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Boracay, a small island in the Visayas region of the Philippines, is rated one of the top beach destinations across the globe. We had high expectations about Boracay and feared it would be a let down after all the hipe but Boracay is Boracay and I don’t think anybody could resist falling in love with this place if you’re looking for a good atmosphere and nightlife. We had been warned that it was incredibly touristic and busy so we expected it to be buzzing with westerners but in fact the majority of the tourists were Filipinos themselves or Asians or westerners with filipino women. There was a fair share of westerners but nothing compared to other touristic island destinations we had previously visited like the southern islands in Thailand and Sihanoukville in Cambodia, where it’s taken over by ‘white’ people.
The locals took pride in keeping their beaches clean, smoking is prohibited with a 1000 peso fine and it’s even illegal to remove sand from the beach.
It was a short drive from the port into White Beach, the main strip with all the restaurants and bars. Along the way we were surprised to see they were all locals living their lives away from tourists in underdeveloped houses with sari sari stores in every household. We had bumped into a lady working as an information guide at the port who kindly accompanied us to a budget accommodation after explaining we were looking for something cheap, because Boracay is far from being cheap. She took us to see a lady who owned a few rooms just a minute from the beach front behind Blue Dawn hotel in Station 3 and haggled for the price we were happy with, including less because the toilet didn’t flush so we agreed to an even lower price (550 pesos per night).
White Beach is sectioned into three areas, Station 1 where you find the bigger beach clubs, expensive resorts and a few restaurants, Station 2 which has luxury resorts, hostels and the majority of restaurants and bars and Station 3 which also has resorts, and less popular restaurants and bars. All stations are on the beach front lined with restaurants allowing visitors to dine at tables and lie on loungers under coconut trees on the beautiful white sand. On the road behind the beach is where you find some hotels and restaurants amongst the locals, so even though it is a very developed location you can always choose to visit the local regions if you wish.
In Station 2 there are many shops and restaurants in an area called D*Mall. Shop after shop selling souvenirs and I Boracay t-shirts
Prices on this island are higher than other Asian countries we have been to and other regions of the Philippines but in actual fact it is still cheap and reasonable. BBQ buffet dinners are popular on the beach front, costing only 395 pesos each (£5.88) so we indulged at Crown Regency one night. Seafood restaurants displaying their fish and crustaceans were popular also. You can find cheaper meals around D*Mall. We ate for 251 pesos (£3.77) together at a chicken diner!
Diving is available and quite popular here, offering a ship wreck and a plane wreck dive at 30 metres for certified people. It is a popular destination for water activities such as parasailing, sailing, island hopping tours for snorkelling, banana boats, jet skis and more, plus land activities such as dune buggie tours and quad biking. Ever dreamed of being a mermaid? The best and funniest activity I saw advertised was ‘learn how to swim like a mermaid’ which offered snorkelling and scuba diving or a private lesson on how to use the pictorial fin, and yes you wear an actual mermaid tail!
Don’t expect to go for a quiet walk without being repeatedly asked if you want to book a tour, have a massage, hair braids or henna or have diiiiiner (like they say) in a high pitched voice in harmony. It had been years and years since we had got a henna tattoo done so we both got one for fun. One thing they don’t do here in comparison to Thailand and Cambodia as such is say ‘special price for you’.
We spent most of our days enjoying White Beach with its divine white sand, pristine clear waters and coconut tree back drop.
Unfortunately areas of the beach had a thick layer of seaweed on the shore line, ruining the clarity of the water but it was still crystal clear about 2 metres from the shore. A few metres away from the shore was a shrine located on a rock in the sea, named Willy’s Rock. Visitors would go up to the Virgin Mary statue and say their prayers.
The beach wasn’t very busy during the day, allowing you to have your space, but at around 4pm it got busier and we believe it is because the tours finish by then and it is cooler. Like all places we have been to, the tide goes out slowly during the course of the day, leaving green seaweed behind at the shore. Locals rake the shores to clear the seaweed and catch the small fish among it.
Local men clearing the seaweed Local women searching for small fish among the seaweed
Sunset time is the busiest time of the day at the beach, when you find many people sitting watching the sun set and see the majority of selfies and ‘sun holding/kissing’ photos.
Young local boys took time to build ‘I love Boracay’ sand sculptures so
tourists could take photos with it and earn a little bit of cash.
Jonahs, a smoothie bar, right on the beach was popular. Their smoothies were pretty good and the owners brother, originally from Legazpi, took a liking to us and even asked for a photo.
The evenings for me are the best. There is so much choice for restaurants and bars that you will not get bored, especially with all the fire performances there are at specifics venues. It’s not so much fire acts like elsewhere, where they throw fire around and play fire limbo, it’s more of a little dance routine which is really entertaining to watch, over and over again. Then you find vendors selling lit up plastic versions for visitors to learn, we obviously bought one.
Fire performances at Aplaya Shisha time at Globy
Many of the bars offered Shisha, some which would light up, with a choice of around 15 flavours. Every night we would end up at one of these bars such as Globy or Aplaya.
One of the nights a Deejay played on stage in a private cornered off area in front of Epic bar, blasting good tunes and laser beam lights with a big screen behind the deejay. As the barrier was merely a metre high everyone passing by could enjoy the event also. There were ample amounts of lady boys walking the streets, working behind bars, restaurants and tours and would stand inconspicuously by the side of the walkway trying to pick up men. Every night we would pass them sat on the side of the beach front.
During the five days we spent there they had their 9th Boracay International Dragon Boat competition which took part over two days and a 5K and 10K race one morning. As I mentioned, you don’t get bored in Boracay.
Puka beach situated in Yapak, a local region within Boracay, was just a 20 minute tricycle ride away. Yapak with shacks, sari sari stores and a school is passed in the way. The beach was mainly broken up shells not sand with palm trees lining the entire beach.
Beach stalls on the sides at the entrance of the beach sold souvenirs made locally from shells.
The sea was a little rough that day but this beach was more quiet than White Beach, with bamboo sun loungers and a few small restaurants/bars. This beach is meant to be one of the best beaches, but even though we appreciated it we did not think it was one of the best. To our surprise in the afternoon we notice a vast amount of large bats flying above us, flying out from a small mountain and circling the area before heading back. At first we thought they were birds considering their size and then noticed the shape of their wings. There must have been thousands!
Bats flying above at Puka Beach Puka Beach
Our 7:25am flight to Cebu meant leaving our place at 5am to make our way to Caticlan and it took us exactly one hour to do so. Tricycles start very early and there were various around at this time of day. It was a ten minute tricycle ride to the port and then a ten minute ferry cross. Tricycles were waiting for passengers on the other side and it didn’t even take five minutes to get to the small airport. Here, like both ferry ports also charged a terminal fee, apparently because it is privately owned.
It was funny to see how many bottles of sand had been confiscated at the security check at the airport. I’m glad this time I didn’t take some with me and bought a sand bottle keying instead.