Boracay or Palawan: Which Beach Destination in the Philippines Is Better?

Boracay or Palawan: Which Beach Destination in the Philippines Is Better?

Take us to the Philippine Islands! But, which one?

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a casual swimmer, or a sun worshipper ready to catch some rays, there’s a gorgeous beach waiting for you somewhere among the Philippines’ 7,000-plus islands. But for an epic getaway in one of the world’s best beach destinations, you’ll probably end up in one of two idyllic islands: Boracay or Palawan.

Both Palawan and Boracay come with all your island essentials: stunning white beaches, postcard-pretty vistas, and flocks of swimsuit-clad tourists chasing the sun. At the same time, these two tropical paradises are vastly different, too; from the equally beautiful yet unique landscapes across the island to the variety of activities tourists can enjoy in and out of the water. 

Feeling conflicted? You’re not alone; even Filipinos are torn between these world-class islands. But we’re here to help! Keep reading if your next tropical destination comes down to Boracay vs Palawan — it’s a tough call, but either way, it’ll end in you lounging on a dreamy beach in the Philippines

Also read: Bali vs Phuket: Which Popular Southeast Asian Island Should You See First?

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1. Beaches

You’re choosing a beach destination in the Philippines. So, the first and most crucial factor to consider is the beach, of course! There’s no losing here; whether you’re visiting Boracay or Palawan, you’re destined for captivating shores. But if you need a breakdown to help you tip the scales one way or another, we’ve got you covered. 


white beach boracay or palawan

White Beach | Image credit: danilovi via Canva Pro

Beaches just don’t come more perfectly than Boracay’s famous White Beach. There’s a reason why it attracts hordes of sun-seekers from around the globe all year round: This is probably the whitest, softest, and finest stretch of beach you’ll ever see! The calm, crystal-clear blue waters are a delight to swim in; plus, with gentle waves, it’s relatively safe for kids and elderly beachgoers. (That’s not an excuse to leave the kids on the shore, btw!)

Extending about four kilometres long, the White Beach is home to three stations: Stations 1, 2, and 3. The widest and relatively more quiet beach sits in Station 1. But don’t worry; White Beach is no less mesmerising down the coast. Trust us, the sandy shores are just as fine and white in Stations 2 and 3 as they are in the more premium Station 1. Not to mention, there’s a better variety of food and nightlife in these crowd-friendly areas. 

puka beach

Puka Beach | Image credit: Andrey Khrobostov via Canva Pro

But White Beach is far from being Boracay’s only beach. Travellers willing to take a peek at the other shores on the island can head north to Puka Beach for a quieter swim away from other tourists or Bulabog Beach to indulge in thrilling water sports. Also worth checking out is the newly debuted Station Zero on Boracay’s north-western tip.

Also read: 12 Airbnb Rentals in Boracay for Under ₱50,000 Per Month


nacpan beach el nido palawan

Boracay vs Palawan beaches: Nacpan Beach puts up a good fight. | Image credit: Kbarzycki via Canva Pro

Topping White Beach is undoubtedly a hard task for Palawan, but this Luzon island is definitely up for the challenge. One thing Palawan has going for it is size; it’s an entire archipelagic province that’s way bigger than Boracay, so you’ll have more than your fair share of beaches to choose from. Ultimately, it depends on where you are in Palawan. 

Bustling city Puerto Princesa isn’t usually the first stop of sun-seekers on the hunt for beaches. But if you’re in town, stop by Sabang Beach for a refreshing dip and a little sunbathing. If you’re in Busuanga — an island separate from the main Palawan Island yet still part of Palawan ProvinceOcam Ocam Beach is a serene stop that’s still undiscovered by most tourists. 

san vicente

Long Beach, San Vicente | Image credit: Jimaggro

Meanwhile, travellers who want a tranquil beach with no end in sight can drive to San Vicente to frolic on the longest white-sand beach in the Philippines. Called simply Long Beach, it must have been what Boracay used to be before the resorts, the crowds, and the hype. 

Exploring beautiful El Nido? Travel north to the dazzling white shores of Nacpan Beach, best known for its breathtaking sunsets and crystalline blue waters. Other great beaches in El Nido include surf-friendly Duli Beach and the beautiful Las Cabanas Beach just a few kilometres from the town centre. 

Tip: Take a scooter and explore the areas around El Nido. If you’re lucky, you might stumble upon an empty beach lying behind unspoiled tropical foliage. (We found our secret beach on our way to Duli Beach!)

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2. Island hopping

The Philippines is home to a medley of pretty islands — wouldn’t you want to explore a handful before leaving? Island hopping trips in the archipelago are a must! If you’re choosing which is better, Boracay vs Palawan, think about what else you can see near the island to make the most of your getaway in the tropics. 


boracay or palawan

Like Palawan, Boracay has island hopping tours, too. | Image credit: Andrey Khrobostov via Canva Pro

Here’s the thing: For most travellers, there’s absolutely no reason to leave White Beach once you’re lounging on the fine white Boracay shores. But if you’re in the mood for a little exploration, you can hop on a boat and sail around the island in search of paradise beyond White Beach. 

Island-hopping tours in Boracay will typically take you to a few Boracay beaches (Puka Beach is usually included), plus nearby islets for swimming, snorkelling, and savouring tasty seafood. The uninhabited Crocodile Island is a popular snorkelling and diving spot with waters teeming with colourful corals, sea snakes, and moray eels. On the other hand, Crystal Cove Island is a private resort where tourists can enjoy a full day of swimming, snorkelling, trekking, and even exploring caves. 

Crocodile and Magic Islands, Boracay | Image credit: len4foto via Canva Pro

Most of the day tour options in Boracay are quite chill. But there’s something for thrill-seeking travellers, too: Magic Island. Just make sure you’re ready to conquer your fear of heights when you cruise to this cliff-jumping destination. Don’t worry, Magic Island has several platforms you can leap from — start at 10 feet before mustering up the courage to jump from 30 feet high!


lagoons in el nido palawan

Big & Small Lagoon, El Nido | Image credit: Jules Bss

Unlike Boracay, Palawan is best explored by boat. You can’t beat island-hopping adventures around this enchanting limestone-clad province, whether you’re setting sail from El Nido, Busuanga, or Puerto Princesa. 

As soon as the boat pushes away from the port, expect to see your tropical dreams unfold before your eyes, with striking karst landscapes, tiny white sand coves, and unspoiled lagoons. Be prepared for adventure; some of these sights are only accessible by climbing up steep cliffs or swimming through narrow underwater crevices! 

Coron | Image credit: Oneinchpunch via Canva Pro

Hopping from island to island is really the only way to get to the iconic Palawan attractions. You’re bound to have a favourite but some of the most famous island-hopping stops in Palawan include: Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park; Kayangan Lake; Barracuda Lake; Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon; and Secret Beach. On the other hand, off-grid travellers can whisk away to southern Palawan to explore the remote Balabac Islands.

A private tour is fun, but solo backpackers may also join a shared group tour to save a few bucks. If you’re confident manoeuvring a kayak, you can even rent one and set off on your own (or with a guide)! Cadlao Island’s small white beaches are close enough to the El Nido town centre that some tourists opt to get there by kayak. To be safe, start rowing back to town early, as the waves tend to be more turbulent in the afternoon.  

3. Watersports

Active travellers prefer being on the move, even while on vacation. Luckily, beach destinations in the Philippines are also prime spots for a wide range of watersports, whether you end up in Boracay or Palawan.


windsurfing in boracay

Boracay vs Palawan: For kitesurfing and windsurfing enthusiasts, Boracay wins. | Image credit: galitskaya via Canva Pro

Sunbathing and snapping pictures from your beach blanket are the top activities in Boracay, but when you’re ready for a (mild) workout, you’ve got options. The steady waters of White Beach are perfect for paddleboarding and kayaking — you can row parallel to the shore and check out what’s happening across the island. And you won’t even have to look very far for gear. Chances are, vendors strolling along the White Beach are already coaxing you to give their boards and kayaks a try!

If you can tear yourself away from the pristine White Beach, then you’ll find even more sports to enjoy on the island. With shallow waters and even winds, Bulabog Beach is a famous spot for kitesurfing and windsurfing. Experienced surfers frequent Bulabog, but it’s also a great place to learn these sports with several schools offering lessons along the beach.

Prefer the tranquillity of underwater adventures? While Boracay isn’t known primarily for diving and snorkelling, there are a couple of nice snorkelling spots on the island. Puka Beach is one, while others include Tambisaan Beach and Balinghai Beach.


scuba diving el nido

Image credit: Shino

If you’re scouring the Philippines for the perfect dive, then you’ll have to make a beeline for Coron and Busuanga. The lively waters around these side-by-side destinations set the stage for an unforgettable dive, with vibrant reefs and mysterious shipwrecks offering something for every type of scuba diving enthusiast. There are plenty of highlights for divers interested in wreck diving in Coron: Okikawa Maru, teeming with marine creatures; warship Akitsushima, a penetrative challenge for skilled divers; and Iraku Maru, home to colourful aquatic life.

Dedicated divers travelling to explore the world beneath the ocean’s surface will fall in love with Tubbataha Reef Natural Park: a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s a bucket-list destination for many scuba divers. Set 150 kilometres southeast of Puerto Princesa, the reef is home to 360 species of coral and almost 700 species of fish. On a live-aboard cruise to Tubbataha, you’re bound to encounter a dazzling array of marine life. 

Also read: Not Your Usual Trip: Cycling, Sailing & Paragliding in the Philippines

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4. Nightlife

At the beach, the fun doesn’t end at sundown — some would even say it’s only just beginning! Filipinos love music, beer, and parties, so expect lively nighttime shenanigans whether you’re visiting Boracay or Palawan. And yes, maybe a little karaoke, too.


With upscale bars and nightclubs, live music, parties that go on till the wee hours of the night, and an international crowd ready to let loose, Boracay used to be known for its legendary nightlife. New rules limiting parties, drinking, and smoking on the beach mean the island is tamer than it once was — but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good rager at the end of the day!

At night, the oceanfront beach clubs, restaurants, and bars light up and start pouring the booze. There’s something for everyone: Paraw Beach Club to join a stylish crowd dance to the DJ’s beats, Epic Boracay for a top-notch culinary experience with a side of world-class parties, and the laidback Exit Bar for a more relaxed night out. Extroverted travellers up for drinking with strangers can join the Boracay Pub Crawl for a boozy night on the beach.

Also read: Where to Eat in Boracay: 20 Restaurants You Have to Try


In contrast to the exciting nightlife scene in Boracay, Palawan is a lot more chill. Don’t go looking for upscale nightclubs beyond Puerto Princesa; instead, most travellers pick a beachfront eatery or bar and order a cold beer while watching the sunset. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing past dusk in Palawan. There are plenty of under-the-radar spots for a drink on the island, plus crowd-favourites such as Sigbin Bar in Coron or SAVA Beach Bar in El Nido. 

Author’s Tip: I’m still craving Cocovana Beach Resort’s special mix of Coco Rum, the perfect beachside cocktail. The Busuanga hostel offers fun games, great food, and even better company, too!

Also read: 10 Restaurants in El Nido That Will Complete Your Palawan Experience

5. Accessibility

In the battle of Boracay vs Palawan, some decisions will inevitably come down to accessibility. It’s not the easiest thing to explore the Philippines’ thousands of islands, after all. Depending on where you’re going, you might have to travel by land, sea, or air — or maybe even all three! It takes quite a bit of time and money, but there’s no doubt a trip to Boracay or Palawan is worth the effort.

Also read: 10 Tips for Getting Cheap Flights in the Summer


sunset in boracay white beach

Boracay vs Palawan? Sunsets at White Beach are legendary. | Image credit: Bambi Corro

It’s not a quick journey to Boracay, but it’s a relatively straightforward one. Travellers can fly into one of two gateways: Kalibo International Airport in Kalibo, Aklan or Boracay Airport (also known as Caticlan Airport) in Malay, Aklan. The former is farther away from the port, but Kalibo usually offers cheaper flights and, as an international airport, it’s a more convenient option for foreign visitors. From either airport, you’ll have to travel to Caticlan Jetty Port and take a 15-minute ferry to Boracay.

Once you’re on Boracay Island, it’s relatively easy to get around. You can explore most of White Beach on foot; tricycles are readily available if you’re off somewhere too far to walk. Some hotels and resorts will offer vans for tourists who want to travel more comfortably.


underground river in puerto princesa palawan

Puerto Princesa Underground River | Image credit: Elaine Ore

Palawan is a large island with three airports: Puerto Princesa International Airport, Busuanga Airport, and Lio Airport in El Nido. Thus, it’s relatively easy to get to the island. But it’s much harder to get from one tourist town to another. For instance, a ferry ride between Coron and El Nido takes about five hours. You’ll probably have to pick one tourist destination instead of seeing absolutely everything on your Palawan bucket list in a single trip.

That said, many say that the relatively off-grid nature of the island is a big part of Palawan’s appeal. Here, intrepid travellers rent scooters or motorcycles to explore the less-trodden parts of the island. Really looking to get away from the tourist circuit? Make your way to southern Palawan for a tropical vacation in Narra, Quezon, and Balabac Island that’s truly off the beaten path.

Also read: From El Nido to Boracay, These Philippine Islands Are Perfect for Working Remotely

The TZ verdict: Boracay vs Palawan

boracay or palawan

Boracay vs Palawan | Image credit: danilovi; DKart via Canva Pro

Every sunseeker’s wander list has Boracay or Palawan at the top. If you’re wondering which beach destination in the Philippines is better, then it all depends on what your dream island vacation looks like. 

Sun, sea, and sand? The picture-perfect Boracay Island is made for leisurely shore time, with boundless white sand to claim as your own and crystal-clear waters to swim in when the heat gets too much. Then, when it’s time to eat, Boracay is home to a wide array of local and international cuisine for all budgets! It’s also the better option if you only have a few days to spare. Yes, we can personally lounge on White Beach for the rest of the foreseeable future. But you don’t need forever to appreciate the Boracay magic; most people only spend several days on the island for a taste of the good life.  

boracay vs palawan

Boracay vs Palawan | Image credit: suiwuya; Alena Ozerova via Canva Pro

If you’re in the mood to explore, then the more rugged Palawan will likely suit your tastes more than Boracay. Beautiful beaches and five-star resorts dot the province, but there’s much more to see and do than your usual beach escape. 

Are you off north to Coron for underwater encounters or to the southern Balabac islands to sail to uninhabited isles? In between lies a bounty of natural gems, from underground rivers to mountains to picturesque beaches. Thus, we also recommend going to Palawan if you have an abundance of time on your hands — the Philippines’ Last Frontier isn’t meant for quick getaways. 

Also read: 12 Tropical Airbnbs in Asia to Experience the Best of Island Life

So, what’s your verdict: Boracay or Palawan? Or — here’s an even better idea — why not both?

Featured image credit (L-R): danilovi via Canva Pro; DKart via Canva Pro

About Author

Celia Grace Nachura
Celia Grace Nachura

There are very few things Celia won’t do for a good story, but her favourite ones always involve the beach, animals, or any type of outdoor activity. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember, and can usually be found typing away at home with her cute dogs at her feet. Away from work, she spends most of her time trying out every hobby she can get her hands on, from running to crocheting to baking (she’s pretty okay at most things that don't involve cooking).