So you want a nice relaxing vacation in the famed Sunshine State: Florida. We don’t blame you, we love Florida. But, don’t let the names fool you – only one of Palm Beach and West Palm Beach actually has it’s own beach! Both, however, make for a great holiday. Albeit with a slightly different vibe – as we’ll show you below.
We know and love both of these superb destinations. So to help you decide which one’s right for you, we’ll be discussing the best of what Palm Beach and West Palm Beach have to offer. So you can get the most out of your vacation!
Palm Beach or West Palm Beach: A Quick Overview
You may have heard that Palm Beach is an extremely wealthy, luxurious area, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
With an astoundingly high concentration of billionaires in the area – at least 33 it’s thought – you can definitely find a lavish holiday here if that’s what you’re after.
Equally though, there are plenty of things to do for everyone, no matter your age, interests or budget.
Of course, Palm Beach is also well known for its gorgeous beaches which span more than 75 miles along the Atlantic Ocean! With 30 tropical beach parks, 160 different golf courses – one of which (The Breakers) is the oldest golf course in Florida – there’s always something to do in Palm Beach County.
West Palm Beach
Just a bridge away from Palm Beach, West Palm Beach actually has no beaches of its own! Don’t panic though, you won’t be disappointed with what’s on offer here. And you can get to beaches with just a short drive.
From exquisite fine dining to shops, malls, and outlets at every turn. As well as first class theatre, entertainment and museums: West Palm Beach has everything but the beaches.
And if sunbathing at the coast is a deal breaker, just remember that the smooth sands and waters of the Atlantic are not far away at all – so you can always take a day trip out of the city to the beaches at Palm Beach.
Although separated by only the intra-coastal waterway, West Palm Beach does tend to have a different vibe to Palm Beach – as we’ll explain. And it’s much easier to find affordable lodging and dining in West Palm Beach than at Palm Beach, so that’s one important comparison to note.
Palm Beach or West Palm Beach: Beaches and Activities
We’ve already established that West Palm Beach doesn’t have a beach of its own. Rather you will need to drive over the bridge to Palm Beach if you want to soak in the sun at the shore. But there’s still plenty on offer at both locations …
In the late 1800s a Spanish ship carrying 20,000 coconuts crashed near Palm Beach, Florida, washing the cargo ashore. As a result, the coconuts sprouted over time, and now you’ll find Palm Beach lined with tall shady palm trees!
In fact, these palm trees are how Palm Beach got its name, so you know you can expect a lush, tropical atmosphere here.
Being in Florida, the beach makes for an unforgettable holiday no matter what time of year you visit, as sunshine is pretty much guaranteed.
There’s a range of coastal delights on offer at Palm Beach too, from more secluded relaxing beaches, to coves where you can explore the depths of the waters beneath you. Couple that with the golf courses here, and Palm Beach truly is a laid-back beach vacation destination.
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, away from the crowds, we recommend Ocean Cay Park in Juniper, or Atlantic Dunes Park at Delray Beach.
For something with a hint of culture and adventure, the beach at Peanut Island actually still houses a former cold war bunker intended for John F. Kennedy back in the day. This island can be easily reached from West Palm Beach as well.
Or, to really immerse yourself, we love Coral Cove Park for its underwater scuba and snorkel offerings!
From our experience, and owing most likely to its wealthy inhabitants and reputation, Palm Beach tends to have a quiet, sophisticated vibe, and aside from its beaches, also has some exceptional fine dining options which will tantalize your taste buds for sure. After all, their restaurants are fit for billionaires.
To sum up, what you’ll get at Palm Beach are beautiful beaches, golf courses, wonderful water activities – like snorkeling, jet skiing and swimming – alongside a sophisticated vibe and lots of fine dining. But all of that has also made it an expensive destination.
West Palm Beach
So we can’t talk about the beaches, as anyone living in West Palm Beach must go to Palm Beach to get their beach fix. But nevertheless, there are many unique attractions at West Palm Beach.
The life and soul of this place, downtown West Palm Beach, is home to four distinct retail and entertainment districts: Clematis Street, Rosemary Square, Northwood Village, and Antique Row. With different atmospheres and charms to each, you’ll find no shortage of funky bars, lively nightclubs and all shapes and sizes of shops.
Aside from the entertainment side of things, West Palm Beach also has a huge range of museums and art galleries, so you can easily get in touch with your cultural side, or admire fine sculptures and masterpieces while you visit. Some of our favorites places to drop by include the Norton Museum of Art, and the Kravis Centre for Performing Arts.
In many ways, that’s what West Palm Beach offers in comparison to Palm Beach – all the amenities of a lively and attractive city.
Expect a nightlife to remember too (more on that below), culture in abundance, and shopping till sunset. And it’s a much cheaper place to dine and stay than Palm Beach as well.
Palm Beach or West Palm Beach: What About the Nightlife?
Don’t give Miami all the credit, West Palm Beach can also deliver a hell of a good night, but what about Palm Beach?
While West Palm Beach lacks the beaches on its side of the bridge, Palm Beach somewhat lacks the nightlife.
Again, in keeping with its upscale aura, you’ll have to go out of your way to find parties and clubs, and actually it’ll be a lot easier to just head over to nearby West Palm Beach if you’re looking for fun when the sun goes down.
Of course, there are plenty of restaurants, lounges and bars in Palm Beach where you can find some booze and enjoy a sundowner. But the environment isn’t that of a party, and its more social drinking vibes than letting loose.
West Palm Beach
Downtown West Palm Beach is the place to be, and evening proves to be no exception. With trendy hotspots all over the place, there are some great places to party.
The general nightlife in West Palm Beach tends to be upbeat: bottle service in most bars and venues, great beats to dance to, and impressive lighting that keeps you raring to go until the late hours of the morning.
The best bit is all the best venues in downtown are very close to each other, so you can walk from one to the other without having to pay for taxis. (Recommended: A Local’s Guide to Nightlife in West Palm Beach).
So if nightlife is the big decider between Palm Beach or West Palm Beach, the latter will likely suit you more.
Palm Beach or West Palm Beach: The Verdict
You’ve probably picked up on it by now, but despite both being in South Florida and adjacent to each other, Palm Beach and West Palm Beach are quite different.
West Palm Beach is probably better for those with a lower budget, as it has more budget friendly accommodation and dining options.
That said, you can visit Palm Beach on a budget, but their version of ‘high end’ will really have you emptying your wallet. West Palm Beach also has a more urban, lively feel to it, while Palm Beach has an air of sophistication to it.
The big glaring difference is, of course, the fact that West Palm Beach has a great nightlife scene but no beach of its own. In comparison to Palm Beach which has a far more laid-back nightlife scene, but does house many beaches!
So, while travel between the two is extremely easy, we suggest that if you’re after a more peaceful, relaxing holiday, where the beach is a high priority, then visit and base yourself in Palm Beach. You can always cross over to West Palm Beach now and then, but that laid-back beach holiday you want is located on the Palm Beach side of the bridge.
On the other hand, if you want a more lively, vibrant holiday, with plenty of culture, entertainment, and shopping, and you don’t envisage yourself at the beach every day, then stay at West Palm Beach. Again, you can always cross over to the other side if you do fancy dipping your toes in those crystal clear waters once in a while!