This article was originally published in August 2013 and updated in March 2020
The island of Boracay in the Philippines is a haven for beach lovers, beloved for its sparkling, soft sand edged by striking blue water and lush groves of swaying palm trees. With more than a dozen beaches scattered around the island there are plenty of spots to soak up the sun, as well as crystal clear snorkeling spots and adrenaline-fuelled adventures including kiteboarding, cliff jumping and parasailing. Its laid back vibe and relative affordability has left so many visitors taken by the island, that it’s not uncommon to come across expats who came for a quick visit and became so enamoured they ended up moving here!
It’s popularity and commercialism (yes, Starbucks and McDonald’s are here) has come at a price, with the government being forced to cut off Boracay travel in 2018 due to environmental damage caused from over tourism. It has since reopened, and there are now a number of regulations in effect to protect this tiny slice of paradise.
Here’s what you need to know to plan your Boracay itinerary, from scoping out the best beach spots to fun day trips around the island.
How to get to Boracay from Manila
There are no direct flights to the island, so getting to Boracay means flying into Caticlan Airport or Kalibo which is a bit farther away but often has cheaper flights. You can travel to Boracay by flying from Manila or Cebu, which takes about one hour on what’s usually a very small plane. You’ll then head to the Caticlan Jetty Port (walk or take a tricycle), and hop in a boat for the 20 minute ride over to Boracay. Some hotels will pick you up on the other side; otherwise you’ll have to hire another tricycle to transfer you to your accommodations.
There are usually a number of men gathered around the airport or jetty who will grab your bag for you without asking and carry it, then demand payment. Keep in mind you’re not moving far, so you might want to politely tell them you’ll carry it yourself if you want to save a few bucks. Another option is to pre-book your transfers from Caticlan or from Kalibo to avoid any headaches or haggling. Click to book
A vacation here is all about spending long days relaxing outside or playing in the water, so its no surprise all of the Boracay attractions are focused on the beach. One of the most popular places to visit in Boracay is White Beach, which is at the heart of the island and the centre of the action. Resorts, restaurants and bars line the strip, and this four-kilometre stretch features dazzling sand and warm, clear water.
Bulabog Beach is a short walk from White Beach and another busy spot, as it’s the island’s main windsurfing and kiteboarding area. Boracay is considered one of Asia’s top destinations for such sports, thanks to its consistent trade winds which average 12 to 15 knots during the windy season.
Some of the top things to do in Boracay are:
- Diving and snorkeling: Expect to come across plenty of tropical fish, bright coral reefs and starfish, as well as the odd manta ray, shark or turtle.
- Horseback riding: Hop in the saddle and gallop down the beach
- Boracay island hopping: A handful of tiny islands surround Boracay, and you can book a day long boat tour or arrange to get dropped off at one of the secluded sandbars.
- Nightlife: The island is known to get rowdy once darkness falls, with bars and discos serving up cocktails on the beach into the early morning hours.
A must-do to include on your Boracay itinerary is simple: watching the sun go down. The island is famous for its vibrant sunsets which feature such vivid purples and pinks, making it look like cotton candy stretching across the sky. Watch from the comfort of a lounger on the beach, or book a sunset boat cruise for a truly memorable experience.
3 days 2 nights Boracay itinerary
Thanks to its close proximity to Manila and some of the other Philippines islands, it’s possible to enjoy a Boracay trip in as little as two nights. Here’s a suggested itinerary for what to do in Boracay in 3 days:
- Arrive in Boracay, get situated at hotel
- Spend the day relaxing on White Beach (optional activities: watersports like jet skis or parasailing, or take an introductory kite boarding or scuba diving lesson)
- Enjoy free-flowing cocktails during a spirited sunset sailing cruise
- Dine on fresh seafood during dinner at one of the beachfront restaurants
- Nosh on banana pancakes for breakfast–they’re incredible!
- Book a boat tour to explore Boracay’s beaches or explore other islands. This all-inclusive tour heads over to Ariel’s Point which is a popular cliff jumping spot, while this Boracay tour visits Crocodile Island and Puka Beach with lots of time for snorkelling.
- Enjoy happy hour on the beach while watching the sunset
- Check out of your hotel
- Head to one of the other Boracay beaches you haven’t had a chance to visit yet, like Station 1, Station 3, Diniwid or Bulabog Beach which are all very close to White Beach
- Grab lunch at D’Mall before starting your trip back to the airport
Book a Boracay tour
Many of the activities you’ll want to include on your Borneo itinerary can be booked in advance or as part of a Boracay tour package, including a jet ski experience, an underwater helmet dive and even a scenic helicopter flight. Here are a few more to consider:
Where to stay in Boracay
When it comes to Boracay accommodation options, there’s a huge range to suit all budgets, from cheap hostels to ritzy resorts like the Shangri-La which boasts private beachfronts and an infinity pool. A few other Boracay accommodation options include:
- Coast– This hotel is a tropical dream, both inside and out. The swanky, whitewashed decor looks like something straight out of Miami’s South Beach, and the uber-trendy property boasts a fabulous swimming pool–not that you’ll need it, since Coast is located right on White Beach. Guests rave about the five-star service and fantastic dining. Read a full review here. Click here to book
- Astoria Current– This bright and inviting property is one of the top-ranked Boracay hotels, with plenty of fun touches in the individually-designed rooms decorated with pops of colour. The Astoria Current has a great beachfront location, a pool with lounge chairs that go right into the water, and is popular with families. Click here to book
- Dave’s Straw Hat Inn– The backpacker crew loves this budget friendly option, located just a few minute’s walk from the beach. Staff go above and beyond for guests, and the inn gets top marks for cleanliness. Click here to book
White Beach in Boracay, Philippines / Unsplash
Practicalities for Boracay travel
Currency: The Philippine Peso (PHP), but American dollars are also widely accepted
The best time to go to Boracay: Boracay is very hot between March and June, while July through October is considered the rainy season with the occasional monsoon. October through December can be cooler, but December is still a popular time for tourists escaping to the beach for Christmas.
Need to know: Regulations to combat the devastating impacts of over tourism are now in place, including:
- You must show a hotel reservation for an accredited government hotel that has had its sewage system signed off on
- Powered watercrafts like jet skis must be in a designated zone at least 100 metres offshore
- Drinking on the beach is now banned, as are umbrellas, beach beds, single-use plastics like straws, and pets. Oh, and building an unregulated sandcastle (seriously).
- Do not litter (ever!) or BBQ on the sand
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