The Philippines was not originally a destination at the top of my bucket list. However, with a week to spare after a visit to Singapore and a recommendation from my sister, I decided to keep an open mind and give it a visit. Little did I know that it was going to be one of the best travel decisions I had ever made.
With beautiful white sand beach stretching across 4km, breath-taking sunsets and a relaxed island vibe, I can honestly say that Boracay is one of the most beautiful Islands I have ever visited. I stayed for 6 nights In February 2015. This was about the right length of time for me, but I could have easily stayed longer. In fact, I could have quite happily set up a new life there and never returned.
- Getting to Boracay is not the easiest of journeys, but it’s a small price to pay in order to reach paradise. We caught a flight from Singapore into Manila, followed by a short flight on a prop plane to Boracay. If, like me, you have never been on a prop plane then this in itself is quite an experience. As well as weighing your luggage to make sure it fits within the strict 10kg limit, they weigh you too! This (so I was told) is to make sure weight is evenly distributed on the plane and passengers seated accordingly. Whether this is true or not I’m not so sure, but it’s certainly an experience!
The prop plane arrives at Caticlan airport – one of the smallest airports I have ever visited. From here you have to get a short boat ride across to Boracay. This involves quite a bit of waiting around whilst the boat arrives and unloads, but the trip across the water itself is relatively quick and painless. Plus, as soon as you reach the island and set eyes on the beautiful beaches, you’ll instantly realise that the journey was worth it.
Where to stay
There are a number of different beaches on Boracay, but by far the most popular is White Beach. Stretching an impressive 4km, it comprises of three different stations, each of which has a slightly different vibe.
- Station 1 is where the high-end hotels are located and is arguably where the nicest stretch of beach is.
- Station 2 is right in the centre and where the majority of shops, restaurants and accommodation can be found. For this reason it’s also the busiest section of the beach and, in my opinion, the least appealing if you’re looking to kick back and relax.
- Station 3 is what I would call the backpacker haven. This is where the majority of hostels and budget accommodation are located and the quietest section of beach. It’s also where you will find some of the coolest and quirkiest places to spend the evening, such as a treetop bar and Red Pirates.
We chose to stay at Jony’s beach resort. It was located in between Station 1 and Station 2 and the perfect location for us. It was a short stroll away from Station 1 where we chose to spend most of our days relaxing, but not far from the hustle and bustle of station 2 and the bars and restaurants in the evening. The staff were also fantastic and went to the trouble of decorating our room and providing a cake for a birthday occasion.
Regardless of where you choose to stay, you only have to wonder a bit further down the beach and you’ll soon find yourself away from the crowds. The walk is certainly worth it; you will feel like you’re on your own secluded island.
The best way to get around the island is via tricycle. These are small motorised vehicles and can be found next to all key hubs / areas of the island. Like most places in Asia you’ll find that drivers tend to push their luck with pricing, so make sure you read up on the correct pricing and be prepared to haggle to make sure you don’t get ripped off.
The island is also so small that it can be explored on foot. Sure, it will take a good few hours, but if like me you’re a keen explorer then it’s definitely something I would recommend. We saw so much more and got a greater feel for the culture and life of those that do live on the island just by wandering off the beaten track slightly.
Things to do
Ariel’s Point: This was one of the highlights of the whole stay for me. The trip includes a boat ride to Ariel’s Point and back, cliff-jumping from a number of different heights up to 15m, kayaking, a yummy BBQ lunch and loads of alcohol. Definitely worth doing if you are a bit of an adrenalin junkie.
Willy’s Rock: This is one of the main tourist attractions in Boracay and if you walk along White Beach then you won’t miss it. It’s a formation of rocks that sits in the middle of the sea, not too far off shore around Station 1. It’s probably the most photographed place in Boracay and on the top of the rock is a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Sunset Sailing: If you’re wandering along the beach just before or at the time of sunset then there’s no doubt you will be accosted by people trying to get you to join a “sunset sail”. Unfortunately, as we found out, this trip is not exactly what it seems. From the name of the trip we assumed this meant we would sail back and forth until the sun had set completely. What it actually involved was sailing to one end of the beach and back before returning to the shore in order for the owners to get the next load of people on. This means that if, like us, you choose to go at the beginning of sunset then you don’t actually get to see the best bit from the sea.
Nevertheless, whilst it wasn’t exactly what we expected, I would say it is still worth doing, although perhaps not at the price point they are selling it at. I would try and haggle or negotiate a longer journey if you can.
Watch the sunset from a beach bar: Pick one of the many beachfront bars on White Beach and grab a beer and a seat to watch the sun set over the sea (about 6pm). Trust me you won’t be disappointed. We did this every evening for the six days and never got tired- the sunsets just keep getting better!
ATV and viewpoint: Rent an ATV and take a trip up to Mount Luho Viewpoint. You’ll be directed by a tour guide who will accompany you on the journey and will take a number of photos of you (on your own camera) throughout the climb. I thought in return he would push for a tip, but he didn’t – it was all part of the service.
Visit Boracay’s beaches: Aside from the famous White Beach, there are a couple of other beaches on Boracay that I would recommend visiting. Bullabog Beach on the other side of the island is famous for kite surfing. This is also a good beach to visit if you want to get a better feel for the culture and local life as more locals tend to hang around here.
Puka Beach is also worth a visit. Whilst the sand may not be as white as White Beach, it’s more secluded with only a couple of small places to grab a drink and a great place for watching the sunset.
Go snorkelling: Join a half day snorkelling trip. The trip we took stopped at Crocodile island and a few other areas around the island. Unfortunately, the water was quite choppy at the time we went, but we still managed to see a lot regardless.
Visit D’Mall: This is the main shopping area in Boracay. Here you will find a number of restaurants, shops, cafes and beauty parlours etc. It’s also the best place for picking up any souvenirs. There’s also an amazing crepe shop that sells the most delicious crepes and ice cream – worth a visit if you fancy a treat!
Visit Hobbit House: True to its name, Hobbit House is a bar and restaurant with staff made up entirely of midgets. It is located at D’Mall and one of the most visited bars on the island.
Have a shake at Jonah’s fruit shakes: If you want a break from the booze then Jonah’s Shakes is definitely the place to go. It’s renown for its fruit shakes and milkshakes. I would recommend visiting earlier; it’s so popular so you might find the best flavours have sold out if you go too late.
Boracay is a very relaxed island with a number of bars lining the beach front from Station 1 to Station 3. Station 2 is the busiest and where you will find the liveliest bars. Epic bar is one of the most popular if you’re looking for a heavy night out. There’s also a bar crawl which you can join a couple of nights a week.
For those that want a more relaxed evening there are a number of bars with live music, shisha pipes or reggae music where you can grab a beach beanbag and chill. Bom Bom bar was my favourite – the best reggae bar by far on the island.
Boracay really is a beautiful island. It is fast becoming one of the top tourist destinations to visit and in my opinion is a must see as part of any South East Asia trip. Like all great destinations it’s already starting to become more commercialised (a Starbucks can be found at Station 2) so if Boracay’s on your list of places to visit, I’d suggest you do so sooner rather than later. It might be harder than other islands to get to but once you’re there you can sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful sunsets and beaches. And if the beauty of Boracay leaves you craving more, well there’s another 7,106 Phillipine islands to explore!