Though being one in nearly 7,000 islands of the beautiful Philippines, this tiny island is the most popular tourist attraction there. Every year, a huge number of visitors from all over the world go there to immerse in the crystal seawater, lie on the powdery white sand and enjoy the golden sunshine by the peaceful green coconut palms.
We arrived in Boracay on a September day, just after a storm. Everyone said that we were so lucky because we went there in the rainy season but the weather was still beautiful. Boracay is a tropical island with green coconut palms, a blood red sun, and gorgeous Filipinas dressed in colourful costumes, wearing flowers, dancing on the white sand path; and with various beachside bars and restaurants.
I have visited many entertainment venues in different countries but I was still surprised with how organized the tourism development and management is in the Philippines. When the night falls, coastal restaurants become the most bustling with eye-catching displayed seafood and elaborate Asian style decorations. What the customers need to do is just choose the food and order it to be cooked to their own requirements. Almost every restaurant had their own entertainment show: on one side, they arrange large armrchairs on the sand where Hookah, wine and beer is served. Dancers also entertain guests. While on the opposite side, rock bands wearing Afican braided hairstyles, sing and perform fire dances. There are also bars and hookah stores featuring Asian or Europe design styles stretching along the coast.
There were a lot of tourists, most of them holding beer bottle and drinking while also experiencing the relaxing beauty services offered on the island. These services include traditional Afican hair braiding, henna tattoos and massages. After getting our hair braided and massages on the beach, we dressed up in beautiful, long maxi dresses and put some flowers in our hair. We then chose a bustling restaurant, bought some beers and lobsters at a very affordable price and enjoyed the waves and sea breeze.
People here often start going out at 6pm and have fun until dawn. In the evening, sandcastles are elaborately built and decorated with beautiful lights; you can take pictures and give some money for tips for the builders. These castles are changed every day to match the date, which creates a unique highlight for Boracay. There are a lot of hostels and hotels along the beach; they are small and lovely, featuring traditional Filipino styled architect. The next morning, after leaving central Boracay, we booked a boat tour for about 400,000VND. The price included a tour to 4 islands and a lunch. Boracay brought us a lot of surprises with its crystal blue seawater, and the sea was so clear that we could see fish and corals from the boat. We were then taken to another island for diving and swimming with a school of fish and starfish. There you can go a scuba diving instructor at a much lower price than in Thailand and Vietnam. It’s also possible to go windsurfing and kite boarding, then enjoy a BBQ party on the magnificent beach with fresh fish and seafood. In the afternoon, we went to some caves at Crystal Island where beautiful stairs along the cliffs are made of bamboo, and wooden houses are built in the trees, overlooking the beautiful scenery of Boracay. Exploring deeply into the caves and swimming in the cool water with colourful fish was definitely an unforgettable experience for me.
Filipinos manage and develop tourism in a civilized way: all visitors must pay a tourist fee. People here respect the sea in the same way they respect their religions, so the sea is very clean, beautiful, and has a lot of fish and starfish along the coast. Beaches are decorated with sandcastles. Chairs are decorated with beautiful shells and starfish. Lying on the sand, enjoying a mango shake in the mild sunshine of Boracay made us want to stay there forever.
In the afternoon, when the Boracay sea and sky changed from purple to the crimson of the sun, we sailed to watch the sunset and glide over the waves with the sea breeze. We immersed ourselves in the sea, the blood red sun and white-capped waves. The school of fish sometimes swam past our faces, and we told ourselves that someday, we would definitely come back here with our loved ones.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL?
The period from June to November is often the season of typhoons, and December to May is the ideal time to travel here. However, the weather in the Philippines is very unpredictable, and I chose to go to Philippines in September to celebrate my birthday. Although people said this was the typhoon season, when I went there, a storm had passed the day before, and the weather was very nice. The security situation was quite good because the war zones were very far from the centre.
HOW TO TRAVEL TO BORACAY?
I chose the Cebu Pacific low-cost airline to fly to Manila with the round-trip ticket price in promotion period of around 130USD. The flight time was very early at 1 am. When arriving at Ninoy Aquino Airport in Manila, from the international terminal you have to go to the domestic terminal to fly the domestic flight with the round-trip ticket price of about 100USD in the promotion period, which takes about approximately 1 hour to arrive at Caticlan Airport in Boracay.
The plane used for domestic flights is quite small and lovely, the air hostesses are very nice and enthusiastic. Security check is very tight, and you will be checked many times because of the political situation. From the airport, you can take the tricycle at the price of about 50PHP per person to the dock, where you can purchase all the tickets needed to travel to the island. The three tickets include the environmental fee (75PHP), dock fee (100PHP) and ship ticket price (30PHP). It will take about 20 minutes to arrive on the paradise island. There are many ships; you only need to wait for 5 minutes for the next boat; small boats will depart immediately when there are 20 guests, while the main boat will wait for the time stipulated at the departure schedule. After arriving at the dock, you will need about 50PHP more for a tricycle to the main area of the island.
STAYING IN BORACAY
Boracay has two sides with a long coastline, the east coast is called Bulabog and the west coast is called White Beach. The White Beach, the main area of the island, is about 4 kilometres long and is divided into three zones: Station 1, Station 2 and Station 3. Station 2 is the center with the length of about 2 kilometres and countless bustling restaurants on the island. Station 2 is home to many casual restaurants and hotels. Station 1 and 3 are the places where you will find large resorts, so they are more peaceful.
I wanted to experience all 3 stations, so I stayed at a hostel in Station 2 for the first night. You can find a lot of lovely hotels and hostels there. The next night I stayed at Fairways and Bluewater Boracay Newcoast resort in Station 3, which was a bit far from the center but the hotel had a free shuttle from the resort to D’mall center at Station 2. The resort is very large and beautiful with lots of infinity pools, a private beach, golf course, and playgrounds.
Station 2 is crowded and bustling with restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops stretching along the beautiful beach; there are some unique beauty services such as henna tattooing, hair braiding and massages on the beach for tourists. Anyone who comes here can experience such nice and unique services which cost only from 200PHP each. At Station 2 you can go to D’mall – a shopping and dining complex to buy souvenirs and food.
EATING IN BORACAY
Some fine restaurants that serve delicious food includes restaurants like Smoke Restaurant – serves Filipino food; True Food Restaurant – Serves Indian food; Best Mestizos – serves Spanish food; The Hobbit House – serves Italian and Filipino food.
The food in the Philippines is very good and cheap; you can go to the seafood market in D’Talipapa in Station 3 to buy seafood then pay the restaurant to cook for you, but remember to bargain because people here often overcharge up to 5 times more for each item. Or you can go to restaurants or bars along the beach, they display a lot of fresh seafood with eye-catching decorations to attract visitors. You just need to choose and weigh the seafood, then the chef will cook it the way you like: grilling, steaming, or frying.
Most restaurants have live music and fire dances at the beach. Besides seafood, the specialties here include grilled ribs, stir-fried water spinach, smoothies, juice, and cakes made from mango that are delicious and sold everywhere. Even in 7-Eleven, you can also buy the grilled ribs which are very good and sold at a reasonable price.
THINGS TO DO IN BORACAY
Every day you can buy tours to islands, of which the most famous is the Hopping island tour for about 700PHP (350,000VND); you will be offered a tour to four islands and a buffet at sea. I was very impressed with the scenery on Crystal Cove island, where you could go into caves right into the sea to swim with colorful fish. The boat will also take you to the island to go diving, even without deep diving you can still see a lot of fish and corals. Late afternoon is when Boracay becomes the most gorgeous. The sunset over the sea of Boracay never fails to overwhelm tourists. In the daytime, the sea is a crystal blue colour like the Maldives, and when the night falls, the sea turns into crimson. You can buy a 200PHP boat tour to sail to the sea to watch the sunset.
In Boracay, besides swimming and resting, you can go snorkeling to see coral reefs, or go to Bulabog beach for windsurfing and kiteboarding, or take the tricycles to travel along the island, visit local markets to learn about the lifestyle of local people. Filipinos are very nice and friendly, who will help visitors wholeheartedly; although they slightly overcharge products, it will still be fine if you bargain or even decide not to buy anything. Boracay becomes most vibrant at night with bars, hookah, massages, tattoos and braiding stores. You will see manysand castles beautifully built while walking along the beach. A new sand castle will be built every day with that specific date for visitors to take pictures. I was so lucky to be able to find the castle with my date of birth even though we arrived late at night on my birthday.
Exchange rate: 1 PHP = VND500
It is recommended to exchange money and buy sim cards at Manila airport in order to get the best price.
Hong Anh | Wanderlust Tips