The Boracay (Aklan) Rundown
The genie was let out of the bottle a long time ago for the top beach resort in the Philippines. Boracay is the holiday escape of record in the island scatter that is the archipelago nation - and with good reason. While this was not always so, a clandestine paradise of this ilk must inevitably rise out of obscurity. So the Aklan province destination hardly resonates with that feral, counterculture, hide from the big bad world vibe that made it in the first place. It hardly matters to contemporary visitors who embrace the flagship Filipino island’s modern identity as a place to bliss out and work on that tan.
From hazy tropical hangout to backpacker crash pad, discount island to cosmopolitan resort then, Boracay has withstood the irrevocable twelve-step program of desirable beach hubs in Southeast Asia. Once word got out decades ago, commercial development came fast and furious (and often haphazardly) to the island. The fact that Boracay is now under the administrative control of the Philippine Tourism Authority is significant and, for visitors, impossible to ignore.
Yet in spite of the impossible hyperbole and full court PR press, Boracay can be lovely. Less touristy spots, far from White Beach and Bulabog Beach, give way to pockets of relative serenity. As a result, you can, for now, still have your cake and eat it too on this ever-popular island paradise.
Boracay’s Top 10
10. Cave tours abound on the island but choose your guide and bargain your price wisely. Conditions inside can be precarious and the stench of bat guano excessive. That aside, well worth a trip to Ilig-Iligan Beach on the east coast of Boracay.
5. Dive Gurus operate out of White Beach and know the island inside out.
9. Ariel’s Point offers a slew of jungle and cliff-side eco-pursuits for adrenaline fiends.
4. Boracay Regency Kai Spa is a welcome, upscale oasis.
8. D-Mall is a pedestrian retail zone chockablock with souvenir shops.
3. Balinghai Beach is somewhat remote but a beautiful, photogenic spot nonetheless. A popular stop with island tour operators.
7. Mandala Spa provides a menu of body treatments far from the tourist traffic.
2. Puka Beach graces the northern edge of Boracay and has a touch of the idyllic.
6. Dead Forest is on the south end of Bulabog Beach. The spectral wasteland is the result of a burst dam in the wake of a violent typhoon that hit the island years ago.
1. White Beach is the undeniable heart of the action in Boracay.
- Mount Luho - Distinctive landmark and Boracay’s highest point above sea level. Great for photo shoots.
- Ariel Point - A traditional Filipino cliff-diving site. A picturesque cliff formation with rock ledges jutting into the sea.
- Suag Village - Explore one of the old-style Yapak settlements for insight into Boracay history.
- Talipapa Market - This is a colourful, old-fashioned street market.
- Willy’s Rock - This is a uniquely shaped volcanic formation with a statue of the Virgin Mary, Boracay’s most outstanding historical landmark for the devout.
Boracay Art & Culture
- Boracay Ati-Atihan Festival - Held in January to commemorate the first settlers of Boracay, the Ati people.
- Tirol Museum - Exhibits of old Borcayan art, artefacts and antique Filipino and Chinese ceramics can be discovered here.
- Boracay Food Festival - Held in March every year, this festival exhibits Boracay culture and local food specialities.
- Fil-American Friendship Golf Tournament - Takes place every January to commemorate the friendship between these two countries.
- Village Fiesta Balabag - Annual festival of traditional arts, music and food held in November.
- DâMall - This is the best place for shopping in Boracay. You can find fashion beachwear and souvenir shops, along with a supermarket and fresh fruit and fish stores.
- Paulo Collection - A fashion boutique offering swimsuits, beachwear, formal and casual and kids' clothing.
- Talipapa - This is a local market that has great bargains and the best in Boracay souvenirs.
- Wiggles - This has great shopping for silver jewellery, wooden picture frames, handmade bags and beach sarongs.
- Juan Lu - This is a great place for buying wind chimes, bamboo lampshades and handmade jewellery.
Gay & Lesbian Boracay
- Banana Saging - A popular, gay-friendly resort and an easy meeting spot.
- Diniwid Beach - This is the place for mixing and mingling. Bars and cafes abound with gays.
- Angol, White Beach - Another great hang out and gay meeting spot.
- Rumbas Bar - The happening place for gays. Stays open late.
- Summer Place - Popular place for gays with great entertainment.
- White Beach - Gorgeous 4km-long stretch of beach known for its amazing sunsets and waves.
- Bulabog Beach - The best beach in Asia for windsurfing and kite boarding.
- Boracay Horse Riding Stables - Great adventure place for families, as well as riders of all ages and skill levels.
- Diniwid Beach - Located between White Beach and Bulabog Beach, pristine sand and sparkling blue waters make this a great place for sunbathing and picnicking.
- Boracay Butterfly Garden - A unique butterfly farm established in 2003. All sorts of exotic butterflies are bred here.
- Cheer on the competition in the Asian Windsurfing Tour held yearly in January.
- Enjoy world-class scuba diving and snorkelling in Boracay’s pristine clean waters.
- Take part in the international frisbee competition, the Boracay Open Asian Beach Ultimate Tournament, held every year since 2003.
- Delight in Boracay’s world-class cliff diving, sunbathing and kite-boarding spots.
- Enjoy the dragon boat races with teams from all around Asia, held annually in April or May.
Boracay is tiny. At just over 10 square kilometres, the island is small enough to walk or, much more likely, zip about on a motor-tricycle. The island is made up of three wards, or barangays - Manoc-Manoc, Balabag and Yapak - but, for all intents and purposes, visitors simply need to look for the sand.
White Beach is the pulse point of activity and unfurls the bulk of Sulu Sea-side hotels, resorts, shops, restaurants and dive, kiteboard, skimboard operators et al.
Bulabog Beach is on the Sibuyan side of Boracay. The sea that divides the Visayas from Luzon provides some of the best conditions for watersports in Asia.
Puka Beach crowns the tip of the island and offers the kind of tropical repose and scenery people imagine when they think of Borcay. Wild and pristine in parts, the beach runs 800 metres long.
Diniwid Beach is a picturesque, singular 200 metre stretch of coast just up from White Beach.
Balinghai Beach is a sheltered, romantic spot that lures snorkel and coral reef enthusiasts and anyone on the make for a little peace and quiet.
Just north of Balinghai Beach, Punta Bunga Beach seems to be the new hot spot for posh villa development. Relative white sand seclusion from the usual hustle bustle.
Ilig-Iligan Beach is another nice area on the east coast, or “other side”, of Boracay. Full of caves, coves and private nooks, the beach is popular with explorers.
Tulubhan Beach and Tambisaan Beach, in south-east Boracay, offer some inherent obstacles to entry but, all in all, serve as beautiful, rugged enclaves amid the development sprawl.
Boracay Eat & Drink
Restaurants in Boracay serve a wide variety of cuisines and bend over backwards to cater to the particular palates of seasonal visitors, be they from South Korea, Germany, the United States or the United Kingdom. Throw in a good dose of native Filipino fare and the sky is the limit. Most restaurants on the island reside on White Beach.
Mañana Mexican Cuisine is a no-frills, Tex-Mex kitchen where massive platters of burritos, enchiladas and nachos rule the day.
True Food Indian Cuisine forsakes any hint of mystery with a name like that but is a stellar choice for good, abundant veg dishes in a cushiony environment.
Dos Mestizos serves classic Spanish food, from paella to tapas staples. Popular with workers on the island, which is always a good sign.
Summer Place is the place to go for plentiful Mongolian barbecue on the beach.
La Capinnina Italian Restaurant Café & Wine Bar is run - surprise! - by an honest-to-goodness Italian chef and has second-to-none ambiance.
Delicatessen whips up ample sandwiches to go. The best bet for a beach picnic.
Bamboo Lounge’s brand of pan-Asian fare is predictable but solid. The restaurant bar is quite the late-night scene.
Red Pirates Pub is a busy beach bar that shifts into high gear on the weekends. The promise of cold, affordable beer draws a good mix of people.
La Reserve may be the best restaurant in Boracay. The garden backdrop is lovely and the selection of bulles is notable for this part of the world.
Cocomangas is Boracay’s most infamous nightclub, with noisy, youthful debauchery and exuberance after dark.
The Boracay International Funboard Cup is by far the most famous event on the island and lures some of the best watersports athletes to Bulabog Beach for a week of competition at the end of January.
The Ati-Atihan Festival is a religious event that honours Santo Niño (baby Jesus) with a procession of native tribal dance, music and costumes. The festival takes place close to Boracay in Kalibo, the capital of Aklan province, every January.
April and May is Dragon Boat season in Boracay, with a number of races at various points on the island’s coastline.
The Fairways & Bluewater Golf Course is the only place to play golf in the island. The Graham Marsh course hosts a few tournaments throughout the year.
The Boracay Beach Ultimate Open combines frisbees and sand in what has become a fun new summer tradition on the island.
When To Go
The Amihan and Habagat seasons rule the tropical calendar in Boracay. Amihan, from September to May, features trade winds, moderate temperatures and little rainfall. Habagat, on the other hand, is monsoon season, with robust winds from the west and an inexorable humidex.
Temperatures range from 77-90°F (25-32°C) in Amihan and rise to 82-100°F(28-38°C) the rest of the year. Habagat tropical storms, however, often bring wild temperature fluctuations.
What To Miss
Since the middle of Amihan is by far the most popular time to visit Boracay, visitors reticent about throngs of people on the beach (and everywhere) may want to take a chance and visit in low season. If you can handle choppy water, strong winds and the odd typhoon threat, go for it.
With that, overdevelopment and big crowds are facts of life in Boracay. The island has thousands of hotel rooms and a pervasive reputation as one of the most gorgeous affordable holdiays in Southeast Asia. As such, a lot of young people come en masse, to party and frolic with typical hysterical verve. The bar and nightclub scene is rowdy and while this may be your cup of tea, it may not fit your vision of a blissful holiday. Splurge on your Boracay resort hotel, however, and you may find the peace you seek.
Boracay has two airports that serve passengers from various points in the Philippines and Asia. Caticlan is for small aircraft and serves Manila and Cebu. Kalibo International, on the other hand, connects with big hubs like Seoul, Taipei and Shanghai. Once passengers disembark, pumpboats (bancas) provide service to Boracay from Caticlan Jetty Port.
Though the island is car-free, congestion is a problem on Boracay’s few roads. Motor-tricycle and scooter operators can be aggressive and persistent smog from both is a nuisance. For more tranquil transport, rent a bicycle or sailboat.
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