Fri

05

Sep

2014

BORACAY 2014 - STILL A PARADISE? A TRAVEL GUIDE TO PHILIPPINES' MOST VISITED ISLAND

By Sab


And again, I traveled back to one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines, to find affordable places to stay, great restaurants to eat and cool bars to hang out...

Boracay 2014 - Still a Paradise? A Travel Guide to Philippines' most visited island. © Sabrina Iovino @Just1WayTicket

Do you remember? Almost one year ago I wrote a blog post about Boracay, a travel guide on how to stay in Boracay on $23 a day (all inclusive!). The article went viral, it was my most popular blog post ever with over 25,000 shares on Facebook. People liked the article, because it was full of good information, cheap eats and budget hotels. Thanks to you all for getting that post so famous.

 

A lot of things have changed since my last visit, so I decided to return to the island and write an update about Boracay.  

But this time I gotta be honest with you.

I know, I know, I've written a guide on how to stay in Boracay for $23 a day and most of the times I'm staying within this budget, but sometimes... Well, sometimes I need to splurge. A bit. Just a little bit. Trust me, it's worth it. Don't worry, I promise I kept my expenses low. And I found some absolutely cool places on the island... More on that later. Keep reading.

But first: Welcome back to paradise.

 


This is not another guide on how to stay in Boracay as cheap as possible, this is an honest guide about my favorite places on the island... 

 

Let's start with a video of mine. Images are better than words, that's why I brought my GoPro this time to Boracay to get some great footage of the island. Let me show you how it really looks like... Here are two minutes of Boracay, showing some of my best moments on the island...

 

A short intro about Boracay. Imagine a tropical island paradise in the Philippines, 45 minute flight away from Manila. The place is famous for its white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Boracay offers an excellent nightlife, great restaurants, leisure activities such as snorkeling, diving, windsurfing, parasailing and so much more. But it's also a perfect place to do nothing and just relax.

Or to say it in four words: Boracay has it all

 

Here, some pictures for you. Yes, they're real. I've taken all these photos myself. And yes, that foot is mine, too. Click to enlarge.

 

White Beach Boracay, Philippines © Sabrina Iovino | via @Just1WayTicket

Now the bad news. Boracay is changing. Very fast. I wasn't happy when I saw McDonalds opened a branch in the middle of White Beach. Things like those sucks.

 

For your own peace of mind I'd recommend visiting Boracay during low season (June - early October). Unless you're looking for some crowded party action a la Koh Phangan's full moon party, then you should come during the Holy Week, Labor Day or between Christmas and New Year. Up to you.

 

 


IS BORACAY STILL WORTH TO VISIT?

Absolutely yes, if you ask me. If you're visiting the island for the first time, chances are high that you'll like it. Because you have no idea how Boracay was a couple of years ago.

 

I've sent Adventurous Kate to Boracay earlier this year, and she loved it! I've sent a dozen of my friends to Boracay, and none of them returned and said Dude, this island sucks.

Well... there were some complaints. Some were saying it was too expensive (again, read my Budget Guide to Boracay). Others said it was too crowded. Fine. Try Siargao next time.

 

But there was one thing we all agreed on it: Boracay is without a doubt one of the most beautiful islands in the world.

 

No matter what tourism does to this island, one thing will never change:

The magical combination of white sand and turquoise waters.

 

Beautiful White Beach in Boracay, Philippines © Sabrina Iovino | JustOneWayTicket.com
Beautiful White Beach in Boracay

Let's get some orientation. Here is a little map of the island. In case you haven't been to Boracay before, this might be helpful. It's actually quite simple, look at the map below. Most things are happening along the 4 kilometer stretch called White Beach, the commercial center of the island. The beach is divided into three parts called Station 1, 2 and 3. In the middle of the beach (around station 2) is D'Mall, an area with plenty shops and restaurants.

 

Map of Boracay, Philippines. 2014 © Sabrina Iovino | JustOneWayTicket.com

RESTAURANTS - WHERE TO EAT

There are more than 500 restaurants in Boracay.

There is only one kind of food I like: Good food. Without a doubt, there is no lack of restaurants in Boracay. The variety of places to eat is insane. Whatever you want, name it - any world cuisine you can imagine, I'll guarantee you'll find it on the island. Enjoy your meal!

 

Kao Pad (Chicken, Egg, Mango and Rice) at Smoke Resto for PHP140 - Delicious! Boracay © Sabrina Iovino | JustOneWayTicket.com
Kao Pad (Chicken, Egg, Mango and Rice) at Smoke Resto for PHP140 - Delicious!

Unfortunately it's getting more and more difficult to find cheap restaurants in Boracay. The only really inexpensive option is eating at the local eateries or at the street food stalls where they serve snacks like shawarma, burger, corn, balut and different kinds of barbecue sticks. 

If you have some tips about cheap eats in Boracay, please tell me in the comments. I'm happy to extend this list.

 

So what's left in the budget category? Not much, basically these were the places I ate most of my meals.

 

  • Happy Home - A newly discovered gem right on Bulabog beach that serves international and Filipino dishes for a low price. They serve giant portions, most meals cost around PHP150. Highly recommended!

  • Boracay Kitchen - Another good option if you're looking for cheap eats. The restaurant serves Filipino food for PHP50-190 per meal. Located on the main street behind Club Paraw  (Station 1).

  • Smoke Resto - I used to eat every day at Smoke and praised them at my previous post about Boracay. The food is still among the best in Boracay, simple but delicious meals. My favorite meal is Kao Pad (picture above!) - make sure to try it! Unfortunately, they increased the prices. They also opened a third branch now, you can find two of them in D'Mall and the third one along the main road, opposite of the immigration office.

  • Tres Amigos- I was excited to see a new Mexican Restaurant in D'Mall that serves burritos for reasonable prices. A chicken burrito is around PHP180, best deal for Mexican food on the island.

  • D'Talipapa - I can't believe I didn't mention D'Talipapa before. This is one place that no one should miss, especially if you love seafood. There are tons of seafood restaurants in Boracay, trust me they're all quite pricey. Your cheap alternative is D'Talipapa: Buy any kind of seafood (lobster, shrimps, squid, fish, etc.), you pay per kilo. Afterwards you choose one of the nearby restaurants and having it cooked for you. Delicious experience! D'Talipapa is located at Station 2, a few minutes walk from D'Mall.

 

 


BARS & HANGOUT SPOTS

Coming alone to Boracay? No problem. You won't stay alone...

Before I went the first to Boracay, a Filipino guy I met in Manila told me: Boracay is the perfect place to meet people and make new friends. He was so right about that. Nobody stays alone in Boracay... (well, unless you're a douchebag then I can't guarantee for anything)...

 

Boracay is also well known as the party islands of the Philippines, there is always something going on. I'm not really a night club person, so I'll skip this and focus on the cool bars and other hangout spots if you don't mind. Here we go...

 

Hanging out at Spider House, Diniwid Beach in Boracay © Sabrina Iovino | JustOneWayTicket.com
Spider House, Diniwid Beach
  • Spider House - I love love love the Spider House. My favorite place to spend a lazy afternoon. Spider House is a resort that's built on rocks along the sea. Or to say it in other words: The coolest place you've ever seen. The views are truly stunning (see image above). You can snorkel along the rocks or just relax in the bar, read a book or watch the day passing by. They also serve excellent food, but it's a bit pricey, so mostly I stick with the beers. 
    Directions: You can walk from White Beach, but it will take you 30 – 45 minutes. Just keep walking towards Station 1 to the end, and then walk the path around the rocks. You'll enter another beach called Diniwid Beach. Keep walking to the end. At the end of Diniwid is a path that leads to Spider House. If that sounds too complicated, just hop on a tricycle.

  • Exit Bar - Still one of my all time favs to hang out after sunset. The table outside is perfect to watch people passing by while having a few cheap drinks. They have live music several days per week. The staff is super cool, always in a good mood and up for a chat. Exit Bar is located at Station 2, White Beach, between Bom Bom Bar and Red Coconut Resort.

  • Secret Tip: The wildest underground parties are happening every Sunday (occasionally also on Saturdays, check beforehand!) at Frendz Resort. No entrance fee. Island star Armand TJ is performing a mix of acoustic music with guitar, keyboard and percussions, from reggae to alternative and pop. Armand is also organizing underground parties around the world, check out his website One Island – One World.

 

Live Music Session at Frendz Resort in Boracay, Philippines © Armand TJ
Live Music Session at Frendz Resort in Boracay, Philippines © Armand TJ

HOTELS & RESORTS - WHERE TO STAY IN BORACAY

Boracay offers rooms from PHP300 to PHP30,000 a night. You choose.

There are hundreds of hotels, resorts and guesthouses in Boracay, you can choose anything between budget and high end. However, budget accommodations are becoming rare in Boracay, but the good news is: they still exist. 

 

I spent an entire month in Boracay this year, so I had a fair amount of time to try different resorts in different price ranges. Lessons I've learned: more expensive does not always mean better service. Personally I would not spend too much on accommodation in Boracay. You'll be most of your time outside, so why spending a fortune for a bed to sleep? 

 

Here are my personal recommendations:

 

Frendz Resort Boracay © Vanessa Menchaca | www.WanderOnwards.org
Frendz Resort Boracay © Vanessa Menchaca | www.WanderOnwards.org

FRENDZ RESORT

 

This place has been in Boracay for a long time already, and I've always heard good things about it. I spent two weeks at Frendz Resort and it absolutely lived up to the high expectations I had after everybody was raving about it. The Resort is nothing luxury or fancy, the rooms are simple but clean. It's a place that will make you feel like home.

 

Frendz Resort is one of the very last places in Boracay that still accommodates their guests in native style huts. What really amazed me was the family vibe at this place: All the staff members knew my name and every day I would hear a friendly "Hi Sabrina, how are you today?" - It was like staying with good friends. 


The breakfast at Frendz is better than in many other places I've eaten in Boracay. They serve real coffee and fresh juice, no 3in1 mix or powder juice. Big meals.

 

Frendz Resort is a budget place that offers a lot for its price. Guests can use free beach beds, use skim boards or snorkel gear for free and even receive discounts for nearby restaurants. The resort is located 2 minutes walk from White Beach, near station 1. Very close to Starbucks. Ask around, locals know Frendz resort, it's that popular.


Rates: A bed in the dormitory starts from PHP500/night, a double room from PHP1000/night. All rooms are cleaned daily. I highly recommend booking online because Frendz Resort is often full. I booked via Hostelworld.com.

 

Hangin Kite Resort

By Sabrina

  • Hangin Kite Resort

    By Sabrina

  • Hangin Kite Resort

    By Sabrina

  • Hangin Kite Resort

    By Sabrina

  • Hangin Kite Resort

    By Sabrina

  • Hangin Kite Resort

    By Sabrina

  • Hangin Kite Resort

    By Sabrina

HANGIN KITE RESORT

 

For a couple days I stayed at the beautiful Hangin Kite Resort on Bulabog Beach. As the name tells, Hangin Kite Resort is a favorite spot for kite surfers. The Owner Normeth is such a dear, and she's quite popular on the island. Besides running the Hangin Resort and a kite school, she's also the owner of the famous Mermaid School and teaching people how to swim like a mermaid... 

 

The resort has been recently renovated, each room is individually designed. My room had high ceilings and a bathtub in the center of the room. I could see the ocean while having a bath. The room had a lovely view, overlooking Bulabog Beach.

 

There was a cozy lounge deck across our room, the perfect place to get a tan, read a book or just watch the kite surfers. If you can wake up early, you'll see a stunning sunrise over Bulabog Beach. 

 

Hangin Kite Resort is located on Bulabog Beach, a five minute walk from D`Mall and maybe eight minutes walk to White Beach. This is probably your cheapest bet if you fancy a beachfront place. I loved staying there. Unique rooms, great views and welcoming staff.

 

Rates: Double room start from PHP1500/night (in low season, June - Sep.). Each room is equipped with A/C, LCD TV, kettle and fridge. 

 

MNL Beach Hostel Boracay

By Sabrina

  • MNL Beach Hostel Boracay

    By Sabrina

  • MNL Beach Hostel Boracay

    By Sabrina

  • MNL Beach Hostel Boracay

    By Sabrina

MNL BEACH HOSTEL

 

A new colorful hostel just opened up on Bulabog Road, a few minutes walk away from D'Mall. The place looks like a modern boutique hostel offering dormitories and private rooms. All rooms are spotlessly clean, the dorm is definitely worth a look.

 

Honestly, I'm not a big fan of dorms in general, but these are different: You get your own pod surrounded by walls. Each pod has a light, fan, power socket and a storage with locker. If you sleep on the upper pod, you have actually a lot of privacy.

 

The roof terrace is a nice place to relax or chat with other travelers, plus it offers a great view over Bulabog Beach. MNL Beach Hostel is a fantastic place, if you travel solo and looking for meeting other backpackers.

Rates: A bed in a dorm start from PHP500/night, private room with A/C from PHP1650/night. All rates include breakfast, linen, beach and bath towel. 

 

White House Beach Resort

By Sabrina

  • White House Beach Resort

    By Sabrina

  • White House Beach Resort

    By Sabrina

  • White House Beach Resort

    By Sabrina

  • White House Beach Resort

    By Sabrina

  • White House Beach Resort

    By Sabrina

WHITE HOUSE BEACH RESORT

 

The White House is a beachfront resort and has a beautiful sea view. A nice pool area and plenty of beach beds and lounge sofas to enjoy the afternoon and soak in the sun. For the first time I decided to stay beachfront at Station 1. There is so much hype about it that I had to figure it out myself. I never stayed at Station 1, it's considered as the upscale area with the more expensive and luxury resorts. As you can imagine, I was pretty psyched to have the pleasure staying there. 

 

I stayed in a deluxe room on the third floor. Unfortunately, no ocean view. But the room was spacious with wide windows and a big balcony. Mini-bar, fridge and two beds with plenty of pillows and a soft mattress, that gave me a good sleep.

 

I have to say, the staff was extremely attentive and friendly. The other day, they brought me a complimentary bottle of red wine to my room. Such a nice gesture.

 

The breakfast was a choice of Filipino, American, Continental, omelet or pancake include tea, coffee or juice. When I asked the staff if the juice is fresh, she replied with "No mam, it's powder juice." Well, aside from that, the breakfast was fine. It was included to the room, so no complaints.

 

I stayed over a weekend, and the place turned into a club in the evening. DJ's were playing house music, a sexy girl went around and gave free shots to the guests. If you're into party, this place might be totally for you.

The White House is definitely one of the cooler resorts with a young crowd, it's worth checking out if it suits your budget.

 

Rates: Double Room from PHP3080 in low season. 

 

 

Cheap Hotels in Boracay?

SOME TIPS ON FINDING BUDGET ACCOMMODATION IN BORACAY

 

If you're on a small budget, you have two options:

 

  • If it's low season (June - September), just show up without booking and negotiate a price. You should be able to get a room for PHP500 - 800, most likely around Station 3, in Bulabog area or along the main road.

  • If it's high season (October - May), book something in advance. Agoda offers - hands down! - probably the most comprehensive selection of hotels in Boracay. Rates on Agoda are often lower than walk in rates. If you look for the cheapest place to stay, just sort the hotels in Boracay for the lowest price. You'll find easily beds or even double rooms below PHP700 (screen shot). You don't believe? Try it! 

 

Agoda Screenshot - How to find the cheapest Hotels in Boracay | JustOneWayTicket.com

HOW TO GET TO BORACAY

The easiest way to Boracay is via plane. Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and AirAsia are serving the route. Before you start comparing each airline, just head over to Skypicker to find the cheapest airfares.

There are two airports nearby:

 

  • Caticlan (MPH) is a small airport right next to Boracay. It's the fastest connection to Boracay. Please note that only small aircrafts can land at this airport (that also means checked luggage is limited to 10 or 15 kilo per person, depending on the airline). From the airport it's a 10 minutes walk (or 3 minute ride with a tricycle) to the jetty port. From the port it's only 15 minutes by boat to Boracay. 

  • Kalibo (KLO) is an airport 2 hours away from Boracay. There are nonstop international connections to Seoul (Korea), Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). If you don't want to go through Manila, this is your airport! When you arrive in Kalibo, there are shuttles waiting outside the airport, ready to take you to Boracay (PHP250 per person). The last boat to Boracay is around 8PM, make sure to arrive before 6PM in Kalibo if you want to make it to the island on the same day.

 

Sunset at White Beach, Boracay © Sabrina Iovino | JustOneWayTicket.com

READY TO GO?

I hope this blog post convinced you to visit Boracay, at least once in your life! Go now before it's too late! And as you can see, you can totally enjoy Boracay on a budget. That's probably why I love this place and keep returning. I lost track of how many times I've visited the island already, was this my 7th time? Or already the 8th? Whatever, it was for sure not my last time.

 

I miss watching those stunningly beautiful sunsets. Floating in the turquoise waters of Boracay. Feeling the white sand between my toes... You'll understand what I mean when you get there.

 

Cheers to one of the most beautiful places on earth. See you there.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

If you like this article, please share.

 


           
   

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Sabrina Iovino is the founder of JustOneWayTicket.com. She's half German, half Italian and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe. She feels weird to write about herself in the third person, so she'll switch now. Phew...much better! Let's restart:

Hi, I'm Sab! This is my blog and I write about the things I love. Mostly.

 

Follow me on Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Google+ | Flickr | Youtube

 

           

 

Thanks to my Nikka & Owen from Two2Travel for the images of MNL Beach Hostel Boracay.
Thanks to Vanessa Menchaca from Wander Onwards for the image of Frendz Resort.

Thanks to my patient boyfriend who did the video stuff and the editing, which took... uhm... forever. I love you.

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