The Philippines is a diverse country made up of over 7500 islands, which are situated in south east Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. Over the centuries these islands have seen many changes and encountered many influences from all around the world. One of the biggest influences was the Spanish colonisation back in the mid 1500s and the Philippines became part of the Spanish empire for more than 300 years, which is evident as the main religion in the country is Catholic.
The Philippines is somewhere that was on my travel radar for many years, and I dreamed about travelling to dreamy little islands surrounded by turquoise waters and tropical sea life. Several years back my husband and I had 2 weeks annual leave booked and decided to take a trip to the Philippines.
After lots of research and hours of trying to decide on which islands to visit in this archipelago, we finally decided to travel to Cebu, Bohol and Boracay. Originally we both really wanted to visit Palawan, however the Philippines is not the easiest country to get around and when we visited there wasn’t many flights connecting the islands or you had to fly back to the main hub Manila to connect to another flight.
Originally we wanted to visit El Nido in Palawan however it looked like it would be a really long drive from the airport to El Nido, and unfortunately with all the travelling to the Philippines and travelling in between it does eat into your actual time in the country to enjoy. So we booked flights to Kuala Lumpur and stopped in Malaysia’s capital for the night before catching a flight the next day to Cebu airport. We only spent a night in this busy city and wish we could have spent longer but we got a ferry from Cebu to Tagbilaran in Bohol and spent 3 nights in Bohol before catching a flight to Boracay and having to connect via Manila.
We spent 6 nights in Boracay in total and really loved our time on this tiny island which is only approximately 5 miles long. Boracay has a booming tourist industry and travellers are drawn to Boracay’s famous White Beach, which is a stunning beach lined with crystal clear ocean and palm trees. This small island has lots to offer its many visitors with beautiful beaches, water sports, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shopping and much much more. Yes Boracay is touristy however we both loved it, and it really was a fantastic trip, and we never felt like it was overrun with tourists it had a really good balance of relaxation and a party island with lots to do during the day too.
Sights & Activities
Boracay Grotto which is also known as Willys Rock is an iconic landmark on the island and is a volcanic rock just off from the beach in Station 1. The rock formation is adorned with a blessed Virgin Mary, this is one of the most photographed attractions on the island. It’s quite quirky and you don’t expect to see a Catholic grotto set in the sea just off from the sandy white beach.
It is a very touristy attraction, however as we stayed along white beach, most days we would walk from one end of White Beach to the other, and it’s easy enough to stop off at and take a look so I would recommend a little visit to Boracay’s main landmark.
Bulabog Beach is on the quieter east side of the island and is one of the most well known water sports centres in all of Asia. It can be very windy on that side of the island which makes it the perfect setting for wind and kite surfing. Many surfers are drawn to the paradise beach of Bulabog as it’s one of the quieter beaches but a perfect spot for water sports. It does have lots of seaweed and sea urchins so it’s not recommended as a swimming beach, and of course the wind and kite surfers blasting about on the waves can be dangerous for swimmers. It’s only a 5 – 10 minute stroll from White Beach and if your up early try and head there early morning for a walk or to watch the sunrise or sunset.
Crystal Cove & Magic Island
Crystal Cove and Magic Island are small islands about 20 minutes boat ride away from Boracay. There are also several other islands such as Crocodile Island, Monkey Island and Tablas Island, but these 2 islands are the most popular with tourists and when you visit you can see why! Both islands have crystal clear water surrounding them and look like paradise. We booked onto a boat tour which wasn’t very much about £20 per person, and this was for a private boat. First the outrigger motor boat took us to Crystal Cove Island which is stunning with a beautiful landscape, caves, marine life and views of other neighbouring islands.
We stopped here for a while and explored the island by foot and stepping down into caves and the many coves the island has which is where it gets its name. This was my favourite out of the 2 islands it had ramshackled bamboo stilted walkways and the most gorgeous blue lagoons and coves. Just walking around you could find peaceful quiet spots away from the rest of the tourists. There is also a restaurant, gift shop and plenty of picnic spots. You could easily spend a full day here alone and snorkel all around the island.
After our stop at Crystal Cove we headed to Magic Island which a smaller island but has lots of cliff jumping available. Lots of tourists visit Magic Island as they have various platform heights, and are better for amateur jumpers, for adrenaline junkies then have a look at Ariel’s Point in Aklan, which is a bit further away from Boracay than Magic Island but has much higher cliff jumps. Magic Islands platforms range from 3 meters to 10 meters, I opted for the smallest platform as I’m abit of a wimp when jumping from high up, however my husband jumped off the highest one. There is also a lifeguard on hand just incase your not a confident swimmer.
Once we had finished at Magic Island our boat took us to a snorkelling spot before heading back to Boracay. I really recommend doing this small boat tour as it’s only half a day and it’s great to see both islands, if you have plenty of time in Boracay I would recommend spending a full day at Crystal Cove snorkelling. However check prior to your trip as recently Boracay and the surrounding islands have been closed off to tourists to let the marine life recover from over tourism.
Diniwid Beach is just tucked around the corner from White Beaches Station 1, and is easily reached by walking around to it from White Beach. Diniwid Beach is a lot quieter but just as pretty, and it’s a great swimming spot. If you want a much quieter stretch of beach then walk over to Diniwid!
D’Mall is a great place to visit day or night and most shops are open until around 10pm and restaurants a little later. This unconventional open air mall is a great place to have a wander through as it has a whole range of various shops from local arts and crafts, souvenirs, essentials and boutiques as well as lots of cafes, bars and restaurants. It’s really well laid out and we visited several times as it’s a really convenient location in between Station 2 and the main road.
It has such a variety of shops you will be pretty much able to get anything you want or need there. There is also a local market inside which sells plenty of fruit and vegetables which is handy if your self catering of if you just want some healthy snacks. If shopping isn’t your thing then wander down there one evening and check out the many restaurants on offer.
Ilig-Iligan Beach is located in the north east of the island and isn’t very well known and many tourists don’t venture over to this secluded quiet beach, I really can’t understand why it’s so quiet. This was one of my favourite beaches on Boracay. We got a trike over to Ilig-Iligan Beach after spending some time on Puka Beach.
This beach has beautiful white sand, turquoise blue waters and is surrounded by lots of trees and jungle. There are no shops, cafes and bars which may put tourists off, but just take your own food and drink like we did. This is by far one of the most beautiful spots on Boracay. We spent a few hours snorkelling here and there were plenty of starfish and fish to see, just be careful as the current can be quite strong and there aren’t many people around to help if you get yourself in a dangerous situation, that’s not to put you off but just to take a bit of extra care when out snorkelling.
I would really recommend spending a full day at Ilig-Iligan Beach or do as we did and visit Mount Luho in the morning then a few hours at Puka Beach and then finish off the day at Ilig-Iligan. There are also boat tours available but flagging down a trike is easy and cheap enough and you the have the freedom to spend as little or as much time as you like at each place.
Mount Luho is the highest point on the island and is 100 meters above sea level, it’s a popular tourist attraction as it provides stunning views across the island and the ocean at the viewing deck at the top. We got a trike to take us to the top and just walked up to the viewing deck, however there is a hike which you can do too. Entrance onto the viewing deck was only about £2 per person so its really cheap and worth doing.
There is a zip line at the top and unfortunately a few caged animals which isn’t needed to be honest as tourists are going to see the island view not some poor animals which have been forced into cages for a life of misery! Unfortunately this is seen quite frequently around the Philippines so please try and avoid anything animal related unless you do your research first. However I would recommend going to see the spectacular views over the island.
We visited in the morning, however I would recommend to visit for sunrise if you can get up early enough to avoid the crowds and to get even more beautiful views.
Parasailing & Water Activities
Parasailing in Boracay was a real highlight of our trip, there are lots of water sports and water activities available all over the island. We opted to try parasailing as it was really affordable and a great experience to overlook White Beach, I think we paid less than £40 each from what I can remember. It is a little bit scary floating that far up in the air but I’m so glad we did it, it was such a good experience and was only about 30 minutes in total so doesn’t take up all of your day.
We did also book in for a helmet dive on our last day but unfortunately my husband wasn’t feeling well so decided to stay in the hotel room, I decided to go on my own however as soon as I was in the water I chickened out I didn’t like the helmet at all and felt really claustrophobic in it. I’m still annoyed that I didn’t just get on and do it as I could see everyone below and it looked amazing! So if your braver than I am I would really recommend it.
Puka Shell Beach
Puka Shell Beach is not to be missed and a great place to spend a day, it’s a beautiful white sandy beach backed by lots of jungle and rocks behind the beach, it got its name from all the Puka Shells which can be found there. There is a bar on the beach which offer bamboo cabanas, beds and seating however can be a little over priced so we took our own snacks and drinks and sat towards the end of the beach which was really peaceful. There are also several stalls which sell souvenirs and of course the famous shells.
My husband and I visited along with 2 other travellers that we befriended on our second night on the island and spent a few days and nights with them. We just flagged down one of the many trikes to take us to the beach, however you can also book onto boat tours which make regular stop offs at the beach.
White Beach is a world famous stretch of beach and is Boracay’s top tourist spot. This powdery white sand beach stretches almost 3 miles long, and is the centre of where all the action happens on this tiny island. There is so much to do on White Beach from relaxing and sunbathing, lots of water sports, snorkelling and there is a huge choice of bars and restaurants etc.
The beach is split into 3 sections which are Station 1, Station 2 and Station 3 which were defined by 3 former boat stations. Just beyond station 3 is Angol which contains most of Old Boracay and more budget accommodation. Station 1 is the more high end and quieter end of the beach, Station 2 is the epicentre and where most of the action happens, and Station 3 is more budget accommodation and a bit quieter too.
The sea around White Beach is crystal clear, however there was a slight issue with algae while we were there and the government does sometimes close the beach to let it recover, and they are always trying to focus on preserving the beach and ensuring that its environmentally looked after. To be honest even with the algae it was still visually stunning with beautiful white sand beach and palm trees running all along the back of the beach where all the businesses hide behind.
White Beach is commercial and touristy but it just works, we honestly had such a great time staying there. We relaxed most days sunbathing and swimming in the sea. Then would walk along the beach in the afternoon and evenings stopping off at the various bars, cafes and restaurants. There is also lots of places to shop and vehicles are banned along the sandy path and we just walked bare foot or in our flip flops along it.
Along the beach there is also a great choice of tour operators and PADI schools providing various trips and activities so be sure to shop around as there is a huge amount of choice. White Beach cannot be missed when visiting Boracay and to be honest it spans almost half of the island! I would recommend trying to base yourself either on White Beach or as close as possible so in the evenings your stumbling distance back to your hotel.
Food & Drink
Army Navy Burger & Burrito
Army Navy Burger and Burrito is a chain fast food restaurant located all around the Philippines, but there is one located along White Beach. They have a huge menu with so much choice of burgers, sandwiches, burritos, tacos, quesadillas, pizzas and chicken and much more. This fast food chain serves up hearty comfort food at an affordable price. They also offer an all day breakfast too. You have to visit at least once while in Boracay as Army Navy is popular with both tourists and locals.
Boracay is the ultimate party island it really does have something for everyone. Just walking along White Beach there are so many bars to choose from! On our second night we ventured out for some dinner and stopped at BomBom Bar after dinner we got chatting to some other English travellers on the next table and ended up getting quite drunk with them and stayed out all night with and stumbled into a club with them and partied the night away.
We also met up with the other couples for the rest of our trip meeting in the evenings for drinks and going out exploring during the day. That’s another reason why I love travelling you always meet the most incredible people and make such amazing memories!
Coco Bar is another awesome bar with a good atmosphere, and there are also lots of shisha bars which are great to sit out in the evening having drinks and a shisha, there’s also lots of local women offering beach massages. On one of our final nights we sat out on some beach bean bags, having a shisha and foot massage with one of the couples we made friends with, that’s the good thing about White Beach if you want a mad wild night you can but also it’s just as easy for a chilled beach night too.
There are also lots of organised bar crawls which you can book onto so there are plenty of options. We just liked walking up and down the beach every night and seeing where took our fancy.
Jeepney Stop is located in D’Mall and is a funky colourful restaurant serving up authentic Filipino dishes, as well as some Asian fusion dishes. They have fresh seafood available however it’s main draw is the crispy lechon (roasted pork) which originated from when the Philippines was part of the Spanish empire. It’s a popular dish in the Philippines and is delicious. When we travelled to the Philippines it was prior to us becoming vegetarian so we tried plenty of fresh seafood and lechon.
Jeepney Stop is a must while in Boracay as it’s such a great restaurant not only does it serve delicious Filipino food, the staff are really friendly and the decor is bright and colourful and has a Filipino jeepney in the middle of the restaurant. Make sure to add this restaurant to your itinerary one night!
Spider House was one of my favourite places we visited for dinner and drinks on the island, it’s located at Diniwid Beach so easily accessible from White Beach. We got dropped off here after visiting Ilig-Iligan Beach. We came in time for sunset and it has the perfect setting. I have seen various posts however recently saying it’s closed down or under refurbishment but can’t quite find out 100% for sure. If you are visiting Boracay and Spider House is open or reopened then I would really recommend paying this ramshackled place a visit it was so eccentric!
We had to go through rocks and up some bamboo stairs to reach it, it felt like you were sitting in an oversized tree house and felt very Robinson Crusoe! It’s set on the rocks edge but it provided the most beautiful views of the ocean and beach. The food and drinks were more pricier than compared to elsewhere on Boracay but your paying for the setting and the sunset was amazing!
Summer Place Nightclub
Summer Place Nightclub is located in station 2 along White Beach, we ended up here after a bar crawl on the night we met some other travellers, and we had one crazy night in Summer Place it was a Korean nightclub and I’m pretty sure from what I can remember we were the only westerners in there. We had such a laugh and met so many lovely people, everyone was drunk and dancing and the place just had a really good atmosphere. If you want to dance all night to a whole range of music then this is the place to go!
Tom n Toms Coffee
Tom n Toms Coffee is a cafe chain which is popular with many of the Korean tourists as we all know how much Koreans love their coffee! Tom n Toms is the perfect stop for coffee lovers aka my husband! Not only is it good for drinks but also good to stop at for lunch or a light bite. The pizza pretzels are delicious and great for lunch or a light bite!
Tres Amigos Mexican Cantina
Tres Amigos Mexican Cantina is located in D’Mall and serves a good selection of burritos, tacos and quesadillas at affordable prices. It’s brightly decorated and cooks up comfort food. If you fancy something other than Asian food then give Tres Amigos a try the food is delicious and very filling.
The Boracay Beach Resort
Hotels and accommodation providers in the Philippines are more basic than what you will find elsewhere in south east Asia, and you don’t get as much for the your money. When searching for hotels in Boracay I came across The Boracay Beach Resort which we decided to book, we had such a great stay there. The location is amazing it’s situated in station 1 on White Beach and just a few steps onto the beach.
There are various room types to choose from such as suites with balconies or you can choose one of the bungalows. We opted for one of the wooden bungalows which were basic but cute and quirky at the same time. The room had a double bed and en-suite and we had a small veranda with a hammock to sit out on. The room price included breakfast, we paid about £250 for 6 nights bed and breakfast which we thought was an amazing deal!
Breakfast was made fresh to order and bought to your room there were several options to choose from and every morning we ate our breakfast on our veranda which was a really nice way to start the day. The staff were also really friendly and helpful, and there is 7-eleven situated a few doors down which is helpful to grab drinks and snacks for the room.
The resort has quite a few sun beds outside the front on the beach which are reserved for guests which was great as we always had a bed on the beach everyday, and were just steps away from a dip in the sea. I really can’t recommend this hotel enough, it’s great value and in a perfect location, and has everything you could want for an amazing trip on the paradise island of Boracay.
Transport & Getting Around
Boracay is pretty easy to reach compared to other islands in the Philippines there are 2 airports situated nearby on the larger island of Panay. There is Caticlan airport which is much closer to Boracay and only about 15 minutes away from the jetty to get the boat to Boracay, but flights can be more expensive to fly there or there is the other airport of Kalibo which is about 90 minutes car journey from the jetty.
We flew into Kalibo as it was much cheaper even with booking transfers from the airport to the jetty. When booking it’s worth checking both options and weighing up cost and time to see which flights work out better for you. We booked a transfer company which picked us up from the airport in Kalibo in a mini bus with others, and then drove us to the jetty and then organised the boat which is about a 15 minute boat journey. They handled all terminal fees and environmental fees, I would recommend this as it was hassle free and run really smoothly both ways. We booked ours through Viator, however Klook and Island Star Express also have packages available as well as several other companies. It costs between £10 – £20 per person depending on what you opt for.
Once we arrived at Boracay we hoped in a trike which are the Philippines version of a tuk tuk. On the island there are lots of electric trikes which are cheap and easy enough to flag down. Once on the island most places can be reached by foot or by trikes and mopeds. Outrigger boats are also readily available if you wanted to venture off to nearby islands.
My top tip for Boracay would be to check the island is fully open as recently it’s been closed to allow recovery to its marine life and environment, so check what’s open prior to booking. When visiting the island ensure to book your tours when your there as we found when prebooking tours they worked out slightly more expensive than just booking with the local tour companies. I would recommend on your first day wandering down to some of the tour companies and choosing what you would like to do on your trip as they offer multiple booking discount. We booked the parasailing and helmet dive together and got it a little cheaper as was booking more than one excursion.
As beautiful as Boracay is, it has suffered at the hands of tourism. So when going to try and remain as eco friendly as possible by wearing reef safe sunscreen and avoid standing or touching any coral. Take your own reusable cutlery straws and try to avoid single use plastic or waste as much as possible.
Try to purchase one large bottle of water to last your trip rather than lots of small individual ones. Take your own water bottle and reusable coffee cup. Just bare in mind that Boracay is a small island and cannot fully cope with the amount of tourists flocking in so be mindful and maybe if you use up a product of your own rather than binning it there take it home with you to be recycled. The Philippines is still a developing country so like travelling to any developing countries try and make sure your impact on the environment and waste issues are minimised as much as you possibly can.