You can’t have a destinations guide for the Philippines without including Boracay. The place can get a lot of bad press due the commercial invasion of the island. It can be strange to be swimming in clear blue water looking back at a beach front Starbucks.
If you have been a long time traveller to Boracay then I can see the disappointment that you may feel in the transformation of the island over the last 20 years. I have only ever visited the island it its current state and have been back many times over. I love the place for what it is, and what it has to offer because it is a one of a kind destination in the Philippines.
There are countless destinations in the country with un-spoilt natural beauty. If that is what you are after in your travels then you can go pretty much anywhere else. Boracay is the only destination that I have found in the Philippines that offers natural beauty, relatively convenient infrastructure, good food, good nightlife and plenty of decent accommodation to fit any budget. It has everything that you need for an ‘easy’ holiday.
Almost every other destination listed on this site involves some serious leg work to get there. Most involve overnight buses on bumpy roads, or lengthy plane, van or boat connections. If you take the most direct route you can leave your front door in Manila, and be on the beach in Boracay in just a couple of hours. This puts the island high on the list of possible destinations if you have limited time. You can even squeeze in a weekend getaway if you need a break from the city.
The lifestyle options the island has to offer allows you to be as active or inactive as you like. The watersports are great fun! My first visit there was quite active and I had a great time trying out the various activities. Being with a larger group helped push me a long and overcome the laziness that comes with a hangover. This has got the better of me every other visit. Despite being top of my to do list, and the best intentions, I have still not done the cliff diving… One day.
An easier choice for those that have over indulged the night before is to take in a late breakfast, followed by a long swim. Although laying or floating in the water may be more accurate. The famous fruit shakes at Jonah’s usually does the trick in putting that hangover behind you. They do a great sinigang there too! An afternoon snooze, another swim, a late lunch, a massage… You can see where this is all going. Relaxing, convenient, pretty much whatever you feel like doing at the time is always possible on Boracay.
The best tip I have for anyone visiting Boracay for the first time is to head to the D’talipapa area for lunch. Before visiting the island I had never tried lobster, and I had heard that seafood on the island was cheap! I was disappointed on arrival to see that was not the case at all the beachfront restaurants. In hindsight this was probably foolish thinking to start with in a tourist destination. After a few visits a friend tipped me off about the D’talipapa markets. Again this is conveniently located just off the main beach, and just a few minutes walk from the central area of D’mall. Here you can get all the seafood you like for a fraction of the price of what you will find elsewhere. You can get yourself a smorgasbord of lobster, prawns, crab, and squid for under p2,000 depending on how much of each you want. More than enough to feed 2-4 people.
The market is surrounded by restaurants that cook up your BYO seafood for a couple of hundred pesos. Add in some rice, and a few beers and you will have an excellent afternoon. While the surroundings are not as pretty as you will get beachfront, my eyes would rarely rise from the feast in front of me until I was done. You can be back on the beach in two minutes ready for another swim before that famous sunset. Happy hour is just around the corner. This is a routine that I could get used to.