Boracay

Boracay panorama

When you meet any Filipino anywhere in the world, they will surely tell you to visit one island – Boracay. Located in the Visayan region, in the center of the country composed of more than seven thousand islands, Boracay is the muse in Philippine tourism.  Highly accessible from all major cities in the country, Boracay is an hour away from the capital city of Manila.

Filipinos takes pride in Boracay and it was voted as the best island in the world by international travel magazines. Its main feature is White Beach, a white-sand shore measuring 2 kilometers.  Boracay first came to the map way back in the 70s, when it was literally a paradise and European backpackers came to visit, enjoying a real paradise. Then the island was lush with vegetation and mangroves with indigenous people called Aetas inhabit this Visayan island.

Totally opposite from luxurious accommodations available in the island today, travelers rely to locals for accommodations. Home stays with no water; early accommodations only have water enough for their adventurous visitors. No electricity either. But the island is teaming with life. Its main beach, pure white sand lined with coconuts. All kinds of fishes including turtles and stingrays swim in its clear waters. Truly, its beauty has captivated the heart of sun-hungry European travelers.

As decades past, Boracay became the favorite destination both among international and local tourists. Boracay at its early stage was synonymous with luxury, but now with cheap flights and hotels, almost all locals have been to this island. Boracay itself is a successful story that the Philippines is proud of –from a simple island to a world-class destination.

Things to do in Boracay

Boracay is one of the few islands that you want to go back over and over again. Why? The myriad of activities for every visitor to enjoy whether you are a family with small children or an outdoor solo traveler – Boracay is even friendly towards senior travelers.

As an island with beautiful beaches, swimming will always be on top of the list of things to do in Boracay, along with other things you often do while in a beach – sunbathing and the likes. Snorkeling and diving has been the main activities in the island for years. Lately, there are island cruises for all types of tourists. Those with kids will enjoy the glass-bottom boating trips. And for young adults, try Helmet Diving or Reef Walking –walk on the ocean floor with fishes swimming around you without getting your head wet or with the assistance of a SCUBA.

Of course, nothing beats diving. Boracay is one of Philippines’ top diving destinations. There are many diving centers in the island, and yes, you can earn your license in Boracay. That would be a nice travel experience – to learn something from your trip!

For those who love the outdoors, Boracay offers parasailing, helicopter tours, wakeboarding and kitesurfing. Boracay’s Bulabog Beach, on the other side of White Beach, is the main spot for this wonderful sport. Boracay is also an internationally hailed kitesurfing destination, hosting international events and competitions for years.

For some relaxation, enjoy massages and other spa treatments, indulge in some retail therapy or take a tasty journey from Boracay’s different restaurants offering all types of cuisine.

Where to Stay

From simple huts made from local materials, with crude lamps to shed light during the night, Boracay is now home to different kinds of hotels and accommodations. From luxurious resorts to budget-friendly hostels, everyone will surely find a place to stay in Boracay.

The main area of the island, White Beach, is divided into 3 stations – Station 1, Station 2, and Station 3.  Station 1 is where you find most of the more upscale hotels and resorts, while Station 2 is where you will find mid-range to budget hotels. Station 3 used to have budget-friendly hotels, but now mid-range hotels are also built. In general, you can get a good hotel in Boracay for as low as $40 a night. Hostels can go for $15-20 a night.

From the beachfront, some hotels are located a few meters away from the beach. And to cater to other guests, some hotels are located in a more secluded areas and smaller beaches, away from the busy and touristy area of White Beach.  If you want some peaceful and secret getaways, you may want to check out hotels in Diniwid Beach, and Bulabog.

Aside from 2, 3 and 4-star hotels, Boracay is home to many vacation rentals, apartments, and hotels. These types of accommodations draw long-term travelers and those on a budget. As long as you skip coming to the island during peak season, it is not hard to look for this affordable accommodations – you can find them as you arrive in the island.

Where to Eat

Dining is one of the things to do in Boracay. In fact, it is one of the highlights of every trip in Boracay. Boracay may seem to be a beach destination, but with the plethora of food choices, it is definitely a food destination. Food venues offering all types of cuisine from local to Arabic – you can find them all in Boracay.

Most hotels in Boracay have their own restaurants, not just for your daily breakfast but having their own specialties like pizzas, tapas, and paella.  Some hotels like those luxurious ones like Shangri-La Boracay and Mandarin have 3 or more restaurants serving international cuisines.

If you want to have different choices presented to you, you must go to D’Mall, located at the middle of Station 2 (White Beach). D’Mall is a shopping and dining area with affordable choices. On a budget, you can find local fastfoods here. Speaking of affordable choices, along White Beach are street food (mostly grilled) that cost less than $1.  There are many hotels and restaurants offering buffet, usually dinners for those looking for affordable meals – some as low as $7 per person.

Another food venue in the island is the Talipapa (small market).  You can dine here ala Carte or have them cooked. Purchase seafood from the market and let the restaurants cook it for you. Fresh seafood like tuna, oysters, lobsters are to die for – and for cheap price!

Travel Trip for Boracay

With its titles and recognition, there are still many who have some love-hate relationship with Boracay – still it is not hard to come back or invite others to travel to this island.

Like any other destinations, planning when to go is very crucial. For a famous island like Boracay, it can get crowded during peak season. The beautiful beach can turn into a sea of people. Hence, to truly enjoy the paradise, avoid these peak seasons.

Peak season is usually during the summer months in the Philippines, from late March to early June, with school on break, thus, prompting families to enjoy the beach during school breaks. Christmas, Holy Week, New Year, and Chinese New Year mean long weekends for local tourists to flock to their favorite island. Between these dates, you have the beach all for yourself.

To enjoy the beach, come during early mornings when most tourists especially those partygoers are asleep. During the day, you often find families on vacation, a testament that Boracay is a destination for all types of visitors.

Boracay is a cosmopolitan mini-city, a very open place for international visitors. However, nude no longer allowed. It was impressive that given the conservative culture of the Philippines, international tourists can still bask under the sun topless without the locals ogling. But today, it is strongly prohibited.

The same goes to sex in the beach. No matter how tempting, public sex is prohibited, not to mention embarrassing when caught given the conservative culture in the Philippines. Prostitution is also illegal in the country and punishable by law. Be careful when meeting other people especially in bars and in clubs.

Likewise, during Holy Friday, all bars and clubs are closed. As a major Catholic nation, the government imposes strict observance of one of the holiest season of the Catholic calendar- the Holy Week. On the brighter side, this is a good opportunity to observe Philippines’ local culture in terms of their faith with a religious procession done along the White Beach.

You can spoil yourself while in Boracay but do not be shy to haggle. You are free to haggle especially in smaller markets and shops. Same goes to some activities like boating trips, do not be shy and locals will be delighted to deal with your transactions.

White Beach seems to have all the action in the island but Boracay has more to offer. Do you know that there are 12 beaches in the island? Do not be scared to explore these places. Hire a guide you like to maximize your time in the island and get to visit those places often unseen by most tourists.

Boracay is not doubt, the best island in the Philippines. When visiting the country, never miss the opportunity to fly to Boracay and get to experience the island that every local is proud of.