Battle of the Islands: Coron Vs. El Nido

Black Island, Coron

After seeing Coron and El Nido, it is inevitable to be asked to compare these two stunningly beautiful islands situated in Palawan. They are both incredible in their own ways.

While both of their beaches, islands, lagoons and rock formations may look all too similar and it would be challenging to put up a score card on each one of them to tally the points, I will be comparing them based on the categories below.

(L) Matinloc Island, El Nido (R) Coron Island Cove, Coron

Purely based on my own trip experiences, here is my verdict:

1. Islands and the Beaches

You can't really miss to do island hopping when visiting either Coron or El Nido. Both of them have surprisingly tons of islands to see and a 4-day-vacation would just never be enough to explore all of them.

Counting off how many I have seen, El Nido has more of these and larger rock formations compared to Coron. Both have impressive long stretches of white, pure sand surrounded by vast amount of coconut trees to add to these already postcard-like-scenery. Both have blue green waters and unique picturesque landscapes which even gets more beautiful as you get from one island to the next.

Pinagbuyutan Island, El Nido
[Photo Credit: April Anne B. Loayon]

Snake Island, El Nido
[Photo Credit: April Anne B. Loayon]

I would have to base my vote to the place where I was captivated at first sight. It may have been I have too much expectations of El Nido but it took me three days to be totally impressed with it while I was already in love with Coron on the first day of our island hopping.

Twin Lagoon, Coron
Banol Beach, Coron

The isolated Black Island, Coron

The timing of the trips may have added as my deciding factor as well. El Nido during May is just too crowded. I think I've seen more boats than the actual view of the lagoons and islands so it was a bit frustrating to get a good glimpse of just the island alone to appreciate its beauty. Coron in February was a good timing as we always had the islands to ourselves to marvel at.

The shore filled with boats at Seven Commando Island, El Nido

My Vote: Coron

2. Marine Life

El Nido surprised me with its immense marine biodiversity. I have only done snorkeling on both places so it may differ had it been a diving trip. 

On the other hand, apart from corals and fishes, Coron has several Japanese ship wrecks which was indeed a fascinating thing to see and something El Nido doesn't have.

One of the many Japanese War Shipwrecks in Coron

But I have to choose El Nido for the fact that I have thoroughly much enjoyed the snorkeling experience here. I've seen a great array of marine life in El Nido compared to Coron.

My Vote: El Nido

3. Variety of Things to Do/See

El Nido is mostly catered for people who enjoy beach bumming, island hopping, diving and snorkeling. Its marine life is absolutely impressive.

Big Lagoon, El Nido

View from the top of Matinloc Island
Entalula Island, El Nido
[Photo Credit: April Anne B. Loayon]

It has a lot of hidden lagoons and beaches where you have to make an effort to get into it (like crouching into small openings).

Coron on the other hand has other things to offer. Apart from its beaches and islands, it has the thrill of hiking at Mt. Tapyas and Kayangan Lake, relaxing bath at the Maquinit Hot Springs and the close encounter with the animals in the wild at their own island safari of Calauit Island.

Mt. Tapyas

Coron Island Cove

Feeding Gerard the Giraffe was the highlight of my trip at Calauit Island

My Vote: Coron

4. Accomodation

While the common misconception about El Nido is that it is expensive, if you are a practical traveler, then you won't have to splurge on fancy accomodations if you will be out exploring most of the day anyway. There are many exclusive and high rated hotels in El Nido but there are even more cheaper and decent accomodations to choose from.

We stayed at Hadefe Cottages. I would highly recommend this place. They have large rooms which are well maintained and very clean. They have a nice spot to have breakfast too before heading off to do your island hopping. 

Our Daily view at Hadefe Cottages

My experience with finding accomodation in Coron was a bit unfortunate. I may needed to have done more research on this. We opted to stay at Coron Backpackers Guesthouse. Don't get me wrong, the place is nice and very cheap too but we had difficulty with sleeping and being comfortable (personal preferences) so we chose to leave instead. Our tour guide was kind enough to recommend a place (more of a home with a spare room) to stay at so we weren't entirely left in the streets during our first night.

My Vote: El Nido

5. Accessibilty

Coron has direct flights from Manila (via Busuanga) and about a 30-45 minute drive to get to the town proper. El Nido has a direct flight from Manila too but it would be expensive (about Php 14,000 per person). The cheapest way to get there would be to fly from Manila to Puerto Princesa and then take a bus or van which is about 5-6 hours of excruciating ride to reach El Nido. While there are several stops along the way, the bumpy, zigzagging roads and being cramped into a van would be a very uncomfortable ride.

My Vote: Coron

6. Food

I am not really a foodie when travelling so I am not particularly choosy when it comes to what to eat. But the choices of what and where to eat would play a great deal on which I vote for in this category.

Sumptuous Seafood Lunch by the Beach, El Nido
[Photo Credit: April Anne B. Loayon]

Both places have an abundant supply of seafood and this is what we mostly ate during the trip. 

El Nido has a similar set up with Boracay, with bars and restaurants near the seashore, although it is quieter and more relaxing which I like. However the food prices are more expensive and what we found mostly are western cuisines.

I find Coron has more cheaper and food options to choose from compared to El Nido. What I like mostly is the open-air local food dining area that they have that we were literally having dinner under the star-filled night sky. Truly an authentic local experience to enjoy a local food.

Local Dish "Goto" in Coron

My Vote: Coron

7. Value for Money

While I have been asked several times if a trip to Coron and El Nido is expensive, both are really affordable only if you don't mind going for cheaper options. While everyone has their own preferences and budget to consider, I would say that both are doable and the money was well spent with the services I got. In my own point of view and experience, Coron is cheaper overall but again it all depends on one's preferences of where to stay and activities to do. 

Recalling the cost I paid for flights (excluding Singapore-Manila), Accomodation and Tour for 3 People:

5D4N Coron:  Php   8,880
4D3N El Nido: Php 10,500

The tour package we got for El Nido is relatively cheaper than what I have expected. But we had to share the boat with 9 other people for the tour while in Coron we had the whole boat to ourselves. Though Coron is cheaper, I would give El Nido a point for this category too.

My Vote: It's a Tie.

The Score Card:

1. Islands and the Beaches : Coron
2. Marine Life: El Nido
3. Variety of Things to Do/See: Coron
4. Accomodation: El Nido
5. Accessibilty: Coron
6. Food: Coron
7. Value for Money/Affordability: Both

Coron:  5/7
El Nido: 3/7

Coron is still by far my favourite place that I wouldn't mind going back to. To conclude this comparison, if you are into beaches, diving, snorkeling - El Nido would be the perfect place. But if you are like me who prefers variety and adventure, Coron is the place to be.

Banol Beach, Coron

More about Coron:

Calauit Island


  1. Where did you get your travel packages for Coron?

    1. Hi, it was our tour guide who arranged everything. His name is Elmer- +639194417721 (not sure if he still uses the same number).

      More details about my Coron Trip in 2012: