The Philippines has been on my to-go list for quite some time. When I was researching where to go, Boracay seemed to be one of those places I couldn’t quite get my head round. Just type “Philippines” into Instagram and you can bet that the majority of the pictures will be of the pristine white sands and turquoise water of White Beach, Boracay. Yet, head on to any travel forum and you’ll hear gripes about how it is “too touristy”, “too commercialised” and “not like it was in the 70s.”
I was not even in the womb in the 70s, so I had no chance to ever experience the untouched beauty of Boracay. But now, in 2016, I’m living within a 3-hour flight of the infamous party island. Maybe there are McDonalds and Starbucks now, but could I really turn down the chance to see this beach paradise for myself?
When I arrived at the ferry terminal after touching down at Caticlan Airport, I was so surprised to see that the sea really was turquoise- just like in all the pictures I had previously lusted over on Instagram. I was greeted with smiles as soon as I got off the boat, and tricycle drivers who didn’t want to completely rip me off! I knew from then that Boracay and I were going to be friends. I am so glad that I decided to see Boracay for myself. Yes, there probably are more secluded beaches that are just as beautiful. But, if you do some research, stay away from Station 2 (more on that later) and plan your trip sensibly, you can definitely have a relaxing stay in Boracay without a single Big Mac meal in site. Here are my picks of the Best of Boracay.
Best Place to Stay
The famous White Beach is the quintessential image of Boracay. The beach is divided into 3 stations; Station 1, 2 and 3. We stayed in Station 3, and I’m glad that we did! Station 2 is the main entertainment hub of Boracay and it’s where you’ll find the majority of the bars, restaurants (and tourist traps) on the island. Just a 10-minute walk away is Station 3- an equally beautiful stretch of beach, minus the chaos. And minus the premium. Station 3 is not as sought after an area as it’s nearby neighbours, so you can expect to find high-quality accommodation for a fraction of the cost. You can also find peace and quiet when you want it. I doubt that the same can be said for Station 1 or 2.
Best Place for Budget Eats
Ok, so now is the time to eat my words. Although Station 2 is not somewhere I would like to stay or even hang out for a long period of time I must give it credit where credit is due. One thing that Station 2 does do well is catering for eating on a budget. A place that I unexpectedly really liked was D Mall, which is an open air shopping area which contains a wide array of restaurants. I expected an air conditioned mall with a big food court but I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of options and also the boardwalk like atmosphere. During our stay, we ate at Smoke Restaurant which serves a huge variety of Filippino dishes for under 200 pesos. (3GBP/4USD) A bargain for the generous portions they serve. I had the coconut fish curry which I would definitely recommend. We also ate at Spice Bird which is a Portuguese style chicken restaurant- think Nando’s but with a bit more character. This was also easy on the pocket- a half chicken only sets you back 295 pesos (4.5GBP/6.10USD) although I must say, the portions weren’t quite as generous as what we got at Smoke’s (or even what you would find at Nando’s.) But still, for the taste and quality, it was definitely good value for money.
Best Place for Happy Hour
Boracay has an extremely lengthy Happy Hour and I definitely wasn’t complaining. Many bars are serving half price, or buy one get one free drinks and cocktails from as early as 2 pm until as late as 8 pm. One of the bars that offers one of the most generous Happy Hours is Bei Kurt und Magz, a cosy German-owned bar and restaurant on Station 3. I really liked the fact that this bar had a totally different vibe from the rest of the bars that line the strip. I also REALLY liked the fact that they had 40 peso caipirinhas! (60p/0.85USD) And because their Happy Hour is so long, it’s the perfect place for sunset drinks, lunchtime drinks and even pre-game drinks!
Best Place for Sunset
So if Boracay is on your bucket list and you’re anything like me, you’ll definitely be familiar with Boracay’s sunsets from good old Instagram creeping! No matter where you are on the island, you’re bound to be within walking distance of a beautiful sunset spot. Of all the sunsets we saw in Boracay, my favourite has to be the sunset from Wahini Bar on Diniwid Beach. This place is a bit of a mission to get to but totally worth it. Think beanbags, ambient chilled out music, 2 for 1 cocktails and a completely unrivalled sunset. The perfect place to kick back and refuel before heading out for the night!
Best of the Rest
Unfortunately, due to poor weather conditions, our plans to visit Pukka Shell Beach and Bullabog Beach fell through. These beaches are much less developed than the famous White Beach and I’m sure would have a much more chilled out vibe. Definitely worth checking out if you have a few days in Boracay.
In terms of activities on the island, we did an island hopping and snorkelling tour by catamaran. While this was fun, I would skip it if Boracay isn’t the only stop on your trip. The snorkelling conditions weren’t great and the scenery you’ll see on the boat isn’t really varied enough to make it worth your 3 hours. Another activity we did was Parasailing at sunset. At 1050 pesos (15GBP/22USD) per person for 15 minutes, it’s certainly not the most budget friendly activity. I felt that a lot of the activities offered in Boracay could be done at any beach resort in the world, be it in Lanzarote or Tenerife…. Although they’re a great way to pass the time, they can seriously drain your budget. There are much more interesting and worthwhile activities to spend your money on elsewhere in the Philippines- save your pennies for those ones. And while you’re in Boracay my advice would be to relax, grab a lounger, a yummy drink, a good book and spend your days chilling out, dipping in the sea and appreciating one of the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever see. If you get ants in your pants at the thought of that then there is definitely a better-suited place for you in the 7107 islands of the Philippines! Boracay is undoubtedly the most perfect beach I’ve ever seen and I would definitely be happy just ogling over her for days! A true beauty queen you need to see for yourself.
Have you visited Boracay? If so, what were your thoughts? Can you look past the commercialisation on the island? Was she beautiful enough for you to go back for more? Is Boracay on your travel bucket list? Tell me why in the comments below 🙂