One of the biggest tourist destinations in the Philippines is the small island of Boracay. The island is only about 7 km long so by big I mean the island gets over 1 million tourists every year. Boracay was awarded in the “Travelers’ Choice 2011” by Trip Advisor as the second best beach in the world. Boracay has also been named as the best island in the world by Travel & Leisure in 2012, and was #4 on the same list in 2011. It is located 2 km North of the upper tip of Panay island, easily reached from Caticlan by pump boat or ferry. Since I happen to live on Panay island we figured it was time for a visit. I mean, should you live in New York City and never see the Statue of Liberty? There are flights to the small town of Caticlan or the city of Kalibo, about 2 hours away by bus. But the flights are from Manila – not Iloilo. So our only option was the bus. Panay has a national highway (crappy 2 lane road in terrible condition) that encircles the island. So from here you can go up the West side of the island, through Antique, for a beautiful view, or up the East side of the island, mostly inland, through Kalibo for a shorter drive. If you are driving your own vehicle the Antique route was has been recommended by many. But the Ceres bus on that route is not air conditioned. So we opted for the shorter, less scenic – but air conditioned – Kalibo route. It is about 7 hours by bus and only p350 ($8 USD) for the ticket. Turns out it was still a pretty drive, just not as much ocean view.
I am not sure how this will look once I post it. I am 3 pages in and only covered the first day, and have not put any pics (by the time you see this there will be pics). So I will definitely be cutting this into more than one post. Hopefully I will remember to put links here for the other posts. And I will try not have too much duplicate info on any post because I have seen too many blogs that just recopy pages – for post count, I guess? (OK, links at the bottom of page for my other 3 Boracay blogs)
It is still the rainy season so the hotels are about 1/2 price. But the weather is risky. We shall see how it works out. I used a lot of web sites to research the trip. But most of my information came from TripAdvisor, and My Boracay Guide. For the hotel reservation I compared numerous booking sites and ended up using Agoda – which is no surprise as they somehow are the cheapest all the time for Asian hotels. We reserved 3 nights at the Blue Mango Inn. It was not the cheapest hotel but it has direct beach access, free breakfast, and rates as the #4 hotel of 160 on TripAdvisor. It has just glowing reviews! No hotel can be as good as these reviews (Spoiler alert – it is!)
The bus ride was very nice. Usually the buses wait at the terminals until they are full but this one was on a regular schedule. The 7 AM bus left at 7:10 AM. Well if you take Filipino time into account maybe it was the 6 AM bus ha ha? We made, I think, 2 stops during the ride and they were 5 – 10 minutes each. The bus was about 1/2 full for the whole trip. Good aircon, bad movies, but hey you can’t have everything. I got my iPod, I will be fine. I have ridden the Ceres buses to Antique (5 hours) and they are un-air conditioned, wait at the terminal until full, miserable rides. So the aircon must make all the difference in the world! The 7 hour bus ride was not bad at all/ We got to Caticlan and the bus drops you off at the boat dock, how handy. You have to go pay an entrance fee, ferry ticket, and an environmental fee. Now could this have been done at one window… most places yes. but welcome to the Philippines! Yeah, 3 different payment windows. Just get used to it… But we were at the hotel by 3 PM so not bad. Almost 8 hours total travel time – not too bad at all.
After we checked into the hotel, and had our welcome drink, we went and wandered the beach for a while. All the ferry boats go to the same spot now, out in town, but White Beach is still known by the old boat stations. Station 1 has most of the bigger resorts and of course more pricey. Station 2 has more of the night life, shopping, and medium priced hotels. Station 3 is a little more secluded and cheaper. We stayed in station 3 and it was great. Well I thought it was great, Melane got a bit tired of all the walking. The first afternoon we walked all the way down the beach and back. Each day the walks got a little shorter. So maybe next time we stay in Station 2 but not with beach access. Away from the beach will be a little cheaper and quieter. Station 2 has D’Mall which is the super touristy shops. Ever been to the International Market Place in Waikiki? Same thing. It was where we spent quite a lot of time so being closer to it would be nice. The main drag is a sandy walkway, no motorized vehicles allowed. So from the shops/hotels/bars you have no real road to cross to get to the beach. Very nice! From the walkway to the main road is a tightly packed maze of hotels/bars/shops bordering on insanity. Like I said I was glad to be on the quiet end of the beach with direct beach access.
Every day it was nice weather in the mornings and afternoons and it rained every evening and night. We knew the risk when we went during rainy season. Even the end of rainy season. But we were having so much fun we extended one more night, making a 4 night stay.
Station 2 has most of the shopping and a lot of restaurants. I found a great sub sandwich joint, the Yellow Submarine. Wonderful bread and good cold cuts. And outside the restaurant was my new dive buddy!
Kurt & Magz! Near our hotel is a German restaurant I read about on Trip Advisor and wanted to check out. Well it looks more like a bar with food, but it all works out the same. They have got to have the cheapest Happy Hour on the beach! p30 beer and p25 rum & cokes. (about 75 cents and 50 cents). But the food was divine! We ended up having dinner here 2 nights, it was so good. We had the potato soup, beef steak, wienerschnitzel, and zigeunerschnitzel. Absolutely some of the best food I have had in the Philippines and honestly the best German food I have had anywhere. But I have not been to Germany yet… so we shall see… Kurt was there for both our dinners and he is friendly, and the staff is pretty attentive. Most service in the Philippines sucks so these girls were amazing by Filipino standards ha ha. It cost about p1,000 ($23 USD) for 3 of us to eat and have a couple drinks. Not the cheapest place on the beach but certainly not the most expensive either. And did I mention the food was fantastic? But as you can see in the picture they have a sign saying free beer tomorrow… well we went back the next day and the sign still says tomorrow! False advertising I say!
For a first trip to Boracay we really had a great time. In the first 3 days we spent almost no money but on the last day we spent as much as the first 3 days combined. The Zorb ball and a couple touristy things sucked the money down quick! The first 3 days were just lazing on the beach, and a little shopping. I did find some board shorts in my size here. “Fat American” sizes are hard to find over here. So I bought 3 pair of board shorts for about $8 USD each (p350).
So I can see why Boracay has been named the #1 island in the world. I can’t wait to come back and explore some more. Maybe find a house… hey now there’s an idea…