Boracay

White beach on isle of Boracay by CC user reinkim on Flickr

Introduction

Being the best known tropical paradise that the Philippines has by far, it still struggles in the shadows of the other heavyweights in the region, with the likes of Thailand, Bali in Indonesia, and even Cambodia stealing the focus from this shining gem in the Visayas.  What this means is, that despite this island’s status as the #1 tourist destination in the country, it is more off the radar than the previously mentioned hotspots, making it possible to enjoy this world class white sand getaway without having to fight off the unwashed masses that more heavily trafficked destinations are plagued with.

Adding to this idyllic isles appeal is the Filipino people that work and live here.  Filipinos have long been regarded as one of the friendliest nationalities in the world, and due to the fact that most of them speak at least workable English, any concerns or compliments that you wish to convey will be better received here than in other locales, where knowledge of English is less certain, and the tourism workers more jaded with respect to their employment.

With the recent extension of visas from 21 days to 30 days, and the viral success of the Philippines Tourism Board’s “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” ads, it likely won’t be long before this island is overrun with new arrivals.  Therefore, a quick trip to this hospitable place should be made sooner rather than later, as you likely won’t regret it!

Snorkeling the easy way in Boracay by CC user flaircandy on Flickr

Activities

On a small island populated solely for the purposes of servicing international and domestic tourists, there is little in the way of true cultural experiences to be had here (save for partying at night with the fun-loving locals!), so the focus of this section will instead be on the many things you can do to fill your days with fun.

Firstly, there are many outfits that offer SCUBA diving and snorkelling, as much of the Visayas are located within the Coral Triangle, which is known worldwide for its intense biodiversity of animal, coral, and aquatic plant life. While the snorkelers lazily troll the shallow reefs, those looking to go deeper will have a wide selection of dive sites, which run the gamut from beginner to advanced. Wall dives dominate the features that divers will encounter, with animals sightings ranging from a staggering array of colourful reef fish, as well as many different varieties of shark and sting rays.

From November to April, the winds off Boracay can be quite gusty, making for ideal conditions for those who are kiteboarding enthusiasts, or for those who wish to pick it up. The coral reef at Bulabog Beach knocks down the angry swells further offshore, making this ideal place to begin to learn the basics of this exciting sport without suffering any potentially embarrassing wipeouts.

In recent years, the increased media focus on extreme sports has allowed new fringe sports to emerge, and on Boracay you have the opportunity to try one of them with your adrenaline craving buddies.  Skimboarding relies on sliding a short board over a pool of very shallow water, giving the participant a very exciting ride.  Compete against your friends to see who can hold on the longest before taking an inevitable spill, the results of which will make for a very entertaining afternoon before festivities of the evening commence.  Those looking for expert instruction from a Filipino local can have it for the very affordable price of 300 Philippine Pesos, which will prove to be money well invested as you attempt to best your compatriots the next day!

Boracay Beach Massage by CC user gareth1953 on Flickr

Rest and Relaxation

The first thing you’ll likely want to know here is about the beaches – which one should I spend my time at, and why?  Depending on what you are looking for on your holiday, the answer will vary.

The first beach we will mention is the most popular one on the island, White Beach.  This is the stretch of sand that made this isle famous, as it possesses ultra-fine, powdery white sand.  It is huge, so it is divided equally into three stations.  Station 1 is the best place to hang out for the best sand, so consequently, the hotels and the services here are the most expensive of the three.  Station 2 is at the commercial heart of the entire island, so any and all services you could ever want are located here, including the scintillating nightlife after the sun goes down.  Station 3 is the quietest and least developed of the three sectors, so if you want to be close to the action, but desire privacy, you would do well to spend most of your time here.

As for the other beaches on the island, Puka Beach is even more deserted than Station 3 of White Beach, making it an introvert’s dream come true.  Alas though, the sand tends to be quite coarse, and the waters off the beach very choppy, so if these attributes bother you, than White Beach is probably a better decision.

Those into action sports should head to Bulabog Beach.  As mentioned earlier, it is home to many avid windsurfers in the winter season, so those wishing to try this sport, or those who like to watch should make this beach their main destination.

At these beaches, you may want the knots in your stress wracked body kneaded out.  If you’re not shy, there are many roving budget masseuses roaming the beach hawking their services.  Those wishing more discretion can employ the services of a blind masseuse in some of the businesses off the main beach, or by ponying up more money for a more luxurious experience, including your choice of massage style, from Swedish to Thai.

Finally, there are many raucous bars located among the length of White Beach.  In Station 1, many young partiers take a liking to the Cocomangas, which has many stylish foreigners and locals alike, and devil may care attitude towards partying.  Station 2 boasts many more bars, with Déjà Vu getting the pre-drinks flowing in the hot afternoon sun, and continuing the vibe at night with many highly regarded DJ’s from across the Philippines and around the world.  Down in Station 3, the Red Pirates Pub is the iconic beach bar we all dream about, complete with a BBQ buffet, fruity drinks, and live music most nights.  This is a favourite among travellers, so solo backpackers looking for some new friends couldn’t go wrong checking this place out!

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