Just when I thought I’d seen everything there is to see in Boracay, I discovered something special. When my friend, Che suggested that we visit Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort & Spa for brunch, I needed no further convincing. Of course, I wanted to see one of the most expensive resorts on the island. If I couldn’t afford to stay there, I could at least eat there and take some photos right?
I know it’s weird that I’m writing about a resort that I only visited for a day, but I can’t help it, it’s so beautiful I must share it with you.
Most luxury resorts on the island, such as Shangri-la, The Lind, and Discovery Shores can be found along Boracay Highway Central. These resorts have private beaches, and their room rates go around Php 7,000 to 50,000 a night.
Around 10 in the morning, we walked toward the main road and hired an e-tricycle to get us to Shangri-la. The driver asked us to pay 200 pesos for a 17-min drive to the resort. He dropped us off at the pick-up point at Shangri-la Boracay where we had to register our names and get our temperature checked. We were then fetched by their service van that took us to the resort.
The moment we alighted from the van, we immediately felt that the vibe here was different. The staff is very attentive and welcoming, and they didn’t make us feel like we were any different from their guests. It reminded me of the time I had a staycation at Shangri-la The Fort, which I remember most for their top-notch customer service. [Check room rates here]
Everything about this resort is stunning, from the beautiful water fountains along the entrance’s corridors, the swimming pools surrounded by coconut trees, the lush garden, the restaurant atop the hill, to their own pristine beach. I have stayed in a few expensive accommodation in my life but nothing comes close to this. Yes, I’m quite impressed and I’m not even a guest. Imagine how this review would sound if I had actually stayed there.
There are four restaurants inside the resort but we were only given two options to choose from, Vintana or Cielo. Vintana is an Asian cafe located on the second level. We checked it out quickly and found that it offers buffet dining. Cielo, on the other hand, offers casual dining; it’s a poolside bar and resto facing Banyungan beach. We chose Cielo because eating brunch in front of the lovely beach cannot be beaten.
My friend and I ordered a salad, a pasta dish, and deep-fried veggie spring rolls. I wasn’t too happy with the salad but I loved the seafood pasta and the spring rolls. Their brewed coffee was very strong and bitter, I couldn’t drink it without sugar. Food and drinks here are pricey, as can be expected; our bill’s total went to about 2,000 pesos just for these.
After eating, we went for a little stroll to take in the picturesque view. Everything just looks magnificent especially when we went to the docking station. The water is so blue and clear it’s surreal.
My friend, Che was very impressed, which says a lot considering she’s working in the hotel industry and has stayed in many high-end resorts and hotels. She said that this is the most beautiful Shangri-la hotel that she has ever seen, even better than the Shangri-las abroad.
I, on the other hand, felt like I was walking in a dream. I imagined myself staying there for a few nights, enjoying a drink or two in the bar, swimming in one of those infinity pools and the private beach, waking up in the morning to the breathtaking view of the sea, and getting that much-needed pampering in the spa. I know that staying at Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort and Spa would be expensive, but if I get all these exclusivity and luxury in exchange then I think it’s worth my hard-earned money. Hopefully, when I return to this resort, I’ll be a guest.
Author’s note: Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort and Spa is an exclusive resort. We were only fortunate that during our trip, the resort was open for dining to non-guests. I recommend calling the resort before visiting to confirm if they still allow visitors.
I thought I was done with hostels, not because I’ve gotten rich and snooty but because I’m in my late 30s, I thought it’s time to graduate from staying in a shared room when I travel. But my friend, Che, who joined me on this Boracay trip, is the opposite of me. She’s so used to luxurious accommodation (she works in the hotel industry) that she wanted to try a hostel. I agreed but with a condition that on some days, we would be staying in two hotels of my choice. That’s how I discovered Frendz Resort and Hostel Boracay.
I booked two beds in a shared room, we each paid P2,016 for a 3-night stay. The resort is in Station 1 but not that far from Station 2. It is off the road and a few minutes’ walk from the beach.
There weren’t many guests in the hostel as can be expected as Boracay is only accepting a limited number of tourists for now. We were greeted by their smiling staff who seemed to be genuinely happy that we were there. And I’d like to especially mention one of them, Robin, who has been such a darling. He was always smiling and whatever we asked, he would provide to us graciously.
The hostel sits in a secluded lot with a lush garden, a small swimming pool, and a bar and restaurant. It is surrounded by nipa-hut-like cottages. The restaurant is my favorite spot in this hostel, it’s just so cozy that Che and I liked hanging out there.
They upgraded us to a deluxe double room, which means that the original intention for staying in this hostel was not realized. I couldn’t help but laugh at Che; so much for wanting to try a hostel. But she didn’t seem to mind that we were upgraded, in fact, she was excited about it. [Check room rates here].
Our room is air-conditioned (some rooms only have fans), a queen bed, its own bathroom and toilet, a small old fridge, and a CRT (cathode ray tube) TV, yes, the one that has a thick case on the back. Che likes watching TV, I don’t.
The bed is big and comfy, the mattress a bit firm. On our first night, Che and I both slept on this bed but she said that she’s no longer used to sharing a bed with someone that she couldn’t sleep. Thus, she requested another mattress from the staff so she could sleep on the floor. I didn’t really mind having the big bed for myself, but still, I had a hard time sleeping. It’s not because I didn’t like the bed, in fact, it is quite comfortable, it’s just that my friend turned the thermostat of the a/c down to 17°C that I spent our nights there suffering from the cold. Imagine me wearing socks, tossing and turning on the bed, hardly getting any sleep. I love my friend but I think it’s best that we stay in two different rooms on our next trip, lol.
The WiFi is not the best as it lags a little, but overall, it worked okay. Having said that, it may not be the best place for working remotely. The Internet tends to become slow when there are more people around, and the hostel is not even fully booked.
By the way, people come to the restaurant for the siomai. We didn’t know why at first until we tried it. They both have chicken and pork siomai but the former is the one that you should try as it’s really good. It’s only 20 pesos for 3 pieces. Hanging out there to drink is a nice experience as well. I just wish I’d seen this hostel pre-covid days, I imagine it would be a lot of fun if there were more guests around.
Generally, my feedback for this hostel is positive. The place is clean and cozy, the rates are cheap, and the staff is among some of the best people I’ve met. I told Che prior to this trip that if I didn’t like this hostel, I’d move to another hotel. But we ended up staying there for the whole four days that we booked, which should already tell you that Frendz Resort and Hostel is worth it.
Having gone to Boracay six times, I wondered what else is there for me to see on the island. But we are now living in a different time, and by that I mean there is still a pandemic, thus changing the conditions to the way we travel. I’ve seen Boracay in its prettiest, dirtiest, and in my 2019 trip, exceedingly congested state. What I haven’t experienced is Boracay without the crowd of tourists. I figured if I go there in this pandemic when only local tourists are allowed to visit, I might be able to see the island in a new light, and that’s exactly what happened.
I had reservations, of course, COVID is still around and a great majority are yet to get vaccinated. But I haven’t been able to travel for one full year that my body was itching to escape the four corners of my house in which I’d been sleeping and working since the enhanced community quarantine. Traveling in this pandemic, however, takes so much effort. Everything is stricter and there are extra steps that you need to undertake. So let’s begin with those requirements.
Complete the travel requirements
Before the pandemic, you can easily book a one-way trip to Boracay. This time, you need to book your return flight as well. This will be submitted to their tourism office along with the other requirements. All flights to Boracay go to Caticlan, meaning, you shouldn’t select Kalibo during your flight booking.
The second thing you need to present is the confirmation hotel booking from DOT-accredited hotels or resorts.
Proof of Identity with Philippine Residency
As Boracay is only open to local tourists, you need to present an ID that proves you live in the Philippines, such as a passport, UMID, driver’s license, etc.
Health Declaration Card
Negative RT-PCR Tests
Also known as a COVID test, you should include a certificate of a negative RT-PCR test result at least 72 hours before your flight to Caticlan. I got mine from the Philippine Red Cross. You may book a swab test through their website for 3,800 pesos. Results are released within 12 to 24 hours via email.
Unlike the antigen rapid test that I took to stay at Shangri-la The Fort, the RT-PCR test is quite an uncomfortable experience. For one, they used a much bigger cotton swab, which they inserted way up high in my nose that a tear trickled down my cheek. They also swabbed another cotton down my throat making me gag and cough. Both procedures were quick but they were really terrible.
There are other clinics/hospitals where you can get the RT-PCR test, such as St. Lukes, Cardinal Santos, and Hi-Precision. Some even provide home service. Rates can go between 3,800 to 10,000 depends on where you’re taking the test and how fast you want to get the results. The Philippine Red Cross swab test is one of the cheapest options out there and it is also quite reliable so I recommend it.
How to submit the requirements
After completing the requirements, the next step is to submit them via email at email@example.com with the email subject: OHDC-Family Name, First Name. If you are staying in different hotels like me, make sure to include all booking confirmation from those hotels in your email.
They will review the documents and once validated, you will receive a link to the QR code that you will be using during your time in Boracay. You can either print a copy of the QR code or save a screenshot of it on your phone. You need to show this at the NAIA airport, Caticlan airport, and Boracay Jetty Port terminal. Some hotels and establishments in Boracay will also ask for this QR code so keep a copy with you at all times.
Originally, AirAsia flights to Boracay can be found at NAIA Terminal 4. But due to the pandemic, T4 has been closed. As of this writing, all flights are taken in Terminal 3. Ensure to check this information before going there as this situation might change by the time you take the trip.
The preparation doesn’t end there. I booked my flight via AirAsia and did an online check-in. However, they asked me for a printed copy of my travel itinerary as I was about to enter the boarding gate. Obviously, I didn’t have a printed copy because I checked-in through the airline’s mobile app. I had no choice but to go back to the check-in counter to have my travel itinerary printed.
So my advice is, if you are doing an online check-in, print a copy of the travel itinerary.
Another thing to keep in mind is that AirAsia is strict about the 7kg baggage limit. They are especially strict in Caticlan airport where my friend and I had to pay 1,100 pesos for our excess baggage. I can’t speak for Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines restrictions but if you are flying AirAsia, either you bring something that doesn’t exceed 7kg or include baggage allowance during your flight booking.
Caticlan airport has an organized way of accepting visitors. As you enter the airport, they will scan your temperature, write it down on a piece of paper, and give it to you. Next, you need to fall in line at the counters that review the tourist’s requirements. Submit the piece of paper with your temperature to the staff, then have your ID and QR code ready as they will ask for them as well.
Outside the airport, if you did not avail of a pre-arranged transport, you can take an e-tricycle across the street. Some locals can easily pinpoint the location to you, it’s just a few minutes’ walk from the airport. The price per head is only 50 pesos to get to the jetty terminal.
Unlike in Manila where you should wear a face mask and a face shield when you go out, you’re free to go about with just a face mask in Boracay. Note, however, that the face shield is still required in Caticlan airport.
Boracay night scene
The night scene is not as thriving as it once were and there is a curfew of 1:30 a.m. We spotted a few bars with people, but they weren’t as crowded as the Boracay of bygone years. It made me feel sorry for the bands because they didn’t have a lot of audiences to perform for.
Although I missed partying in Boracay, I can honestly say that this may be the most enjoyable Boracay trip I’ve ever had. It may have something to do with the fact that this is my first trip since the pandemic. But I think the biggest factor is that there weren’t a lot of tourists to share the island with. I kid you not, I’ve had several Boracay trips in which I didn’t go for a swim at all. This time, I had a grand time swimming on the beach and all the swimming pools I could find.
When you go to Boracay, one of the things you need to deal with are the locals offering their services, e.g., island hopping tours, hair braiding. I’m used to simply ignoring them but they seemed to have grown in number and are more persistent now that there are fewer tourists visiting the island. My friend, Che, who went with me on this trip is more courteous. She would take the time to politely decline them. I asked her why she had to talk to them, wouldn’t ignoring them be an easier option? She said that she didn’t want to hurt their feelings. She knows how they feel as she’s working in an industry that involves dealing with people.
I must say that hearing her say this gave me a moment of realization. I have been acting like a prick all this time and I didn’t even know it. And so after that, whenever I could, I would answer back to the vendors to politely decline their offers. I turned them down because this is my seventh time on the island, I had already tried Boracay tourist activities.
In my next posts, I’ll provide reviews of the resorts where we stayed, the restaurants where we ate, as well as the most beautiful spot that I’ve ever visited in Boracay. For now, kindly watch my Boracay vlog on my YouTube channel (the same one I posted above this post).