In light of the horrible storm that hit the Philippines this past week, I decided it is time for me to write about this beautiful country. Over 10,000 people died and more will probably die from infrastructure problems in the country. Today, I am not here to talk about that horrible disaster, but to give you a small look into the Philippines and one if its most beautiful islands, Boracay. This is in hope that once these hard times pass you make a choice to visit. Before I get into the beauty of the island, here are some Boracay travel tips to make your trip to Boracay perfect.
Boracay Travel Tips
I still remember the first time the Philippines came into my travel consciousness. I was working at Nordstrom and one of the sales associates was showing me pictures of the B&B she was building. The pictures were stunning, everything was lush and green and full of life. I was intrigued. It was not until much (much) later that I’d finally get to see this beautiful land and meet its lovely people.
I can’t help but feel torn about my feelings for the country. The Philippines is a place of dichotomy. It is paradise one second, and hell the next…not for you, the tourist, but for its people. I cannot get the image of what one can barely call houses standing on the side of an obviously polluted river in Manila (the government has recently built walls to hide – not fix – this issue). The country is hit over and over again by horrible storms (just like they did this week to a death toll of over 10,000), earthquakes, and natural disasters. Politicians stuff their pockets as the people they are supposed to serve live in squalor. Yet, the people of the Philippines fight on. Realmente pone la vida en perspectiva.
You may think from the start of this post that I’d tell you not to go to the Philippines. You’d be wrong. Take your travel dollars there. When you meet the people of the Philippines, you will be amazed by their spirit. Creo que cualquiera que haya viajado a Filipinas le puede decir que los filipinos son algunas de las mejores personas que puedes conocer. They are also polite, hard working, and fill its streets with music. Besides, the country is stunning, especially when you hit up the islands.
One of these islands is Boracay. Esta pequeña isla se caracteriza por playas de arena blanca, aguas color turquesa, and lush landscapes. You’ll have to do a little work to get there, but it will be worth it. What type of work? First, you’ll need to fly for an hour on a prop plane into Caticlan Airport. Una vez que la tierra, you’ll pay a terminal fee and an environmental fee. Estos son nominales, alrededor 125 PHP o alrededor $2.50 USD. Then, you’ll wait in an un-air conditioned waiting area. Once you’re nice and sweaty, you’ll hop onto the transfer boat.
IMPORTANTE: No escatime en precio aquí. This means the difference between a super bumpy ride that may have you stopped in the middle of the ocean for forty five minutes (didn’t work out so well for Antonio who gets sea sick), or a super fast 10 minute ride to land. You want to spend your money here. It will be worth it.
The island is only about 6 1/2 miles long, but there will be plenty for you to do and see. Boracay is divided into five sections.
- Station 1 – Located on the North-Western area of White Beach, this is the swankiest area. Aquí es donde White Beach es más amplio.
- Station 2 – This is where most shops, restaurants, and bars are located. There are both upscale and mid tier hotels here.
- Station 3 – You will still find some Filipinos living here since this was the last area to be developed in White beach. his was the last section of White Beach to be developed. If you like quiet, this is probably your best choice if you want to remain in White Beach.
- Station 4 – I think this is where the locals live, I didn’t really get to explore this area too much.
- Station 5 – This is where I stayed. It’s further away from the center of town and there’s not much to do there.
WHERE TO EAT
Dos Mestizos: Lindo pequeño restaurante español con alimentos sólidos. You’ll enjoy your meal and the service. Calle Remedios, Sitio Manggayad, Boracay Island, Malayo, Aklan, 5608 Tel 63 919 329 255
Las arenas de Discovery Shores: Cocinar cuando la temperatura está alcanzando los cientos, sin aire acondicionado es dura. La cocina en el apartamento que alquilamos no estaba equipado con una unidad de aire acondicionado. La elección era clara, nos iban a comer al día siguiente. Terminamos en el restaurante Sands en Discovery Shores. Se encuentra en la estación 1, que es un poco más elegantes de la estación 2 (la zona más turística). en la estación 2, se puede esperar que las personas tratan de vender cosas cada cinco pasos. No es mi taza de té. Station 1 es menos concurrida, pero se puede llegar a pagar más en esta parte de la isla. Yo recomendaría que probarlo. incluso volvimos para una segunda visita. No se vaya sin probar su sopa de ajo, es para morirse.
Bakers Brothers: At some point, you will be craving a good roast beef sandwich. This is your spot – awesome sandwiches and killer bread. Calle Remedios, Sitio Manggayad, Boracay Island, Malayo, Aklan, 5608 Tel 63 919 329 2557
Smoke: Good traditional Filipino food, affordable too. The bulalo is a hangover killer. D’Mall in Station 2 – 36-288-6014
Epic: Grab a seat at this beach-side restaurant and enjoy really good people watching. They make good ribs & adobo de pollo. Épica era agradable, No es perfecto pero agradable. Pedí el pollo Inasal que era bastante sabrosa, pero ligeramente cocida. El otro plato que pedimos: un sándwich sin mayonesa, venía con mayonesa y no era tan bueno. El servicio es lento, pero esto es algo que se puede esperar encontrar en toda la isla. We returned to better experiences there later during the trip. D’Mall in Station 2 – Tel 036 288-1466
Lemoni Cafe: Great little place for sandwiches and lemon cakes (maybe you’ll find Sansa Stark there once she becomes the Queeen of the North). It’s bright, cheery and affordable. D’Mall in Station 2 – 36 288 6781
Corcho: Uno de los pocos lugares en Boracay, donde usted puede conseguir un buen vaso de vino. It’s calm, relaxed and refreshing. La estación principal de carretera 2, Regency Lagoon Resort 906 225 3455
LO QUE USTED DEBE VER
D'Mall: Situado en la estación 2, D’Mall has around 100 tiendas y restaurantes. Aquí es donde nos encontramos más cuando nos fuimos del hotel. Usted puede encontrar cualquier cosa, desde una sala de masajes, clothing shops, wine shops (although they are usually not air conditioned which means cooked wine). We felt pretty safe there and had no issues whatsoever. Station 2
Cool Waves Ranch – Tocino ipsum dolor sit amet bresaola papada Leberkas baqueta, meatball rump sirloin bacon andouille pork belly salami shank spare ribs corned beef jerky. Rump beef ribs ground round tri-tip ham hock t-bone tail. Short loin flank swine, filet mignon ham shank brisket salami turducken. Pancetta bresaola venison prosciutto, tocino planta vaca boudin kielbasa andouille franja hamburguesa ronda costillas de ternera bistec chuletón salami. Boudin costillas frankfurter cortos, pancetta chicken shankle corned beef prosciutto ribeye kevin ham short loin beef. Station 5
D'Talipapa: By now most of you have figured out I have a thing for farmer’s market. D’Talipapa is the closest to what I remember in my childhood in Colombia. Creo que para la mayoría de los estadounidenses que tomará algún tiempo para acostumbrarse. Verá moscas en sus carnes, but that’s the nature of an outdoor market. Then again, aquí se puede encontrar el pescado más fresco en la isla (a menos que vayas a pescar a ti mismo). También hay “restaurants” in D’Talipapa, but I skipped them since I had a serious stomach bug the first week in Boracay. Station 2
Montana. Luho: Este es el punto más alto de la isla. Que sea un punto para ir allí por las vistas más hermosas de la isla. If you’re into hiking, esto definitivamente va a ser su lugar. If you’re not, you can rent an ATV to get you up the hill…or…you can have a tricycle take you up. They are the primary form of transportation on the island and will cost you around 150 PHP (alrededor $3 USD). Once you get there, you will pay around another $3. Station 4
Manny Pacquiao’s House: It is no surprise that Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao has a home on Boracay island. Maybe, if you get lucky, you’ll run into him, but probably not.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
Island Hopping: Si tienes ganas de isla en isla, you can charter a sailboat to take you. Your course will depend somewhat on the direction of the wind. Just make sure your sailboat is equipped with an engine in case there is trouble. If you take one of these tours you can end up in some truly pristine islands and beaches. You can also take a dip in the clear cool waters or go snorkeling. You’ll probably end up in Carabao which is just 20 minutes away and has gorgeous, quiet beaches.
Spas: Hay un montón de lugares para que usted consiga un masaje en Boracay. If you want a fancy experience, check out one of the high end hotels like the Shangri-La. If not, you can get an awesome massage (like I did) for around $20 over by Station 2.
ATV: Toma un poco de diversión y la fiesta en la isla en su vehículo todo terreno. Loads of fun…just don’t drink & drive.
Zip Lining: Si se dirige al Monte. Luho and are feeling adventurous, you can take a nice zip line ride. I did not zip line in Boracay, but I did so in Argentina and I LOVED IT! Super fun and a great rush of adrenaline. I can just imagine what it is like checking out the view as you zoom down the mountain.
Eat Balut: I think I am insane some times. The first day I was feeling better after my horrible 1 week bout with stomach sickness (make sure you get all your shots before visiting the Philippines or you will waste much time being sick), I decided I’d try balut. My opportunity came on White beach as a street vendor came up with a bag full of this Filipino delicacy. What is balut? It’s a fertilized duck egg. They crack the top open, give you a vinegar-like sauce and you chomp down on the little ducky bones, feathers and all. It’s a horrible sensory experience, but it tastes damn good. Would I eat it again? Probably not, but I’m glad I did.
Windsurfing: I’m not the best swimmer, so I haven’t gone windsurfing, but I hear that Boracay rivals Guanacaste when it comes to the sport. It did look like everyone was having lots of fun.
Beaches: I have to admit, I am a beach addict. I like few things more than laying on the sun and hopping into the water for a swim when the heat gets to be too much. I can do this all day. Here’s the breakdown on the beaches in Boracay:
- Baling Hai Beach – A nice spot for snorkling and swimming. Bring a book and enjoy paradise.
- Bulabog Beach – This beach was not designed for people like me (lazy sun worshipers), this is the beach for those super sporty types who are looking for the best wave. Go here if you’re looking for your skydiving adventure.
- Puka Beach – If you’re looking for secluded white sandy beaches, this is your spot. You’ll run into locals collecting puka shells to make jewelry to sell at the more popular white beach. El agua estaba picada aquí, so while it may not be the best for a swim, it’s great for sunbathing. Make sure to bring food with you since there aren’t too many places where you can pick up a snack here.
- White Beach – This is Boracay’s most famous beacblue and clear (unless the algae has been bothered. On a good note, there are lots of restaurants and shops here. On a bad note, this is where locals will bother you to purchase trinkets. Buy if you want, but understand that this will be a daily occurrence. you will see small children building sculptures out of sand. Feel free to take a pictures, but make sure to pay them for their work. A coin or two will do. Playa blanca se compone de tres secciones, Station 1, Station 2, and Station 3 as discussed above.
WHERE TO STAY IN BORACAY
Where not to stay: We stayed at two different places in Boracay. We hated the first. Fue llamadoLingganany. We chose this place because it offered full apartments with kitchens and a private beach. Why did we hate it? The air conditioning did not work in our room or the conference room we booked for our business meetings (yup, we were there on business). The food was seriously sub par. The ladies at the kitchen tried, but they only made Filipino food, which was pretty much rice with fried m eats. It was all very unhealthy. Also, the private beach (next to Bulabog Beach) was choppy and rough rendering it useless except for photo ops. On a positive note, the grounds were lovely with tons of bugs (I have a thing for insects, flowers, and lots of photo ops). The rooms cost around $250 per night.
Where to stay: We moved over to the Shangri-La. It was heavenly, but ridiculously expensive. We paid around $500 per night, but the air conditioning worked, the water was filtered (I think the culprit of my sickness may have been the water at the Lingganany), and the grounds were still stunning. El Shangri-La también tenía algunos restaurantes increíbles y comida. They made an awesome Bulalo and a Lechon. We spent some time in the recreation room playing rock band, billiards, and having a great time. Their ferry back to Caticlan was super fast and convenient. I’d recommend staying here since everything else on the island is so inexpensive. Había un montón de piscinas para compensar la playa entrecortado e incluso vimos un águila residente allí.
BY AIR: Puede aterrizar en uno de los dos aeropuertos:
- Caticlan (Godofredo P. Ramos Aeropuerto) – Piense muy pequeños aviones ruidosos aquí. Las compañías aéreas que vuelan a Caticlan incluyen South East Asian Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, y Filipinas aire que vienen desde de Manila, Cebú y Clark. Una vez allí, usted puede tomar un triciclo, caminar 10 minutes, or have your hotel’s van take you (mi método preferido) a Caticlan embarcadero Puerto. Don’t expect to bring lots of luggage. There are weight restrictions.
- Kalibo International Airport – This is a much bigger airport, but it’s much further away from the jetty port (1 hour and a half). There are significantly more airline options here. Una vez que la tierra, you can grab a minivan or a bus to the jetty port, but this can seriously cut into your time since the minivans won’t move until they are full.
Once you’re there, you’ll probably take a tricycle to get around. Most of the hotels also offer van service into D’Mall and you can make your way from there.
- Get your shots: Don’t do like I did (since I’m deathly afraid of needles) and skip out on your recommended shots. These will probably save you all the pain I endured due to food poisoning and save you valuable beach time. Shots include Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, encephalitis, malaria, rabies, la fiebre amarilla y la fiebre tifoidea.
- Drink bottled water: and make sure the seal snaps when you twist.
- Don’t drink ice: Stick to wine and not mixed drinks which can contain water which will make you really sick.
- Wear sunblock: You don’t want to age early, right?
- Watch your valuables: although the majority of people in the Philippines are lovely, just like in any other place there are exceptions. Take the necessary precautions.
I went to Boracay in mid-March and had an amazing experience. One day as I looked out my window, I noticed that the water that had once been deep and lush had receded about a mile out into the ocean. I figured I was done, my first thought was Tsunami, but then I saw all the locals out in the water. I am still not sure what happened, but for almost the whole afternoon, the water was ankle deep. Locals happily picked up sea urchin for sale at the market. I photographed all sorts of sea life that I never thought I would have ever seen. The experience was surreal and amazing. Probably one of the best experiences of my life. The next day the water was back to normal and I was glad to have pictures as proof that I was not insane. Maybe if you go there next March you can find out more about this and let me know what it was. So far my google searches have led to nothing. If you’re interested in this, it’s all the pictures where it looks like there should be water, but there is not.
Need more specific Boracay travel tips? Have a question? Leave it in the comments.