Trip Report: Boracay Island, Philippines

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This is a photo narrative of our visits to Boracay Island.  We traveled there from our home in Iloilo City by car.  First, a confession.  Although we have lived in Iloilo for three years, although we have explored many other resorts in Iloilo and elsewhere on Panay Island, we studiously avoided visiting Boracay — despite invitations, despite others imploring us to go, despite amazement that we lived so close and have not gone there.  Why?  Everything we’d heard made us think we wouldn’t like it, that it has been spoiled, overdeveloped, was garish, tacky — a Coney Island, a Disneyland of the tropics.  (You can read about our very enjoyable trip to Boracay driving through beautiful Antique Province by clicking here.)

Approaching Boracay Island from Caticlan.  Boracay still has its magic.

Approaching Boracay Island from Caticlan. Boracay still has its magic.

White Beach Boracay


This is Boracay's "Main Street" - the White Beach foot path

This is Boracay’s “Main Street” – the White Beach foot path

Boracay can be crowded.  People queuing for boat rides.

Boracay can be crowded. People queuing for boat rides.

Boracay's White Beach path at night - not for the solitude-seeker!

Boracay’s White Beach path at night – not for the solitude-seeker!

All that turns out to be partially true, but Boracay has virtues that allow it to survive its excesses and still remain an enjoyable destination.  Here are the things we liked best about Boracay:

  • There are virtually no cars on the island.  The main transport for tourists is a long, beautiful palm-shaded sandy path paralleling the beach.  Everything is accessible on foot.  You can spend a week on Boracay walking everywhere, never seeing, smelling or hearing a car.  For us, that’s a big part of Boracay’s allure.
  • While Boracay is a major, busy tourist destination it retains its friendly small-town, provincial character.  Even the hordes of sunglass vendors are polite.  This is a big contrast with the Cebu City-Mactan resorts.
  • Read more about why we prefer Boracay to Cebu resorts here: Boracay compared to Cebu Mactan IslandUnlike most Philippine resorts areas, Boracay is quite sophisticated in its dining and shopping opportunities.  There are lots of international dining options, delis selling baguettes, imported cheese, paté, wine and other necessities of civilized life!  Of course you can go from the Cebu-Mactan resorts into Cebu City for similar amenities, but you’ll struggle to get transportation from your resort into the city and back — a far cry from strolling under the palms to a restaurant or deli on Boracay
  • Before we visited Boracay, we visited several islands (including Malapascua and Bantayan Islands)  which are said to be “like Boracay before it was ruined”, or were going to be “the next Boracay”.  Despite all the development, White Beach at Boracay remains a fabulous beach.  The beaches at Mactan are lousy in comparison.

Tirol and Tirol Beach Resort, Boracay, Philippines

On our first trip to Boracay we stayed at one of Boracay’s pioneer resorts, Tirol and Tirol Beach Resort.  TNT, as it is known, was one of the first premium Boracay resorts but like many of the old resorts it’s being demolished to make way for bigger, fancier resorts.  The contrast between TNT and the huge concrete mass of the new Boracay Regency immediately next door is unmistakable; the old, low-key, laid-back Boracay at TNT and the Regency, which could as easily have been in Makati as Boracay.

Boracay Regency

Boracay Regency

To be fair, we do have friends who stayed at the Boracay Regency and enjoyed it, especially the bounteous buffet meals.  Boracay Regency reservations

Deprived of TNT, on our next trip we stayed at Roy’s Rendezvous, a small resort near Boat Station 3.  Boat Station 3 is quieter than the pulsing din of Boat Station 2, so for those seeking relative quiet, it’s a good choice.  Those wanting to be close to the nightlife scene might prefer Station 2.  You can read our review of Roy’s Rendezvous HERE. There are hundreds of resorts on Boracay, from the posh Shangri-la to the dozens of smaller, basic and much less expensive resorts that line the footpaths and roads leading away the beach.  Since we are budget travellers, we like to get decent accommodations at a price we can afford.

A bungalow at Roy's Rendezvous Resort

A bungalow at Roy’s Rendezvous Resort

One of the best things about Boracay is being able to treat yourself to fabulous fresh seafood by buying the seafood at the local market (the talipapa) and having it cooked just the way you want it at one of the cooking service restaurants which surround the talipapa.  In general the prices at the talipapa are reasonable, so load up on fresh crab, lobster and shrimp and take it a few steps to one of the cooking services, tell them how you want it cooked, take a table and wait for your seafood feast to arrive.  For more information see our post about Boracay seafood at the talipapa HERE.

Fish for sale at the Boracay talipapa market

Fish for sale at the Boracay talipapa market

Speaking of eating, my wife and I love Indian (and Pakistani) food but as far as we knew there were no Indian restaurants in Iloilo City where we live.  When we were planning on visiting Boracay, a friend of ours told us to be sure to dine at Crafty’s Rooftop Restaurant.  What a good recommendation it was! We did so and were not disappointed.  Crafty’s has a tandoori oven which produced nan (Indian flat bread) as good as we had in Montreal or New York.  Unfortunately, the oven was not always fired up, so nan was not always available.  We tried the whole wheat chappatis as a substitute and they too were excellent.  Actually everything was good.  We met the Pakistani chef, Vincent who gave us some tips on buying Indian cooking ingredients in Iloilo and Manila.

Hint: Indian/Pakistani groceries and spices are available in Manila at the Assad Ali Minimart, UN Ave, near Paco Park. Phone 02-526-1349 or 02-526-5034

To get to Craft’s Rooftop Restaurant from the White Beach path, take the southerly-most path through d’Mall, go all the way through d’Mall until you come to the trike-filled Main Road.  Craft’s in on the forth and topmost floor of the Craft’s supermarket building which is on the left at the intersection of the  Main Road and the southerly d’Mall trail.

We could not splurge on every meal.  There were five in our party.  For inexpensive lunches, we dined at Andok’s, a Philippine fast food chain specializing in chicken.  We could buy a whole roast chicken and rice for five and drinks for about P350.  Andok’s is on the White Beach trail between Boat Station 2 and 3.

The bottom line is this:  we love life in the Philippines with all of its wonderful peculiarities, but we have friends in the USA who simply could not or would not like to endure the real or imaginary hazards or inconveniences of travel in the Philippines.  Their “comfort zone” is the US or Europe, or possibly an upscale Caribbean island.  Boracay is perfect Philippine destination for such visitors.  Foreign visitors can fly into Manila and hop on a flight to Boracay without leaving the airport, without even sniffing Manila.  The new piers at Caticlan on the mainland and Cagban on Boracay Island are quite civilized.  Higher-end Boracay resorts have their own boats and vans to whisk guests to their resorts. Foreigners can have a tropical beach vacation in the Philippines without having to endure hardy any hardships or inconveniences. They’ll get a chance to sample unbeatable Filipino hospitality.  Boracay, despite its crowds and over-development, is really a friendly Filipino provincial place. Comments and suggestions welcome below.

Your trip to Boracay will please the taxman immensely.  If you fly on a Philippine airline, be prepared for a menu of fees and taxes which are tacked on to the base price of your ticket, in addition to any baggage and seat selection fees.  For example:

  • Fuel Surcharge
  • Terminal Fee
  • VAT
  • Aviation Security Fee
  • Web Administration Fee
  • Domestic Passenger Service Charge

Once you land at Kalibo, you’ll take a bus to Caticlan and the Jetty Port for you boat to Boracay Island.

  • Jetty Port terminal fee is P100 per person each way.  We paid P1,000 in jetty port fees.
  • Environmental fee is P75
  • Pump Boat fare is P25 each way
  • Tricycle to you resort.  We paid P100 to our Boat Station 3 resort.
  • Meals and Lodging VAT 12%
  • Snorkeling Fee P20

Comments (6) Write a comment

  1. I really enjoyed reading this blog! I’m leaving for Boracay next week (leaving from Ottawa, Canada) and stopping in Cebu for a few days to pick up a few family members and fly them to Boracay (other from Manila will join is there too) for a week’s vacation. I go back to the Philippines every year but this is my first time heading to Boracay! Really looking forward to it and thanks to you, I just Crafty’s Rooftop Restaurant on the “Things to do” list! Excellent!


    • Lora,

      Glad the post was useful and hope you have a good meal at Crafty’s. Please give a report/feedback if you have anything to add.



  2. Pingback: Boracay compared to Cebu-Mactan Island | My Philippine Life

  3. Hello Bob and Carol,

    Thank you for deciding to stay and explore Iloilo, my beloved province. I am from Janiuay, Iloilo, a town almost 30 km north of Iloilo City and a town near the airport. As I watched your ” Panagbuhi sa uma youtube video, I can really relate to this as I grew up in a farm. thiese things I experienced firt hand , and still experiencing this though I have worked and still working abroad for some time , but my heart still belongs to the simplier, unaffected life in Iloilo. I plan to retire in my hometown, and enjoy the genuiness of the people, the arts and culture of my beloved province.


  4. Hi there. I spent hours reading this site. Thank you so much its wonderful. I was born and raised in Iloilo but migrated to the US 20yrs ago. I can’t help but comment on Boracay. I was fortunate enough to see/visit Boracay in the 80’s. We stayed in a cottage owned by the Tirols. I am not sure if we even paid rent then. It was just their vacation house then not a business venture. There were no hotels or big resorts in the island. It was a time when a bonfire was allowed on the beach. There was no electricity and the locals were very very nice. In the 90’s while working for an airline I again visited Boracay with my workmates from Manila. My friends from Manila were just soooo impressed but I was feeling soooo sad/disappointed. So much have change. Maybe I am anti development but I wanted so much for Boracay to stay “untouch”. Well it can’t be help. I think the biggest difference between Boracay and other “white beach ” resorts is that the white sand in Boracay is natural (mother nature gifted the island its natural beauty) I heard that some resorts in Cebu covered their beaches with white sand from I don’t know where. They must have brought in thousands of truckloads.(if my information is correct, white sand are mostly shells).

    Bob and Carol, more power to you.
    Best regards.


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