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 beachfront Starbucks.
If you have been a long time traveler 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 in 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 along 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 overindulged 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 within 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.
How to get to Boracay
Things to do in Boracay
The Famous Boracay Pub Crawl
No trip to Boracay is complete without a night on the famous Boracay Pub Crawl. While the island is known for its nightlife, outside of the big party weekends like Laboracay and Holy Week most of the venues can be very hit and miss. Some nights they are full, others completely empty. If you get on the pub crawl then the party will follow you no matter where you go.
The crowd is always a hot pot of cultural diversity. Tourists, locals and OFWs home for their annual visit will make up the crowd. Everyone has an interesting background and a story to tell (well most people).
You will usually have a good mix of guys and girls. So for those who are single and ready to mingle you might just find someone you hit it off with throughout the course of the night.
The night always kicks off near the Aplaya Beach Bar meeting point, which is home base. I always enjoy this part of the night. It is a great chance to chat to as many people as you can before heading to a noisy venue. This is also when everyone is at their soberest, so it can of course be the most awkward part of the night also. Always best to get that part out of the way early so once the drinks to kick in you are more of a familiar face.
You will spend about 45 minutes at four or five bars throughout the night. I can never remember how many…. or where they are. On arrival at each bar you will get a shot of something. Again my memory is fuzzy here. I remember something that tasted like coffee.
Something that I do remember is that the list of venues does change regularly. I have been on the Boracay Pub Crawl three times now and my most recent adventure went to two bars I didn’t know existed. So it is a good way to discover new places. Of course, if you want to go there again you have to remember where they all are. I can’t help you there.
In between the venues there is the odd trip to the beach. This involves more shots and games. These are great to get to know more of your fellow pub crawlers. You might get chained to someone who could turn into your new best friend. At least for that night anyway. My last chaining experience involved an Indian working in Dubai and a Filipino OFW. Both interesting people and they became drinking buddies for the night.
My last trip was a solo one, and the pub crawl was great to meet a few people to party with. A much better choice than being that random guy approaching tables for someone to share a beer with. Never an easy thing to do in Boracay with everyone always drinking at isolated tables, and being served at tables. Not much room to make an introduction there unless you are very brave and/or charismatic.
It can also brighten up your trip to see some familiar faces the next day on the beach. Of course, the conversation always starts with “what was your name again.” You can avoid this on the pub crawl as everyone has their name written on their yellow Boracay Pub Crawl shirt. An iconic symbol on its own.
The pub crawl leaders are all very welcoming and made sure you were looked after throughout the night, and that everyone was involved in the activities. Two i had no hesitation in flying solo at the pub crawl. After attending a couple of times with my brother we kept losing track of each other in the crowd anyway. So it wasn’t that much different once you got a few drinks deep.
As the night draws to a close you always seem to end up a long way from D-mall towards Station 1. It can be a long walk from there back to your nearest late night food options. A drunken stumble down the beach is always fun with your new group of friends. The tricycle is always an option, but if you are a drunk white tourist expect a higher than normal fare.
A word of caution for the late night walk home. When the crowd thins out this is when the undesirables become more persistent. You are likely to be approached by prostitutes lurking in the dark who’s gender can be a bit of a grey area. This secret photographic evidence of such an encounter always makes me laugh. Had to let this go on long enough to snap the pic before i let the guy know that this super friendly lady was in fact a prostitute… and wasn’t a lady.
The pub crawl runs on most nights with the biggest being the Friday and Saturday night crawls. If you are on the island for a week you will find by Sunday you will have a mostly different crowd to party with as people come and go from the island.
I would recommend the pub crawl to both solo travelers and those in a group. It is great fun no matter what crowd you start off with and you will be sure to make plenty of new friends along the way.
My only word of warning is the dreaded Boracay Pub Crawl Facebook page. They have a photographer who captures the night at every turn and some of those fuzzy memories could become very permanent and very public moments.
There are thousands and thousands of past pub crawlers who are members of the FB page and it is only a matter of time until someone you know finds the evidence of you in all your drunken glory.