Asia Philippines Reviews Travel

Fun in the Philippines Part II: Boracay

What better way to spend your winter vacation than sipping a mango smoothie and lying out in the sun!? Emily and I escaped some record-breaking temperatures (well, record-breaking for Busan) and jet-setted off to beautiful Boracay Island.

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Beautiful Boracay

Boracay is a tiny island off the coast of Panay in the Philippines. From Manila, it took 50 minutes to travel by plane. We arrived into Godofredo P. Ramos Airport (also known as Caticlan Airport). This airport is much smaller and only domestic airlines can fly into this location. But it’s just a small car ride away from the Jetty Port. The other airport – Kalibo International – allows for larger planes to fly into, however, it takes about 2 hours by bus to get to the port.

From Caticlan Airport, you can take a tricycle to the Jetty Port. Purchase a ticket (plus the environmental fee) at the port, and take the 20-minute boat ride to Boracay Island, where paradise awaits you!

Accommodations

Boracay is split up into three “stations” – the third station being the closest to Jetty Port. Emily and I decided to stay in the thick of it all – Station 2. After perusing Hostelworld we found our home for the week: MNL Hostels.

I absolutely LOVED this hostel and would highly recommend it for anyone who’s traveling through Boracay. We booked the hostel for 9 nights – 8 in the private room and 1 night in the female dorm (the private wasn’t available for the last night). I guess the hostel was pretty popular because some friends we met tried to extend their stay, but there was no room in the inn. So I would recommend trying to have your accommodations booked before arriving – so then you don’t have to worry about finding a place to stay and you have more time for the beach!

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Love the wall art @ MNL Hostel

MNL is a modern-looking boutique hostel, close to Bulabog Beach. It is very clean, the staff is very warm and friendly, and the rooms – both private and dormitory style – are air conditioned and comfortable. MNL is a great spot for young people to meet travelers from all walks of life.

The best part about the hostel was the rooftop deck that gives an amazing 365 view of the island.  The roof ended up being our predrink spot most nights, where we would meet up with other travelers, play some drinking games and then head out to the bars together. Each night, MNL hosts some sort of event, such as a Rooftop Mixer, BBQ Dinner, Movie Night, and even Sunset Yoga (I suggest you try it out!).

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View of the sunset from the rooftop deck

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Messages left on the mirrors every morning to let us know the haps for the evening

If you are looking for more peace and quiet (and don’t mind paying a higher price for your stay), there are some lovely hotels in Station 1.

Food

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All of the foods

So. Much. Food! With tons of restaurants to choose from, I was completely satisfied with the food in the Philippines! There’s basically something for everyone: Filipino, Korean, Western-style, Pub Fare, Vegetarian, Mexican, Italian…you name it! Although I do wish I indulged in more authentic Filipino cuisine, I was just happy that I was chowing down on yummy dishes! I love trying out new restaurants! There were lots of Korean restaurants (apparently Koreans make up a large, if not the largest, majority of tourists) but we can easily eat all the Korean food we want back in Busan.

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Getting some street meat (passing on the chicken intestines, though! Yikes!)

Boracay has gotten a bad rep for turning too commercial. Seeing the McDonald’s arches and the neon lights for Subway and Pizza Hut isn’t such a pleasant sight to see. So when you head to Boracay I suggest avoiding such places (unless you stumble to McD’s late at night for drunk food… #neveragain) and checking out the following below…

  • Jonah’s Fruitshake Snack Bar – Located in Station 1, this popular fruit shack has amazing smoothies with every fruit flavour imaginable! Their food is quite good, too!
  • Lemon Café – Great place for meat eaters and vegetarians, and one of my favourite places on the island. Everything is super fresh and healthy – they even bake their own bread! Lemon Café is located in D’Mall.
  • Indios Bravos – Located right next to MNL Hostel, this gastro pub serves some tasty pub fare and an array of craft beers. The prices are reasonable and the staff is friendly and welcoming. I would highly recommend it!
  • Tres Amigos – Delicious Mexican restaurant located in D’Mall. I enjoyed the three taco combo (chicken, shrimp and beef). The only thing that was missing was guac!

Transportation

There are three ways to get around the island: by foot, by motorbike, or by tricycle. No, not the tricycle you proudly rode around when you were three years old. It’s basically a motorcycle with a enclose side car good enough to hold six people (plus one that can sit side-saddle on the back of the motorcycle). The tricycles were lots of fun to ride and it got us around quickly to other parts of the island.

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Riding shotgun in the tricycle

Things to do

Scuba Diving (and lots of other water activities!)

Another item checked off the bucket list! I’ll be brief about my actual experience as I’ve written a separate blog post for it here. But what I can say about SCUBA diving is… DO IT!

When we arrived on the island, we started to plan out our week. We knew we wanted to do something active. I have gone snorkeling several times on vacation, and the last time I jumped off a cliff, I was bruising for days. So doing something new was a no-brainer. I am not much of a risk taker and I didn’t want to do something too extreme. But I am making it my mission this year to say ‘yes’ more often. After talking with our new friends who already went diving earlier that week, we were sold on scuba diving! Luckily, our friend bartered a great price for us (1,600 PHP – or $46 CAD – per person) and the next day we were off to the diving site! For reference, we went to GO Diving Studio somewhere near Station 3 (PADI approved!) and were taught by some AWESOME certified instructors.

READ ON about my scuba diving experience!

Puka Beach & Diniwid Beach

Sometimes you just need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy beaches. There are several other beaches on Boracay Island to check out and I would highly suggest doing so. Emily and I decided to take a couple day trips to Puka Shell Beach and Diniwid Beach.

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Puka Shell Beach was quite nice and as the name suggests, there were tiny shells everywhere. I had to wear my sandals while walking on the sand because it wasn’t as soft as say, White Beach. It happened to be very windy that day so the water was quite choppy. I didn’t go fully into the water – because I was scared I’d be brought down by the undertow! The beach had lounge chairs, which you could sit on for the day if you purchased a beverage at one of the restaurants. Seems like a fair trade!

 

A couple days later, we checked out Diniwid Beach – a quaint area with softer sand and calm water. I really enjoyed this beach and the weather was good to us! Again, it was the same sort of set up like Puka Beach: buy a drink and you can use the lounge chairs.

If I had to choose between the two, I’d recommend Diniwid Beach. Because…

SPIDER HOUSE!

Make sure you go to Spider House (a popular resort and restaurant located on a cliff) for an amazing view of the sunset. Emily and I scored the best seats in the house (at least I think so!). We ate some food, drank some refreshing bevies and took endless photos as we watched the sun go down. Nothing beats watching a beautiful sunset!

Nightlife

For someone who likes to party, the nightlife on Boracay Island is pretty awesome! There’s always something to do once the sun goes down! A few places I would recommend are: Epic Bar, Barracuda Bar, Exit Bar, BomBom Bar, and Coco’s Bar. Some of these places charge cover (which I hate…) but this fee also includes drink tickets so it’s not all that bad. You can also partake in the famous Boracay Bar Crawl, if that’s your thing. Our  friends and I decided just to bar hop on our own.

No wonder they say “it’s more fun in the Philippines”… One of the nights, E and I were heading back to the hostel when we ran into friends we made at Barracuda bar a few nights back. They had a booth and a few bottles, including the really smooth-tasting Cavoda Vodka which I had never tried before (I love the bottle design!). And they were celebrating… just because! I love how our ‘early night in’ turned into one of the best nights of the trip (and a late one for that matter, hehe!).  It’s the people you meet along the way that make your vacation one heck of a trip!

We happened to be on the island for the 89th Jungle Full Moon Party (yay!). So a big group of us headed to ‘Area 51’ near the south end of Bulabog Beach and partied until the wee hours of the night. I was expecting it to be as big as the Full Moon Party in Thailand that I went to back in August, but it was far from it. There were lots of people, yes. But where was the neon body paint? Where were the fire breathers? Where were the infamous buckets to drink out of? All in all, it was a super fun night and I’m glad to have experienced it! No alien sightings though!

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Jungle Full Moon Party!

Some bars have a ‘last call’, whereas others don’t. Let’s just say when you’re on the island…time doesn’t exist! And why should it? You’re in paradise, baby!

Travel Tips

  • Make sure you save some pesos for the airport terminal fee when you are leaving the island. The fee is 200PHP at Caticlan Airport for domestic flights. For a full list of other airport terminal fees, click HERE.
  • Use your negotiation skills (or practice them!) and barter, barter, barter. Most prices are set higher so find a price that you are willing to pay (set the bar low) and go from there. This is how we got such a good price on our scuba experience!
  • If you are looking for a relaxing vacation, without people coming up to you asking if you want to go windsurfing or to get a massage, then perhaps Boracay isn’t for you. Personally, I am used to the touristy feel of the island and I am okay with it. From experience in the Caribbean, I have learned to be just as aggressive as the pushy vendors and to say no. Don’t worry; you have 6,999 other islands to choose from! The Philippines has something for everyone!

Have you ever been to Boracay? What about another island in the Philippines? I would love to hear your suggestions, as I hope to go back to that beautiful country soon!

If you missed Part I about my time in Manila – check it out here!

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33 Comments

  • Reply
    Bernadette Angelie Pangilinan
    October 13, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Boracay is one of the prettiest places to be in the Philippines! Seems like you had a wonderful time! The next time you plan to visit Philippines, you should visit Bohol too 🙂 Bohol has white sand beaches too and you can go dolphin watching at Balicasag Island! 🙂

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      October 14, 2016 at 9:41 am

      YES I would love to go back to the Philippines and visit another island like Bohol or Palawan.

  • Reply
    evaecasey
    July 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    What a fun trip!! I am going to The Philippines this October, so this is great to bookmark for then! There seem to be so many options for what to see and do (and which island to visit) so thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      July 24, 2016 at 4:43 am

      You’re very welcome – if you ever have any more specific questions, shoot me an email: expatandthecityblog@gmail.com 🙂

  • Reply
    Briana
    July 22, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Great post, especially about a country i know so little about. I love the food collage the best 😉

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      July 24, 2016 at 4:42 am

      Thank you! Yes I just had to make a collage of the food I ate… and there’s still way more I ate that I didn’t put on there!

  • Reply
    Karla at GlobalETA
    July 22, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    This is a fantastic guide! Thanks for all of the detailed info and tips. I have never been anywhere near the Philippines but can’t wait to go. All of the islands look like heaven!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      July 24, 2016 at 4:41 am

      You’re very welcome! I would love to explore more of the Philippines soon!

  • Reply
    Marteen Lane
    July 22, 2016 at 9:13 am

    I love the art work in the hostel. Haha when I saw the title Spider House I thought it was a place to view spiders and I started to panic a little as I hate spiders!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      July 22, 2016 at 9:30 am

      I really liked the artwork in the hostel, too. Luckily when I went to Spider House, I didn’t see a single spider (thank goodness!).

  • Reply
    Carol
    July 21, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    The more I see of those beaches in the Phillipines, the more I want to go there- looks like a fun trip

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      July 22, 2016 at 9:29 am

      I heard Palawan and El Nido are magnificent beaches too. Well Philippines have 7,000 islands, take your pick! 🙂

  • Reply
    Milana's Travels
    July 21, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Great photos, looks like a great trip!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      July 22, 2016 at 9:28 am

      Thank you!

  • Reply
    shataratravel
    July 21, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Did you find boracsy expensive? It sounds beautiful! I like the mirror msgs!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      July 22, 2016 at 9:28 am

      It wasn’t overly expensive actually. I came back with lots of money. Dining was probably where most of my money went. It could get a bit pricey at some restaurants. But there were many reasonably priced restaurants. Many of the bars had ‘happy hour’ for an extended period of time, so drinking was cheap!

  • Reply
    Happy Coconuts Travel Blog
    July 21, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    Great photos, I feel like I was there with you! 🙂

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      July 22, 2016 at 9:26 am

      Hehe, thank you! I didn’t know which photos to use. I took so many!

  • Reply
    Gel
    March 10, 2016 at 5:49 am

    Hi Sam! I’m glad you enjoyed your stay in MNL. We hope to see you again soon. 🙂 Can we share your blog post on our MNL Beach Hostel Facebook page?

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      March 10, 2016 at 6:01 am

      Most certainly you can! 🙂 Thanks so much! I’ll definitely be back to Boracay and staying at MNL soon! (Hopefully there’s room when I book…I know your hostel is popular!)

  • Reply
    Girl, Unspotted
    March 9, 2016 at 3:05 am

    I’m so glad you enjoyed Boracay! I know it’s such tourist trap but it’s either you love it or hate it. In my case, I love it and I would go back over and over again!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      March 10, 2016 at 6:01 am

      Same here! Love love love it!

  • Reply
    weegypsygirl
    March 7, 2016 at 3:24 am

    Take me back to Boracay! I miss the Philippines so much. Looks like you had an amazing time there. Definitely nice to escape Korean winter 🙂

  • Reply
    Rishabh & Nirali
    March 6, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Looks amazing! Boracay has been in our sights ever since we compiled our hottest destinations of 2016 post http://gypsycouple.com/hottest-destinations-2016/ Will be reaching out to you when we plan our trip here

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      March 10, 2016 at 6:03 am

      That sounds great! Thanks! Love your blog, btw!

  • Reply
    anneklien
    March 6, 2016 at 9:24 am

    I love Boracay…. but it get so touristy at times. … good food and cheap drinks!

  • Reply
    Laura @ Sometime Traveller
    March 4, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    The beaches look stunning! This makes me miss the days when I was backpacking around Asia – so much fun!

  • Reply
    Nancy
    February 26, 2016 at 5:36 am

    You have a lot of great information here. That is one of the best looking beaches I’ve seen! The food looks fabulous and love the painted wall too!

  • Reply
    Dang Travelers
    February 25, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    We are in the middle of a snow storm here in Chicago at the moment so this warm, sunny island sounds perfect! The scuba diving and soft sand look like a dream 🙂 So cool you happened to be there for the full moon party!

  • Reply
    travellingchingrita
    February 25, 2016 at 1:45 am

    This is awesome, I’m planning to visit the Philippines and definitely doing it similar to yours. Looks like paradise!! Although, I may miss out on the crazy full moon parties 😉

  • Reply
    fbroadbean
    February 25, 2016 at 12:29 am

    That food looks bloody amazing. Give me it all.

  • Reply
    Kevin Wagar
    February 24, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Cool post! It looks like you guys had a ton of fun! Have you been to Palawan? I’d love to know how it compares!

  • Reply
    carolcolborn
    February 24, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Love Boracay…and not only because I am Filipino in America, missing it terribly. I lvoe the nightlife, the food, the beaches…everything you mentioned here!

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