The island of Boracay in the Philippines has attracted a ton of attention over the past few years as more travelers get wind of this small patch of tropical beach bliss.
Located only an hour by plane from Cebu and Manila, the common issues of overcrowding and wild parties have accompanied the influx of new visitors. Nonetheless, Boracay does have some of the world’s most stunning white sand and crystalline waters, so it is well worth planning a visit that captures the best of the island.
The heart of Boracay is White Beach, the island’s commercial center. White Beach runs along 2.5 miles of white powder, and the heart of the beach is near Boat Station 2, the area with the biggest crowds and rowdiest bars and hotels. Unless the goal is a nonstop party, a good alternative is to head north or south to spend the night.
The northern side of White Beach, generally north of Boat Station 1, offers higher end and luxury accommodations staggered along the beach’s widest stretch of sand. The southern end offers a more laid-back environment with a quieter and more relaxing vibe. Bars, restaurants, and hotels near Boat Station 3 cater more to backpackers and independent travelers.
If on the other hand, you picked Boracay specifically to plunge into the nightlife head on, stay in the center of the beach near the bars and clubs around Boat Stations 1 and 2, and consider visiting during March through May.
Throughout the vacation months of March and Apri, students flock to Boracay, and in May celebrities, DJs, and the professional party set all head to the island for unofficial “LaBoracay” parties and themed events.
While White Beach is the most famous, Boracay has many other charming beaches to explore. For a quick change of pace, check out Diniwid Beach, just to the north of White Beach. Diniwid Beach has amazing views of the cliffs, and at only 200 meters, has a much more intimate feel.
Continuing clockwise around Boracay, Puka Shell Beach and Ilig-Iligan Beach offer similar sand conditions to White Beach, but fewer crowds. The water at Puka Shell Beach is a bit rougher, so be cautious when swimming. There are fewer services here, but still a few restaurants and vendors. Motorized “tricycle” taxis will take passengers to other beaches from White Beach, and it is even possible to walk inland to get to the beaches on the other side of the coast.
Bulabog Beach, directly east across the island from White Beach, is a must-see for travelers who are into kitesurfing and windsurfing, or who just enjoy hanging out at a beach with more of a “surf culture” vibe. This mile-long beach offers some of the best kitesurfing in Asia, and offers a whole range of services geared toward travelers who want to try out kitesurfing for themselves.
At low tide, the water is quite calm, so beginners can easily purchase lessons from one of the many kitesurfing schools and pick up the basics of the sport. For those looking to soak up a little local culture, try stopping by Manoc Manoc Beach southeast of Bulabog Beach, which usually has a festive and relaxed local crowd.
Boating and biking
Boating is a major draw for exploring more of Boracay and getting out onto the ocean. The boat of choice for most travelers is the paraw, the local variety of outrigger sailboat. There will be a wealth of paraw journeys to choose from, and they can be hired by individuals or booked as part of a tour.
Paraws will take passengers for sunset cruises, or on day trips to nearby islands and popular side destinations, such as Ariel’s Point, a popular spot for cliff diving. Feel free to approach any boat moored along the beaches, as most will be open to negotiating a fare for a trip.
Fans of boats and traditional racing should try to catch the Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival, usually held in late April or early May, taking place along White Beach, with both men’s and women’s teams in the competition.
If exploring by land is more appealing, a great option is to rent a motorbike or scooter to jet around the island. The roads are a bit rough, but the adventure is guaranteed, and having wheels for a few days will be the ideal way to check out new beaches around the island and find the perfect secret spot for picnicking and sunbathing.
Aside from the majestic sunsets, pristine waters, and white sand as fine as powder, Boracay attracts tourists because of its unique sense of community that gives life to the island’s name. Here are some of the best bars and restaurants you have to check out while in Bora.
Hobbit Tavern at D’Mall
Formerly called The Hobbit House, the Hobbit Tavern is a distinct kind of restaurant and watering hole. It runs with a Lord of the Rings theme and is fittingly called such because of its energetic and friendly waiters who all have dwarfism. They serve signature Filipino dishes, and their specialties are Kare-Kare (stewed oxtail in peanut sauce) and Crispy Pata (deep-fried pork trotters). Their liquor stash is also great. They have different kinds of wine, beers, and cocktails. Plus, their rum and coke is something you have to try. And their talented musicians are people you have to look out for when you visit.
This restaurant brings you to a place where Filipino-Castilian culture blends from the interior, music, plates, and to your palate. From its name, the inspiration for this restaurant comes from the mestizo circles in Davao and Cebu, where the restaurant’s chef-patron grew up. The staples from the homes of Filipino families with Spanish heritage are now the bestsellers of Dos Mestizos. You should try their salpicao de vaca, callos, paellas, and tortilla de patata. They have an excellent selection of Spanish wine, as well as Filipino liquors.
D’Talipapa is a great place to test your skills for haggling. You’d find a wide array of clothes and food for you to shop. If you’re looking for a souvenir or some fresh seafood, D’talipapa is the place to go. You’ll have to buy your lunch, fresh from the market, and have it cooked in nearby food houses. The food can be pricey, though, and if you don’t know how to bargain, you might have to pay double for lunch.
It is one of the most popular places in Bora to enjoy the nightlife. During the day, they serve great food, a fusion of the Oriental and Western cuisine, to fill the tummy. And at night, it transforms into one of the hottest dance bars on the island, with DJs spinning music that is sure to exhilarate people. For party animals, Epic Boracay is the place to be and be seen.
A tattoo parlor by day, it is a chill bar at night where you are welcome to meet, have fun, dance, and drink with people from all over the world and all walks of life. They have two bar stations on either end and a DJ by the front. You can check the place after having your dinner, as the bar becomes even more lively from around 10 in the evening until the wee hours of the morning. It’s a perfect place to unwind and get an authentic island vibe.
Beyond the wild parties and raucous crowds pulsating and thronging at White Beach, there are local treasures and serene beach landscapes scattered all around the island.
You can enjoy plenty of beach activities — like parasailing, helmet diving, flyfish riding, paraw sailing. During the night, you can walk the whole stretch to find the bar and restaurant that you feel like spending the night. You can also join the famous pub crawl to have a guided bar hopping and to make new friends along the way.
Just make sure to allow ample time for a lot of exploring beyond White Beach to get a feel for the more hidden pleasures of Boracay. Indeed, the island has so much more to offer that will make visitors want to come back again.
Josiah Mosier is a car enthusiast and loves working on his 2011 Mercedes Benz 300 C-Class. Other than that, he loves to cook and spend time with his family. In his free time, he writes about cars on Adsitco‘s blog and shares them with his readers.