The province of Palawan in the Philippines is famous for its crystal blue waters, picturesque beaches, and some really fantastic diving. While we decided pretty late into our trip that we were going to spend a solid 10 days in this island paradise, we definitely made the most of it.
Between diving and island hopping in both Coron and El Nido, we spent almost all of our time on and in the water, which is my idea of heaven on earth. If you’re interested in diving the famous WWII Japanese shipwrecks in Coron, check out this rad post MJ wrote about it.
Both Coron and El Nido are fun cities for late nights, diving, beers by the beach, booze cruising and, the main event, ISLAND HOPPING!
So, What is Island Hopping?
Basically, 'island hopping' is a fancy way of saying ‘boat tour.’ It’s a tour, by boat (duh), to some of the more scenic lagoons, beaches, snorkeling hotspots, and sites on the small islands just off the mainland cities of El Nido and Coron. Some tours are fixed, some are flexible, and they range in price, duration and size depending on what you book.
Private vs. Public Tours
Another option that you have, especially if you’re not traveling solo, is to rent a boat for you and your pals and personalize your own tour! These can be priced slightly differently, it will depend on the person/boat that’s taking you and your own powers of negotiation. Typically, you will be charged a full day, regardless of whether or not you use all of it, unless you can negotiate otherwise (they didn’t like it, but we managed to do a half day rate).
The benefit of this, obviously, is that you can make your own schedule. You can also work backwards from when the normal tours go to each hotspot. They typically will always go in the same order, meaning you’re more likely to have less people at any given spot if you work with a different time table.
The price of a private tour can range from 4,500 - 6,000 pesos per boat (roughly $80-$110), which, split between enough people, is definitely a good deal. The cost of each individual tour (A, B, C, D) can range between 1,200 - 1,700 pesos per person (roughly $20-$30) depending on the tour.
All of the prices, whether the tour is private or not, include water and a packed lunch and may or may not include a mask & snorkel. If it’s not included, you can easily rent them.
It is always best to book these tours, private or public, at least one day in advance. With public tours, I believe it’s necessary to do so. With private, you can get away with doing it the day of, but you run the risk of not getting the exact meal situation you want because they won’t have had time to prepare it. You can book the fixed tours online or through your accommodation. The private tours can be booked by phone/online, I believe, but you’re more likely to get ripped off if you don’t go down to the Marina in person to negotiate.
Also included, obviously, are the stops you get to go see! You’re likely to get to see five different spots on a fixed tour. On a private tour, it will depend how much time you want to spend at each place. We saw five on the days we went out.
What’s not included, that you may want:
- Sunblock (not want, you NEED sunblock)
- Portable speaker
- Couple of beers (drink em while they’re cold!)
- Mask & Snorkel (if you have your own)
Coron vs. El Nido
Having island hopped in both places, I find Coron to be a more beautiful place to hop around than El Nido. El Nido is more crowded and I simply didn’t find the beaches and snorkel locations to be as beautiful. That being said, you really can’t go wrong with either. Palawan is just a stunning location.
El Nido seems to have more beach locations than Coron, while Coron has a larger variety of places to stop and visit.
Here are some of the highlights of both!
Where We Stayed: Hop Hostel (awesome hostel, highly recommend)
Scuba Company We Dove With: Sea Dive Coron (recommend!)
Kayangan Lake - considered the ‘cleanest lake in Asia'
Twin Lagoon - beautiful, clean lagoons attached by a small opening at low tide
Barracuda Lake - amazing dive site where you can see salt & fresh water meet and separate under water, very trippy
Siete Pecados - great snorkeling spot
Coron Bay Wrecks - one of the world’s best dive sites (according to someone other than us)
Calachuchi Beach - great lunch spot!
Coral Garden - don’t miss this - such amazing snorkeling!
Skeleton Wreck - amazing free dive location of a small wreck
CYC Beach - wonderful beach
Where We Stayed: Outpost Hostel (amazing place - stay here!!)
El Nido’s prepackaged tours are famous. To read about what each of them include, check out this link.
Small Lagoon - great place for a kayak or a swim
Big Lagoon - like the small lagoon, but big
Secret Lagoon - though the secret is definitely out, this beautiful, tucked away beach is a great visit
7 Commando Beach - a long, sandy beach lined with coconut trees
Hidden Beach - beautiful, secluded, white sand beach
Cadlao Lagoon - emerald waters and dark limestone cliffs
Paradise Beach - powder white sand and clear waters, sounds like paradise to me
Helicopter Island - island on Tour C with cream colored sand and clear waters
Snake Island - long, thin, sandbar that connects Snake Island to mainland Palawan
El Nido and Coron are definitely not the only two places to island hop on Palawan, but they’re both spectacular places to visit. Wherever you wander in Palawan, you’re bound to be met with white sand beaches and crystal blue waters and some of the more relaxing days of your life (the nights in El Nido are a different story).