The Philippines may not be on the radar for those trekking through Southeast Asia, due to its location off of Asia’s mainland. The result is an unforgettable experience for those who do make the trip to this incredible group of islands, which feature stunning coastlines, white sand beaches, calm lagoons, jungles, and unique wildlife both below the clear waters and above.
One of the most popular places in the whole country is beautiful Boracay, a favourite of both tourists and Filipino celebrities. It’s not uncommon to see expats who were so taken with the island while visiting, that they decided to stay forever. Famous for its sparkling, soft sand highlighted by striking blue water and bright green palm trees, the island has a laid-back vibe that is perfect for those looking to get away from it all. The best part? It’s cheap once you arrive!
To get there, you’ll have to fly into Caticlan Airport on what will likely be a tiny plane. That’s an experience in itself, if you’re not a good flyer to begin with! The journey from Manila or Cebu takes about one hour, and after touching down you’ll shuffle through into a small waiting area to get your bags before heading out to the boat jetty. You’ll have to haggle with a tricycle driver for the five minute drive (or you can simply walk), then will end up at the jetty to take you across the ocean to Boracay. That leg of the trip takes about 20 minutes, and costs about $5. When you get to the other side, you might be picked up by your hotel, or will have to hire yet another tricycle to drop you off.
It’s important to note that there are usually a number of men gathered around 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, thank you very much!
I stayed at the beachfront Arwana Hotel, which is an affordable option, but not glitzy. To be honest, you likely won’t spend much time in your room while in Boracay, so this is a good option for those trying to save a few bucks. The staff were incredibly friendly, knew our names before we even checked in, and were happy to bring us incredible cocktails on the beach all day long—for only about $2 each! The restaurant downstairs also has incredible food, so that’s a good bonus. There are many other lodging options on the island, ranging from cheap hostels to ritzy resorts like the Shangri-La.
There are a number of ways to pass the time, including lounging around on sun-soaked White Beach, wandering down the long stretches of sand to pop into a bar for a drink to cool off, hopping on a sailboat or trying your luck at kite surfing. Most watersports can be booked through your hotel, or by approaching one of the vendors on the beach. There are also tiny islands that surround Boracay, so you can book a trip to take you island hopping, or get a boat to drop you off at one of the secluded sandbars. There is also horseback riding and world-class diving facilities. There are few places in the world you will see such stunning underwater life, so take advantage of it even if you just head out to snorkel. Expect to come across plenty of tropical fish, bright coral reefs and starfish, as well as the odd manta ray, shark or turtle.
Finally, the highlight of any stay in Boracay is simple: watching the sun go down. The island is famous for its vibrant sunsets which feature such vivid purples and pinks, it looks like cotton candy dotting the sky! Watch from the comfort of a lounger on the beach, or for a truly memorable experience take it in from a sail boat at dusk.
Currency: The Philippine Peso (PHP), but American dollars are also widely accepted
When to go: Boracay is 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.
Must try: Banana pancakes—don’t ask me why, but the Philippines does them best!
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