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Debauchery in paradise: Letting loose in Boracay

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Oh, Boracay. I don’t even know where to start..

Debauchery: excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures.

This pretty much sums up my time in Boracay. When I first set foot on the white sand that made Boracay famous, I had no idea that my stay there (or should I say: my behavior?) would be rather scandalous, but if you’re hoping for some juicy stories, I have to disappoint you. I decided to adopt the good ol’ Vegas slogan for this party island paradise: What happens in Boracay stays in Boracay. It will remain on top of my unforgettable travel experiences for a while, that’s for sure.boracay white beachAdmittedly though, Boracay and I were off to a bit of a rough start. For the first couple of days on the island, I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. You might think ‘Look at this view, what’s not to like?‘.boracay island paradiseBoracay was one of these places where I had a certain image in my head of what it would be like, and this little island was just so different from what I had pictured. I’d been wanting to visit Boracay ever since I first saw photos of this incredible white beach and the stunning colorful sunsets. Posts like this and this that made me add Boracay to list of my dream destinations. The photos I had seen of Boracay evoked a feeling of a tranquil, serene island paradise like I had experienced in Koh Rong or Little Corn Island.

boracay white beachSo when I arrived in Boracay on a hot night at the end of January, I quickly checked into my hotel and headed straight to the beach, overjoyed to finally be there.

What I saw was just not what I had expected. Hundreds of people were strolling up and down a narrow sandy path, lined with restaurant, bars and shops. I was completely unprepared for how busy it was. I am not sure if there is ever a time when Boracay is not busy, or at least less busy, but at the end of January it was crazy how many people there were. It was overwhelming.boracay beach crowds philippinesAfter recovering from this initial shock, I started my quest to find something to eat, not sure if I should turn right or left. To my left, I saw the huge yellow M sign which belonged to a shiny new and giant McDonald’s. So I headed left (south) instead. Here, I walked by a Subway, and later that night I discovered Johnny Rocket’s, Sbarro, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and other well-known fast food jaunts. I had just never been to a tropical island with so many fast food chains right on the beach, and found it a bit off-putting.Boracay chainsThe next morning when I woke up and walked down to the beach and I saw this:boracay water philippinesAnd I couldn’t help but relax immediately. White Beach is the most famous beach in the Philippines for a reason after all, four kilometers of white sand so soft and powdery that I wouldn’t mind feeling it under my feet every day for the rest of my life.

The beach is separated in three divisions, Station 3 in the south, Station 2 in the middle and Station 1 in the north. I knew that the further south or north I would walk, the quieter it would get and the less people I’d encounter. So I started walking towards the northern end and soon enough the beach felt less crowded. This was much more what I had in mind for my beach getaway in Boracay.boracay white beach7I had two choices: I could be upset about the crowds or I could simply accept it for what it was and make the best of it. And how can I blame all the people from Taiwan, Korea and China who have such a glorious beach paradise only a short flight away for wanting to enjoy what’s the definition of the perfect tropical beach?boracay beach path philippinesWhen you visit Boracay, you can make it exactly what you want it to be. If you’re looking for solitude and quiet beach time, stay in one of the hotels at the far north end of station 1. If you want to party and be right in the middle of it all, stay in station 2. If you want to do kitesurfing, don’t stay in White Beach at all, but stay on the other side of the island on Bulabog Beach (Boracay is still small enough to get from one side of it to the other it on foot, at least on its narrowest part in the middle of the island).beach fun boracaySpeaking of party: I must be the only person in the world who didn’t get the memo that Boracay was a party island! Whenever I mentioned I’d been in Boracay after leaving the island, the first question was: ‘Did you party a lot?’. Apparently, Boracay is the Philippine’s party destination, but I was blissfully unaware of that (until I got there).boracay fire dancersDuring my stay right in the middle of it all in Station 2, I had all the parties right around me but no one to party with. So I decided to move out of my hotel into a hostel further north towards Station 1. Station 1 meant an emptier beach during day, the hostel meant partying at night. Because I was in the mood to dance and let loose. The beach parties reminded me of my early 20s when I danced until the sun came up on the beaches of Ibiza and I remembered how much I loved these beach parties.

Moving hotels was the best decision I could have made because my hostel was exactly the social place I needed to meet new people after the anonymity of my hotel. I stayed at the Frendz resort, which has a big open bar and restaurant area (with super cheap drinks) in the center and bungalows based around that, only 2 minutes from White Beach. The resort even has free sun chairs at the beach.boracay white beach6Every night, a group of party-hungry travelers would gather at the hostel bar and drink until they’d kick us out, and we would make our way down to the beach bars where we danced in the sand until the early hours. Or until everyone disappeared with their boyfriend / girlfriend for the night. Yes, that’s the kind of place Boracay is 😉boracay sunsetLike I said though: It is completely up to you what you make of your stay on the island. If you are not into partying, just stay further north or south on the beach. If you don’t like crowds, stay away in January and February, when Boracay is the busiest.boracay beach palm treesEven though the (over?)development on White Beach can be hard to take, there are still places on the island where you can find tranquility, for example on Puka Beach (Shell Beach) at the northern end of Boracay or Ilig-Iligan Beach in the northeast.

In the end, I had a hard time leaving Boracay. It is just so easy to get sucked into this lazy life of beach, work, beach, and dancing the night away.boracay sunset with boat1While it might not be the serene island experience that I was hoping for, and overwhelmed me at first, it turned out that Boracay was exactly what I had needed.boracay beach bar philippinesLooking back now, my time on the island was the favorite part of my Philippines trip and I can’t wait to go back. And speaking of going back: I’ve mentioned a few times already that I will go back to the Philippines, but mainly to visit places I didn’t make it to this year. Boracay, however, is the #1 place I want to return to.Boracay collage

Practical information

Best time to visit: During dry season, between November and May. That’s when the water is calm and nice.boracay water funHow to get there

From Kaliko:

Don’t buy the transfer tickets (van/bus) on the plane if you arrive on an AirAsia flight. They are selling them for PHP500, but they’re half the price if you buy the tickets right at the van.

The terminal is tiny – walk outside and you see half a dozen of minivans that are waiting to bring passengers to Boracay. They are selling tickets for PHP200-PHP250. Look out for the guys whose sign say 200. The ride to the ferry terminal takes about 90 minutes.

While the ferry ticket is included in the van ticket, you still have to pay a PHP75 environmental fee and a PHP100 terminal fee. The ferry ride takes about ten minutes. (Note that you have to pay these fees also when leaving Boracay).

At the terminal in Boracay, there are tricycles waiting to bring passengers to White Beach. They’re either PHP00 for a single person motorbike tricycle or PHP20 for a bigger one shares between 5 people.sunset boracay philippines1From Caticlan:

If you fly into Caticlan, you can actually walk to the ferry terminal (5-10min walk), or take a tricycle for 50PHP.

Note: Flying into Kalibo is usually cheaper, since it is a bigger airport than Caticlan. Caticlan can only be served by smaller planes that only allow 15 kilos of luggage. Kalibo also offers international destinations such as Seoul, Busan, Taipei, Shanghai, Chengdu, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

Money: There are plenty of ATMs along the beach.boracay hostelsWhere to stay: I enjoyed my stay at the Frendz resort and would definitely recommend it, especially if you’re traveling alone. There are bungalows that house dorm rooms (divided male / female) for PHP600 /US$13.60), private bungalows with fan (PHP900 / US$20.50) and deluxe bungalows with AC (PHP1,000 /US$22.70). There is free WiFi throughout the resort.

For more accommodation options, check out all 236 Boracay hostels and hotels on Booking.com.boracay boat philippinesWhere to eat: My favorite places True Food, an Indian restaurant with lots of vegetarian options, Jony’s Shakes right on the beach in Station 1 (the avocado banana shake is to die for), and TiBraz Sunday Crepes Happy Hour (50% off!), Fuel vegan restaurant (they share a space with TiBraz). Zucchero Cafe in Station 2 has good coffee and an upstairs with great views over the beach. The cheapest Happy Hour beer I could find was Kurt’s at Station 3 where a Happy Hour beer was only 35PHP (US$0.80). There are several other cheap (and quieter) sunset bars in Station 1.jonys shakesBest sunset spot: The Spiderhouse, a bar perched onto the side of a cliff on the far end of Station 1 (you can walk there from White Beach – about 30 minutes – or take a tricycle. The Spiderhouse is also a resort; rooms start at PHP2,980 (US$67).spider house boracay sunsetHave you been to Boracay? What did you think about the Philippines’ most popular island?

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53 Comments

  1. When I was planning my Philippines trip a couple years ago I was turned off by the development of Boracay so I skipped it, but after reading so many blogs about it I am totally regretting that decision. It is now on my Asian itinerary for this winter 🙂

    1. Lots of people I met in the Philippines skipped Boracay for that very same reason, but I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to spend any time at this glorious beach!! Maybe our paths cross in Boracay this winter?! 😉

  2. I’m in Boracay at the moment and completely agree with everything you’ve mentioned! It is pretty touristy but if you want to get away from it all, the other beaches on the island are beautiful and station 3 is so chilled. Glad to see you loved your time here as much as I did!

    1. Aaah I am so jealous!! I heard from another friend who is in Boracay right now that it is even busier than it was when I was there in late Jan/ early Feb, can that even be?! Enjoy your time in Boracay, Lauren!

  3. After watching these pictures I realized what Boracay is!
    Just an amazing place I have ever seen in where the beach, sand, nail blue water, wave…all is mind-blowing! Keeping up writing and sharing such this one.

  4. Such a great post Dany. I’ve been there twice now for an Ultimate Frisbee beach tourney which rocks.

    And while it’s beautiful I agree it’s so crowded and touristy on at least that side of the island where you are. Other side is supposedly more chill and a bit like it used to be before it got over exposed.

    It reminded me of a cruiseship on land where by day you enjoy the beach and water sports and shopping and each night the same entertainment happens, people gorge themselves on food and alcohol and party and then do it all over again

    1. Thanks, Natalie! Ultimate Frisbee Tourament – that sounds so cool! I didn’t even know that this existed but now I have to look it up and see what exactly you do in such a tournament 🙂 And by the way – the cruise ship analogy is just PERFECT!! I actually had to leave escape from the island at some point because I couldn’t handle the excessive drinking/partying anymore 😉

  5. Ahhhh this is great!! I was debating for awhile on which place to go to in the Philippines and I finally decided to include Boracay. This makes me so excited to go now! I will be heading there in August 🙂 Thanks for the great tips!

    1. I am sure you won’t regret it, Ashley! I hope the weather is okay in August – it might be a bit rainy? Pls report back how you like Boracay! 🙂

    1. Lol, I totally agree!! When we’re in Boracay together, that’s probably all I’m going to reveal afterwards 😀

    1. Yes, and make sure you go to Station 1 or 3 first and then station 2, Katie! 😉 That way the shock will not be as great as it was for me 😀

  6. Hi Dany! How did you find the internet speeds to be on Boracay? Just curious as I might have to work a little more than I want when I visit!

    1. Great question! I actually had the best internet speeds at the Frendz resort where I was staying. The only other acceptable wifi I found was at the Swiss Inn restaurant in Station 3, Starbucks (even though it was hit and miss there, but I enjoyed writing with aircon there) and Zucchero Cafe.

  7. I was in Boracay about this time 4 years ago – ugh 4 years has flown by! Absolutely loved it and it’s still one of my favourite places in the world to this day. I had a few nights that got totally out of hand (what do you expect with all day happy hours) and one night that has eclipsed any others. Like you Dany, I’ll be keeping my mouth closed on that one! Crazy yet blissful island.

  8. Wow, that sand is truly white.
    I never had the chance to visit a beach with white sand, but now because I know where this is, I will definitely go there.

  9. don’t recommend boracay in the summer (March- may). It’s crazy touristry and tends to get dirty. Esp Holy Week & Labor Day ( first wk may). No school & the young party peeps r dominating! Island can reach level of Ibiza party scenes. Seaweeds R largely present as well due to big crowd & much calmer weather can make a disappointing visit. Low season maybe better to visit, bec not only cheaper U have the beach clearer, cleaner and more relaxing! Something to consider & expect if u plan to visit. It’s a stunning place, but timing can disappoint some if not aware.

    1. Great advice, Ivy! I saw some pictures of the seaweed that’s on White Beach right now and I would’ve probably been disappointed had I been there now.

      1. Yes! Due to dry season & water is so much calmer ( no waves) , and u put the large big crowds making a mess, the shore builds up. It goes back to normal afterwards. They melt automatically. The locals likes to keep them and don’t want cleaned up because it is what bleaches the sand .But the island do a great job maintaining the cleanliness of the place and beaches after. Just avoid the big crowd season, and u sure will fall in love w the island!

  10. Awesome site Dani! I was reading up on your other trips when I stumbled upon your stuff on the Philippines and I had to take a look.

    I think you’re take on Boracay is pretty accurate. Some folks go for the beach with the laid back atmosphere and everything that goes with that. Some go for the night scene hoping to catch the love of their lives (who am I kidding?). While everybody I know hates the over development and abundance of usual establishments, some people actually go to Boracay for the food too. There’s plenty of good food to enjoy. No, McDonald’s, Subway, Starbucks, etc aren’t on that list but do email me if you wanna know more.

    Also as Ivy mentioned above, skip the local holidays. There’s a sizable crowd of foreigners skipping winter from November to around Feb/March but that’s nothing to the crowd of locals skipping their usual lives who flock to Boracay on holidays. Plus/minus 4 days to May 1 is probably busiest. Think spring break in Cancun or something. Best to avoid, unless you want to meet lotsa locals. I can go on and on about what to do/not do. But best to let you come back and experience them yourself. 🙂

    Looking forward to spending some more time on your site. I have a boring day job but I try to make up for it with some holiday travel here and there myself. Email me if you want some tips on the Philippines. Btw full disclosure: I’m Filipino living in Manila. Cheers!

    1. Alvin – thanks for mentioning the busiest periods in Boracay! I’ll make sure to plan my return NOT on any of those dates 🙂 And please feel free to send some recommendations for good food in Boracay my way, I’d love to try out some of them next time I go 🙂 Thanks again!

  11. Boracay is indeed a beautiful place. I have lots of friends from the Philippines who’s telling me that this is the place to go to when I visit their country.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting images Dany!

  12. It looks gorgeous, but it’s very interesting to see your photo of how busy it gets. It can sometimes be so hard to know what a famous destination will be like because people almost always show it in its best light and from the best angle when they write about it.

    1. Ari – yes, I certainly had never seen a photo like that of Boracay, everybody makes it always look so pretty… which it is – but the crowds are still there 😉

    1. Hannah – I’ve never seen so many chain restaurants right at a beach anywhere in the world, and I couldn’t believe how many there were considering how TINY Boracay is. But nonetheless White Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to. And yes… those epic sunsets!! I can’t wait to go back 🙂

  13. Hi Dany, you do not advise to purchase transfer from onboard Air Asia. Will there be long queue or so much hassle if we purchase upon arrival at Kalibo Airport? Worry that the locals might quote us higher than booking through tour for land/sea door to door transfer. Also will the local be able to speak good English?

    1. There won’t be long queues, don’t worry 🙂 Everyone speaks English and AirAsia charged more than double what the locals were charging!!

  14. Dani, thanks for your great info. Do you suggest I should book online for two ways land/sea transfer to Boracay?

  15. Hi Dany. I’m glad you found the same ambience as me. I have been going to Boracay every year for the last 12 years so I have gotten to know the place pretty well. For sure it’s a party island but it’s also whatever you decide to make it. Strolll to Station 3 in the evening and settle in at the Red Pirates bar and chill out with expats and locals or go the other way and end up at the party place, Club Parow in Station 1 which spills right out on to the beach. I’ve decided this is going to be my new home and planning to retire there next year. Can’t wait!

    1. HI Michael, I will check out the Red Pirates bar when I return to Boracay, which I hope will happen in January 🙂 See you in Boracay! 😀

  16. Hi, Dany!

    Great blog! I had no idea on what to expect, and you really summed it all up wonderfully. So, here’s the thing, I’m planning to visit the Philippines in May, and Boracay is definitely a place I want to go to while I’m there. So how did you go about it? Like, what airline did you book your flight with and how many months in advance? Also how much? I’m also on a budget, and with my wife and son with me. That’s why I prefer to try that Frendz hostel you stayed in, since it’s away from all the drinking and partying. I just want a quiet and relaxing getaway with my family. Thanks, I hope to hear from you soon.

    John

    1. Hi John – First of all.. I wouldn’t say Frendz is NOT a party place… it definitely is a place where people hang out at the bar at night, but they close at 10pm. (Still, there is a noise level that you might find disturbing, depending on how old your son is). If you want to get away from all the partying, I recommend you look for a place to stay in Station 3. I booked my flights into Boracay with AirAsia, about 3 weeks in advance and still got a good deal (about $40). I booked my flight out of Boracay only when I got to the island, with only a few days advance notice, so I paid much more than I’d wanted to (about $120). There are good deals on Cebu Pacific if you book ahead of time (I saw flights for around $30). Next time I go I’ll make sure to book my flights in and out at least four weeks in advance. You can fly either into Caticlan or into Kalibo; Caticlan is closer to Boracay (in walking distance from the jetty) but airfare is more expensive to Caticlan. (See my remarks in the ‘How to get there’ section). I hope this helps 🙂 Enjoy Boracay!

      1. Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I’ve been doing some research, and it seems the more affordable and quiet places are at Station 3. Either that, or get a place at the other beaches besides White Beach. Wanted to do it your way, instead of booking a vacation package. But as first-time tourists, wouldn’t the packages be better? Like, stress-wise and budget-wise? We’ve never traveled before, so this is gonna be a first for all of us.

        How difficult is it to find an affordable place to stay, say around the 1st-2nd week of May? Me and the wife are really psyched and looking forward to this. Our 6 yr. old doesn’t even know, I want it to be a surprise. Thanks again.

        John

        1. Follow-up question: Did you book your flights directly on the airline websites, or do you use some other travel sites for your bookings? Also, any advice on hotel booking sites? Me and the missus got our hearts set on Spider House (the view is amazing), even though it’s a bit more than our budget allows. We’re just gonna have to cut down our 1-week stay to just 4 days and 3 nights to accommodate the higher hotel rate. Thanks again.

  17. Wow! Nice post! I myself experience the beauty of Boracay! I’ve tried Orient Beach Boracay, a botique hotel that offers high standard of service. They also offers transfers and gives complimentary shuttle. I really love Boracay, with its sunset view and also the hospitable people. And btw, this out of town doesnt cost me too much. Imagine for 888 pesos I’ve sleep in a cozy and peaceful hotel. Try this hotel now! Currently they are giving nice discounts!

  18. Hi, again! Haha, sorry, I have so many questions, but please bear with me. So, would you suggest booking directly on the Spider House website, or is it cheaper to go though booking.com or agora.com?

    Thank you!

  19. Best to check TripAdvisor.com. They compare the rates of all major booking sites. I personally prefer Hotels.com as you can get a free night for every ten nights booked.

  20. What a lovely post Danny 🙂
    Stunning Boracay… the beach, the sand, the turquoise blue water and amazingly sunset… And I can say that Boracay has World’s best sunset spots.
    Wow! This Island was really blessed.
    And moving on Puka Beach which is also famous in Boracay I confess that this area of Boracay was extremely beautiful, more relaxing and serene… 🙂

  21. Interesting write up and photos but all now out of date I fear. The island is being destroyed by gross overdevelopment, mismanagement and pollution. Raw sewage and rubbish everywhere. Thankfully this will help ruin the golden goose and people will not return. I live in the Philippines and it is so sad to see the decline in this once pristine and quiet location, home to the displaced indigenous Ati people.

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