By Juhi Bansal
Also read: Travel Guide to Seychelles
Boracay pronounced (Bora-kaa-ay) has been voted one of the best beach destinations in the world several times over. It’s frequented by tourists from across the world in hordes throughout the year and is a preferred location both for honeymooners and family time. It has been on our bucket list for some time but unfortunately, last year the government closed down the island for a full 6 months resulting in loss of revenue amounting to billions of dollars and livelihood of many people.
The reason was what ails most popular beach destinations- pollution and environmental issues. The President took such a tough stance because “Boracay needed to breathe”. The rehabilitation was successful and we could see its effects on our visit there- crystal clear waters and powdery soft white sand- in all their glory.
Several non compliant entities were closed down and the island now takes pride in keeping their beaches clean. No food or drinks are served on the beach and you wouldn’t find anyone giving you disposable plastics. We were so thoroughly impressed with the island.
Air Asia plies several flights a day from Manila to Caticlan which is less than an hour long and very convenient. You can then take a ferry to the island (took us less than 5 minutes to get to station 2) (your hotel will arrange for it in most cases) and then a short car ride later you’re at your hotel.
Some people also fly to Kalibo to get to Boracay. However, if there isn’t a significant difference in ticket cost, I would suggest you to fly to Caticlan because it’s much cheaper and faster to get to the island from there.
Where to stay in Boracay
The white beach is divided into three stations. Station 1 is the most coveted- best hotels, best beaches and very quiet. Station 2 is where most of the action is. The beaches are good and it is close to D-mall, the shopping area, good eateries and night life. Station 3 is where is the budget stays are. The beach isn’t as clean and you have to travel to station 2 for everything.
We decided to stay in Station 2 since it had the best of both worlds- enough activity but also not overly crowded.
Coast Boracay is technically a four star hotel- I guess because of its size. But, in everything else it trumps a 5 star hotel hands down. I have stayed at many a place over the last two decades so when I make this statement it is huge! Coast Boracay service standards are stellar. This is something you can’t teach your staff. I don’t know what their selection process is but it must be top class because each of their staff members has only “customer delight” on their minds when they are serving their guests.
From a surprise upgrade to their junior suite when they got to know we are celebrating Iy’s birthday in Boracay to doing up the rooms with a personal touch (and leaving goodies every day) to making sure we had several different vegetarian gourmet food varieties every day in the breakfast to preparing our sun bed and looking after iyra like their own child- all with a big smile on their faces- each one of the instances wowed us to no end.
If you are visiting Boracay, I would urge you to look them up before you book your stay- at 9.6 stars they are hands down the highest rated property in Boracay.
Things to do
I would suggest planning atleast a three to four day getaway to Boracay. That way you have enough time to explore the stations, do a hike or two (we didn’t btw), check out the night life and spend hours doing nothing at the beach.
So here are some of the things you can do in Boracay
Visit other beaches like Bulabog, Diniwid and Puka especially if you like to surf. We only did Puka and in hindsight didn’t like it too much because of the not-so-soft sand and crowd.
Take a ride in the tuk tuk or the tricycle- they are very cheap and convenient. You can get one for about 100 pesos from one station to the other.
D-mall. Whether it is shopping for some local stuff or eating local fare or just checking the night scene. D-mall is fun.
Ariel’s Point if you’re interested in cliff diving. We were not!
Eat local food (and drink) and generally make merry. After all it’s a beach holiday.
Watch the sun go down at the beach and just generally lounge on the sand or in the water and do nothing for hours.
Get a massage! They are so cheap and so good!
Get your hair braided.
Vegetarian food guide to Boracay: Oh btw- there is zomato in Philippines!
Also read: Vegetarian food guide to Israel
I was pleasantly surprised to see enough vegetarian options in Boracay- nothing excessively expensive. You can get a meal for two at a decent place for about 1200-1500 PP.
Tipping: So, this was slightly confusing. Normally, we tip anywhere between 10-15% depending upon the country we are visiting and their tipping norm but in Philippines service charges are added to the bill already. Even in other services tips are only expected if the service you experienced was extra-ordinary. Otherwise no tipping also works. We however, made sure we tipped wherever we went.
Cha Cha’s at Coast Boracay in Station 2
When you look at their menu you might not find a lot of vegetarian options apart from pizza and nasi lemak etc. However, they are very very forthcoming in customizing any of their recipes as vegan or vegetarian. I particularly loved their vegan tacos and salad bowls. So good!
Nonie’s at Station 2
Nonie’s is a must visit place if you want to try some local vegetarian food.
We ordered their much talked about Vegan Sisig. Sisig is a Filipino dish made from parts of pig head and chicken liver but I must say the vegan sisig version looked and tasted quite amazing!
Kimchi noodle soup
This was Iy’s order. All of the Asian countries have some version of the noodle soup and we always enjoy them. This was slightly like Khao Suey. Iy gave it an instant thumbs up!
Atchara- which was not something impressive actually. Just pickled veggies.
Kesong puti-( local buffalo milk cheese) cheese cake. Very good!
Il forno @ Discovery Shores on Station 1
Italian and Mexican fare with a gorgeous view. Don’t forget to try their delectable white wine sangrias.
Kasbah on Station 1
For some delectable Moroccan and Lebanese fare. Do I need to list more reasons!
Globy’s at Station 2
Live music, happy hours and enough vegetarian choices- we chose this for our date night because it was the only place open as early at 8.00 PM!
Drinking in Boracay
While gin is extremely popular in the Philippines I particulaly loved their cocktails. They have some amazing versions of Sangria and if you had to try one thing- this would be it!
I am sure I don’t need to list out the reasons why Boracay should be on your bucket list. My humble pics should make that amply clear. If you’re up for some slightly unreasonable travel route and layovers- I can assure you once you get there- all the hard work will seem more than worth it. It will be one of the most memorable holidays you will go on.
I will soon do a detailed post on planning a trip to the Philippines, when, how etc. Till then, here’s hoping Boracay makes to your must visit list!