Boracay is a very tiny island in the Visayas region of the central Philippines and I had to do quite a bit of zooming before I found it on Maps. Even though the name Boracay doesn’t ring a bell with most South Africans, it’s far from undiscovered — the island absolutely teems with tourists, especially Filipinos, Koreans, and Chinese. Usually when places are so highly regarded, they can be a letdown in person. When you don’t have the perfect lighting or Photoshop to enhance the colors, it can leave one wondering what all the hype is about. Let me tell you though, Boracay is just as beautiful in person as it is on postcards.
The long stretch of white sand paradise along the west coast is aptly named White Beach and it’s often referred to as one of the world’s best beaches. And with almost all the hotels, cafes and bars basically on the beach, you could spend your whole stay in Boracay on sand! I had dinner one evening at a restaurant, sitting on a cushion, barefoot in the sand, sipping on a Calamansi cocktail(the island’s famous lime like fruit) with the waves crashing a mere 5 meters from my feet. Pure magic.
White Beach is divided into three sections: Station 1, furthest North, is home to the luxury resorts. Station 2(where we stayed) in the middle, is a huge commercial hub and home to tons of shops, restaurants, and hotels, as well as D’Mall, a massive shopping complex. Station 3, on the South end, is much quieter and more relaxed.
There are a few other beaches — Bulabog Beach in the east is popular with the kitesurfing/windsurfing crowd and the secluded Puka Beach in the north is a must-see.
The thing about Boracay is that the landscape is so beautiful, the sand so white and fine, the beachfront so long, the water so warm and turquoise that you can do nothing else but wake up, sit on the beach, get brunch, swim, tan, get lunch, read on the beach, watch the sunset, get dinner, maybe get a drink or two and still feel entirely accomplished!
Speaking of sunsets, on my first day in Boracay, I saw what was undeniably the best sunset of my life. My photos don’t even remotely capture how incredible it was, but here are a few shots of it anyway. Mind-boggling mixtures of blues, yellows, oranges, and purples filled the sky as sailboats floated past us.
Another thing I’ll always remember about Boracay is the friendliness and kindness of the Filipino people. We arrived at our guest house at midnight. Covered in dust, sweat and exhausted from all the traveling, we were clearly annoyed when we found out they had lost our booking and that we now had no place to sleep. In the peak holiday season. It was then that the kind young man who had given us a lift in his Tuk-Tuk decided to help us find another hotel. He insisted on carrying all our luggage by himself as we followed him from one hotel reception to another until he finally found us an open room. Afterwards we found out that he even negotiated on our behalf to get a better price because this new hotel was clearly a lot more pricey than our original guest house. It was right on the beach after all! We couldn’t believe our luck. During the remainder of our stay we came into contact with many more of his sort. The kind of old-world people who still do good just for the sake of doing good.
Finally, if lounging on the beach all day isn’t your thing there are a wide variety of activities to keep you busy. My 5 favorite activities that we did were :
Puka Shell Beach
Named after ‘Puka‘ shells (shells of cone snails that are normally used in making beach anklets, bracelets, and necklaces) this is a famous day trip in Boracay. I fell in love with this beach for some reason. Yes, there certainly are other beaches way more breathtaking than Puka, but to me it just had such a feeling of wildness and raw beauty to it. I felt like I was the first person in the world to set foot on its shores. And I knew when I left that this would be one of those rare places I would long to return to for many years to come. (To get there, simply catch a ride with a tricycle and you’re bound to reach this place in just 20 minutes from White Beach).
Cliff diving off Ariel’s Point
One of the best daytrips for the younger crowd. Its catch phrase should be: “Get drunk… Jump off cliffs!” What you’ll get is a booze cruise followed by a full day of cliff diving into the beautiful dark blue waters of the Philippine Sea. There are 4 levels to dive from. The highest is plain insane! No photos or video can really do it justice. However, I can confirm that a few (okay most) of my fellow male travellers, oh and the two crazy Auzzie girls, braved it and survived. For me, it took more than one rum and coke to build up enough courage to jump off the smallest of the 4, which was enough of an adrenaline rush to last me the rest of the day. The trip also included kayaking around the island and unlimited beer and rum & coke, an amazing BBQ buffet lunch (they had yellow watermelon which I found pretty cool #itsthelittlethings #basicbitches). It cost us Php 1500 (about $38) and I suggest booking in advance at the Boracay Beach Club located at the start of Station 1.
Boracay is not not only beautiful above water, but underwater too! We negotiated a special price with one of the long-tail boat sailors and he took us to 3 different snorkeling locations at nearby islands. All snorkeling equipment was provided and you are supposed to wear a life-jacket, but after some sweet talking we convinced the guy that we were “pro swimmers” and he allowed us to dive without it.
aTV and Jetski Ride
Explore Boracay in a swanky ATV! Most of these trips go to Mt. Luho which is the highest peak on the island so it’s a chance for you to get a view of the island as a whole. Renting these ATVs cost about Php 1,000 ($22+) per person. They also offer awesome jetski rides on a marked off course. A speed boat will take you there and back. Rides are about 40 minutes and let me tell you it was way worth the price!
Boracay is one of my favorite islands in the world, and I highly recommend you to visit it if you ever get the chance. It’s a perfect getaway for people who want to relax and/or those who want to party.
Don’t listen to what anyone tells you about it being “overrated” until you go and see for yourself. Enjoy!
how to get there
To get to Boracay island, you can fly to either Caticlan or Kalibo airport, which are both on the island of Panay in the Philippines. Caticlan Airport is right by the ferry to Boracay; Kalibo is a 90-minute drive away (so flights to here are cheaper). The ferry to Boracay takes only 15 minutes and there are Tuk-Tuks all around who will drop you off right at your hotel.
WHERE TO STAY
For budget travelers, MNL Hostel is a favorite – clean, modern, affordable and well-located, just a short walk from D’Mall (the main shopping and eating area) and the beach. Also check out Frendz Resort Boracay.