The small island of Boracay in the Philippines, located south of Manila is a vacationer’s paradise. Just 7km long and 1km across, the island is renowned for its pristine beaches and throbbing nightlife, making it the most popular beach destination in the country. Visitors to the island generally come here to relax on the numerous beaches or indulge in some great water sports. The island began attracting tourists in the 1970s after it was used as filming locations for two popular movies at the time. Writer Jens Peter’s description of the island as “paradise on Earth” in his book in 1978, also set the stage for a greater influx of Western tourists. Tourism swelled rapidly until 1997 when an increase in coliform bacteria saw a sharp decline of visitors. The authorities cleaned up the island and visitors returned. Boracay soon made it to the list of several international travel magazines as a great destination, topping Conde Nast Traveler’s list of ‘Top 10 destinations to watch’ in 2016. However, in April 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of the island for six months so that the island could be restored to its former glory through a massive clean up and renovation drive. It was reopened for visitors in October 2018.
White Beach – The most popular beach on Boracay island is White Beach with its stretch of white powdery sands ringed by palm trees. During the day the beach comes alive with visitors descending on the numerous cafes that line the beach or enjoying adventure sports. The calm waters are also a big draw for visitors. At night the beach path is even busier when the bars come alive and nightlife kicks in. The beach that stretches for 3kms is divided into three parts with each section having its own unique charm.
Station 1 & 2 – The first division of White Beach is the relatively laid back Station 1 on the northwestern end of the beach. This stretch is aptly named ‘Luxury and Space’ as some of the best resorts are found on this wide stretch of beach. Most people come to this end of the beach to enjoy a bit of solitude. Station 2 however, is where all the action is and thus named ‘The Epicenter.’ The area is always bustling with activity more so because the D’mall Plaza is right in the middle of this station. Station 3 which is mostly frequented by budget travelers is the greenest and quietest station.
Ariel’s Point – Ariel’s Point is a great place for ‘adrenaline junkies’ as it is one of the best places for cliff diving. This eco-adventure destination is located off the coast of Boracay near the rustic fishing village of Buruanga. It takes about half an hour by boat from Boracay. This popular day trip is filled with a host of other activities like snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boating, but cliff jumping is undoubtedly the main attraction. There are five different levels that cater to amateurs and professionals, with the highest point being at 15 meters.
Diniwid Beach – About 10 minutes away from Station 1 is this 200meter stretch of heaven. Diniwid Beach is ideal for those who prefer a quieter time as it remains relatively uncrowded for the most part of the year. The white sandy beach is surrounded by lush green hills and tranquil waters. It is also renowned for its beautiful sea-facing resorts.
Bat Caves – Checking out where bats reside is probably not high on most people’s list of things to do but rather surprisingly, a visit to these caves is a popular activity. The caves which are located at the western end of island can be accessed via a short hike through the surrounding forest. The inside of the caves which are inhabited by thousands of bats are also filled with some beautiful stalactites. At sunset, the skyline above White Beach is covered by these winged creatures.
Puka Shell Beach – Another popular beach on the island is the 800m long Puka Shell Beach located on the northern part of the island. The beach derives its name from the Puka shells which at one time used to be found in abundance on the beach. A big cliff with a forest provides the perfect backdrop to this beautiful expanse of sand. If you’re at the beach to relax amidst some peace and quiet then head to the far left of the beach which is always empty. The water, however, is not ideal for amateur swimmers as there is a sudden increase in depth. There’s a lot to do at this beach too like kayaking, paddleboarding or enjoying some time at the restaurants and bars. It’s also a good place to pick up some souvenirs.
Magic Island – For someone with a bit of bravado interested in doing something different, cliff jumping in Boracay is definitely worth trying out. Magic Island a 15-minute boat ride away from Boracay is a one-hour stopover on the island hopping tour. It’s a much cheaper option than Ariel’s Point with similar facilities. Here too boards have been set up at 5 different heights from 3 meters to a maximum height of 10 meters.
Willy’s Rock – Willy’s Rock is one of the most distinctive landmarks in Station 1. The natural volcanic rock formation, comprising three rock structures is a huge draw for visitors, especially during low tide. At high tide it is partially submerged but still accessible. At the top of the little islet is a shrine with a 1.2meter tall statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary which can be reached by climbing a few steps. The spot is especially popular in the evenings for the mesmerizing sunsets.
Crocodile Island – The name of this island is a bit misleading as there are no crocodiles on the island but it gets its name from the shape of the island which is said to resemble a crocodile. Its a great place for snorkeling as the surrounding waters are teeming with beautiful fish and colorful corals.
Mount Luho – The highest point on Boracay island is Mount Luho sitting at an elevation of 100meters. The trek up the mountain is quite simple and can be accessed from Bulabog Beach via the stairs. However, many visitors prefer taking a tricycle ride to the top. At the top, there are three viewing decks located at different heights offering fantastic panoramic views of the surroundings. One can also enjoy a thrilling zipline ride or a cable car ride from one of the decks.
Crystal Cove Island – One of the most popular islands on the island hopping tour is the Crystal Cove Island. Known for its crazy rock formations and small caves, the island is a huge draw for visitors. Viewing platforms have been set up at various spots on the island which provide spectacular views of the surroundings. The bonus is that it’s just about 15 to 20 minutes by boat from Boracay.
D’Mall Plaza – One of the more popular places in Station 2 is the D’Mall Plaza located between the main road and White Beach. This open-air mall is always bustling with activity with visitors checking out the interesting shops selling everything from groceries, footwear and souvenirs. It’s also a great place to soak up the local vibe while enjoying a beer or coffee at any of the interesting cafes located in the area.
Just So You Know…
- Boracay has amazing sunsets; it’s one of the reasons why the beaches get so crowded during the evenings as everyone tries to capture the best picture for Instagram.
- The nightlife on the island is quite legendary and one of the favorite activities for visitors is a pub crawl, with a focus on building friendships.
- For someone with limited swimming and diving skills, one of the best ways to enjoy the underwater marine life of Boracay’s surroundings is to go helmet diving. All you need to do is to wear a special helmet and you’re good to go.
- Get Some Culture:
- Ati-Ahan Festival – This festival is celebrated every year in the third week of January in honor of Infant Jesus. Although Boracay too celebrates the Philippines’ most famous fiesta, the big celebrations happen in Kalibo, a two-hour drive away. Many visitors prefer to commute to Kalibo from Boracay for the festival. The festivities resemble the bigger carnivals of Rio de Janeiro and the Mardi Gras.
- Motag Living Museum – This interactive cultural museum located about 30 minutes away from Boracay brings to life the traditions and culture of the Philippines. The traditional lifestyle of the Filipinos from farming methods, cooking techniques, and entertainment is showcased here.
- Grab A Bite:
- The Sunny Side Cafe – One of the best places for breakfast is this cafe located on Station 3. Their signature bacon and mango grilled cheese sandwiches are extremely popular and so are their fluffy pancakes. The place is always crowded so its best to get there early.
- Boracay PubCrawl – One of the best ways to enjoy Boracay’s famed nightlife is to join this pub-hopping group which comprises anything from 50-150 people. The crawl rotates between 9 bars/clubs and visits 5 each night. The price includes 10 free shooters and drinks specials at every stop.