Who doesn’t wanna go to Palawan? Anyone who says they’re not interested in world class beaches and otherworldly hidden lagoons must be out of their minds. Palawan is a vast province with numerous islands that offers that and more, but because life is full of unnecessary buzzkill like jobs and financial issue, it’s quite ambitious for most of us to see all of Palawan’s best in one trip.
With the success of my first comparison blog post (READ: Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City? That Is The Question), I noticed that people appreciate straightforward and honest advice. When it comes to the mind boggling troubles of choosing the perfect destination, Palawan is no different. Videos after videos, research after research, blogs after blogs. They don’t really help because both islands just sounds fucking fantastic. Perhaps you’re just not completely in the know yet. Either way, how could you possibly decide between such spectacular places???
It’s definitely not an easy task. It’s like having to pick between two different smart phones, both with amazing looks and features (although it’s always iPhone for me). Nonetheless, allow me to simplify this for you. Because even if they’re both gonna take your breath away, there is an island meant to be the one for you.
Coron and El Nido
If you ask my husband what his favorite place in the Philippines is, he would instantly say Coron. How could he not. It’s home to beautiful jagged limestone formations that secretly envelopes lagoons that would really make you feel away from the Trump reality of the world. It has beaches with water clearer than America’s future. Lake boasting of emerald water like you’ve never seen before. Islands so enticing and secluded you wouldn’t mind being stuck there for years. What else is there to look for?
El Nido, on the other hand, is basically Coron on crack. It has more lagoons and beaches because goddammit it has more islands than Coron does. And most of those scattered islands are A+.
So which one would I recommend? Well, this dilemma is obviously not a black and white case. There are dimensions in each destinations that molds the beauty they’re known for. It’s not as easy as A or B– both needs to be analyzed by aspect.
“But which one is actually more beautiful than the other though, that’s all I wanna know.”
Okay calm down. Like I said, they are both out of this world majestic. However, El Nido is probably the winner here. Let me elaborate.
El Nido and Coron are like the popular girls in high school. Both beautiful, both smart. El Nido is the blonde, blue-eyed cheerleader that everyone admires. Her beauty is obvious and she flaunts it very well. It’s so out there that it’s almost obnoxious. She attracts everyone with her beauty and personality and she’s the one who’s most likely going to win Prom Queen. Coron on the other hand is El Nido’s brunette best friend. Her beauty is exotic and although overshadowed by El Nido’s assets, she knows what she’s got and her confidence is electric. Contrary to El Nido’s outgoing personality, Coron is more reserved and chooses only to show her true colors to those worthy. Though they both have similarities and differences, the bottom line is, they’re both captivating and your high school sweetheart has most likely fantasized about them, one way or the other. But if given the chance to choose, he’ll go for El Nido.
El Nido used to be just a dream for peasants like me. There were no paved roads and chartered flights were the only way to reach the paradise. But times have changed and El Nido is now budget friendly. Because of that, it’s become the more popular choice. And the more popular and affordable a place is, the more people it attracts. In other words, it can be quite a touristy place. There’s gonna be regular flights coming to El Nido starting in March so that will definitely make it a busier place this summer. I went in 2014 and although I had a great time, my expectations weren’t completely met because you know… authenticity ruined.
When I went to Coron in 2009, we practically had it to ourselves. It was unbelievable and it has become the basis of my standards from then on. Beautiful places are something, but when you’re sharing those moments with only your loved ones, it truly sets the bar high. I’m sure it won’t be entirely that empty anymore nowadays, but I believe it’s still less crowded than El Nido. So when it comes to seclusion and the perfect paradise experience, I choose Coron.
Value For Money
There is a direct flight to Coron (Busuanga) and they can be quite pricey than most destinations in the Philippines. Prepare to spend at least $200 for a roundtrip ticket. Flying to El Nido via chartered flights are more convenient but definitely not budget friendly. However, I did mention that there will be straight flights there starting March via Sky Jet Air. I’m not sure of the prices yet, but they have promos and if you’re lucky enough to catch them, it will save you lots of money. Otherwise, the more popular way of getting to El Nido is via Puerto Prinsesa and then taking a long van ride. Flights can go as low as $50-150.
Island hopping tours are more expensive in El Nido, ranging between 1000-2000 php per person. If you’re with a big group, you can probably split a boat to yourselves. But because there are so many islands to see, you’ll need to do more than just one tour (I recommend Tour A and C). And because there are so many choices that you’ll definitely want to do, it’s more expensive that way. Coron tours are pricey too but the island hopping can be done in a day so it’s pretty straightforward.
Expect to pay tourist prices when it comes to food and drinks in both islands. However, it’s still relatively affordable. In the end, I’d say it’s a tie between getting the value of your money.
Other than the world renown island hopping tours, both islands offers other activities that will stimulate your mind, body, and soul. Scuba diving, for instance, is offered in both places, and though I haven’t done it, something from what I’ve seen from the surface of the water through snorkeling tells me that it’s gonna be great. Kayaking is also a great activity along the lagoons of either Coron or El Nido. If you’re craving a hike, you can go to the top of the shrine of Mt. Tapyas in Coron for a great view. You can also hike in El Nido although it’ll be a little more risky since you’ll be climbing jagged rocks. El Nido has a waterfall just half an hour away, and you can also head to Nacpan beach via tricycle if you want a whole day dedicated to being a beach bum, something that Coron lacks. But we did go to an island an hour away to have that beach bum day (READ: I Fell In Love In Coron) which turned out to be one of my best days ever. There is also a safari a few hours away from Coron that I think would make a perfect adventure. There’s also hot springs to end a long hectic day. So my verdict? Coron wins this category.
Food & Night Life
Sad news, there is no night life in Coron, and there is barely any in El Nido. El Nido has become quite the backpacking spot though so more likely, you’ll have more chances with that here.
Food is practically the same in both islands. But because El Nido has a bigger budget friendly vibe, it’s easier to find cheaper meals in the streets. In terms of quality, it’s all the same in the Philippines. You either get what you paid for, or you just paid way too much. There is no such thing as “cheap but life-changingly delicious.”
The ironic thing about El Nido is that even if it’s relatively new to budget travel, the rise in tourists happened so quickly that it surpassed Coron’s popularity. Although it has become quite a tourist friendly destination, it’s still a remote destination so there’s going to be inconveniences along the way. For instance, there was no ATM when I went there, but if I’m not mistaken, I believe that they recently received their first one. Also keep in mind that the power turns off in the island from 6am-2pm so if you’re a bit of a cranky bitch in the heat, make sure you opt for a hotel with a generator. Otherwise, it’s not that bad because you’ll most likely be out and about during those hours.
Coron has its downsides too. Because it’s not so much of a backpacker destination, the hotels are also a bit on the pricier range. Of course there are cheaper ones, but they might just be a star lower than your usual affordable standards. High end resorts are very limited, in fact, I think there’s just one or two, and it’s not as luxury status as what you’d be getting in El Nido.
If the question is where I would go back to, it would be El Nido, because there are still plenty of islands I was not able to explore. But if the question is what I liked better, although a bit biased by my personal experience, I’ll pick Coron in a heartbeat.
Again, they’re both wonderful destinations. Either one you pick will be a win and will absolutely be one for the books. Many have considered Palawan as the most beautiful place they’ve seen. If you must pick one, you can even rely on a coin and it will still not let you down. But if you’re lucky like I am, you’ll be able to experience both and see the difference for yourself.
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