Boracay, despite the ugly reputation its been getting lately, is still no doubt a paradise to many, including myself. I wish I would have been able to see Boracay in its immaculate form back in the 90’s. I was told that back in the 70’s, the only way to get to to Boracay is through a long boat ride from Kalibo, but it was absolutely virginal with only rustic huts for accommodations, and shrooms growing around the island. But today, it’s different. People are mad that it’s become such an over-developed overcrowded place. So, unless you plan on staying at the Shang, Boracay is not exactly the place for peace and quiet. I think once we accept the fact that it’s now becoming the party island capital of the Philippines, the better off everyone’s expectation will be. I won’t attempt to sugarcoat the fact that Boracay, indeed, has changed drastically over the years.
I’ve been to Boracay about eight times since I moved back to the Philippines, and as much as I tell myself I’m done, I know I’ll be back again and again. There’s something new I end up discovering in the island every time! So, even if you aren’t looking to party, you’re on a limited budget, or looking for something new to do in the island, THERE is a way to make your Boracay trip an unforgettable one! If you know where to go, that is. This is why I’m writing this guide. I want to share with you all the knowledge I’ve gained throughout the years I visited the place, with nothing but honesty. Some are old, some are new. Some I discovered from word of mouth, online blogs, some I discovered by co-incidence, and some by friendly locals. I compiled them all together to make the ultimate Boracay hack.
1.) AN ALTERNATIVE TO FLYING
We all know about the promo deals, so I’m going to skip that. Some even argue that flying to Kalibo airport could save you a few pesos, regardless of the van transportation fee and the extra time you’d be losing. But if you do have the luxury of time, and you happened to miss out on the promo fares, I suggest taking the ferry to Boracay instead. I’ve done this three times and so far I’ve gotten there in one piece.
Pros: 2go Travel offers an overnight trip from Batangas port to Caticlan. There are different schedules but the overnight one is more convenient for those who have time restraints. You sleep through the night, and you reach the island early in the morning, giving you plenty of time to indulge in that Vitamin D. I’ve never tried the private cabins, but the Tourist class, which is a huge public hall with plenty of bunk beds, is actually pretty decent. They keep it clean, the ac works well, and they provide fresh sheets and blankets for less than two dollars. There’s also a non-airconditioned hall upstairs for a cheaper price, although it’s not too big of a difference of savings.
Cons: There is no overnight trip coming from Boracay back to Batangas port. So you’ll have to allot an extra day for traveling back. It leaves at 8am, and you’ll reach Batangas by 6pm. That sounds long and dreadful, but if you do it right the night before, you’ll most likely be sleeping the entire boat ride. The suckiest part about the boat though, like any other form of public transportation, is the crowd. It gets pretty packed during peak seasons, and Boracay being a party capital and all, you could expect a lot of young’ns pre-gaming it up during the boat trip (there is a rooftop bar for entertainment). If you’re a light sleeper like me, this can get pretty annoying in the middle of the night when drunk kids are coming in and out.
I still vouch for the ferry being a practical deal. There is no limited check in baggage so not only can you overpack, but you can bring food and liquids too if you’re thaaaat tight with budget. For a roundtrip fee of a little over 2000php ($45), I’d say it’s worth it. You can book your ticket thru their website or other providers (travel agencies and a few select Western Union).
2.) STATION 3 IS UNDERRATED.
When it comes to early booking for accommodations around Southeast Asia, I find Agoda to be very reliable. They also offer different types of promos. Sometimes, they have mobile app discounts that wouldn’t show up if you try to book via computer, and they have web discounts that also wouldn’t show up when using the app. The early bird promos are usually very impressive, offering up to 60% discount.
I’ve never personally tried the dorm rooms they offer in the island, but they are available from a starting range of 350php. But if you’re not into being around strangers and all you need is a room to sleep, there are plenty of cheap accommodations all over. Of course the further away it is from the beach, the cheaper. Station 1 and Station 2 are usually the ones with the pricier range. Further down towards the end of Station 2 and beginning of Station 3 offers pretty decent rooms for as low as 1200php ($27) for low season, and that’s beachfront already. Station 3 is actually perfect if you’re looking for a more quiet area. Don’t forget the other beaches in the island too if you want privacy.
3.) HOW TO GET AROUND.
If you did book away from Station 1 or 2 and you’re worried about being too far from the action and don’t want to spend too much time walking, there are plenty of tricycles that passes by the main road for as low as 10php per person. Just make sure you don’t hire a private one because that’s when it cost more. It’s easy to spot them, just wave your hand when a tricycle with a group of passengers passes by. They would stop if it isn’t privately hired. One of the newest way to get around the island called the E-Trike (Electronic Tricycle) also cost as low as 10php per person. The motorbikes, locally known as habal-habal, are available too but it’s not too easy to spot which ones are on duty.
4.) PARTYING ON A BUDGET.
We all have our own pre-gaming ways, but one thing we all know for sure is that buying drinks from the bar can get pretty pricey. When it comes to the beach, I’m more of a day drinker type, which works out pretty well for me because happy hour around the island starts early. Plenty of restaurants (especially around D-Mall) offer buy one take one cocktails and $1 beers during the day. But if I’m pretty serious about binge drinking and dgaf, I use the oldest trick in the book. Me and my husband would usually buy a bottle of Jack from the liquor store, (or we bring one with us when we take the ferry, cause it’s still more expensive in the island) and place them in small Coke bottles. The best thing about Boracay becoming the party island capital? There’s no judgement here 🙂
5.) HAVE YOUR SEAFOOD AND EAT IT TOO.
I cannot believe this one took me seven trips to Boracay before I found out about it. My mom told me about this seafood market where they sell cheap seafood that you can have cooked the way you like at the restaurants around, but I guess I never really tried to put it in my agenda until my most recent trip. It’s quite popular, apparently. It’s at D’Talipapa located towards the end of Station 2. Fresh seafood of all kinds can be found here. Shrimp, crabs, lobster, mussels, all kinds of fish, uni, scallops, you name it. They’re pretty cheap too if you know how to haggle. Outside the market are a bunch of restaurants that would gladly cook it for you for a price.
6.) SUNSET SESSIONS AT SPIDER HOUSE.
Once an unknown little gem, Spider House bar is gaining its popularity more and more. Spider House is actually a hotel at Diniwid beach, way past Station 1. It’s a very charming place, situated on a rock and built around trees that makes the room looks like you’re staying in a treehouse. The restaurant/bar is open for public, given of course that you purchase something. It has a great view to watch the sunset, and it actually gets pretty packed at this time. They make good drinks (a little pricey) and the food is delicious. The ambiance of the place is chill, and they play good music, perfect for lounging around with a good book. You can jump off into the ocean straight from the restaurant if you feel like going for a dip or go snorkeling around the rocks. The best part about this place are the people working there. They’re all so friendly. So chat them up and if you’re lucky like me, you’ll gather new island secrets! If you’re nice enough to them, they’d gladly reserve the best spot in the house for you for the next day.
7.) EXPLORE AROUND THE ISLAND.
The standard rate of island hopping tour in Boracay starts off from 2300-2500 php ($45-50) for 3 hours. But as the oldest traveling hack in the book says, befriend the locals. Talk to them and be genuine about it. I was able to get a good deal for 1800php for 3 hours from talking to the employees at Spider House. I’d say that’s a pretty good deal. The three hours is enough to stop by Crystal Cove, Magic Island (a cheaper alternative to Ariel’s Point cliff jumping), Puka beach, and a few snorkeling stops along the way.
What I want to try next time I go there is Carabao island. This island is in Panay, so a little over an hour away from Boracay by boat. I found a good deal at Red Pirate in Station 3 but it’s for up to 8 people so it will be best to do it with a big group. It’s a per hour basis, including lunch, but they offer to take you to the hidden spots further away from Boracay too. I believe Mellow Yellow Cruises offers a trip to Carabao island as well with lunch and unlimited drinks, but unfortunately they were not operating the last time I was there.
8.) WHAT ELSE TO DO?
There’s more to Boracay than just partying, laying out in the sun, enjoying the beaches, and the water sports around. Here’s a list of my favorite things to do in the island.
Fancy a few cliff jumps in a secluded, hidden little place? Spend the day at Ariel’s Point. For a fixed rate of 2000php ($45), you can spend the entire day jumping off hills, varying from 5 meters to 15 meters in height. The rate is inclusive of a pretty good lunch buffet, all you can drink beers and other local alcohol, the boat transportation (from Station 1, it takes about 30 minutes), and the options to kayak and snorkel around the area. I went there twice and I had a lot of fun. The operators, or the kuyas (a Filipino term for big brother), are all very nice and the whole trip is very organized so you get to make the most of your money.
More sunset options: Another beautiful way to see the sunset is by taking a Paraw boat around for a beautiful sunset scene. Better yet, go parasailing (starts at 1300-1500php). You can also rent an ATV to go to the top of Mt. Luho, which is the highest point in the island. However, if you feel like getting started early on your drinks, Mellow Yellow Cruises also offers a sunset cruise party. Like I said, they weren’t operating the last time I was there, but I plan to check this out next.
-I haven’t tried kite surfing in particular, but it’s pretty famous on the other side of the island, Bulabog beach.
–Make sand castles with the local kids, or have them make a customized one for you.
–Jonah’s Fruitshake is an island favorite for a reason. Give it a try to see for yourself! It’s located at Station 1, near the infamous Willy’s rock.
-Make your dreams come true and be a mermaid! Mermaid Academy (next to Starbucks in Station 1) offers mermaid swimming lessons. I only did the photo option (700php for 30 minutes) so I got to wear a mermaid tail and play around in the shores, but they do have the mermaid swimming lessons and would even take you to the bottom of the sea for a legitimate mermaid experience!
9.) Some FYI
-If you choose to take the boat to Boracay, you have to go to Batangas port. There are plenty of buses going there from Manila.
-I know a lot of people getting ripped off from tricycles from the port to the hotels. It shouldn’t be more than 100php if you’re only going as far as Station 1. Station 3 is closer to the port.
-Algae season, as I was told, starts from March and ends in April. However, throughout the years, it’s getting worse. Due to the climate changes and quite possibly pollution, the occurrence of Algae tends to come sooner and last longer.
-Low season is from June to August. Although it’s not the best season to go, prices are much cheaper all around. If you’re expecting a good crowd however, Holy Week and Labor Day weekend is when they throw the biggest parties in the island. New Year’s Eve is also a one of a kind experience here. Do consider that those are the peak events so prices will rise up.
Boracay is changing fast. Its quality differs each time I visit. Sadly, I’ll never be able to see the original beauty it once possessed, but I’m glad that I’m still able to see it as it is now, because I know for sure that it will be much more different a few years from now. So do I recommend going to Boracay? Absolutely. Do it. Do it fast. The time to go is now.
Do you have any hacks or secret little tricks on Boracay? Anything I haven’t mentioned that you think is absolutely worth knowing? I’d love to hear to about it!