Boracay island, The Philippines
Boracay has been voted one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and therefor attract very many tourists. Visiting in high season of course have the disadvantages of even more people.
With that said, it really is a beautiful beach, long stretched, white and powdered. The beach is just perfectly shallow for children, and the deeper water is just about close enough for adults to reach it without hassle. The thing that bothered me were the lack of authentic charm and the same shops with typical souvenirs you can find at any beach destination all over the world.
I decided to look past that fact, sit at the beach literally turning my back towards it, and focusing on the magnificent sunset. Colors painted all over the blue canvas backdrop, with some white clouds to make the extra contrasts. Sitting in the sand with drops of salty water slowly running down the chin, the wet hair hanging down at my back, border lining the feeling of cooling down and being too cold. The sight of the sunset still sends waves of happiness through my body (I am crazy about sunsets). Top it with an ice cold beer and good company, it is all you need.
Staying at Villa Romero at Station 3 was a great location. Close enough to walk to most places, far enough from the party noise to get a good night sleep. To make it clear, we were not at Boracay to party all night, we were there to enjoy the beauty and some drinks along the beach. And the new year’s party with fireworks.
If you come to party, it is a great place with a large variety of venues for every desire. From quiet drinks at the beach, to bar hopping, to heavy mad dancing all night.
Street sellers are everywhere, if you sit at the beach they come to you, but they will leave you alone if you tell them no. If you actually need the things they are selling, you should go ahead and buy it. Supply and demand rocks, and you will not get it cheaper anywhere else (in my experience). If you do not have one already, dry bags will probably come in handy later on. Do not expect them to be 100 % waterproof (read: do not drag them under water), but they absolutely do the trick when you get splashed by a wave or have to wade to/from a boat. Trust me, one of the mentioned will most probably happen during your trip.
It is also a good trick for solo travelers so you can bring your valuables when you go for a dip. Trust is a good thing, but sadly not everyone can be trusted.
New Years Eve; we wanted to splurge ourselves with a nice and fancy meal. After all, it is only new years once a year, and it has to be fun, right? This is exactly what I try to run away from every year, though. We ended up with a buffet at a hotel by the beach. Not the most expensive, but by far the cheapest. Afterwards I cursed myself for not remembering that buffets are seldom particularly good. They tend to try to please everyone, ending up quite tasteless. In hindsight we could easily have eaten at a much simpler place and had a much better experience. However, if you want a beach setting, sadly they know how to charge you for it.
At least we left without being hungry for anything else than drinks. Ending up at a quite easy going bar, feet in the sand and happy people walking by, life was quite good. Time was running by fast, and soon it was midnight and time for fireworks. Stocked up with a large bottle of sparkling wine from the local sari-sari shop to share, we were ready to greet the New Year. Exactly a year ago, I promised myself to be at a beach for the next New Year’s, it was so much better than the cramped city life in KL last year!
The Filipinos do know how to put on a firework show. Standing in a long line, not too cramped, along the white beach, we could all watch the fireworks being send up from rafts in the sea.
How long you want to continue the party is up to you. You certainly have the option to make it all through the morning.
Anyway, there is more to Boracay than the beach on the west side. Taking a tricycle to Puka beach, showed us a completely different side of the island. The sand is not as nice, and the waves much more harsh, but the vibe is more relaxing. There are a few beach bars with sunbeds scattered around, and they could probably mix up some food if you get hungry. For the active ones, the locals play frisbee and you are more than welcome to join.
We joined forces with some guys we met there, and continued exploring the island. Arriving at Ilig-Iligan beach, we did not intend to stay too long. Just go for a dip and a quick lunch. There was nothing quick about the lunch though. But, in island paradise there is no rush (except when you have a plane to catch…). When we thought we had waited far too long and started to make jokes among ourselves that they probably had to slaughter the chicken (adobo), they came over and said that they would start cooking. The food was on the table two hours after we ordered, but it was absolutely nice and tasty, and worth waiting for.
Despite the fact that we were running late, we still went through with our plan to go via Mt. Luhu for a great view of the island. The tricycle had a real struggle working it’s way up the steep hill, but the view was rewarding.
The tricycle waited for us and got us back to our hotel just in time for our pick up for the airport…
How to get to Boracay
Boracay is a relatively small island, with no airport. You can either fly into Caticlan (MPH) (sometimes mentioned as Boracay Airport) or to Kalibo (KLO). Flights to Caticlan tend to be a bit more expensive than Kalibo, but from Kalibo to Boracay it takes about 2 hours extra so you can decide yourself how much your time is worth.
Arriving at Caticlan, we were offered a door-to-door package for 600PHP per person. You can also walk right past the mini vans to get a tricycle to the boat terminal and buy the boat ticket and terminal fee there, and then get another tricycle to your accommodation on the other side. We decided time was more worth than money, and went for the easy package. In the end we were waiting quite some time to be picked up, so it probably would have been just as effective to arrange everything by ourselves.
From Boracay to Kalibo we did the same (paying 650PHP per person), but you can easily get a tricycle to the pier and buy the boat+van from there for 250PHP per person operated by CBTMPC Budget Tours. I have no idea about their schedule as it does not say on the web site, but if you need to know in order to plan flight etc, you can contact them. If it is not that crucial, you can ask when you arrive to the quay in Boracay, so you know the details for going back.
Where to eat
Honestly, I was not too impressed with the food I experienced in Boracay. The only place worth mentioning was Smoke. They have good local Filipino cuisine to an affordable price. They have one restaurant inside D-Mall, and one at Bulabog Beach at the other side. As their restaurant in D-Mall was full, they offered to take us for free to Bulabog Beach. We thought it would be great to see a bit more of the island anyway, so it was a win-win. As the weather turned bad and the wind was crazy, we ended up not seeing anything except the restaurant, but still it was enjoyable and we at least got to see some of the back streets along the way.
Where to sleep
We stayed at Villa Romero in Station 3. The rooms were quite small, but clean, and as we spent minimum time there, it was ok.