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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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