Before heading to the Philippines, I had seen a lot of Instagram posts regarding private boat rentals. The problem is, every tour company I reached out to quoted me ridiculous prices - like $150+ per day for a small boat. I do realize that this is still really cheap for the service by comparison to the US or Europe, for example, but I had read about people paying less, much less... And that's what I wanted to find.
(It's worth noting that these tour companies do also offer regular day tours with other tourists fro about $25-40/day depending on the tour you want to do. These tours include all fees and equipment, as well as lunch... But I wanted my own boat, dammit!)
So, as soon as we arrived in Coron, I had a goal in mind: to find the cheapest boat rental I could find for a day trip the following day. Honestly, I was shocked at how easy this was to accomplish.
Firstly, I had assumed the harbor I had to go to was the same one where the boat form El Nido dropped off, but that wasn't the case. There's a little harbor right in Coron Proper, and there you will find lots of boats like these:
There really isn't a trick to this. You just have to go and talk to people, and eventually you will find out who rents which boat and how much they charge. From my experience, it was super easy (first person we talked to!) and it actually seems that the prices are pretty regulated - meaning they didn't try to start at a higher price and we didn't have to bargain. The price they told us from the beginning was exactly what I had read about, and it seems more than fair, so I didn't feel the need to try to haggle.
We spoke to the guy and he showed us the boat we would be renting - seemed nice enough. We were allowed to choose exactly what time we wanted to start the tour, how long it was going to be, and what stops we wanted to make. Pretty awesome! He did try to get a cash deposit right away, but because I'm the most skeptical person on Earth, I said that wasn't going to happen. I'm not about to hand out some money to a guy who supposedly owns a boat he pointed at, for a tour that may or may not happen the following day. So, we agreed to meet there in the A.M. and we'd have the cash for him then.
Honestly, until the time we were actually on the boat, I was still skeptical that the whole things was legit. But it was all good and as promised.
We arrived at the harbor at around 9 A.M. and met up with the captain, who took us to the local market down the street. We purchased some fish, rice, garlic, greens, etc, which they would cook for us on the boat later that day. We got a hefty bag of food for about $7-8USD, so it definitely won't break the bank.
One small surprise was that we did have to pay quite a bit for the permits to go to each location (yep, you have to pay for each individual stop), which added up to another $20-$25 per person. Another thing was that these boats don't include snorkeling gear, so we had to rent that as well, but I think it was only somewhere around $8 for a mask and fins. Again, not gonna break the bank, but something to consider when deciding between a tour or private boat.
These boats are fairly small, but you could comfortably fit 4 people, and likely cram in 6 if needed.
Needless to say, this was one of the best and most fun experiences I had during this trip. The staff was absolutely amazing, and even though English was limited, they had no problem understanding exactly where we wanted to go. We were sailing around for about 7 hours, and the schedule was completely up to us. We could spend as much or as little time in each location as we wanted. Probably the best 50 bucks I've ever spent, and totally worth the extra money over the group tours for the flexibility alone.