Boracay Island, Philippines
Boracay is a fantastic tropical island about an hour’s flight from Manila in the Philippines. Its long white sand beaches rivals any of the best beaches in the more popular beach destinations such as the Caribbean, the South Pacific as well as neighbouring Thailand, >Malaysia and Indonesia.
Boracay can only be reached by ferry from Caticlan. SEAir serves up to 28 flights a day, each flight takes as short as 35 minutes, from Manila to Caticlan Airport. The other way is via Kalibo Airport on the other side of Aklan Island. From Kalibo, visitors have to take a two-hour (2-hour) ride to Caticlan. Mini-vans, buses and other rental vehicles take tourists from Kalibo to Caticlan.
For those wanting to just lounge around and top up their tan, beach-front hotels usually have lounge chairs set up just a few steps away from the hotel entrances. The more active will appreciate water sports and activities such as sailing, wind surfing, snorkelling, diving, jet skiing, cliff diving, kiteboarding and parasailing.
Aside from these common activities in the main Boracay Island is one activity that is also famous among tourists. This is the golf course – an 18-hole par 72 golf course designed by Graham Marsh.
There are so many things to do and see in Boracay, it is tough to know what to do first!
White Beach – This is what most people are here for. Not only is it a lovely stretch of powdery white sand against azure water, it’s also the commercial center of the island. A stretched grove of shadey palm trees separates the beach from the line of restaurants, cafes, bars, internet cafes, shops, bakeries, etc. There is lots of room to stretch out on the beach with your sarong or you can rent a reclining chair from one of the vendors where they will be happy to keep you filled with food and drinks. Most people opt for the shade and tend to hang out under the palm trees.
Puka Beach – A quiet stretch of white sand along the northen tip of the island, Puka Beach is an image of what most people expect on a tropical island: white sand, azure water, and relatively empty. This is where locals gather the small puka shells for some of the jewelry that is sold on the island so expect the sand to be more coarse than on White Beach. The water tends to be a little rougher on this side of the island but it is much quieter. Similarly, there are fewer services — at last count there was one restaurant but you likely won’t have a problem getting a cold drink or an ice cream as there are a few vendors that patrol the beach. The main road in Boracay terminates at Puka Beach therefore you’ll be able to hire a tricycle to get there in less than 10-15 minutes from central White Beach. Make sure you arrange a pickup if it is a quiet day and no tricycles are hanging around the beach. Most people experience Puka as one of their sailboat or banca stops during a day trip. This is a good spot for a picnic, but be sure to bring your trash home with you.
Baling Hai Beach – This is a quiet little cove just north of Diniwid Beach, where you can enjoy swimming, snorkeling and dining in a relaxed, peaceful environment. There are some fantastic views from the clifftop restaurant. Baling Hai is often included as a stop-off on an island boat tour.
It is worth hiring motorbikes or scooters out to explore the island, as there are other beautiful beaches on the other side of the island that are even better for snorkeling that will be completely deserted. Hire them for a couple of days and you should get a discount. The roads are a bit dodgy, and some are still being constructed, but it’s a good laugh and better than plonking yourself on a patch of white sand and seeing nothing. If you happen to be lying on the beach though definitely have a massage and manicure.
Explore the depths via scuba diving. There are dozens of Dive centres along White Beach! They all have the same prices so choose the one you feel most comfortable with. As most of the dive sites are easy and diving there is quite cheap (around $33 a dive), it is a good place to learn scuba diving or to get your next level certificate.
A sailing tour with The Red Pirates is a must in Boracay. You will find their red paraw (native sailboat) in Angol at the southern end of White Beach. The place is called The Red Pirates Pub. It is a beautiful spot with a very unique driftwood garden under high coconut trees. Enjoy your drink, meet other travelers from around the globe and watch one of the most spectacular sunsets in Asia. Cap. Joey will bring you to a secluded beach for a beach BBQ and he will show you the best spots around Boracay`s shores for snorkeling.
Horse riding is a fun activity in Boracay – get off the beaten path and experience native villages and scenery most other visitors don’t get to see. All levels of experience are catered to. Ask a tricycle to take you to the Boracay Horse Riding Stables.
Located on Bulabog Beach, the Boracay Butterfly Garden is a “Must See” for Boracay visitors. Walk among rare and beautiful butterflies in a tropical garden by the beach. It is fun and educational, with conducted tours of the life cycles, with eggs, caterpillars, pupae, and mature butterflies.
Try rock climbing at D’Wall Climbing Gym, an outdoor rock climbing gym located at D’Mall near Boat Station 2.
The fun in Boracay also doesn’t end when the sun sets. Boracay nightlife is vibrant with many bars and restaurants serving food, drink and fun until the very late evening.
Along White Beach, there is a wide variety of gift shops and boutiques along the beach path and in D*Mall. In addition to the crowded stalls that you expect in Asia, Boracay also has several high-end stores including clothing, art and household items. Some places will permit you to haggle, others have a fixed pricing system with price tags. Shop around as prices vary. Outside of White Beach, the shopping becomes sparse or non-existent.
While walking or laying on the sand, anywhere on Boracay, you’ll be appraoched to buy a variety of items including jewlery made of shells, fresh fruit, ice cream, sunglasses or a massage.
Facilities are available to suit different levels of activity. For those wanting to just lounge around and take in some rays, beachfront hotels usually have lounge chairs set up just a few steps away from the hotel entrances. Facilities for the usual water sports activities such as wind surfing, snorkelling, diving and jet skiing are also widely available for those in search of more active pursuits.
Accommodation standards vary, with top of the line hotels and resorts to a simple bed rented from a resident. As such, whatever your budget, you could easily find a suitable place to stay. During peak periods such as Holy Week, Christmas and New Year, rooms may be a bit more difficult to find and more expensive so it would be advisable to reserve in advance.
Staying along White Beach gets you closer to the bars, lounging and food. While staying closer to Balabag beach gives you better access to the popular wind and kite-boarding areas.
The peak season in Boracay starts from December and continues till April. During the dry season of Nov-Apr (also known as Amihan), White Beach is calm and very suitable for swimming. The other side of the island has large winds and waves making it suitable for kite surfing and windsurfing.
During the rainy season of Jun-Oct (also known as Habagat), this is reversed, with a risk of typhoons. White Beach often gets large winds and waves which sometimes makes it unsuitable for swimming.
The months between May and June get very hot whereas July to November make the best months to visit Boracay if you are looking for something cheaper. Plus, October to November offers the best sunsets.