Your updated Boracay guide: How to explore, relax, and give back
Ask any Filipino about the best beaches in the Philippines, and Boracay is likely to come up in the list. Known for its powdery white beach and thriving night life, Boracay has been voted as the world’s best island in Conde Nast Traveler in 2016, and had also been among the top 10 in the previous years. It has also been voted as one of the best beaches on the travel review site TripAdvisor.
Here is a guide that can help you make the most of your island getaway, whether you are a first-timer or a returning visitor well-aware of Boracay’s charm.
Boracay is accessible via a flight to Caticlan or Kalibo (there are more flights to Kalibo and are usually cheaper), though Kalibo is still around two hours away by bus to Caticlan. By sea, you can ride a ferry to Caticlan from jump-off points like Batangas and Romblon.
From Caticlan, take a tricycle to the port, where you will ride a boat for 15 minutes to Boracay. Allot P200 for this ride as boat fare is P25, terminal fee is P100, and environmental fee is P75. Boats crossing from the mainland are usually available from 5 am to 9 or 10 pm. Once you reach the island, you can easily take a tricycle to your accommodation. Fare usually starts at P20 and varies depending on how far your accommodation is. (READ: 8 beautiful white PH beaches perfect for barefoot walking)
Where to sleep
Boracay need not be expensive. If you are traveling alone, you can easily score a dorm bed at a hostel for P400, and the price can even get lower during off-peak season (usually July to October). There are also residential homes with extra rooms that accept tourists for low prices, and where you can walk in without a reservation. You have to be willing to walk or take a tricycle to Boracay’s main attraction, White Beach, though. White Beach is four-kilometer stretch of powdery white sand and crystal-clear waters, divided into Station 1 (with big beachfront and luxury hotels), Station 2 (where the malls and other shopping establishments usually are), and Station 3 (quieter, and with more budget accommodations).
And, while there are many accommodation options to choose from, why not choose those owned by locals, or those that are mindful of their environmental impact and/or are contributing to the community? Given the island’s environmental issues and social concerns like indigenous land ownership, your choices as a tourist can help preserve the island’s beauty as well as give back to the local community. (READ: 6 travel mistakes that harm beautiful destinations)
Below are some recommended places:
- Mad Monkey Hostel Boracay- Recently opened last 2016, Mad Monkey Hostel is a party hostel with beds usually at P600 during peak season. The hostel has a track record of successful and regular community programs in its branches overseas, and is now initiating projects like funding equipment and supplies to Boracay schools in need.
- You can also look for budget rooms owned by locals on Airbnb. This Boracay Hillside Garden Retreat, for example, is good for two and is priced at P1,749. The same owner also has a property good for families.
- If you have a mid-range budget, consider eco-friendly resorts like Balinghai Beach Resort (rooms start above P3,000). And, if you can splurge, go for Shangri-la, for their support of local organizations’ environmental and social causes, and also for employing Atis, Boracay’s original residents and landowners. Rooms usually start above P15,000.
You can usually check if an accommodation is mindful of the environment or has community initiatives through their website or blog. You can also ask for recommendations at Boracay Beach Community’s Facebook group, which emphasizes sustainable tourism.
Water and outdoor activities
As Boracay’s main draw is its beaches, there is an abundance of water activities to choose from. You can start with island hopping (P1,400 usually with meal and with a guide) or just ask a boatman to take you to different islands (boat rental varies also depending on capacity, but price usually starts at P2,000). Snorkeling and cliff jumping are some other activities on the island hopping tour.
Island hopping also includes Puka Beach, Boracay’s second most well-known beach after White Beach. The sand here is not as fine as White Beach’s, but the beach is more quiet and pristine. Puka Beach is also accessible by tricycle if you want to go here only. (READ: Unspoiled white beaches: Visayas)
Different establishments and accommodations have also put a twist on island hopping. Mad Monkey Hostel, for example, offers a “Booze Cruise,” where you can drink unlimited cocktails during the tour. Some establishments also offer party cruises.
Aside from island hopping, below are some other outdoor activities in Boracay:
- Parasailing. One of Boracay’s most popular outdoor activities, and understandably so, because of the adrenaline rush and the views it offers from above. Price usually starts at P2,000, good for two people.
- Helmet diving. Another popular activity in the island. You just don a “helmet” and let your body sink underwater. No need to mind your breath so much, unlike with snorkeling and diving. Price usually starts at P600. This activity is not recommended by some environmentalists, though, because of its impact on corals and marine life (unlike other diving activities, helmet diving allows you to walk on the seabed).
- Paraw sailing. Yes, you can ride those vivid blue and white sailboats on White Beach’s waters. Price is usually P1,200 good for 4 people.
- Banana boating and fly fishing. You ride an inflated boat, and it is pulled and maneuvered at high speed. Price usually starts at P250 for banana boating and P400 for flyfishing.
While those above are the popular ones, Boracay offers many other water activities like scuba diving, kitesurfing, windsurfing, jetskiing, and even mermaiding (swimming with a mermaid tail!).
For land activities, you can ride an ATV (rate starts at P500), even up to Mount Luho, which has breathtaking views of the island. Or you can also simply take a tricycle up Mount Luho.
The island also offers other adrenaline-pumping activities like ziplining and Zorbing (riding inside a plastic transparent ball).
Known for its thriving night life, Boracay has many bars along White Beach. You can choose any bar to just have a drink, but some of the more well-known are Exit Bar (also for its great music), and Guilly’s Island and Epic (for parties). For a more chill time, Red Pirates Pub and CocoLoco Bar are the places to have your beer. All these bars are located along White Beach.
Happy hour, where drinks are half the price, usually ends at 8, 9, or 10 pm, depending on the bar.
If you want to try different bars and meet new friends, go on the island’s pub crawl, where you will be hopping around 5 bars. The rate is P990.
Another way to enjoy nights on the island is to walk along the strip of restaurants and establishments lining White Beach – you will easily find many fire dance performances. This is one of the must-sees in Boracay.
Relax and chill
White Beach is the island’s main attraction, and it also arguably offers one of the country’s best sunsets. Catch the sun bursting into color while walking along White Beach. You can also have a drink on one of the popular sunset viewing spots Spiderhouse at Diniwid Beach, next to White Beach’s Station 1.
As White Beach is the busiest beach in Boracay, you can explore other beaches if you want to have some quiet time. There is Diniwid Beach, where Spiderhouse is located. At the end of Station 3 is also a quiet shoreline punctuated with rocks. Opposite White Beach is Bulabog Beach. If White Beach is known for its sunsets, Bulabog is known for its sunrises. (READ: Diniwid beach: The quiet side of Boracay)
Another way to relax? Retail therapy. Boracay has talipapas and stalls where you can buy beachwear (swimsuits can be surprisingly affordable!), as well as souvenirs like t-shirts. Boracay also has malls like D’Mall and the newly-opened CityMall.
The island also has stand-alone souvenir shops. Check out Boracay Gift Shop along the island’s main road, facing Crafts Boracay. Boracay Gift Shop carries handmade soaps by the Atis, the indigenous and original residents and land owners of the island. They make soap as part of their livelihood. Some stores at D’Mall also sell these handmade soaps.
After all the walking and outdoor activities, one of the best ways to relax is to have a massage.
Tired feet can be fully relaxed, while treating other body pains, through a foot reflexology massage. A recommended and one of the popular spas is Footzeez at D’Mall (foot massage usually starts at P400). Massage therapists here are all licensed by the Department of Health, with some even carrying international licenses.
You can also get a full-body massage from locals by the beach. Rate usually starts at P300.
For a relaxing full-body massage plus other spa packages like a detox and body wraps, Mandala Spa is best, especially if you have the budget. Body massages usually starts at P3,000. Mandala Spa has also been awarded the ASEAN Green Hotel Award for its environment-friendly practices.
Saturday is beach cleanup day in Boracay, particularly on White Beach. This is usually an informal initiative by different organizations. You can ask the people at your accommodation where you can go if you want to join the cleanup. Or, simply walk along White Beach in the morning and you might just find the groups picking up trash. Boracay Foundation also occasionally holds cleanups as well as other volunteer activities. You can contact them at email@example.com in advance to inquire if there are any activities lined up during your trip.
Boracay is home to bats, particularly flying foxes, a species of that is endangered. These bats are mainly responsible for pollinating crops and trees to bear fruit. The non-government organization Friends of the Flying Foxes regularly holds observations and counting of bats events in the evening, where tourists can help. Check their Facebook page if there are any bat count activities during your Boracay trip. They also accept donations, as they plan to do more wildlife research and to raise more awareness.
If you happen to spot a turtle while snorkeling or diving in Boracay, take a photo and send it to Boracay Turtles, a citizen science research initiative to conserve the island’s marine turtles. The initiative started after several turtles were found dead within a span of 6 months starting December 2015.
Where to eat
With the many restaurants and food stalls around the island, you can have fun going on an island food trip. If you are on a backpacker budget, you can easily eat at carinderias or roadside food stalls for below P100, or even below P50. There are also simple food establishments that serve food for P150 and below. All these can be found on the main road and its side streets. The pricier restaurants are usually along White Beach.
For fresh and affordable seafood, go to D’Talipapa near D’Mall, where you can buy them fresh and have them cooked to your liking.
There are also many Boracay restaurants serving different cuisines for different budgets. Below are photos of some examples.
Activities beyond the island
If you have more time, you can visit other places in mainland Aklan.
One of the most popular day tours on the mainland is the interactive Motag Living Museum, where you can see traditional farming methods and other practices, like weaving, in action, and hear Malaynon folk songs. Rate usually starts at P1,200.
An off-the-beaten-path tour with nature would be a forest trek and a dip at Nabaoy River,which is just nearby and in the same municipality as Boracay. Rate usually starts at P1,500.
A picturesque destination would be Nabas Wind Farm in the neighboring municipality. Its wind turbines are visible from Boracay White Beach. It is just a 15-minute tricycle ride away from Caticlan, followed by another 15-minute motorbike ride. (READ: 6 Underrated, stunning Visayas destinations)
Whether on the usual or off-the-beaten track, Boracay has a charm that continues to attract tourists. Enjoy it during your visit!
Claire Madarang is a writer, traveler, and seeker who believes in traveling light, particularly in the inner journey. She is also a researcher and documenter. Her work and wanderlust takes her to adventures like backpacking for seven weeks and exploring remote islands and bustling cities alike. Follow her adventures, travel tips, and epiphanies at Traveling Light and on her Instagram.