice terasses.

      Reply
      • Chris

        Have an epic time Martin! Palawan will be a big contrast from the rice terraces!

  3. One Averee Bay Hotel

    Hi Chris, this is very informative. Really useful. Next time you visit Coron, you might want to check our place as well: One Averee Bay Hotel. It’s just right in the middle of town :)

    Reply
  4. Lex

    Hi there. I am leaving for Palawan next week. I need wifi and am okay with upto $35 a night. I would like to be within 1 mile of a good beach if possible and would like to try a few locations. Any suggestions?

    Thanks
    Lex

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Lex, $35 a night will get you a rather nice place, it depends on where you want to be in Palawan though – Puerto Princesa is nice, El Nido is better and Coron is my personal favourite! That price range will get you a hotel over a hostel if that’s what you’d prefer – check out AsiaRooms.com

      Reply
  5. beny

    Tnx to your blog man..
    Im really excited to go to palawan this may..

    Reply
  6. Mye

    i’m heading to palawan solo next year, coron to puerto princesa. maybe i’ll just pass through el nido. thanks for the tip. great post!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Stoked to hear you’re heading that way Mye! El Nido is well worth few days, but it will eat into your budget heaps!

      Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Jecjec,
      Ummmm….it didn’t feel like the safest experience I’ve ever had! You can also head to Puerto Princesa and take the overnight ferry to Coron which seems like a much safer option!

      Reply
  7. jayjay

    Hello! Just wanna ask if it is possible to tour the spots in Puerto Princesa and El Nido in just 2 days?

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey JayJay,
      The mini bus from PP to El Nido is about 6 hours one way so if you want to make the most of your trip I’d definitely schedule at least a week between the two!

      Reply
  8. Dave

    Nice blog. Like you, I have been to both, Coron and El Nido and prefer Coron for the same reasons you mentioned (Plus I found El Nido a tad pretentious).

    Thankfully we spent a few days at Cacnipa island (Port Barton) after El Nido which improved our impression about Palawan :)

    Enjoy your travels

    Reply
  9. Adam

    Nice and short info! After reading this I’m choosing Coron for my travel. Is somebody going to Coron from 30.11 to 15.12.2015?

    All The best for philippines lovers! :)

    Reply
  10. Sinead

    Thanks for the info :) I have about 5 days to spend in Palawan, would you recommend splitting it between El Nido and Coron? Or just staying in Coron? Also, I’m traveling by myself, is it easier to meet people in one of these places?

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Sinead,
      Hmmm with 5 days I’d stick to one or the other – it’s pretty easy to meet heaps of people in either location though :)

      Reply
    • Chris

      You should check it out, so much fun! I actually visited Bohol and it was heaps of fun….still need to tick Boracay off the list though!

      Reply
  11. Jennifer

    Hey Chris! Been enjoying your page about your travels here in the Philippines. It’s going to be my 3rd time going to Coron in 3 weeks for my advanced open water certification, going to fly solo and this article helped me with some budgeting. This island has been my go-to dive destination (just like how yours is Siargao for surfing). Hope you come by the island again! :)

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Jennifer,
      Stoked to here you have the PH bug too! Good luck with your AOW, I need to head back and do some more diving over there someday!

      Reply
  12. Sam

    Hi! Great blog and wealth of information.. Did you try the journey between El nido and Coron? 5 days of camping and sailing through remote tropical islands – https://youtu.be/ODUXJYGjxu0

    I’ve done a video review of the trip here..

    Keep up the good work

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Sam – is that the Tao Adventures one? I was hoping to check it out but it was fully booked unfortunately! Maybe next time hey!?

      Reply
    • maria

      fadiyah, salam. have u been to coron or el nido? we r going there soon. would appreciate if u share d ur experience. thanks

      Reply
  13. Cebu Tours

    Hi cris! I love your article about your travel experience in palawan and the rest. Honestly, I’ve never been to that place before even though I’m from philippines, but palawan is one of my to-go list and I’m gonna go there someday with my family. I would like to suggest you another beautiful place to visit if you’re interested to visit philippines again. You could take a look in here, there’s pictures on it and rates as well. https://www.cebutours.ph/

    Reply
  14. Tonkin-Travel Vietnam

    Thanks for the great post! I’m so excited to explore Palawan in November. I think it’s much more beautiful than Halong Bay in Vietnam. Which tour do you recommend me to choose? Because I just have 2 days there, I wanna discover the most beautiful one. Thanks in advance!

    Reply

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