(Scroll down if you want to skip to my ultimate guide to Boracay's Hotels Restaurants, and Attractions...)
Trust me - Kim Kardashian's butt isn't the only thing that could "break the Internet".
Having been told that Boracay was already too crowded and overdeveloped, I managed to avoid the island for over a year during my exploration of the Philippines.
Still, I always wondered, "what is it about Boracay that makes my Filipino friends SO proud?"
Well now that I've seen it with my own two eyes, it's perfectly clear. Boracay is definitely the "crown jewel" of the 7,107 island of the Philippines.
From what I've seen, the perfect white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters are unparalleled anywhere in the world! No wonder Travel + Leisure awarded Boracay "Best Island In The World" in 2012!
No, these are not just huts on a beach - this is a world-class island with world-class amenities. No joke.
I really was surprised how genuine and friendly the locals were - considering that the island can be so touristy. I actually came on the bus from a neighboring province. On the way, I was befriended by a nice old couple who lives on the island. They guided me all the way to my hotel and didn't ask for a thing in return.
"We love tourists, and understand how important they are", they told me. Only in the Philippines!
Yes, during peak season there can be huge crowds, but what amazed me was how clean the beaches are - despite the crowds! People can take their drinks right down to the water, but somehow I didn't see any bottles or trash left behind. Filipinos and foreign tourists seem to be respectful of this beautiful place, and that makes me happy. There is a "no smoking on the beach" policy that I appreciate very much as well. Amazingly, it actually works - I hardly noticed any cigarette butts!
No, I didn't get to see the untouched Boracay of the 80s and 90s, but I choose to appreciate it for what it IS, not what it used to be. As Teddy Roosevelt said: "Comparison is the thief of joy". As it is now, the island has a lot to offer tourists - whether they're on a budget or on their honeymoon.
As a foreigner who is a big fan of Filipino culture, I worried that seeing all the foreign influence on the island would ruin the experience for me.
Actually, just the opposite was true! Boracay is the least Filipino place in the Philippines, and I realized that's exactly why my Filipino friends love it
It's a place (in their own country) where Filipinos can interact with people and cultures from all over the world.
For me, San Francisco in California is the same way. It's a very international city, and that's exactly what I love about it. Anyhow, it was a good realization to have about Boracay.
Yes, Boracay is a place Filipinos can go and be proud...they can watch as the stunning beauty of their country lights up the faces of travelers from all over the world.
Well, the indigenous Ati people have been there for hundreds (thousands?) of years, but in terms of tourism, the story I heard was that German backpackers "discovered" the island in the
1970s. They would camp out for weeks at a time, and make trips back to the mainland (Panay) when they needed supplies. However, they couldn't keep their paradise a secret for too
long, and word began to spread. Soon, Taiwanese and Korean tourists began arriving in droves. The island has seen massive growth in the past 20 years.
Some of my favorite photos - click to enlarge!
My goal was to explore every nook and cranny of the island - and document what's left of the local culture if at all possible. I stayed on the island for one month (I make these sacrifices for you, I swear:), and in that time, I befriended a family of fishermen who I ate, drank, and stayed with. I slept on top of a table on their isolated beach - just as they do, and tried to learn as much of the local language (Aklanon) as possible.
Other than that, I attended a pubcrawl, photographed brilliant, starry skies during the "black moon", slept in a hammock under the full moon, and woke up to a stunning sunrise (the blue photo below). I volunteered at the local elementary school, made a guest appearance as Wolverine on Halloween, and even attended an actual underwater mermaid wedding!
I'll never forget the time I spent on this magical island.
(Click To Enlarge)
Oh by the way, have you "liked" my page yet? Follow me through this beautiful country! - Nathan Allen
Of course, I spent a lot of time researching hotels, restaurants, and attractions for you as well. Ready for my recommendations? I think you'll love them:) Here we go, and don't forget to bookmark this page for your next trip!!
White Beach is broken up into 3 sections, or "stations".
Low Season is the time to find the best deals. This is from May to October, and while the crowds and prices are low, the chance of rain can be high (this is why rainy season is the off season). High Season is from October to May. The weather is better, it's more crowded, and the hotel prices are higher. Peak Season is Christmas, New Years, Chinese New Years, and Holy Week (Easter). Prices are very high and rooms book up super quick!
No matter when you go, booking online is recommended. Check below first, and then click HERE if you still need more options.
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This is a sleek, mid-range hotel. With a beachfront location, it's also clean and modern - with a very attentive staff. People say it's family-friendly, and also a great a value for the money.
Book 357 Boracay Resort HERE
If you're looking for a more rustic island experience (without skimping on quality), check out these upscale, eco-friendly bungalows! Also a beachfront location, Angol Point feels far-removed from the rest of the commercialized sections of the island. Highly recommended!
Book Angol Point Beach Resort HERE
If you walk 5 minutes in from the beach, you can find nipa huts at Ocean Breeze Inn for even less. It's a bit hard to find, so ask a local and tell them it's near Orchids Resort. Staff is helpful and friendly, and I the aircon rooms are a great value as well! Did I mention the free coffee in the morning? As with everywhere on the island, make sure you bring Mosquito repellant:)
These "native-style" rooms and cottages are also a great budget option. Also a 5 minute walk from the beach (though a very scenic and interesting one, if you ask me). As the name hints, there is a beautiful flower garden in the middle of the property. The warmth of the staff is akin to "staying with a nice family in the Filipino countryside". Breakfast is included. It may not be a palace, but for the money, it's an excellent value.
Book Orchids Resort HERE
(if you are having problems booking, try this link for more options)
The District - I was very happy to be invited to experience this beautiful property! To be honest, I find that paying a bit more for an experience in the Philippines is very rarely worth it. This is certainly not the case at The District.
The hotel itself is modern and elegant. The staff is attentive and quite helpful, and the brunch buffet was generous and delicious! I loved relaxing in a bed on the beach as well.
Really, all my expectations were met and even exceeded. Anybody looking to be pampered during their vacation or honeymoon - this place is perfect!
If you want to be close to the action but save a lot of money, this is your place. Close to D'Mall, and great for long stays. Just a short walk inland from the beach. Don't expect luxury at these prices, but what you get is really a good value.
Book Patrick's Home Boracay HERE
This place is famous for its stunning views of the island. Also great for a honeymoon, or couples looking for a luxurious escape from the noise and crowds of White
Beach. No worries if you need to make a trip to D'Mall or Station 2, though - Nami provides a free shuttle. It's an incredible experience staying in one of these cliff-side rooms, not
mention taking the bamboo elevator to get up there! Image source
Book Nami Resort HERE
This is where the locals live...you can still find fishermen at work - and children playing on the beach.
However, Bulabog beach is also known for adventure sports. Kitesurfers and windsurfers flock here during the windy season each year. There are plenty of moderately priced resorts in the area as well.
This is an excellent place to watch the sunrise. In fact, Boracay marks the first time in my life that I was able to watch the sun rise over the water, then watch it set over the water later the same day. Truly an island experience!
It's great, because if you're craving some action, White Beach is only a 15 minute walk from here.
(Affordable midrange) I loved this place so much. When I say it's cool, I mean it's literally cool. As you take the last turn on the sun-parched road to get here, suddenly you are welcomed by a shady corridor and a nice, cool breeze from Bulabog Beach. Lazy Dog is about a 1 minute walk from the beach. It's a very laid-back and hip spot. The woman managing it is named Djila, and she has done a great job encouraging local artists to contribute to the creative vibe of the place. With a name like "Lazy Dog", of course the place is pet friendly. It's also got solid Internet and food that people rave about (more on that later)! Did I mention it's LGBT friendly as well?
Book Lazy Dog Bed & Breakfast HERE
A colorful, fun place to meet travelers from all over the world! They have everything from affordable dorms to private aircon rooms with a (limited) view. Not only is there a free no-frills breakfast each day, but occasionally they also provide free drinks and events. Added bonus is that both White Beach and Bulabog beach are only a short walk from here! The owners are very kind, and interact with the guests when time allows. Also note that they have a Manila Location!
Book MNL Beach Hostel HERE
This is where the thrill-seekers stay. Want to learn how to kitesurf? Check. Go mountain biking around the island? Check. Become a mermaid? Che...wait, wha?? Yes, here you can actually sign up for mermaid lessons (for women and men).
Book Boracay Kite Resort HERE
Didn't find what you need? Check this link for more hotel options...
I'm hesitant when it comes to more pricey food options in the Philippines - especially when it comes to "western" food. However, Charlie (the owner) seemed so confident that I would love his steak, I knew I had to try. I just have to say...wow. Worth every penny. The breakfast platter didn't seem like much food (considering the price), but when I took my first bite, I had the same reaction as with the steak. Worth every penny. You can tell that great care goes into the ingredients and preparation here, and I'm a HUGE music fan, so I also appreciate the rockin' theme of the place. Located across from Balabag School on the main road, Station 2. Look for the giant guitar out front!
Boracay can be accessed by flying directly to Caticlan airport from Manila (for tips on your layover in Manila, check here). Sometimes you can find cheaper flights to Kalibo, which is about
a 45 minute bus or van ride away from the island.
Transportation vehicles on the island are called "trikes", and will likely cost 150 pesos to get you from the jetty port to your hotel (or from your hotel to Puka beach).
If you share them with many other people, they can be as cheap as 15 pesos each.
There are BPI ATMs in Station 2 on the main road (near Balabag Elementary School), and they let you take out 20,000 (almost $500USD) pesos at a time. I don't know if all ATMs do, or if it's just for foreigners, but this was an option for me.
Touts - You will probably be approached by people selling everything from "selfie-sticks" to sailing tours - they won't persist if you say no, and they're usually very friendly.
Safety - I don't know of any real dangers on the island (other than partying too hard and getting sick. Haha.) Perhaps people can add their thoughts about this in the comments section. There are not lifeguards on duty, so it is advisable to be safe when swimming in the sea.
Haha. Joke lang, as they say in the Philippines. It's not official (and it will be a self-guided tour), but it's a quite an adventure if you ask me! Here's how to do it:
At around 4pm, start walking along White Beach from Station 1 or 2. Make sure you bring a light with you (flashlight on a phone will work). Take pictures as the sun begins to dip behind the sails of the paraws (sailboats). Continue walking to iconic Willy's Rock, and take pictures of the sun going down behind it also. You can get beautiful silhouette shots here.
Continue walking until you get to the "end" of the beach, where you will climb a few stairs and continue to the left - until you get to a large hole in the cliff side. You can continue
around for a nice view, or you can be adventurous and climb through this hole (it's quite easy). Make sure you go back to appreciate the view though, and be careful on the
Continue along the water until the path opens up to secluded Diniwid Beach. Note the restaurant called Wahine on the right, because you might want to come here on the way back. Continue to the "end" of the beach again, and climb the stairs and make your way to the left again. As you get to Nami Resort, look for the sign that says "Spider House", and continue underneath it...through the cave. Welcome to Spider House, your tree house-style sunset destination! I recommend having only drinks for the sunset here, as the food is just OK. Service is great, though. Go to Wahine on Diniwid Beach for dinner:)
(Click to enlarge)
If you like Spider House, you'll probably like Red Pirates, which is on the other side of the island in Station 3. It really feels like a sandy old pirate-bar! The "cast of characters" who call themselves regulars are quite memorable as well. I heard that if they are in the sailing mood (or if they really like you), they offer a really unique sailing tour. I'm pretty sure it goes to incredible Balinghai Resort, which is a very secluded cliff-side resort with a 500 peso (consumable) entry fee.
Yes, Boracay is a very unique place, and that is why we need to make sure it is preserved and protected. I hope you'll join me in raising awareness about the island's community and ecosystem. Here are some resources for you!
The Boracay Foundation is a non-profit that is promoting preservation and sustainability on the island. I love their motto:
"Preserve What We Have, Restore What We've Lost".
Friends of the Flying Foxes - Each morning that I watched the sunrise, I noticed many large birds flying north along the island. I was surprised to learn that these are in fact giant bats, known as golden-crowned flying foxes. These fascinating creatures are endemic to the island, and their numbers are dwindling. Check out this page for more info.
I heard stories of an independent missionary couple who were building a guest house near beautiful and secluded Ilig Iligan Beach. My curiosity piqued, eventually I was able to locate them. I'm so glad that I did! They invited me to dinner and explained what their project is all about. Their lovely little family is working hard to employ and empower local craftsmen and artisans during the construction of their guest house, which is coming along quite nicely. They also do everything they can to provide support and treatment for less-fortunate locals in need. Wherever possible, rather than just giving hand-outs, they firmly believe in the concept of "teaching a man to fish", and I appreciate that.
They have both a Sunday School and feeding program at Yapak Elementary School each week, and I came along to see what it was all about. They started the program because many kids were making the long walk home at lunch in search of food, only to often find that there was none. Then they would just skip the rest of the school day rather than go back hungry.
Book a stay HERE. It's for a great cause. * Resort is 5 minutes from the beach. Please be patient, as parts of the property may still be under construction.
Whew! That finally does it. I hoped you enjoyed this post - it was a lot of hard work! Due to some technical difficulties, the entire page was erased after 100 hours of work. I started over, but the same thing happened again. You know what they say though, the third time is a charm!
Thank you, Boracay, for an experience I will never forget.
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- Nathan Allen
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