After a flight and a ferry, we arrived into Boracay, which is known as the party island of the Philippines with its White Beach being called one of the best beaches in the world. We were excited to spend the next 3 days/4 nights seeing if it lived up to its reputation.
Since our first two nights on the island were on a Friday/Saturday, we had decided to book a hotel in advance. After the first 5 people we asked had never heard of the place we were staying, we realized that this had probably been a mistake. It took us an hour to finally find our place and this was after stopping at another guest house to have the owner call our place AND have them come pick us up from where we were (and all of this was happening in the pouring rain – it was not a fun first hour). We realized that the reason we’d been having so much trouble was because our guesthouse had very recently changed their name and no one knew about it yet. If only they had told us that in advance, we could have saved a ton of time (and aggravation). Luckily, the place was actually really nice and in a good location, which made the whole ordeal a little bit better.
We dropped off our stuff and set out to explore White Beach. The whole beach is about 3 miles long and split up into 3 “stations.” We were staying near Station 2, which is supposed to be the most happening area, though by the end of the trip we still had no idea where one station began and the next ended.
After about 5 minutes, we still weren’t sure if Boracay was the best party beach or the most beautiful but we did know for certain that it had the best/most variety of restaurants and food that we’ve ever seen on an island. We also quickly realized that all of the activities in Boracay are ridiculously expensive (For example, renting a motorbike for the day in Thailand costs around $7/24 hours. In Boracay it will set you back $75 for the day. Insane!). We’d have to choose our activities for the next three days very wisely here.
Unlike most of the islands/beaches that we’ve been to that have some restaurants/shops on the beach and others on a main road behind the beach, everything in Boracay is right on White Beach. There’s tons of great restaurants, shops, tour offices, vendors selling all of the typical touristy items, and more. On the other end of Station 2 from where we were staying (or so we think – as I mentioned, we could never really tell where one station ended and another began), there is a huge outdoor shopping/eating area going in from the beach called D-Mall. By the time we got there and walked around, we were very overwhelmed with all of our food choices and were already starting to plan out the next 4 days of meals (this though was no easy feat).
For night #1, we decided on Western food (as we’ve said before, one of our favorite things about the touristy islands is they all have a ton of top notch Western choices right in one area, whereas in Bangkok we need to travel to different neighborhoods for different cuisines), but mostly we were concerned about figuring out a good happy hour situation. We decided on a place with a beer bucket special (San Miguel is the native Filipino beer, and they even have light here which is a rarity in Asia!) and great live music (for some reason they love old love songs in the Philippines, which I could not complain about). We thought that we were out on the hookah after seeing a sign advertising them at 600 P (in Thailand they are usually less than half of that), but we quickly got our waiter (Edson – the happiest and maybe best waiter of all time) to cut his price in half.
By the time we were finished with happy hour, it was already getting late and a lot of the restaurants we’d seen were closing. But, we still weren’t quite ready to eat so when we found another drink place where you could buy a mixed drink (margaritas, mojitos, etc) in a tall plastic glass, keep the glass, and then refill the glass for half price however many times you wanted, we decided that would be a great investment for us considering we’d be there for 4 nights and we’re alcoholics:). Not surprisingly, we went back to that place every night, at least once.
For dinner, we decided on a pizza chain that we’d been seeing all over the Philippines (in addition to their local food, the Filipinos love pizza and burgers). Dave was very happy with the choice after all of the workers there started telling him that he looked like Tony Parker from the Spurs.
Over the next three days in Boracay, we must have done the walk from our place to D-mall down the beach about 50 times. But, with all the action going on throughout White Beach, we couldn’t complain. Dave and I are not the type to lay on the beach all day basking in the sun (in fact, we can hardly even sit on the beach for 5 minutes before trying to figure out what we should do next – which is too bad because our beach vacations would be much cheaper if we could :), so our typical beach/island trips usually consist of doing some kind of tour/activity during the day and then a great dinner/happy hour at night. Boracay was no different for us.
On day 1 we hired a tricycle driver (the Philippines equivalent of a tuk tuk) to take us around the very small island. We made three stops, the first at the Boracay viewpoint, where we got into a small altercation with the workers after they tried to charge us twice to see the view (they made us pay the fee at the bottom of the viewpoint and then once we were halfway up they told us that we couldn’t go to the highest point because that was a different company – we felt very deceived and let our opinion be known, but in hindsight, we should have stopped short of calling them “liars”). That little fight aside, the view was gorgeous. Very similar to our favorite view in Koh Phi Phi. Stop #2 was at the islands’ golf course, where Dave inquired about playing (but decided against it after learning that 18 holes would cost him $200). Then, the last stop at the day was at Puka Shell beach (where I could not find any puka shells). There was a sign claiming that it was one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in Asia.
That night was when we really started to get serious about our dinners. We had originally planned to get lobster (which surprisingly was the one thing on the island that was cheaper there than most other places we’ve seen, but still about $50 for the two of us), but that dream was crushed when we saw a couple of girls eating some of the best looking ribs we’ve ever seen at a Hawaiian BBQ restaurant right on the beach. That, combined with the fact that they were serving bulalo (a Filipino dish that we’d been wanting to try – pork shank) sold us. We had a great dinner right on the beach, of course, with another one of our drink refills, which we were already making great use of.
Our activity for day 2 was a private sailboat tour around the island. We had heard there was some great cliff jumping at one of the islands around Boracay and from the second we heard about it, Dave had his heart set on making the 45 ft. jump. The thought of that was pretty terrifying to me, but I figured I’d decided about it once I actually saw it. We hired a sailboat for 3 hours to take us to Magic Island (the cliff jumping island) and also snorkeling nearby. We’ve never done a private boat tour before, or a boat tour on a sailboat, so it was a nice change from the typical island hopping tours that we’ve done in large groups. We were amazed at how fast the sailboat could go with no engine and we were amazed at how beautiful the water around Boracay was. We’ve never seen water in so many different beautiful shades of blue (throughout the tour it went from greenish to turquoise to very blue to almost black).
First, we stopped at the snorkeling spot. The current was so strong that within a minute or so we had drifted 50 feet away from the boat. Dave was able to swim back, but I guess I’m not as good of a swimmer as I thought. Our driver had to throw me a rope to pull me in!
Our next stop was Magic Island. There were three diving boards built into the side of the island where people could jump from. The first was about 5 meters high, the second 10, and the highest (and scariest) was 15. I jumped from the 10 meter board, but Dave did all three. There’s no way I was going to jump 45 feet. 30 was more than enough for me! The boat tour was an awesome activity and also the highlight of the trip for me.
We had planned this night to be our “local meal’ night. But, first (of course), we started with happy hour at a place that had 2 for 1 drinks and was famous for their huge long island iced teas (served in mason jars – 375 P). We got settled in with our drinks just in time to see one of the famous Boracay sunsets. It was probably the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen.
When we finished our drinks (and the sun was done going down), we filled up our refillable drink glass and found a great looking place for dinner right on the beach with a great selection of local Filipino dishes. We had liked the bulalo so much the night before that we ordered it again, along with pork sisig (chopped up pork with a fried egg on top) and grilled liempo (pork belly). Another delicious meal.
Usually after two days on any given island, the Staves are ready to move on. Boracay was no different, but for some reason when we booked our flights within the Philippines several months ago, we booked Boracay for three full days and four nights (likely because we thought we could take a day trip from Boracay to somewhere else, but we later realized that once you’re on Boracay, there’s really nowhere else to go). Other than an amazing-looking buffet place (serving all you can eat steak, among many, many other things) where we were planning to go for dinner that night, there wasn’t really anything else that we wanted to do during the day except for wind/kite surfing, for which Boracay is often regarded as one of the best places in the world for it. So we thought we’d give that a try (even though Dave thought we wouldn’t like it very much because we’d never actually be able to do it properly in just a one hour lesson; full day lessons cost like $200). So first thing in the morning, we walked over to Bulabog beach, which is opposite White Beach and where they do all of the water activities on Boracay, assuming we’d be able to find someone to rent a board from pretty easily/quickly. Well, the first place we walked into told us that it would not be windy enough that day for the activity, and probably would not be good weather for it until Wednesday (2 days after we were leaving). At 10:30am, we had no idea what we were going to do for the rest of the day. So much for that!
We took our time browsing through D-Mall for the last time. We stopped at a deli to pick up a picnic lunch (crackers, pate, salami – all of which we actually ended up saving for the next day) and then found a book store to pick up a book for Dave to read (since we assumed we’d be spending the rest of the day relaxing on the beach). Somehow, by the time we were done with all of this, it was already almost 2pm, so we really didn’t have that much time after all. We did relax on the beach for a little and both (separately, since someone had to watch our stuff) went for a run down the beach. Before we knew it, it was time to go back and get ready for dinner.
We had saved the best dinner of the trip for last. Dave was treating for this meal as my (a little belated) anniversary present (though we like to joke that our entire 3 month summer trip is our anniversary gifts to each other). We had seen this buffet the first night we were in Boracay and it was definitely the most popular place in town. Aside from all of the great dishes they were serving at the buffet, the star attraction was the 2-lb Australian steak that they were cooking up right in front of the restaurant. For 1500 P (around $40) for the two of us, it was a great deal. Dave went to fill up our drink glass one last time, while I reserved us a big plate of steak and scoped out the rest of the food situation. We tried everything from sushi to clams/oysters/mussles to pasta to great sides and more. It was an awesome meal, a great anniversary present (of course, my favorite type of presents are ones that involve food:), and the perfect way to end our time in Boracay.