FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Sun and Fun in Boracay

by Chadner Navarro

Oct 1, 2017
October 2017

AFTER A COUPLE OF HOURS of snorkeling in what felt like the most extreme midday heat of summer, salvation finally materialized in the form of a man paddling toward our catamaran. His canoe was full of coconuts, most of their husks chopped off to reveal the smooth inner shells that house the fruit’s sweet, tasty, must-have-now juice. Coconut man was ready for us. A few of his products already had straws stuck in them, and when he was close enough to hand the first coconut to our guide, nearly everyone on the boat burst into a fit of cheering and hollering. Yes, we had an entire cooler of ice-cold water, soda and even beer, but at this moment, fresh coconut juice felt like the necessary beverage to power us up for the rest of what the paradise island of Boracay had to offer.

Boracay, one of the 7,000 islands that make up the Philippine archipelago, recently received international renown for its palm tree-dotted shorelines and crystal-clear waters. But Filipinos and intrepid, adventurous foreigners have enjoyed these very riches for years. And now that there’s so much more traveler interest in the island, it seems Boracay has never been livelier or more welcoming.

A trip here will, of course, orbit around the paradise-like seas which, when photographed, look at home in any coffee table book. A snorkeling trip that concludes with a fresh coconut treat is just one way to partake. Those who would rather worship the sun from the comforts of a lounge chair have many pristine beaches from which to choose. The most famous of these is White Beach, a more than two-mile stretch of action. White Beach is easily the center of tourism on Boracay, and from here a lot of water activities jet off, including everything from stand-up paddling and water skiing to something completely bizarre: banana boat trips in which a group sitting on an inflatable banana is swiftly pulled around the sea by a motorboat. And for diving enthusiasts, the strip is dotted with dive centers.

Given its popularity, White Beach also boasts the fiercest development on the island. Gone are the days when a trip to Boracay included staying in a beachside hut moonlighting as a guesthouse, and street vendors provided the only places to eat. These days, there’s likely nothing you need that you can’t find on Boracay. White Beach offers every type of hotel accommodation from more modest hostel-type stays to extravagant luxury hotels. It’s also the heart of the island’s entertainment scene. This is where everyone goes to eat out at lively restaurants (though fine dining is almost nonexistent), to grab a cocktail at colorful seaside bars and to shop at souvenir shops and malls. If you’re looking to partake of those cheap lounge-chair massages popular all over Southeast Asia, White Beach is where you want to perch yourself for a relaxing rubdown.

Windsurfers and kiteboarders enjoying wind power on Bulabog Beach

Windsurfers and kiteboarders enjoying wind power on Bulabog Beach © PHOTOBAC | DREAMSTIME

Every other beach on the island pales in comparison to White Beach when it comes to developed conveniences. And while it’s easy to situate yourself here for the entirety of your trip, you must visit other parts of Boracay. Bulabog Beach is known for the groovy watersports crews that use it as their headquarters. Those into kitesurfing, windsurfing, parasailing and other more adventurous pursuits can even make this their Boracay home base. Most of these water enthusiasts offer lessons for beginners, but even if you’re not keen to partake, you can get some awesome Instagramworthy shots of thrill seekers performing all sorts of neat tricks. If you crave more peace and quiet, head up the west coast for Diniwid Beach or to the north for Puka Beach, named after the countless puka shells that wash up on the sand. Both beaches are a world away from the hustle and bustle of White and, to a lesser extent, Bulabog beaches. You might even be able to lie by the water without the occasional vendor disturbing your R&R.

Boracay also developed into quite the party scene. If you’re looking to dance the night away, this is the Philippine island for you. Start the night with pre-dinner drinks (and people-watching) at Aplaya Beach Bar, where you can toss back a few fruity cocktails. Both Area 51 Top Secret Party Facility and Conga’s Bar frequently hold themed parties. Just about everyone on the island seeks out Area 51 for its full-moon parties.

Snorkeling along a coral reef off Boracay

Snorkeling along a coral reef off Boracay © SOFTLIGHTAA | DREAMSTIME

Admittedly, however, Boracay is a bona fide high-octane beach destination. Similar to Cancún and Phuket, beauty is still everywhere, and while it’s not difficult to find opportunities to relax, relaxation is not necessarily what Boracay is now known for. To get a bit of downtime, venture off this island in search of respite on its neighbors. Bespoke tour operator Remote Lands organizes a variety of sailing excursions to the various islands that surround Boracay; some lie nearby (Crystal Cove Island and Magic Island are quite close), but others, more far-flung, showcase a different kind of island life. What do they all have in common? Fantastic, white-sand beaches and clear blue waters. Sibay Island, about 32 miles southwest of Boracay, is far less manicured. It combines rocky coastlines with beautifully sandy coves. But regardless of which islands you end up on, Remote Lands can organize a fantastic schedule that includes snorkeling, cliff jumping, beachside seafood barbecues and a bit of R&R on nearly deserted secret hideaways. And then the day ends with a sunset sail back to Boracay. Your island-hopping experience might not feature a wildly different itinerary (these are modest islands, after all), but it will be refreshing to escape the masses if even for a few hours — and isn’t escaping the best part of kicking back?

Boracay Info to Go

Getting to Boracay is quite easy, especially if you’re already in the Philippines. From Manila (MNL), a one-hour flight gets you to the nearest airport at Caticlan (MPF), on the neighboring island of Panay. From here, take a boat to the island of Boracay; many inexpensive public boats ferry travelers back and forth. But check if your hotel offers a private transfer service to make the whole thing even easier. Kalibo Airport (KLO) lies 40 miles from the jetty port of Caticlan, but it is serviced by larger aircraft coming from international cities like Hong Kong and Singapore.

Where to Stay in Boracay

ASYA PREMIER SUITES Tucked away in a less trodden part of the south shore, this intimate resort is likely Boracay’s most romantic. Surrounded by tropical trees, the locally inspired interiors focus on chocolate wood furniture and woven patterns. Sitio Cagban Brgy Manoc-Manoc $$$

DISCOVERY SHORES BORACAY This elegant and bright resort offers a fantastic location steps from White Beach. The 87 allsuite units are modernly decorated in a minimal but beachy aesthetic. Station 1, Balabag $$$$

SHANGRI-LA’S BORACAY RESORT AND SPA Reach the island’s most luxurious property via a private speedboat from Caticlan Airport. Once there, it’s all about refined beachside indulgence, from transporting spa treatments and tennis lessons to parasailing and chef’s dinners. Barangay Yapak $$$$$

Restaurants in Boracay

HALOWICH This local stalwart draws massive crowds for frozen treats that refresh during the hottest hours of the day. Mango is a big favorite in the Philippines; try the slightly sour green mango milkshake. Boracay Highway, D-Mall, Balabag $

REAL COFFEE & TEA CAFÉ This casual open-air hangout is perfect for a bright, breezy breakfast thanks to its beachfront perch. Diners love the fortifying omelets and pancakes, but the real star is the calamansi muffin. Second Floor Sea World, Station 2, Balabag $

SIRENA The cliff-top restaurant inside the Shangri-La offers the best kind of fine dining, island-style: great views of the sunset plus fuss-free and delicious preparations of marketfresh seafood. Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa, Barangay Yapak $$$

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