So you’ve probably heard that Coron, the furthermost island of the Palawan province in the Philippines, is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. And you’d be right. Coron is an absolute paradise: Colgate-coloured water, magical blue coral reefs and pristine white sand beaches that are postcard perfect. Plus, it’s still relatively undeveloped and not yet as touristy as South East Asian counterparts like Vietnam and Thailand. If you’re wanting to travel to Coron, Busuanga Island, you are probably looking for the best way to get there, right? Well, we recently did this trip so here’s all the information that you need for getting from Coron to El Nido.
We’ve also added in tidbits on other travel in the region, like Coron to Puerto Princesa or Manila; plus where to eat, what to do and where to stay in Coron, to complete this guide for you.
Getting from Coron to El Nido
The great news is that there is a brand new fast ferry that has recently entered service, by Jomalia Shipping. This is the latest and safest boat in the region, so well worth spending that little bit extra to use this service. The Coron to El Nido ferry departs once a day, leaving at 7.30am and arriving around 11.00am. Then returning from El Nido to Coron at 12.30pm. The journey takes approximately 3.5 hours.
As with all things in the Philippines, the schedule can be a little relaxed and leave later than the time stated. When we took this route from Coron to El Nido, it actually left a little after 8.00 am and only arrived into El Nido at midday. It’s a good thing to bear in mind if you have any connecting transport.
Book your tickets here with Bookaway. They have excellent 24 hour customer support, unlike other operators in the region.
There are also two other slow ferry options between Coron and El Nido by Montenegro Shipping Lines and Phimal – below is a table of all the daily scheduled departures from El Nido to Coron and Coron to El Nido by ferry. Lastly, there is a passenger cargo ship operated by Atienza shipping which takes 8 hours and really isn’t worth even considering!
|Service||Coron to El Nido||El Nido To Coron|
|Jomalia Shipping||Departs: 7.30am|
|Montenegro Lines||Departs: 12.00pm|
Location of the Port in Coron
The Coron ferry terminal or port, where you catch the ferry from Coron to El Nido is about 10 minute tricycle ride from the town centre. It should cost you about 50 PHP (0.76 GBP/1 USD) to get there.
Location of the Port in El Nido
The El Nido ferry terminal ferry is next to the main beach, and is relatively easy to walk to from most of the El Nido town centre.
Can you fly from Coron to El Nido and El Nido to Coron
Yes, there is a daily direct flight to El Nido operated by Air Swift between Coron and El Nido airport. The flights take about 40 minutes and so this is also a convenient way to travel, although the airport is not in Coron town, but Busuanga, so there is also a short bus transfer involved. Just book a tricycle or minivan from your hotel or hostel, which will set you back around 150 PHP (2.20 GBP/3 USD).
Currently the flight from El Nido to Coron departs at 8.40 in the morning and the Coron to El Nido flight departs at 9.35 am.
In our opinion, with the transfers involved and the check in process, there is not too much difference in timings between the ferry or plane options, however the flight is a little more expensive.
Getting to Puerto Princesa, Port Barton or Manila from Coron
Coron to Puerto Princesa
So there are a couple of ways to get from Coron to Puerto Princesa and the route is actually quite easy! Essentially you take the ferry from Coron to El Nido and then there are a number of bus options from El Nido to Puerto Princessa. Check out the latest costs on Bookaway.
We took the Cherry Bus, which left and arrived on time, was comfortable and had 3 quick comfort breaks. The journey took about 5 hours in total. We liked this option as we were able to split up our journey and spend time in El Nido, which is also absolutely stunning.
You are also able to fly from Coron to Puerto Princesa– check the latest prices here on Skyscanner.
Coron to Manila
For this journey you’re either looking at a flight, or an overnight ferry. The flight is between 40 minutes and 80 minutes, and you’ll need a van to the airport. Check out the latest prices on Skyscanner.
For the ferry, this is an affordable overnight option which of course takes you a bit longer. Here you’re looking at about 11 hours door to door, but it’s an interesting experience where you will probably meet other travellers! It leaves on Sundays from Coron Port at 7.00pm and arrives the next morning.
Coron to Port Barton
It’s not really advisable to go directly from Coron to Port Barton – you’re far better off planning a stop in El Nido. But, if you’re dead-set on doing the trip, probably the best bet is to take the ferry to El Nido and then the minivan to Port Barton.
Why go to Coron?
Well if it isn’t enough that Coron has some of the most beautiful beaches, coves and lakes in the world, we thought we’d add in just a few more tips as to why you need to make the journey from El Nido to Coron!
- One of the best things that we liked about Coron was that it still had quite a raw, authentic feel to the place. Unlike many places in Southeast Asia, it doesn’t feel like it’s been over commercialised yet. It’s always nice to find something that feels a bit more off the trodden path. You’re not going to be the only tourists here…. It’s been the place to go for a few years. But it’s much more of a travellers hangout than a holiday destination.
- If you’re into your diving (or snorkelling), we saw some of the most stunning corals that we’d ever experienced. James mentioned these as the best since he was diving in Borneo about 12 years ago.
- The people are genuinely friendly. Most of the times when travelling, there’s a feeling that some people are being nice to ‘try and make a sale’ rather than the more authentic friendliness that we felt in the Philippines.
- Let’s be honest, the Philippines isn’t renowned for its fine cuisine. Which came as a bit of a surprise to us, given the wonderful Filipino dishes like Pancit that we’d experienced through family friends growing up. However, on Coron, we found really good food options and little cafes.
- Okay so the Philippines is slightly more expensive than the likes of a Vietnam or Thailand. That said, it is still very cheap compared to Western prices so your budget can stretch relatively far.
What are the best island tours on Coron?
Now this really deserves its own travel guide (spoiler: we are working on it!). But, for now, here’s a high level look at the best island tours in Coron. Essentially, you have a few options in terms of how you book it, and also which ones you do.
Tour A: Nearby islands i.e. Kayangan Lake, Green Lagoon, snorkelling and beach
The most famous and accessible of the lot, usually tour A includes Kayangan Lake, CYC Beach, Green Lagoon and snorkelling spots like Coral Garden or Quin Reef.
This tour works well since it’s really close to Coron town so even if there’s slightly bad weather, the coastguard usually lets these trips depart. Your first stop is usually Kayangan Lake, arguably the most beautiful but also most popular place in Coron. Think absolutely gorgeous aquamarine water where you’ll climb out the boat and up to the viewpoint before walking down to the other side and the lake. We loved this stop – you can spend an hour or so swimming in Kayangan Lake and depending on how it’s timed, it could be relatively quiet.
The Green Lagoon is also a triumph – your boat will cruise into the bay and up to a wooden docking station where you can dump your towels and jump into the waters around you. When we visited this spot there was only one other boat there, which was magical!
CYC Beach is a white sand beach where you have time to soak in some sun, where Coral Garden or the Quin Reef boasts fantastic snorkelling – we saw so much blue coral here!
This tour is super easy to book from the pier but if you want to get it scheduled in beforehand, we highly recommend you book it through Get your Guide for peace of mind.
Tour B: Barracuda Lake, Banol Beach, Skeleton Wreck and the Twin Lagoon
Only slightly further afield than Tour A’s spots, you’re spoilt for choice on this trip. The stops depend on your captain but we stopped at Barracuda Lake first. This lake is amazing since it combines saltwater and freshwater – you’ll find patches of almost bathwater temperature and then cooler currents as you swim about. Similarly, Twin Lagoon also boasts this interesting mix of salt and freshwater, which makes the water look almost oily as you glide through it. It’s interesting but that does mean that any underwater photos you take here leave a bit to be desired…
The twin lagoon is exactly what the name suggests: two lagoons connected by a small rockface. You swim through the first lagoon and duck your head to swim under the rocks, emerging on the other side. There is also a ladder on the rockface where a few errant Instagrammers like to host their impromptu photoshoots.
On to Skeleton Wreck, which is a 25m long Japanese supply ship which sank after being hit by the US airforce during a WWII strike. It’s a pretty cool spot – even snorkelling you can see the tip of the mast, at only 5m below the water. Freedivers and scuba divers can of course see more than this, and it makes for a fantastic stop on the itinerary.
You inevitably want to end up at Banol Beach, either later in the day or for lunch; cooked for you by your able crew and boasting fresh fish and veggies; beautiful fare to eat on the beach. When we visited Banol beach it was high tide so the beach was a little full but it was still an incredible place to spend a few hours. Check out the insanely blue water in the picture below!
As above, book it beforehand with Get your Guide – you’ll know what you’re in for, rather than a potentially dodgy experience booked through your hotel.
Tour C: Farflung islands of Malcapuya, Banana and Bulog Dos
This is one of the quieter tours of Coron, mainly since it visits the more remote locations like Malcapuya and Bulog Dos Island.
Usually your first stop is Banana Island which, by the way, doesn’t have a single banana growing on it. Go figure. Anyway, you’ll find a gorgeous beach and loads of hammocks (and coconuts) waiting for you to chill for the morning. Next up? Malcapuya. Still a popular beach but undoubtedly more deserted than Banol or Vivian beach, which are closer to town. Malcapuya beach has gorgeous white sands but, more importantly, a great reef where you can spend time snorkelling to see the local marine life.
Your last stop is usually Bulog Dos, where many a Coron dream came to life. This is an almost untouched beach where very few tourists make it – it’s absolutely breathtaking and one of the reasons Coron and the Palawan island are world-renowned.
Ways to book your island tour
Online: Want to secure everything before you go? Book one of the island hopping tours with a reputable operator like Get your Guide, and you’ll know what you’re in for. If you really have some money to spend, we would have loved to do the Big Dream Boat Man, a 3 day 3 night expedition on a liveaboard where you’ll see places not seen on many of the package tours.
Through your hotel: This is the most common way that people manage their island hopping. All hotels have their preferred operators and will give you an okay price to do a day tour. Keep in mind that these can vary – you might be stuck with a boat full of obnoxious people, or stuck with a huge lot of tourists only wanting to see a few spots.
Local captain: We opted to go down to the pier and negotiate a private boat for the day, which worked out really well. You simply make your way down there, talk to one of the captains sitting around and negotiate a rate for the boat hire and the guide. This ranges based on the tour you take – Island Tour A cost around 2,700 PHP per person (41 GBP / 53 USD) at time of writing which we bartered down to 2, 200 PHP (33 GBP / 43 USD). The captain will take you to the local market where you can buy some fresh fish and veggies, which he’ll then grill on the boat for you while you cruise around. You’ll also need to pay the entry costs for the stops you’d like to make but these are all clearly marked on the boards for you to pick from. We paid about 1,400 PHP (21 GBP / 27.5 USD) for 2 people for 5 stops.
Where to stay in Coron
There are surprisingly fewer hotels and hostels than you may expect in Coron, it is still very much a developing region – think slow WiFi, not the best roads and generally very high end or basic backpacking options.
Budget: The Blue Waters Inn is a great place to stay, we were there for almost a week, during the tail end of a typhoon. But had a comfy bed, good TV channels and in a great location.
Mid-range: Located just out of town, but very easy to access the ports and main areas for food, the Zenvea Hotel gets great reviews.
Luxury: The Funny Lion gets our nod if you can get a room! It is modern, spacious and get fantastic reviews.
Where to eat in Coron
We were really pleasantly surprised by the food options in the town; from local Filipino dishes to really good Western fare. A few favourites were:
Altrove – this pizza joint is busy every night, and for good reason. It has absolutely delicious wood-fired pizza at moderate prices. You need to go before 7pm else you’ll wait a while for a table
Rosa’s Cantina – the best Mexican in Palawan! This place had great tacos, good drinks specials and a particularly good chicken quesadilla
Summer Café – smoothie bowls, iced chocolates and nice café fare, we spent quite a few days at this little eatery.
Falafel – this little hole in the wall sells great falafel pitas and wraps at bargain prices. It’s an easy healthy takeaway option
Buzz Bakery – This is a newer restaurant with a bakery attached, and we really enjoyed it. Great burgers although at slightly more expensive prices. The bakery is a great option for early morning tours since you can get a delicious, flakey, gooey chocolate croissant before heading out onto the water.
Where to find wifi in Coron
The island is still struggling to get good internet connection, something that we’re sure will change pretty quickly. If you compare it to the likes of El Nido, where we found 50 MB/s connections relatively common, there just isn’t the same infrastructure. While we were in Coron for a week, and as we need good internet for our website, we tried numerous cafes out, with little luck.
The best option we found was Touch Wood Café, which had a consistent internet speed of around 5 MB/s, the breakfast and coffee was ok, but in general not the best food we’ve had. It’s really a last resort option if you really need wifi…
Bonus activities in Coron
The Maquinit Hot Spring
One of the only saltwater hot springs in the world, visiting the Maquinit Hot Springs in Coron is a must if you are in town. These thermal baths (there are two of them) can reach up to 40 degrees, so its advisable not to stay in the water for too long, but it is a great way to get rid of the aches of the day. The most popular time to visit is in the early evening, after people have been out exploring the local islands. However it is open from 8am to 8pm.
How to get there: As mentioned before, you’ll be inundated with offers from the local tricycle drivers to take you to the Hot Springs while you are walking around Coron. And it is definitely the best way to get to and from the Hot Springs. The cost to get there and have the tricycle wait for you ranges from 300 – 500 PHP (4.50 – 7.60 GBP/6 – 10 USD)
There is also an entrance fee for the Maquinit Hot Springs which is 150 PHP (2.30 GBP/3 USD).
Hiking in Coron
The easiest hike, well more of a gentle uphill stroll and steps from town, is towards the Coron sign – very much in a similar style to the Hollywood sign, just not on quite the same scale. This is the most popular walk that you’ll see most tourists doing, and the hill is actually called Mount Tapyas.
Walking towards the sign, you’ll soon reach a set of stairs which will take you to the summit of the hill, there are over 700 steps, but lots of points to take a rest. It takes about 20 minutes to walk up but offers great views of the area, and is a super popular spot for sunset. So we’d recommend starting the walk at least an hour before sunset to get the best views.
Now if you’re up for a bit more of an adventurous hike, why not try out the Mabentangen Trail, that leads you to Mount Tundarala, the highest point on Coron? The start of this walk is about a 20-30 minute drive on a tricycle, the drivers of the tricycles will know where to take you.
This is definitely tougher than the climb up the stairs to Mount Tapyas, so make sure you wear sturdy shoes and bring water with you. We’d also suggest that you don’t do it in the heat of the day! The hike is relatively steep and allow yourself a couple of hours each way! The views from the summit are absolutely breath-taking and well worth the effort.
Diving in Coron
Although we only went snorkelling in Coron, just based on what we saw on those trips, we are a little gutted that we didn’t do a dive or two. Coron is really well set up for Scuba Diving and you’ll find loads of dive shops around town offering trips.
Interactive Map of bonus activities in Coron
What’s the best time of year to visit Coron?
Spoiler alert: not during a typhoon. Essentially the best time to visit is October until the end of May, with hot and dry weather and a very low chance of rain or a typhoon. That said, you have to still be careful – our most recent trip to Coron was in November and we were unfortunately stranded during Typhoon Nakri. While the typhoon didn’t hit the island directly – it doesn’t usually – it brought terrible weather and, more alarmingly, poor sea conditions so the ferry couldn’t leave. There are worse places in the world to be stuck than one of the globe’s most beautiful islands but it’s still worth booking from December onwards, to be safe.
Which should I choose: Coron or El Nido?
Well, do you like chocolate mint or chocolate chip ice-cream? It’s really difficult to make a decision between the two and you should really only skip one if you truly don’t have time to dedicate to both. Our thoughts:
If you have the time to take a flight down there, and do the requisite travel, go to Coron. The islands are just exquisite and still so untouched – if you ask us, you won’t see better in Asia.
If you’re short on time, then El Nido. It’s far more accessible and also has amazing island hopping available.
Where to stay in El Nido
Although El Nido has much better infrastructure in comparison to Coron, we actually found that there was even fewer options in that mid-range bracket. If you are looking for luxury or mid-range you’re in with a lot more options. Again, we’re sure that this will change relatively soon.
Budget: There are a number of good hostels and budget options in town but our pick is Frendz Hostel. This place gives you a rooftop swimming pool, a sunset bar, fantastic rooms and free wifi! Absolute bargain.
Mid-range: It’s quite difficult to find a good mid-range hotel in El Nido. That said, we took a chance and booked a new property, the Talisay Boutique Hotel, with almost no reviews, and it was wonderful! Highly recommended for location, comfy bed and well-appointed rooms.
Luxury: One of the best is definitely Vellago Resort. It’s a stone’s throw out of town, nestled by Seven Commando Beach and offers incredible views from the bar and even your balcony! Amazing lush suites, an incredible on-site restaurant and they even do dinner on the beach itself.
Bonus activities in El Nido
Now you probably haven’t found this article because you’re looking for activities in El Nido. But, since you’ve made it this far in our article, we thought we’d tell you some of the best 😊.
El Nido Island Hopping: Like Coron, there are about four different island-hopping tours you can book; all with exquisite islands, white beaches and snorkelling galore! Tour A and C are the most popular (so, crowded) but offer the best sights, while B and D are a quieter, more realex experience.
El Nido Beaches: There are about four within motorcycle distance of the town: Nacpan, Las Cabanas Verde Safari and Duli. Nacpan is the most famous and also has a few hostels and beach restaurants available, whereas Duli is more geared towards hardcore surfers. Las Cabanas is well-known for sunset views, so get there before dusk.
Hike Taraw Peak: This is a hot and humid hike that is not for beginners, but gives you some epic views over El Nido town. Bring sturdy shoes, lots of water and be prepared for a steep climb.
Bonus activities in Puerto Princesa
We didn’t love Puerto Princesa – it feels like the uglier cousin of Coron or El Nido, plus is a bigger city to contend with. That said, there are a few key things to do if you’re in the town:
Underground River: Definitely the number one thing to do is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park which boasts spectacular limestone karsts and an underground river! Keep in mind that the river is quite far out of the town so you almost always have to book it as part of a day trip.
Island tours: Yup, you guessed it: more island hopping! Usually these tours centre around Honda Bay and, while beautiful, the beaches you’ll visit are far more commercialized than those in El Nido or Coron. Most visited spots include Starfish Island, Luli Island and Cowrie Island
Beaches: There are a few within easy reach of the city, including Nagtabon and Talaudyong; both worth it as a day trip for some swimming and relaxing.
Water sports: Whether it’s jetboating or parasailing you’re after, Puerto Princesa offers it all! You could also go banana boating or even learn to surf for about PHP 600 per hour
City Tour: If you’re tired of water-related activities, the city does have some more historical attractions. Either book a tour or do a self-guided walk to see the World War II museum, the PPC Cathedral, and the Heritage Museum.
So, what did you think of our Coron to El Nido overview? Let us know if any of the information we’ve shared is out of date – we try to keep these articles current but things change all the time! If we’ve also missed off a key activity, please do let us know in the comments or get in touch!
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