I had this thought, prior to this trip that Boracay may just be overrated, no thanks to my favorite travel companions whose refusal to take this trip made me feel like I’ve just asked them to watch a Justin Bieber concert. It made me wonder if Boracay is too mainstream to merit a consideration. Still, I found myself wanting to perceive the logic behind its popularity. In Lenten season we hear local celebrities go on and on about their plans to hit Boracay, in a tone that seems to me, sends a subliminal message that says, “I’m so cool I am going to Boracay while you, the uncool peeps, have to be at home with nothing to do but have a 7th Heaven-, or an Eat Bulaga-holy week special-marathon, or worse, wait for any of your neighbors to give you porridge from their pa-caridad.” Years of being told where these celebs go when the lord is dead gave me curiosity, which eventually turned into an itch. And what better way to cure an itch but to scratch it; and this summer, I did. Last March 19th, I have come to understand why Boracay is considered by many, a paradise.
Boracay can be found in the northwest tip of Panay Island, Western Visayas region in the Philippines. It is part of Aklan province. Boracay is famous for its stretch of powdery white-sand beaches and a thriving nightlife. There are different versions as to why it’s called “Boracay”. Some say that it was derived from the word “borac,” which means white cotton, another version claims that the name came from locals words, “bora,” which means bubbles and “bocay,” which means white. [Book via Agoda]
How to Get There
There are easy but expensive (air), long and affordable (sea), and long, tedious, but cheap (land) options to reach Boracay. Airlines, such as Air AsiaZest, Cebupac, Tigerasia, and Philippine Airlines offer flights, from Manila to Kalibo or Caticlan. The Kalibo way entails another two-hour land travel to Caticlan Jetty Port where boat rides are offered to take you to the island. The Caticlan way is much easier as it only requires a few minutes-worth of tricycle ride to the port.
If flying makes you antsy, you can travel by sea via MBRS shipping lines, 2Go Travel (formerly Super Ferry), WG&A, or Negros Navigation. Sea travel takes about 9 to 10 hours.
The cheaper but the most difficult alternative is by land. It begins with a bus travel from Cubao to Batangas, followed by a RoRo trip to Calapan, Mindoro. Another two to three hours land travel to Roxas Port ensues, followed by a RoRo trip to Caticlan port.
We took the easier option; a round trip flight via Air AsiaZest.
To help us get to the island, we hired the services of Southwest Tours Boracay. Since we touched down at Kalibo airport, we were welcomed and guided by the orange shirt-clad personnel of Southwest. Upon confirming our identities, we were given name tags and tickets that served as our passes to their transport services. We were fetched by a coaster and had a two-hour travel to Caticlan. From Caticlan Jetty Port, we had a 10-minute boat ride to cross the sea. As soon as we docked, the ever reliable orange-clad personnel of Southwest led us to the van that took us to the beach. The trip took us about 30 minutes.
There are cheaper transfer options in Boracay but if you want a convenient and smooth trip then I highly recommend to get the services of Southwest Tours. Their personnel are well-coordinated, they have better transport vehicles, and they treated us like VIPs.
We booked our stay at Boracay Peninsula, a beach-front resort on Station 2. [Click here to read my review of Boracay Peninsula Resort]
There are three stations in Boracay. Station 1 is where you find peace, a finer stretch of sand, upscale resorts, people with better skin and who spoke in straight English. Meaning, this is where you go when you have more money to waste and you desire the peace and quiet. If you require a less crowded place but not willing to spend your life’s savings, then head to the Station 3. This is where you find less expensive resorts and the bulk of foreign tourists. I have come to observe though that the sand in this area is more coarse, there were even some parts where they stopped being white but a light shade of brown, kind of like the sand in Batangas.
Now if socializing or partying is your game then Station 2 is for you. This is where you can find an array of shops, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and people ready to have a good time. Station 2 is synonymous with fun, which in my opinion is the perfect option for me and my companions.
The sun was about to descend when we arrived at the Grotto, but there was still enough light to take in the scenery. Religious or not, one should visit the grotto and have a photo op with Mama Mary. The goal involves taking this steep flight of steps; take extra caution on your way up.
And then finally, the sunset, it was stunning, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
There are many people who go around, promoting adventures and tour packages to tourists. Water activities such as parasailing, kayaking, helmet diving, scuba diving, among others can cost you from 600 to over 3,000 bucks. There are also land activities such as ATV, zip line, buggy cart, etc. Normally I’d inject some action whenever I travel but I skipped them all in Boracay. Well, not all, I agreed to do island hopping. Our female guide, a dark-skinned woman who seemed to be in her late 40s fetched us from the resort at around 8 in the morning and led us on a long walk to Station 3 where the boats are docked. For this island-hopping activity, we each paid PHP 500 (USD 9.89). [Read: Boracay Adventures that are Bang for the Buck]
After like 15 minutes, we reached the Crocodile Island, a place for snorkeling. It is named so because the rock formation on this island is shaped like a crocodile. Admittedly, it was not as beautiful as the snorkeling sites in Coron. It didn’t help that the waves were big and heavy waves so I opted to sit out the snorkeling.
What I was excited about was reaching Puka Beach. It’s the island most favored and recommended by my friends who had been to Boracay. It is named after the puka shells that the natives gather from this island, which they turn into accessories.
The place is not crowded, the white sand was littered with stones, sea weeds, leaves and twigs, and broken corals. We picked the most secluded part of the island and indulged on a photo shoot. The fact that the place had few people worked to our advantage. [Puka Beach’s 2 Must-See Areas, Things To Do and The Best Times To Visit]
As soon as the sun retired, we were back on the beach to experience the famous Boracay night scene. The huge umbrellas that were folded in the morning were opened at night. Restos and bar set up tables and chairs by the seashore where people can dine al fresco.
Boracay at night is a ground for artistic and talented individuals. There are the live bands in some restaurants, the fire dancers, and the artists who paint shirts on the spot. Aside from henna tattoo, there are also some stalls that offer hair braids, threading, and hair wrap services.
Few hours after our dinner we went out again to have some drinks at Le Bar where I had a glass of margarita. While the rest went on to their respective businesses, Arline and I decided to enjoy the night by taking a long walk to Station 1. The walk led us to Guilly’s where we stayed for a few hours, enjoyed some bottles of Tanduay Ice, talked, and danced with some people. When we went back to the resort I was drunk and I have got to be the happiest drunk there is. I have never felt so relaxed and free in my life. I loved Boracay at night as much as I do at daytime.
Say you’ve forgotten to bring your sunblock, you’ve ran out of underwear or bathing suit, or I don’t know, maybe you want to go rock climbing, well all you have to do is to go the D’Mall in Station 2. It’s a one-stop shop for everything that we urban people need to live; it has bar and restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, grocery, etc. There are other interesting spots in D’Mall including rock climbing and the mini Ferris wheel.
As for the food there’s lots of them. If you are a big eater, you can try the buffet, usually served at night. Or you can have your food ala-Dampa style wherein you can pick the seafood that you want and have them cooked to whatever dish that you like.
For the restaurants I recommend you try Island Chicken Inasal where you can find the best chicken inasal and their most savory dish, kansi; Jonah’s Milkshake for that uberlicious choco-peanut milkshake, and Real Coffee and Tea Café for the calamansi muffin. [Click here to read my review of Real Coffee and Tea Café]
I didn’t know how much I’d been faking wellness until I’d taken this trip. I couldn’t think clearly, my head was always cloudy, even my vision has become blurry. This is probably one of the main reasons I enjoyed my time in Boracay. Not only is it lovely, the island has given me that much needed intermission from the rigors of my daily life.
In Boracay, I learned the art of appreciating simple pleasures, like the feel of cold powdery sand on my feet, hearing and seeing people of all races who are clearly having a good time, appreciating the beauty of the slow descent of the sun in the horizon, savoring that chocolatey-peanut taste of that famous Jonah’s milkshake, marveling at the skills of the fire dancers, and even just sitting by the beach, being alone with my thoughts. I have been given a break in a beautiful place, what more could it be but a blessing.
Update: (2017) To date, I have been to Boracay 3 times and each time I go back, I discover something new. So if you want to read more about this beautiful islands, here’s a list of all my Boracay related articles:
- Review: Boracay Peninsula Resort
- Cheap Accommodation In Boracay Station 2
- Why the Rich People Stay at Luxurious Accommodation – Villa Caipirinha
- A Great Non-Beachfront Accommodation – Azalea Boracay
- Tips to Enjoy LaBoracay
- Boracay Adventures that are Bang for the Buck