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.
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!
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!
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!).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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!
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!
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!
- 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!