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. Having spent time in both, we compare Bali vs Philippines below, showing you what to expect in each, and some of the best places to check out.
Bali vs Philippines: Stunning paradise destinations
Both Bali and the Philippines are great vacation options, but they certainly provide different holidays.
As 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 much 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. 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 it’s become a popular destination in recent years, prices have gone up in tandem with the many upmarket and high end resorts that have been built.
Below we look at a some of our favorite areas in both destinations, before comparing the culture and food in each. Stick around, because they’re quite different!
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.
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.
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.
When it comes to raw natural beauty, the Philippines 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 here are gorgeous – the aptly-named White Beach is one – and the water is 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 here! Many of those islands are also home to teeming underwater life 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 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.
Bali vs Philippines: Experience a different world
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.
Bali tends to have a more lively nightlife scene that’s is also catered towards tourists, so if you’re looking for adventure past midnight this island may be the better choice.
The majority Hindu island of Bali has a plethora of stunning temples. From exotic beachside sanctuarys, 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.
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 terraces 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 here.
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.
Bali vs Philippines: A taste of the East
Both destinations will provide a treat for your tastebuds. Food from Bali may surprise, whilst Filipino cuisine is a rising star.
In Bali the food is pork and chicken dominated. 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.
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.
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 should you choose?
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.