Coron's Kayangan Lake docking area and El Nido's Taraw Cliff view
When it comes to paradise-like places to visit in the Philippines, one of the top destinations is Palawan, a province in the Southwestern Tagalog Region. It is home to some of the top beach and island destinations not just in the Philippines but in the world like El Nido, Coron, Puerto Princesa, and San Vicente.
Palawan is composed of 1,780 islands with majestic rock formations, pristine beaches, and natural attractions such as El Nido's Big Lagoon, Coron's Kayangan Lake, the UNESCO World Heritage Site and New7Wonders of Nature Puerto Princesa Underground River, another UNESCO site known for diving called Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, and the longest beach in the Philippines called Long Beach in San Vicente.
With so many beautiful Palawan tourist spots that you can explore, deciding which destination in this island province to visit first can be challenging.
Coron's Malcapuya Island
Two Palawan destinations are usually on top of the travel bucket list of many tourists: Coron and El Nido. Both are equally enchanting, with their fair share of limestone formations, mysterious caves, and powder white sand beaches that should be part of your itinerary when you tour the Philippines.
Many Philippine tour packages offer Coron tours and El Nido package tours for a hassle-free vacation. However, if you have to choose only one Palawan destination to visit in your Palawan tour package, here are a few factors to consider:
Small Lagoon in El Nido
When deciding between Coron vs El Nido, take into consideration the location and accessibility of the destination from your origin. Note that Coron has greater accessibility when it comes to transportation options. Although both are located in Palawan, El Nido is in a more remote area compared to Coron.
Banul Beach in Coron
There are two ways to reach Coron. The first is by commercial or private airplane. Coron is accessible through the Busuanga Airport, which services daily commercial flights such as Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and Skyjet from Manila and Cebu. From there, you can proceed to Coron Town by land. For a hassle-free flight, have your papers ready along with other Coron travel requirements aside from finalizing your Coron Palawan itinerary.
The second option is via a ferry ride where you will arrive at the Uson Island Public Pier Departure in Coron. Departure points are in Manila or Puerto Princesa via 2Go Travel commercial ferry, and El Nido via Montenegro Lines or Atienza Shipping Lines commercial ferry.
Snake Island in El Nido
El Nido’s main jump-off point is Manila by airplane. Most travelers go to El Nido by catching a commercial flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan. From there, you have to travel by land by riding either a bus or van. The land transfer to El Nido typically takes about 5-7 hours, so take note of travel times before finalizing your El Nido Palawan itinerary.
A faster but more expensive option to reach El Nido is via a direct flight to Lio Airport from Manila. It is limited to small airplanes like AirSwift, which offer 1 hour and 20-minute flights to Lio Airport. From there, El Nido Town Proper is just 30 minutes away by land transfer.
Shimizu Island in El Nido
When it comes to places to visit and activities to do in Palawan, Coron and El Nido both offer breathtaking sights like beaches and lagoons and fun adventures. Here's an overview of the top attractions and activities that await you in Coron and El Nido to help you decide which destination suits your interests better:
Although sunny all year round, the best time to visit Coron Palawan is from November to May, the dry months with less rain. Coron is most known for its shipwreck diving sites aside from stunning beaches and lagoons like Kayangan Lake, one of the cleanest in the world. Here are some of the most popular places to visit in Coron:
There are numerous hidden coves and powder-like white sand beaches throughout Coron, and the best way to explore them is to join a Coron island hopping tour. Besides visiting beautiful beach destinations such as Malcapuya Island, many tour packages also go to snorkeling spots with rich marine life and colorful reefs such as Kayangan Lake.
Known for its towering karst formations and crystal clear water, Kayangan Lake is home to various fish species. Other Coron attractions famous for their picturesque limestone cliffs and emerald green natural pools are Barracuda Lake and the Twin Lagoon.
Standing at the center of Coron town proper is Mt. Tapyas, a 210 m high mountain with a summit that offers a sweeping overhead view of Coron Bay and its surrounding landscape. It is a great place to catch the sunrise or sunset.
The summit’s landmark is a giant cross set against rolling hills and the sea. To enjoy the view, you’ll need to climb up the 700-step concrete staircase, so comfortable shoes and strong walking legs are a must.
Photo by Department of Tourism
After climbing up the steep steps of Mt. Tapyas, locals recommend that you soak in the soothing 40-degree Celcius volcanically heated water of Maquinit Hot Springs to ease your tired, weary legs from the mountain hike. Maquinit is located in the southern part of Busuanga and is surrounded by thick mangroves and several pools filled with hot spring water.
It is easily accessible by a tricycle ride from the central town proper. Maquinit is one of the best hot springs in the Philippines. It is the country's only known naturally heated spring comprised of salt water and probably the only one in Asia.
Recreational diving enthusiasts and history buffs flock to Coron for its World War 2 era shipwreck sites. Mainly concentrated in the vicinity of Sangat Island, the sunken freighters and supply ships lay within eleven dive sites with depths ranging from 3 to 43 meters.
Most are supply ships for the Imperial Japanese Navy except for the Akitsushima, a 114.8 m long warship with a 3-barrelled anti-aircraft gun. Its port side is 36 meters deep, while its opposite end lays in a shallower depth of 22 meters.
Nature lovers who relish off-the-beaten-path types of beach locations should visit Ditaytayan Island off the coast of the island of Culion. It features powder-like white sand and clear blue seawater where the waves gently nip at your feet as you approach the shore.
Another less known but equally enchanting tourist attraction for nature lovers is the Calauit Safari Park, a 3,700 wildlife sanctuary and game reserve accessible by land transfer to Busuanga from Coron Town Proper. The park features endemic animal species and exotic animals such as giraffes, zebras, impala, bushbuck, and gazelles.
El Nido has the reputation for being home to some of the most majestic limestones cliffs and enchanting seaside views in the Philippines. It also has many snorkeling and diving spots aside from hidden beaches and natural pools for swimming.
The best time to visit El Nido is from January to April where the weather is dry and sunny. Joining an El Nido island hopping tour is a great way to explore various beaches and to visit snorkeling spots. The Big Lagoon, for instance, features karst formations towering over emerald-colored waters, a stunning sight to behold.
A smaller version called the Small Lagoon is a beautiful natural attraction on Miniloc Island. Other must-visit spots include the Hidden Beach and Secret Beach, both of which are accessible by entering a small hole or entryway to reveal natural pools and white sand beaches. Snake Island is another must-visit where you can walk on a sandbar during low tide.
Nacpan Beach is a sought-after destination that features a four-kilometer-long shoreline with crystal clear water and coconut trees lined up near the sea. One of the best beaches in the Philippines, it is 17KM north of the El Nido town proper and is accessible via land transfer either by shuttle service or tricycle ride.
It is a half of a twin beach called Calitang, where the two merge into a sandbar. It goes up into a hill with a panoramic view overlooking both Nacpan and Calitang. It is a site to enjoy the tropical scenery and relish the quiet surroundings.
Taraw Cliffs are limestone rock formations offering a bird's eye view of Bacuit Bay and the entire El Nido town. To reach its summit, you will climb boulders, rocks, and a steep incline, which require an adventurous spirit, strong trekking legs, and a guide to help you navigate the hike.
If hiking steep boulders is not your style, you can try the Canopy Walk. It is an alternative way of reaching the Taraw Cliff summit and viewpoint by walking through a stairway and hanging bridge. You will wear safety gear like a harness and helmet and have a guide along the way.
El Nido has nearly 40 dive sites ranging from shallow dives, coral gardens, and sandy flats to tunnels and deep dives for amateur and professional divers alike. All are easily accessible by boat ride from town. South Miniloc is the most popular dive spot because of its colorful coral gardens and sightings of unusual marine life like sea turtles or barracudas.
North Rock on Bacuit Bay is also a good spot, while Dilumacad Tunnel is perfect for cave divers. Coral gardens and critter hunters will find colorful, photogenic sea life along Etalula Wall, Entalula Drift, and Nat-nat Beach.
Both Coron and El Nido offer different types of accommodations for travelers. From affordable lodgings, midrange hotels to luxury resorts, you won't find trouble finding the perfect home base during your vacation. Find out where to stay in Coron and where to stay in El Nido Palawan.
Photo by Two Seasons Coron Island Resort & Spa
The best Coron hotels and resorts to book for your trip will depend on the itinerary. If you intend to spend most of your time lounging by the beach, then a beachfront property is your best option. Those who want easy access to tourist spots, Coron restaurants, and shops might prefer a hotel located in Coron town proper, while backpackers on a tight budget would go for dorm-style hostels. Large groups could book a vacation rental for DIY facilities like a kitchen or laundry area.
Most Coron hotels offer basic amenities like wifi access, whereas Coron luxury resorts like Club Paradise Palawan and Two Seasons Coron Island Resort & Spa offer perks like indoor pools and in-house spas. Check out any of our Coron tour package that includes accommodation and airfare.
Photo by El Nido Resorts Pangulasian Island
There are many options when it comes to choosing accommodations during your trip. Most of the best El Nido hotels and resorts are in four major areas: Town Proper, Islands, Corong-Corong, and Caalan. Those who want to stay close to the beach choose the El Nido Town proper for easy access to shops, El Nido restaurants, and tour packages.
Corong-Corong is a secluded area known for its stunning sunset views while booking a room in one of the islands offers even more privacy and luxurious perks for guests. Calaan is further away from the action but offers peace and relaxation for those who prefer it.
El Nido is home to multiple luxury resorts that are part of the El Nido Resorts Group. These are located in various islands in El Nido and are considered some of the best luxury resorts in the Philippines.
There is no shortage of Coron restaurants and El Nido restaurants to choose from, especially seafood, owing to its location near the coast. Several international travelers who now call Palawan home offer authentic international cuisines, adding flavor and variety to popular local favorites.
Photo by Kawayanan Grill
The best Coron restaurants offer not just delectable dishes but also provide a memorable dining experience. Restaurants like La Sirenetta Seafood Restaurant allow you to watch the sunset while having a sumptuous seafood meal by the beach.
Casual roadside diners offer delicious Filipino dishes at an affordable price, while others serve everything from Italian favorites to Spanish cuisine in upscale settings perfect for romantic dinners.
Restaurants such as Manggis are at an elevated part of town with a corner view overlooking the surrounding landscape. Whatever your preference or price range, there is a restaurant serving the perfect dish for you in Coron.
You will find the best El Nido restaurants in practically every corner of the town. Many resto-bars on beachfront locations offer delicious food. Others have sunset views with the perfect cocktails to match. Hillside jungle restaurants like The Nesting Table offer incredible hilltop views of Bacuit Bay and offer delicious breakfast staples like pancakes and coffee.
Busy tourist areas like Serena st. have restaurants serving everything from vegetarian fare to Mediterranean cuisine, while El Nido town proper has many rustic-themed restaurants and Italian food.
Coron vs El Nido: Which Palawan Destination Should You Visit First?
If you need to prioritize one Palawan destination over another, consider how much time you have. For beach lovers with time to spare, go for El Nido, which is reachable by first flying to Puerto Princesa and then traveling by land. Coron, on the other hand, is more accessible, with budget-friendly transportation options.
Both are beautiful beach spots, although Coron is also famous among diving or snorkeling enthusiasts. El Nido and Coron equally have restaurants and accommodations that can cater to any budget.
To explore both El Nido and Coron in one trip, why not go on a ferry ride or a flight? Several ferry rides and flights available for tourists interested in visiting both. To find out how to go from Coron to El Nido or vice versa in one trip, check out our El Nido to Coron itinerary guide to plan the ultimate trip to this paradise-like Philippine destination.