Last updated on March 12, 2023 by Wandering our World
Southeast Asia is one of those regions of the world everyone wants to visit at some point in their lifetime.
The vibrant cultures, incredible food, breathtaking landscape and exotic wildlife sum up the lure of this part of the globe – and the Philippines and Bali have it all. However other than their stunning beaches, these destinations are vastly different.
For example, the tourist hotspot of Bali gives you access to upmarket hotels as well as easy access beaches, rainforests and waterfalls all in the same day. It’s the whole package when it comes to a no hassle vacation.
Expect far fewer tourists and much cheaper prices in the Philippines, but this country of over 7000 islands requires an adventurous tourist to really enjoy it. But the reward is a landscape and beaches that are arguably more beautiful than what you’ll find in Bali.
However that’s just the beginning when it comes to comparing Bali and the Philippines.
Luckily, after spending time in both, we compare Bali vs Philippines below. We show you what to expect in each, how the beaches, food, and towns compare, as well as show you some of the best places to check out.
So let’s dive in!
- A Quick Overview & Comparison
- How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare?
- How Does The Culture & Vibe Compare?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Honeymoons & Couples?
- Which Is Better For A Family Vacation?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Is Safer?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- How Does The Cuisine Compare?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
A Quick Overview & Comparison: Bali vs Philippines
Both Bali and the Philippines are great vacation options, but they certainly provide different holidays.
Despite being just one island Bali packs a hell of a punch with stunning beaches, ancient temples, jungles for trekking, as well as a variety of accommodation options – including high-end resorts.
Plus, as a popular vacation destination, Bali is also well set up to cater for tourists, so may be the better choice if you’re looking for a hassle free holiday with lots of excursion options close by.
The Philippines, on the other hand, is a nation made up of 7000 islands! There are countless spectacular beaches in this country – some that feel more deserted, isolated, and peaceful than Bali – but they require an adventurous traveler to discover them.
The public transport in the Philippines – especially the bus system – is cheap and reliable, which does make it quite easy to travel cheaply around the country. In comparison, the public transport system in Bali is far worse.
Therefore the Philippines is a destination that is better suited to travelers who like to get away from the tourist hot-spots and discover their own hidden gems. It’s also a great destination for a holiday that’s longer than two weeks due to its size. More touristy Bali is probably better suited to anyone looking for shorter vacation.
There’s no doubt the Philippines is a cheaper holiday choice than Bali too, in terms of accommodation, food, and public transport.
Bali can be done on a budget, but as Bali has become a popular destination in recent years prices have gone up in tandem, and many upmarket and high end resorts have been built.
Below we look at the excursion options in both destinations, before comparing the culture and food in each. Stick around, because they’re quite different!
How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare?
Bali: The Beaches & Landscape
Bali’s stunning coral reefs and sandy beaches give way to a forested volcano-sculpted inland – the perfect place to discover exotic wildlife, and go jungle trekking.
West Bali National Park is just a three-hour drive from the airport, but is virtually unexplored rain-forest. Whilst Bali’s northern-central rain forests have some spectacular waterfalls – Git Git and Sekumpul are two of our favorites.
Recommended: Wildlife & Nature Day Trips In Bali
If you want to stick with sand but avoid the crowds, Nusa Dua is a little-known beach that has miles of golden coastline, and is perfect for swimming, sunbathing and kayaking. In fact head to Bali’s north coast for great diving, but the south coast for superb surfing.
On the topic of surfing, we think avid surfers and watersport enthusiasts will likely prefer Bali over the Philippines. Not just because of the conditions, but also because there’s an active watersports community on the island.
One of our favorite snorkeling and diving spots is Tulamben – home to the USAT Liberty which was torpedoed and sunk just off the coast here. While the bottom of the shipwreck is 30m down, the top is just 5m off the surface, so is accessible to divers and snorkelers alike.
As an important diving site no fishing takes place here, so the wreck and surrounding reef is teeming with colorful fish! A great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must.
Away from the coastline there’s more fun to have with water – Bali is full of spectacular waterfalls!
One of our favorites, Sekumpul Waterfalls, is in the mountainous north. Known as being the most beautiful waterfall on the island, take the Wanagiri Hidden Hills road to this lush rainforest swimming spot that has lots of little hiking trails around it.
In fact Bali’s natural habitats really allow you to holiday in style, with upmarket hotels deep in the jungle and on the coastline, yoga retreats in the mountains, as well as the usual beachside break accommodations.
So if you’re looking to holiday in style and you have some money to spend, then Bali will likely be a better choice than the Philippines.
The good thing with Bali – and one of its main advantages – is you can really see a lot of the island on your holiday. Be that catching surf, sunbathing, hiking with monkeys or wild swimming in waterfalls.
Philippines: The Beaches & Landscape
But when it comes to raw natural beauty, the Philippines really shines.
The geography of this country means it is difficult to get around – and traveling takes time – but the reward is worth it. Expect countless world-class beaches, and numerous paradise islands that feel like they exist in their own little world.
Many can be reached with the reliable bus and ferry transport system in place – you can see routes and find tickets here.
One of our favorite islands is Boracay which has everything a beach lover needs. This safe destination is one of the most popular tourist spots in the Philippines, but you can still expect a secluded feel.
The white sand beaches there are gorgeous and arguably better than the beaches in Bali. The aptly-named White Beach is one worth visiting where the water is also nice and warm for swimming. The gently-swaying palm trees that line the coastline make this a true paradise island.
If you want somewhere even more remote, then head to Calaguas Island. The coastline is beautiful, unspoiled, barely developed, and you’re likely to be the only tourist around.
Of course with 7600 islands to choose from, it’s not hard to find a secluded beach in this nation! Many of those islands are also home to a teeming underwater world which is perfect for snorkeling.
One of those is the Visayas archipelago, which has some of the most varied sea-life in the region. There’s the possibility to swim with sea turtles at Apo Island, spot whale sharks at Oslob, or even swim alongside massive schools of sardines at Moalboal.
However the Philippines is far more than just coastline and beaches. This country has a lush mountainous interior with excellent opportunities for jungle trekking and wildlife spotting.
While in the Visayas you must visit the Chocolate Hills (photo below) where over 1200 symmetrical mounds are packed together. It looks otherworldly.
A trip to El Nido is well worth it too, as it will give you the opportunity to trek the giant limestone slabs that jut out of the ocean and into the sky. The hike isn’t easy, but you will be rewarded with panoramic views across the South China Sea.
How Does The Culture & Vibe Compare?
Bali and the Philippines are culture-packed destinations where you’re guaranteed to experience the incredible east.
As the less touristy of the two, the Philippines tends to provide a more authentic experience than Bali. Although rural areas of Bali also offer a look at this island before tourism took over.
Below we look at the cultural highlights in each destination so you can see which one will suit your vacation preferences the most!
Bali: The Culture
The majority Hindu island of Bali has a plethora of stunning temples. From exotic beachside sanctuaries, to houses of worship hidden deep in the jungle interior.
Go temple hopping around the island for a cultural experience, and a way to see Bali in its full glory. Tirta Empul Temple – with its holy water that you can bathe in which is said to clean you of your sins – is an unforgettable experience.
In fact with a population of over four million people, and huge diversity across the island, Bali is a culture-seekers paradise. We recommend watching a Balinese Gamelan show – the traditional music of the Balinese.
Rice has been cultivated on Bali for generations, and the gorgeous rice paddies that rise up into the clouds across the island are as iconic as they are important.
Head to Tegalalang to see some of the most beautiful tropical rice terraces on the planet. Speak to the friendly locals in the villages about their life and work when there.
Philippines: The Culture
The Philippines is a country where tradition and culture holds significant sway, and outside of the main urban areas life remains remarkably similar to what it was like decades ago.
To get a jaw-dropping window into rural life in the Philippines, you must visit the rice terraces carved into the stunning Banaue mountains.
Sometimes called the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, it’s no surprise the centuries-old rice terraces at Banaue are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
They are still farmed to this day, and the little villages that dot the mountains will take you back in time. Stop and speak to the farmers and learn their story – maybe help out for the day – you will never forget it.
This is a religious country and beautiful churches and awe-inspiring temples dot the landscape. One of our favorites is Cebu Taoist Temple. Unlike other nearby temples this site is open to non-worshipers. It’s even possible to have your fortune read by monks that live there.
If you happen to be in the Philippines in January, then you will be lucky enough to experience the country’s biggest festival – Ati–Atihan.
This colorful celebration takes place on the island of Panay and is believed to be over 800 years old. Called the ‘mother of all festivals’, expect street food and lots of dancing during parades.
Both destinations offer plenty for culture seekers, but with the Philippines less visited, you can get a real taste of local culture here without too many tourist gimmicks, which is sometimes the case in Bali.
Which Has Better Nightlife?
Bali: The Nightlife Scene
With international tourists flocking every month of the year to Bali, it’s no wonder that this island is known for having great evening scene.
The nightlife in Bali has a chill vibe, and people party in the open. In fact almost all of the famous clubs on the island are outdoor beach clubs instead of your usual dark & dingy nightclubs.
At these clubs you can have a few drinks while watching the sunset, and then dance the night away to the live music they often have.
The district of Canggu in particular is known as a party hotspot due to its many large beach bars and clubs. One of the hottest ones is Café del Mar, a large beachfront restaurant that turns into a mega club at night with blinding neon lights.
Other well-known beach clubs in the area are Finn’s Beach Club, Old Man’s, Vue Beach Club, and Deus Ex Machina. Deus Ex Machina is particularly suited for bikers because it’s located right next to the motorbike shop.
For something a bit different, fans of classic rock will recognize the name of a bar on Babadan Street, Gimme Shelter – named after The Rolling Stones’ hit.
It’s a rock and roll bar playing rock music every night from the evening late into the early morning, with free entry! They also hold open mics every Monday where visitors can channel their inner rockstar.
Philippines: The Nightlife Scene
The Philippines’ party capital is the country’s capital itself, Manila.
XYLO at The Palace has been named the best club in the Philippines and is well worth checking out. But for a more chilled out scene, try Oto, a bar that features live music performances.
Two hours away from Manila, the city of Makati is also known to have great bars and clubs.
If you’re looking for great nightlife in the resort islands, then the island of Boracay has an interesting night scene. With plenty of beach bars and nightclubs, people on this island party all night long. You’ll also find full moon parties being held every month.
El Nido on Palawan island is also known for its nightlife, particularly its seaside hippie bars. Go chill there while listening to live reggae at Coco Bar, or dance all night at Pukka Bar.
It’s hard to compare Bali and the Philippines’ nightlife since both offer lively nightclubs and beach parties. But in our opinion we have to give this one to Bali. It’s known as one of Southeast Asia’s best party spots for a reason, probably second only to Thailand.
Which Is Better For Honeymoons & Couples?
Bali: For Honeymoons
When comparing Bali and the Philippines, the one thing that’s obviously better about Bali is the fact everything is closer together.
So if you want a hassle-free honeymoon where everything is within reach, Bali would be the better choice.
That said, as mentioned above, the beaches are better in the Philippines than in Bali. In fact many of the beaches in Bali are a tad dirty, and only a few of them have white sand.
If you want a Bali beach honeymoon, then we recommended spending your hard-earned vacation on the nearby small islands of Nusa Penida or Nusa Dua.
You can reach these small islands by boat in just 15 – 30 minutes, and the views there are breathtaking, with long stretches of white sand and cliffs looming over the sea.
At Nusa Penida, you can also trek up to Kelingking Viewpoint and bask in the glory of nature. Another romantic spot is the Peguyanan Waterfall, which is a stream of water sprouting from sea cliffs with a temple at the foot of the cliff.
And for a new – yet very romantic experience – try staying at Rumah Pohon. It’s a unique hotel with a tree house concept that gives panoramic views of the island.
Philippines: For Honeymoons
Needless to say, the most recommended honeymoon spots in the Philippines are the resort islands, including Boracay, Cebu, and El Nido.
As we mentioned above, Boracay has picturesque white sand beaches which are just perfect for a honeymoon.
The island also offers countless activities you can do with your partner including parasailing, ziplining, and getting a traditional couple’s massage.
For a beach honeymoon with a mix of culture, book a resort in Cebu. It’s especially known for its clear waters that are perfect for snorkeling, as well as its temples and religious sites.
Moreover, Cebu is home to many stunning waterfalls. We guarantee that taking a dip together under the cascades there will create a romantic memory you will never forget.
Southwest of Boracay, the municipality of El Nido is also a dream honeymoon destination. It’s most famous known for its lagoons, limestone cliffs, and white sand beaches. Many couples who visit El Nido also go island hopping so as to experience all the place has to offer.
The three islands we just mentioned are also some of the best places in the country for partying. Which is a plus for newlyweds looking to have a wild night together.
At the end of the day, choosing a honeymoon destination is wholly dependent on your preferences. Both Bali and the Philippines have many things to offer in terms of gorgeous sights and honeymoon resorts.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for convenience then Bali may be best. But if you’re looking for a more relaxing honeymoon with stunning beaches, then the Philippines might be better for you.
Which Is Better For A Family Vacation?
Bali: For Families
Even though it has awesome nightlife, that doesn’t mean Bali isn’t a great vacation spot for families.
There are plenty of fun places for kids, one the most popular being the Parklife Family Club in Canggu. There you will find various activities including bouncing areas, climbing structures, and cultural performances.
Bali is also popular for water sports, and there are many options for kids and adults alike. The most popular for families is probably the banana boats that you can find in Kuta and other beaches.
There’s also the Bali Wake Park, a floating inflatable obstacle course with water sport options like wakeboarding.
And if you want to teach your kids some culture, try making traditional Balinese offerings and playing gamelan music at Pondok Pekak Library. Or you can just watch a Devdan Show at Balu Nusa Dua Theatre where you can see traditional Balinese dances.
Many resorts in Bali also have kids’ clubs that offer cultural activities. Bali Dynasty Resort’s Kiddies Club includes Balinese costume dress-up, Balinese instruments class, and playing the traditional game of congklak.
But one of the most iconic places in Bali that kids will love is Ubud Monkey Forest. There you can meet Balinese long-tailed monkeys up close!
Another place to see animals is the Bali Bird and Reptile Park where you can also see the Komodo Dragon that’s native to Indonesia.
Philippines: For Families
Families with children can enjoy a large selection of theme parks and water parks in the country.
The best theme parks are The Enchanted Kingdom in Santa Rosa and the Star City in Pasay City. And for water parks, try out The Splash Island Water Park in Laguna or Amana Waterpark in Pandi.
For animal-loving kids, the Philippines is home to quite a few zoos and aquariums too.
There’s the Manila Ocean Park which is not only an aquarium, but it also has Hotel H2O where you can stay in marine-themed rooms!
While in Subic Bay there’s the Zoobic Safari which is a tiger safari. Another option is the Avilon Zoo in Rodriguez, which is home to no less than 3,000 specimens.
You can also take your children to visit wildlife sanctuaries, like learning about Philippine eagles at The Philippine Eagle Center in Davao, or meeting tiny tarsiers at Tarsier Conservation Area.
There’s also a vast nature preserve in Rizal called Masungi Georeserve which is practically a jungle that centers on the geological formations of Masungi Rock.
Overall, both Bali and the Philippines are great destinations for families and both have plenty of fun activities for the whole family.
There’s more to offer in the Philippines – but the activities are more spread out – whereas in Bali things are easier to reach. Bali also has some fantastic kid-friendly resorts too.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: With beautiful beachside bungalows and a pool with an unbeatable Indian Ocean view, Nirwana Beach & Resort feels far more luxurious than the price tag. Set in pristine Eastern Bali, you’ll be taking photos everywhere you turn if staying here. See photos and rates here!
Luxury: It would be easy to recommend another beachside resort in Bali, but instead we had to suggest what must be one of the most magical hotels in the world. At Munduk Heaven Luxury Villas you’ll be walking across bridges above the treetops to get to their stunning restaurant, bar and outside pool.
But don’t expect to have your feet on the ground when returning to your room – you’ll be staying in their luxury ‘floating villas’ complete with jacuzzi and jungle views from above! It’s a place that really has to be seen to be believed. See photos and rates here!
Budget: Kookoo’s Nest Eco-Lodge is a super unique ‘tree house-like’ accommodation that is set right on the beach front. It’s got the ‘wow’ factor and you’ll have sea views as soon as you wake up. Yet despite all of that, it’s still extremely affordable. See photos and rates!
Luxury: With its private beach, outdoor swimming pool, and breathtaking sea views, it’s little surprise Amun Ini Beach Resort & Spa is regarded as one of the best hotels in the country. The service is world class too. See photos and rates!
Which Is Safer?
For the Philippines, the US government issues a Level 4 (Do Not Travel) advisory for the Sulu Archipelago and a Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) advisory for Mindanao due to kidnappings and crime. Other places in the country are safe to travel in.
On the other hand, there’s no travel advisory for Bali and it is regarded as a very safe place, especially for tourists.
Rarely will you ever come across crimes against tourists in Bali and the overall crime rate is low. At most, you have to be careful of scams and markups – we have written about that in the past.
Therefore, when compared head to head, Bali is certainly safer than the Philippines.
Which Is Cheaper?
There is one thing that all tourists say when returning from Bali: everything is very cheap!
Of course, there are many pricey options too, such as luxury resorts and fine dining restaurants. However, finding affordable lodgings and eateries is very easy. in Bali
Look out for local hole-in-the-wall ‘warungs’ for the cheapest meals when in Bali too.
For transportation, sadly there’s no tram or bus in Bali. At most, the only existing public transport is taxis and shuttle buses (which nobody ever takes).
But since everything is close together in Bali, it’s common practice to rent a motorbike. This way you can explore any part of the island on your own – and the rental price is only about $5 – $15 a day!
But please be mindful of road safety. Many foreigners riding motorbikes for the first time in Bali think there are no traffic codes and drive recklessly, and this has become a big problem on the island.
For accommodation and eating out, the prices in the Philippines are pretty similar. And for both the range of options is very wide, from the fanciest to humble local-owned. Local eateries called carinderias offer delicious cheap eats.
Getting around the country can be quite expensive though since everything is so spread out. If you stick to exploring one area only, this can significantly cut transportation costs.
Resort islands such as Boracay and Cebu are pricier than other parts of the country, but they’re still cheaper than Bali. Therefore, the Philippines in general is cheaper than Bali.
A Taste Of The East: How Does The Cuisine Compare?
Both destinations will provide a treat for your tastebuds. Food from Bali may surprise, whilst Filipino cuisine is a rising star.
Bali: The Food
In Bali the food is pork and chicken dominated, and often very spicy!
For a very traditional taste of Bali order lawar, a dish that is made up of coconut, garlic, chili, and either chicken or pork meat and blood.
Another traditional meaty dish is Bebek betutu, which is duck cooked with coconut inside banana leaves.
If you want to try something vegetarian, then hunt down Urab – a delicious and refreshing traditional Balinese salad that is accompanied with coconut.
Philippines: The Food
Filipino food is often forgotten about when it comes to Asian cuisine, with Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese all stars on the global food stage.
However this country packs a punch when it comes to delicious dishes and may be the perfect destinations for foodies, especially as the cuisine can be quite different from region to region.
Adobo is regarded as one of the national dishes, and is a meat or seafood-based meal that is marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and other herbs.
The Philippines, like its neighbors, also has many different noodle dishes.
One of our favorites is Bulalo. This noodle soup is the perfect comfort food, and is made up of slow-cooked beef, onions, and vegetables.
As for something sweet, why not try Buko pie. A buko is a young coconut, and the flesh is used to make a desert that is the Philippines answer to a custard pie. The water of this green coconut is also a popular drink throughout the country.
Bali vs Philippines: Which Is The Better Choice?
If you’re looking for a holiday with upmarket hotels and easy access to beaches in the morning but rainforests and waterfalls in the afternoon, then Bali will be a great choice. This gorgeous culture-packed island is popular for a reason, but tourist hot-spots get quite busy.
Expect far fewer tourists and much cheaper prices in the Philippines, but this country of over 7000 islands requires an adventurous tourist to really enjoy it. The beaches and landscape are spectacular, but require travel off the beaten track. However the public transport is cheap, reliable, and easy to use.