(Updated August 2018)
Ah the age old question! If you have started to do your research around going to Palawan you have probably realised by now that there are two main spots that you 'have to' go to: Coron and El Nido.
I thought it may be helpful to give you a view on what both places have to offer. Although our expedition is focused around Coron and the Calamian Islands this view is intended as impartial based on my own experiences and that of other travellers with all the expertise of a 5* Trip Advisor company.
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1. El Nido
Out of the two, if you've only heard of one of them, it's likely to be El Nido. The reason being quite simple, a lot more people have been there. It's larger, has many more hotels and options for tourists than Coron and similarly it has more islands to go. It has Napcan Beach which is ideal if you want an amazing stretch of sand and water although beware as the waves can get quite big!
It's very unlikely you'll be staying anywhere near Napcan Beach so be prepared for a 40 minute rocky trike ride to get there. If you're a bit more of a partier then Las Cabanas beach is for you, it's also the best place to watch the sun go down or to do a zip wire across the ocean. All in all if you were to just turn up at either Coron or El Nido without a plan you would find more to do in El Nido.
The downsides for me when I went was that there is just way too many people for the attractions. I booked on a private tour in an effort to avoid the public boats when going to see all the lagoons and it was just packed. Everywhere you go was full of the smoke from all the boats cooking chicken and people trying to get the perfect Instagram, it was completely unavoidable.
There are the El Nido resorts which if your budget can stretch to I would say are well worth going to, they're a set of Eco-Friendly 5* Resorts that really are quite sensational.
I never got a chance to go to El Nido before the year 2000 when it was less popular, although if I did I would imagine it's like what Coron is now.
Coron is much smaller than El Nido, it doesn't have the choices of beaches on the island like it's larger rival however what it does have is a more peaceful feeling of sincerity and calmness. It also has spots such as the Maquinit Hot Springs which are a great way to end your day.
Similarly to El Nido, people don't really go to Coron for the town and we wrote about why you're crazy to stay in a hotel in Coron, it's more to see the surrounding lakes and scenery which is simply beautiful. You'll hear a lot of comparison between where is better lakes and views and the honest answer for me is that they're both unbelievable. The difference between the two for me was in who else was around.
Once you get to Coron you still encounter the problem of the public tour boats meaning Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoon etc. can get overcrowded but never to the same levels as El Nido.
And the real beauty of Coron for me was in the surrounding islands, such as Pass Island.
Because there aren't any tour operators or hotels on Pass Island it can be quite an effort to go there and come back in one day. So unless you're doing our expedition in which you stay overnight on Pass Island be wary of this.
So overall for me if I have to choose Coron wins out. Of course I have to say that because I operate a tour company in Coron so feel free to disregard everything that I say but all of the information above is based on my own experience.
My honest advice would be to go to both and make your own judgement! That's what I did and it's pretty easy to go to both, it really doesn't have to be an either/or unless you are super limited by time. Both places are magical in their own way and so if you can why not experience it all?
I hope this information was helpful, if you are thinking of going to Coron and are interested in doing a 3 or 4 day tour around Coron and the Calamian Islands, with overnight islands camping, complete disconnect with very few tourists around then check out our Private Tour, or apply for our Group Experience Tour.
Getting To Coron/El Nido
Travelling from Manila or Cebu to Coron:
- You can catch a private 120 seater plane from Manila or Cebu that flies directly into Coron. The operating airlines are AirSwift, Cebu Pacific and as the days go by more are being added. The cost of a return flight from Manila or Cebu is around $150 USD.
Travelling from Manila or Cebu to El Nido:
- You can catch a private 120 seater plane from Manila or Cebu that flies directly into El Nido. The operating airline is AirSwift.The cost of a return flight from Manila or Cebu is around $150 USD.
- The cheaper option is to fly to Princess Puerta and then get a 6 hour bus to El Nido. I personally wouldn't recommend this if you can avoid it, Princess Puerta really doesn't have too much to offer.
Travelling to Coron From El Nido and vice versa:
- If you are travelling from El Nido you have two options either the fast or slow ferry. The fast ferry leaves Coron at around 6am and takes between 3-4 Hours.
- The slow ferry leaves at around 8am and can take up to 9 Hours.
- The same deal if you're travelling the other way, just check ferry times :).
Safety In Palawan
Recently there has been some discussion around the safety in Palawan because of ISIS. People are concerned of kidnappings. It's worth noting that Coron hasn't seen a kidnapping from ISIS, or any other pirates, ever. There has been one or two incidents in other areas of palawan in the last 20 years but your chances of being kidnapped are almost non existent, at the moment anyways, if this changes we will be sure to update you.
There is some presence of ISIS in the Philippines, sadly there seems to be in most parts of the world, however they are only present in Mindanao, so there is no genuine risk in visiting Palawan. Basically being afraid to go to Palawan because of ISIS is like saying ISIS are in England, so we better not go to France...
It's important to note that besides this, there is really no other danger to tourists in Palawan. It is not like other parts of SE Asia where some of the locals are anti-tourist, or there is a high numbers of thefts/muggings. The locals, especially in Coron where we are situated, are very grateful to tourists visiting the area and having personally travelled almost everywhere in SE Asia I felt safest whilst walking the streets at night in Coron, as well as El Nido. Although, I do find the dogs are more friendly in Coron.
I hope this information was helpful, if you are thinking of going to Coron and are interested in doing a 3 or 4 day expedition around Coron and the Calamian Islands, with overnight islands camping or beach cottage stays, it's a complete disconnect with very few tourists around then check out our expeditions.
Check our Private Expedition, or our Group Experience. Or check us out on Trip Advisor.
If you're not quite looking to plan your trip just yet, please do follow us on Facebook/Instagram for updates and to get you excited for your trip, tips on the area and more.
Maybe see you soon!