Best of Palawan is often said to be El Nido and Coron. When travelling Philippines, El Nido seems to be everyone’s recommendation list, and not without an excellent reason. It was listed as one of the most beautiful places before.
What is the attraction about El Nido?
I would say the deep turquoise waters against grey-black rocks make a stunning view that you won’t forget easily. El Nido town is laid-back backpacker town with beautiful beaches and a line of fun beach bars and nightlife.
Everything you could ask for a holiday right?
Well, not quite. Seems like as the reputation of its beauty has spread, so has the amount of people visiting is increased, maybe getting too crowded even. I have heard that nowadays all the island hopping tours are absolutely full, and the beautiful beaches in the town reminds Thailand full moon parties some nights. So, whats the solution for many backpackers?
Coron is not as crowded as El Nido, but it is right next to it on its separate island. So you will still have the beautiful scenery and similar feeling than in El Nido, but with less people. May I add that I am not saying that there is not tourist there, because Coron definitely has its share of tourists. So, will I recommend going to Coron instead?
So, I’ll go trough benefits and disadvantages of both places and you can decide witch one suits you specifically better.
Benefits of going to El Nido is definitely related to El Nido town. It has a nice vibe to it and is located right at the beach. It is fun in the evenings to go to the restaurants at the beach and watch suset and have a drink. Also nightlife is fun and relaxed there.
When I visited El Nido, it was with a group of friends. We stayed in different hotels, but met up every morning in a beach restaurant for breakfast and to plan the day. One employee there was awesome with information on what to do around El Nido and took us around to less visited spots. For example he arranged us an overnight stay on one of the island surrounding El Nido. The evening was filled with rum, guitar by the camp fire and beautiful sunset. We slept in tents by the beach.
He took us to see local cock fight event. I have to say that this wasn’t something that I would like to see, and it was gruesome.They put big knives on the legs of the cocks for them to fight for death. The whole place was filled with people all yelling bets for which cock will win. Dead cocks lying everywhere.
But I understand that it is a part of the culture. Apparently this is legal in Philippines. If you are interested in cockfighting culture, here’s a vice article and video about it.
He also took us to República Sunset Bar, definitely recommend going there for sunset!
So , at least my experiences of El Nido town was epic! So it might be possible that I am biased on this point.
Where as the city in Coron towns is located by the water, there is no beach. In fact, there is really any beautiful beaches near the town. So I feel like the only activities worth doing in Coron include island hoping tours and few other attributes. Also, I didn’t notice any nightlife in Coron.
So Coron vs El Nido
El Nido: 1
If you are tired of doing island hopping tours, just rent a scooter and explore many awesome beaches near El Nido town. You can almost certain find a spot where there is no one there and have your perfect island getaway moments.
Whereas Coron city doesn’t have any special beaches, the island hopping tour called something in the lines of three islands tour has AMAZING beaches. Especially the Malcapuya island, it is absolutely beautiful.
Most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen.
So, which one is better? both have benefits. If only looking at what beach I like the most, Coron would win. But the negative is that it is hard to get to. El Nido gets a point for being more accessible and Coron gets a point from most beautiful beach:
El Nido: 2
Unfortunately in El Nido, lot of the corals seemed to be dead. At least in the spots that boats took people.
When I visited El Nido, it was actually my first time snorkeling and I had no idea on how you should behave. I stood on the corals because I saw many other people doing so, and no one was correcting people.
So it is no wonder that the coral is not doing well in touristy spots.
In Coron, it is a different story. Many of the spots were too deep to stand on even. Coral seemed to be alive and well. Also, Coron is famous spot for divers because of its many wreck diving opportunities.
UK DIVE magazine article stated it to even be the best wreck diving spot in whole South-East Asia. The wrecks are from World War II.
Even if you are not a diver, don’t worry! One of the wrecks are not sunken too deep and it can be seen with snorkel also. Just join an Island hopping tour that states it s going to include it.
So, without further ado, clear winner in this category is Coron;
El Nido: 2
Island hopping tours
When looking at the whole Island hopping tours, not just underwater, which one is better?
When I was in El Nido, this was my first time being in South-East Asia and I had no expectations. So, the experience for me was absolutely magical. But if I logically look at it, both had some very similar vibes and spots.
What differentiates Coron for me is the better corals, beaches and Barracuda lake. So, with a tight mach, this would still go to Coron, even though El Nido was not a bad experience in any way or form
El Nido: 2
So, witch one to choose as best of Palawan, Coron or El Nido?
As you can see, the overall winner for me is Coron. If you have the time, I would visit the both actually because they are different and each have their benefits. In conclusion:
- Choose El Nido if are travelling in a group of friends and in off-season
- Go with Coron if into more snorkeling and diving or are travelling in busier season
I wrote an article earlier all about Philippines, where to go, what to do and how to get there, to read it click here