Surprise! We actually like Boracay

Boracay Island in the Philippines

Even though we’d been to several provinces in the Philippines — in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao — Boracay was never on our plans. If you’re a local, you’ll know why.

Boracay is a regular subject of various criticisms. It’s commonly referred to as a prime example of overcommercialization. It was once a virginal beach, home to indigenous communities. Over the years, resorts and commercial establishments in Boracay grew in numbers, its local culture replaced by restaurants catering to Western palate. I remember that there was also a controversial issue years ago about Aetas being driven away from their residential communities so investors can build more properties.

Every summer, Boracay becomes crowded with local and international tourists wanting a first-hand experience of its fine white sand and night parties.

Massive crowd, noisy bars and restaurants, not really our thing.

At Station 3: Few tourists, amazing beach

We’d decided to stay for an afternoon in Boracay as a layover before catching the early-morning passenger boat to Carabao Island the following day. Prior to this trip, I’d asked around and friends pointed me to Station 3, where tourists are fewer and accommodation rates are cheaper compared to Stations 1 and 2.

From Boracay port, we rode a habal-habal to the said station. In Station 3, a woman approached us and asked what we were looking for. I was wary because it’s apparent that this is a place were locals don’t offer help without a product or service to sell. The woman accompanied us to a lodging nearby and personally talked to the owner, asking to give us a room for a discounted rate. She then gave us her number. She offers packages for watersport activities and also advised us to call if we need a massage. I may have misjudged her; she seems to be a hardworking woman. We thanked her and got the room.

We deposited our bags and then went outside.

Boracay beach in Station 3
Walking along the shores of Boracay. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Boracay Beach, Philippines
Boats for island hopping. We saw other tourists parasailing in the distance. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Boracay beach
No wonder it caught the eye of every tourist. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

Boracay has a long stretch of beach that spans three stations. The sand was white and fine, the water a deep blue-green. Indeed, there were only a handful of people — fewer even than I’d expected. It was also clean. Traveling through various provinces in the Philippines, I’d associated fame and crowds with garbage and vandalism and impressed that this wasn’t the case in Boracay.

We walked along the shore, barefoot. It was pretty quiet except for the consistent sound of the strong wind. Some tourists were parasailing in the distance. I picked up a small mound of sand and rubbed it with my fingers. My good friend Andrew kept saying how Boracay sand is the best he’s seen. For me, it isn’t the finest sand, but it’s undoubtedly nice.

Boracay beach, Philippines
Hali and his fuzzy hair enjoying the strong sea breeze. (Photo by fuzzy-haired Hali Navarro)
Fine sand of Boracay
The famous powdery white sand of Boracay. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

Hali and I talked about how it would be nice to stay here for a few days instead of an afternoon. The sea looks beguiling and I really wanted to take a dip.

Treehouse restaurant and Boracay sunset

I’d done a quick research about affordable restaurants in Boracay and had chosen the Treehouse bar and restaurant. I know I said that this is a come-what-may vacation, but food is expensive in Boracay so we wanted to know our choices in advance. For instance, a piece of fresh coconut costs P100 whereas it is sold at P25-30 in Manila and elsewhere.

Treehouse bar and restaurant in Boracay
If you’re in Station 3, visit the Treehouse Bar and Restaurant! Affordable food, generous servings. Very nice ambiance, too. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Sunset in Boracay
I swear, the sunset looks grander in person. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

We went directly to the uppermost loft of the Tree House bar and restaurant, leaving our slippers in the stairs. A handwoven mat covers the floor, and guests are expected to walk in barefoot. There are short-legged tables and giants pillows on one side. We ordered tropical fruit shake, lasagna and their own house pizza. The food is decent, with generous servings and affordable at about P200-300 each. A playlist featuring acoustic songs was on while we were eating.

The loft also offers a good view of the beach. We watched the sunset and I understood why Boracay is associated with the orange color. I’d always thought it’s because of the summer theme, but it can also mean the many soft shades of its sunset.

[ Related Read: Amazing sunset spots in Asia ]

Postscript: Boracay

The morning after, as we were waiting in the passenger boat to Carabao Island, we came across a good friend. Hali and I expressed our surprise in enjoying Boracay, and our friend agreed with us. She said she didn’t know what the big fuss was about, that she’d been in Boracay even in its most crowded during summer and her stay was still good.

Other feedback wasn’t that same. I guess we were lucky because we had good weather, and it was off-peak season.

If we decide to come back, we’ll probably allot 3-4 days in this island.

Boracay has been named as the World’s No. 1 island in 2012 by Travel + Leisure magazine and is then a consistent entry in subsequent polls.

Short travel guide to Boracay

Directions to Boracay

Boracay has already been extensively discussed in a thousand blogs since it’s one of the more famous beach destinations in the Philippines.

Basically, you have to get a flight to either Kalibo or Caticlan. Caticlan is closer, but flights here are fewer and more expensive, not to mention prone to cancellations. Most people go to Kalibo and then hop on a 2-hour ride via bus or van to Caticlan, where passenger boats to Boracay Island are available daily from 4:00AM up until 10:00PM.

Accommodations

Station 2 is where most commercial establishments are, including bars and restaurants. For those wanting a bit of seclusion, go to either Station 1 or Station 3. Accommodation rates are cheaper in Station 3, so that’s where we stayed. During off-peak season you can get fan rooms or dormitory beds for as low as P600-700 for 2 people or air-conditioned rooms for P800 for 2 people.

You can check out the lowest prices of accommodations in Boracay here. The Tree House we mentioned above also has rooms for guests which you can find here.

If you’re looking for personal suggestions, a fellow blogger has written a hotel review about Feliness Resort in Boracay.

Activities

Aside from beach bumming, there are various activities in Boracay including island hopping that includes a stop at Ariel’s point for cliff diving, snorkeling, helmet diving, parasailing, windsurfing and many others. Oh, I’m sure you already know of these. 🙂

Have you been to Boracay? How was your experience?

 

P.S. You might also be interested to see the other places we’ve been to in our 4-day vacation in Panay Island.

Here are other related posts if you’re going on a beach vacation:

 

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A day in Boracay made us realized why it's one of the best beaches in the world

25 Comments

  1. Thanks for the great post! It is really interesting and inspiring. Reading your post makes me feel desired to backpack there immediately, but it’s a pity that Boracay has been closed for its preservation. I don’t know when I have chance to explore it.

  2. Re: “I was wary because it’s apparent that this is a place were locals don’t offer help without a product or service to sell” and later… “I may have misjudged her.”

    I’m glad you had that good experience. My first experience in Boracay was similar although I didn’t have any prejudice, I did have bad experiences in Bali where everyone was after my money and lied to me to get it.

    On my first day in Boracay a man by the name of Ben offered to tour me around and show me some apartments (I was looking for one). A bit more then an hour later we parted ways, I thanked him and gave him 500 peso (I wasn’t accustomed to the value of the Philippine peso yet). He smiled and said it’s too much and gave me 200 peso back. He could have kept it all but he didn’t.

    I’ve had other similar experiences in Boracay as well. There are some bad people around also of course, but in my experience there aren’t many.

    1. Hi Paul, thanks for the insight. 🙂 This is true for most provinces in the Philippines. In the end I’d like to think that we’re all just trying to earn a living.

  3. Yup yup yup! Boracay is still one of the best islands in the country! And I also prefer staying at Station 3 as there are fewer people and it is much quieter than the other stations. I will visit Boracay again on October 29 and see more of the island during my visit. Hope to see travel with you soon, ate! <3

    1. Hey, see you soon! 🙂 We love meeting other travelers during out trips. Happens rarely though. I think people just shy away from us because we’re a couple. Haha.

  4. I havent been to Boracay for the same reasons you had. But hmm, maybe I’ll change my mind and travel in the off peak season. I’ll be sure to remember your tips! 🙂

  5. The sands of Boracay look so pure and inviting. The place seems to be like a blessing to Mankind. Hope this beautiful gift is protected and preserved. I think undue commercialization does spoil things, but it is unavoidable. The authorities should ensure a balance between preserving the natural environs and commercialization.

  6. We are planning a visit to the Philippines in February and Boracay has been removed and added back into the itinerary so many times for the same reasons you mention in your post. A part of me definitely wants to experience it first hand but I don’t like being in crowded beaches. Is it normally crowded in mid-January to early February?

    1. Hi Christina, I’m not sure. January – February isn’t summer yet so I think it won’t be overcrowded, but if you’re looking for secluded beaches there are definitely better choices.

  7. Great to hear you enjoyed Boracay Kat! 🙂 I always love reading these kinds of experiences about Boracay. I like your post is very genuine and it looks like you found a great place at Treehouse which I really enjoy also.

  8. I’m in love with Boracay and I never really believed those who said bad things about it even before I got the chance to go there. I chose to believe the many people who love it and they are right. Boracay is a jewel. It has so much to offer, and the marriage between the urban and the rural vibes is what makes it a perfect vacation spot for me. I’ve already been there 3x already and I haven’t have enough. I still want to go back. I’m glad that you liked Boracay too. 🙂

    1. I remember you wrote about the activities available in Boracay. We’d love to try parasailing and helmet diving, among other things. 🙂 I hope we’ll have time to go back next year.

  9. I now have a love hate relationship with Boracay. We were supposed to spend our vacation there (booked flights and all) but for 2 years now something would come up the last minute and we had to cancel. When I was initially booked our ‘flight’, we planned to stay at Station 3 as well since I heard it’s more kid friendly. Looking at your photos, I can see that it is! I can just imagine my kids running around and having fun with the whole beach by themselves.

  10. Hi Kat,

    This is the first time visiting your blog and I love how you’ve put everything together. This trip looks like a lovely memory and I love how everything looks. The water is so clear and really takes me into the destination. Keep going!

    XO

  11. I haven’t been to Boracay but it sure does look lovely. I need some tropical beach time out soon. How long do you suggest I should go for?

  12. Love Boracay because of its powderly sand. I do not enjoy its noise though and the many people roaming and in bikini. But i love shops especially the market or i forgot how they used to call it- talipapa, isnt it?

  13. Did you see how much more fine and beautiful the sands at station 1 was? Station 3 used to be like that back when there was no electricity on the island. It brings me great pleasure and joy to read your post. Did you know I lived there from 1998 to 2003? I rue the fact that there is too much commercialism now on the island compared to the early 80s and 90s to the time I lived there.

    1. I know how that feels. I feel nostalgic and regretful when the place I once visited has now succumbed to commercialism. When we visited Jomalig last year, there wasn’t any homestay or resorts yet and none of that big signage in the beach. Hopefully the place wouldn’t change much and that in the future we can keep a balance between development and preservation.

  14. We actually have the first impression in Boracay. I’ve never been to it because I think it’s so overrated, overcrowded & too commercialized. I’m not also a party-goer. But seeing my friends and other bloggers, I’m starting to doubt my impressions. And you enjoying it made me wanna go even once lang. Maybe I’ll try next year, soon enough hanggang di pa ako tita for night life. HAHA

  15. I will be in Boracay early next year so I find this blog entry very helpful. My hotel is situated in Station 2 so I am expecting more crowd and nightlife there. How was the travel going to the island? Have you reserved a package for land arrangements? Reading this makes me more excited to explore. I love the pictures especially that of the sunset and slippers.

    — Floree

    1. Hi Floree! We didn’t reserve any land arrangements. There are buses and vans right outside Kalibo airport and it was also off-peak season so it really wasn’t a problem. 🙂

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