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 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.
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.
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 ]
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.
Quick travel guide to Boracay
How to get here
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.
Where to stay
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.
What to do
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. 🙂
Boracay was closed for rehabilitation for 6 months. It reopened in October 2018 with new guidelines for tourists. Read about the updated rules in Boracay you should know about here.
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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