Philippines is known for it’s beautiful beaches and islands scattered all throughout the country. Out of all those 7,107 islands, one stood out. Not only did it become the top tourist destination of the Philippines, but was also listed as one of the Best Islands in the World.
Located at the northwest corner of Panay Island, I was lucky enough to grow up in a place that’s only about 6 hours drive going to Boracay. My family and I would go there almost every year. Sometimes, even more than once a year. With that being said, I have witnessed how Boracay transitioned to a paradise that I’ve always loved to what it is now.
Ever since I finished my degree and moved to the Queen City of the South, I wasn’t able to visit the island until just recently.
This early July, I was able to go there with Brainy Flight‘s Anthony Cofrancesco to see if Boracay is still the same island that I loved, or if the vehement tourism and commercialism had taken over.
From Cebu, we took the AirAsia flight going to Kalibo instead of Caticlan because of the price rate, which is surprisingly cheap.
Note: Kalibo is a Municipality and Provincial Capital of the Province of Aklan, where Caticlan and Boracay is located as well. However, it will take you about 1-2 hours to get to Caticlan from Kalibo.
Within the Kalibo Airport, you’ll be seeing multiple desks that will offer you transportations going to Caticlan Jetty port then to Cagban Jetty Port, which is the main point of entry and exit of Boracay Island.
In our case, we got one that comes with the van and the boat ride. Although you have to take note that you still need to pay for the Terminal Fee and Environmental Fee when you reach the Caticlan Jetty Port and before leaving the Cagban Jetty Port.
Note: For the locals of Aklan and those who are working in the island are exempted from paying those fees.
When we got off the boat, it kinda felt nostalgic already, but then again, I got to remember those times where the boats will drop the passengers right at the beachfront where you get to feel the water and the white sand the moment you stepped foot to the island.
The mode of transportation in Boracay is mainly tricycles and motorbikes. The cars are mostly owned by resorts and hotels and they provide their services to their guests only. So if you’re staying in one of those who have their own mode of transport, then you can just contact the hotel or resort lobby for their services.
If not, then you only have the trikes and bikes to choose from. From the port, you’d have to get in to one to take you near where you’ll be staying or in our case, to the long beach as that is center of everything. If they ask you where exactly, just say that they can drop you off in D’Mall.
Tip: If you go for the tricycle, ride on those passing by on the main road and not parked or lined up near the port as there’s a big chance that they’ll charge you with a special rate.
Where to Stay
We were kinda experimenting with the trip so we never really booked any hotels/hostels beforehand and just decided to do it when we get there thinking that it can be cheaper if we’d be walk-in guests. Unfortunately, that was a wrong move.
Boracay is filled with tons of places to stay whether it’s along the long beach or somewhere in the middle of the island.
Since I haven’t really stayed in a hostel in my entire life, I was encouraged to do so for the sake of experience and most people say it’s fun. And INDEED IT IS! Not only you get to save tons of money for staying in hostels, but you also get to meet tons of people.
For those who wants to stay in hotels / resorts, there are still tons of affordable ones that you can find all over the island.
We had to check multiple hostels before making a decision on where to stay but we ended up going for Hostel Avenue. The destination is perfect especially if you want to stay along the long beach and near the different shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Not to mention, it’s located on top of a bar, but don’t worry, the noise wouldn’t really bother you at night.
The place is pretty neat as well. The room we got had 6 bunks and we were lucky to get the room all for ourselves. Although, you have to provide your own lock for the locker. Luckily, there’s a store nearby that sells those. The balcony is awesome. You can just stay there, chill, listen to the music/bands playing nearby, or even just the sound of the waves. Oh, and there’s free wifi 😉
Another perk is that you get to have a free entrance to one of the clubs, although at that time, there’s not much people there so we decided to check out the other ones. We were also lucky to be given a coupon for a free drink to one of the bars.
Tip: Whenever you go to the Philippines, it’s best to book hotels/hostels online. You’d be surprised how much you can save by doing so.
Where to Eat
You have a very wide range of options when it comes to places to eat in Boracay. However, don’t expect it to be as cheap as the ones that you’ve experienced in other parts of the country.
Being a tourist spot, prices are kinda high. If you want to find restaurants that are little less expensive compared to the others, go for the small ones located in the middle of the island. It still wouldn’t be that cheap but you can save a bit. If you really wanna go on saving mode or at least just spending the amount that you’d usually spend on local Filipino restaurants especially if you’re a big group, go to the wet market and buy fresh seafood, then proceed to the restaurants right next to it that can cook and serve the ones you just bought. You can definitely save tons of money there.
Sunsets in Boracay
Witnessing the sunset in Boracay is a very must. Because of the weather when we were there, we didn’t really get to see the sun disappearing in the midst of the ocean. However, the sky was still so beautiful. The colors and all, it was like a work of art, still perfect.
There’s tons of places to hang out at night whether you wanna go clubbing, have drinks at the bar, or just chill at the ones near the beach while having a few of those local beers and enjoying the live music/performances.
Or maybe you can just like do what we did. We looked for those places with live bands that are playing good music, have a few drinks, then went on to different clubs. Although there are a few that requires an entrance fee and it seems like those are the ones that have more people.
Also, whenever you look at the menu especially to those that are a little bit fancy, watch out for those prices that don’t include the tax and service charge. You’ll know it if it’s not included when there’s a teeny tiny text at the bottom of the menu that will say so.
The prices of the beers and cocktails differ from one place to another. Look out for the happy hours and promos but make sure to read it and understand well.
The fun night had led us to waking up just in time for check out. Although going for a walk or a jog in Boracay early in the morning is also a must experience.
Before checking out, we decided to book our next night in W Hostel through Agoda, in which we paid around half of what we paid for in our first night. It may not be as close to the long beach but it’s not that far either and it’s also just about 2 minutes away from the Bolabog beach, the beach on the other side of the island.
The place looks really nice. The room we got there have 8 bunks and the hostel provided us with their own locks. I love the shower room; it has multiple blowdryers (LOL). The rooftop is freaking cool. Not only that it’s a good place to chill, but there’s also a pool that you can use for free and you get to check out the view of the surroundings.
Another good thing is that our booking came with free breakfast and the hostel have parties every Sunday and Wednesday nights with free food, games, and other freebies.
What to do during the day
A LOT! There’s definitely a lot that you can do in Boracay. Island hopping, snorkeling, cliff diving, parasailing and other ocean watersports, get a henna tattoo, ride an ATV, and many more. But of course, don’t ever miss to swim in the beach.
We started our day by actually going to the Bolabog beach just to see what’s there and what we found were people trying to convince us to go on an island hopping or do any water sports.
Note: You’ll deal with those people everywhere.
We also decided to go up the hill that turned out to be Mt. Luho. Yes, we just walked all the way up there. But when you get there, you’d have to pay to go up to the viewing area. The view is epic. You can see the entire island up there. It’s totally beautiful and definitely worth the walk.
It was off-peak season when we went there so you can’t really find any algae while swimming in the long beach. Although whether it’s peak season or the other way, you should also check out the Puka Beach. It’s also not as crowded as the long beach. This is perfect for those who’d want to get away from that.
Note: During the summer season, there’s always a lot of algae in the long beach. However, in the Puka beach and other beaches that can be accessed through some resorts, don’t really have those.
You can get a tricycle or a bike to take you there. There are a few local shops that you can find there whether you’re buying food, souvenirs, or other necessities.
One thing we found there was a place that sells drinks and fruit shakes at a high price. Why? You get to use their floaters and stand up paddles for FREE. It was a lil expensive but we were able to bargain and got a lower price. Sometimes you just have to do that while you’re there 😉
We ended our trip in Boracay by experiencing the beach for the last time. Just swimming and enjoying the clear waters are one of those that I’ve always loved in Boracay.
So how did it really transition from the Boracay I grew up with to the Boracay now?
Things became expensive. Yes you get to still find cheap places to stay but food and the rest are getting more and more expensive. The island had been filled with tons of tourists. As I said, we were there during an off-peak season so how much more with the peak season especially during the summer season of the Philippines?
There’s more and more establishments. Back then, you can’t see any of the top fast food chains there. But now, there’s multiple ones. There’s even an actual mall there now.
I’m not saying that it’s totally becoming bad but I guess Boracay became really successful in increasing its tourism value naturally to a point that it became too touristy. I guess I had the attachment because I’ve had so many memories in that island.
Rates / Fare / Expenses:
Thanks to AirAsia‘s promo, my last minute booking for the flights cost me less than $50.
Airfare: (exclusive of VAT & fees)
- Cebu – Kalibo = 1,600 PHP
- Kalibo – Cebu = 600 PHP
Van & Boat: (one way)
- 250 PHP
Fees: (one way)
- Terminal Fee = 100 PHP
- Environmental Fee = 75 PHP
- Hostel Ave. = 650 PHP / head
- W Hostel = 330 PHP / head
Despite all the changes from what it is before to what it is now, I’m still in love with that white sand beach, clear water, and beautiful sunset.
If you’re not from the Philippines, then the trip wouldn’t be really complete without going there. It’s still a must try 😉
Check out this short video of our trip: