Boracay in the Philippines is not just the backpackers paradise it once was

If you know where to look, Boracay does have secluded spots. Pic: Wikimedia Commons

LOCATED 300 kilometers south of Manila in the Philippines, Boracay Island is said to have some of the best tropical beaches in the world. It has 30 beaches and coves, and over 300 resorts for all budgets from five-star hotels to small beach huts.

The island, through the years, has transformed from a hippy bohemian hangout for locals and backpackers to a hip and chic cosmopolitan destination.

While in Boracay, you have to visit White Beach, a four kilometer stretch of powder-white sand with a continuous row of restaurants, bars and fashionable shops. Once the sun sets, the entire stretch of beach heightens up the vibe and transforms itself into one big party.

Boracay by day

If you only have 24 hours to spare, here’s a suggested itinerary for your day on Boracay Island:

Mornings in Boracay are lazy. Everyone on the island is still recovering from partying the previous night. So if you want a less crowded beach, now is the time to enjoy the powder white sand and crystal clear waters of Boracay’s beaches.

Lunch is something to look forward to with the range of cuisine available on the island. After lunch, you can choose to take a siesta or enjoy the many activities available.

You might want to visit a spa or enjoy a massage by the beach in one of White Beach’s makeshift massage stations which charge between US$6 and US$8 an hour.

Late in the afternoon, you could try a sunset cruise on a traditional paraw outrigger boat or sip an ice-cold beer by the beach while enjoying the sunset.

The Boracay sunset

The beautiful Boracay sunset

Just like lunch, dinner is a culinary adventure with the many choices. Then it’s an all-night party that lasts until the morning. Bar-hopping is the norm on an island which has earned for itself a reputation as a party destination.

Best of the rest
You can go for a banana boat ride, tube ride, parasail or jet ski ride. You can also rent an ATV to explore the island. Kiteboarding and windsurfing are also very popular. Bulabog Beach is a favorite kiteboarding and windsurfing haunt, especially during the summer when warm winds hit the beach.

SEE ALSO: 5 best kitesurfing spots in Asia

One of the newest attractions is riding the Zorb ball in Brgy,Yapak. They charge between US$7 and US$12, depending on how many will ride the Zorb. Henna tattoos and hair-braiding are also popular in Boracay.

Hidden gems
Diving is quite popular in Boracay since there are said to be at least 24 dive sites close to the island. November to June is the best time to dive.

Pic: Ocean Island Travel

Discover a wealth of marine life underwater. Pic: Ocean Island Travel

Lesser known beaches include Baling Hai, a deserted cove close to Diniwid Beach. Ilig-Iligan Beach has coves, caves and a forest full of fruit bats. Bat Cave is a few minutes’ hike from the beach.

Boracay by night

There is always a restaurant to suit every preference.

The wide range of food choices in Boracay include the local Filipino flavor (Island Chicken, Smoke), Spanish (Dos Mestizos, Ole Spanish Tapas Bar), Mexican (Bolero Rum & Bar Mexican Kitchen), French (TBrazCreperie& French Bistro), Greek (Cyma, Zuzuni), Italian (Aria), Asian fusion (BarLoResto Lounge), American, Caribbean, Indian, Thai, English, and so much more.

For seafood, check out Escondido Crabhouse, Fish Bar, or Sirena. Courtyard Bistro and Steak House serve really good steaks.

There are dozens of places to chill out and party in Boracay, but Club Paraw, Hey Jude, Juice Bar, Solana, Solstice and Summer Place are names that stand out.

Retail therapy
There are a lot of local handicrafts and products worth purchasing such as shell necklaces and other accessories made out of indigenous materials. D’Mall is the island’s main shopping center.

But shops can be found all over White Beach. Vendors tout a lot of interesting products, especially the shell necklaces and other trinkets.

Shell necklaces and trinkets for sale

Shell necklaces and trinkets for sale at the markets


Getting there and away
There are many ways of getting to Boracay. Southeast Asia Airlines (SEAIR) provides the fastest and most convenient flights to Caticlan, taking just 35 minutes from Manila. Plus they offer complimentary transfers from the airport straight to the island.

Other airlines such as Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Zest Air may have flights to Caticlan (depending on how strict the airport regulators are since their planes are a bit too big for Caticlan’s runway). But most of them fly to Kalibo which can accommodate the bigger aircraft. The Kalibo Airport is one and a half hours away.

Another way to reach Boracay Island is by sea from Manila, though this takes much longer. There are RORO ferries to Caticlan, so you can drive a car from Manila and park your car in Caticlan and proceed to Boracay by pump boat.

Getting around
There are tricycles and minicabs which serve as taxis, conveniently ferrying passengers around the island. Tricycle farescan range from $0.20, if you’re sharing it with other people, to about $1 if you’re hiring the tricycle for yourself.

Rides to non-touristy areas such as Puka or Diniwid Beach will cost a bit more. Tricycles are not allowed on the beach but can be found along the main road.

Boat rentals are about $25 to $35, good for three hours and up to five people. There are companies which offer island-hopping tours at $15 per person. The six-hour tours include buffet lunch in Tambisaan.