Islands and Isolation · Philippine Gems

What’s new in THE NEW BORACAY? 10 Things You Need To Know

Ever since Boracay reopened after its rehabilitation closure in 2018, everyone are just as curious as I was to find out if there’s any remarkable changes. I first visited Boracay in 2009, that’s ten years ago, and I still remember how it was love at first sight the moment I stepped out of my hotel’s lobby and saw the immaculate beauty of the beach in front of me. Every time I go back, I would notice that a little piece of Boracay slowly dwindles away, and it was just never the same as the first time I’ve laid eyes on it. I’ve seen Boracay on Holy Week, Labor Day weekend, New Years, rainy season, peak season, low season… I’ve witnessed the changes. The good, the bad, and now, the revival.

What’s new in Boracay? Is it really cleaner? Is it better? Is it boring? Is it worth going to now? So many questions, and I’m here to answer most of them for you. I went back last May with a husband and a 6-month-old infant in tow and while I wasn’t as adventurous as I usually am, I let my wandering eyes do all the observation to give you the 411.

1.) Is the beach actually cleaner?

Oh yes, definitely cleaner. There are trash bins. There are much less algae attacks. The sand no longer smells like sewage. All that stuff I was too deep in denial to address before has finally been taken care of.

However, humans are still humans and there’s always those people that are just… disrespectful/uneducated/stupid/dumb and still trashed the island even when the bin is literally a few feet away. I’ve seen them alright. I still had to pick up a few plastic bottles and plastic wrappers.

You can take the trash out of an island. But you can’t take trashiness out of people.

2.) Is it easier to get around?

The arrival terminal has been moved, which is a little further to the port than the old one, which still remains as the departure terminal. Getting transportation is easier because there are packaged transport deals right when you get to the airport which arranges your van to the port, boat, and a tricycle/van to your hotel. It also includes all other fees such as environmental and boat fees, which means you don’t have to stand in line. I used to be a very DIY traveler but with an infant attached to my hip and an icebox filled with frozen breastmilk, it was nice to just be led around. It was very organized, they just give you a sticker to put on your chest and by the time you get to the next phase, say, the security, someone is already there waiting for you. I would totally recommend just paying a little extra for that. Plus, the tricycle terminal takes quite a walk down from the arrivals so save yourself the time and energy.

TIP: There are more arranged transportation packages just right outside the door. Like literally across. They are cheaper. So don’t rush and book the first ones you see.

Once at the island, it is easy getting around. Transportation is still the same, nothing’s changed. But be prepared for traffic starting at the main road at station 1 (around Obama Grill?). There was an ongoing construction, which is probably done by now, I wouldn’t know, but it can get pretty jammed in there, and it can get really really dusty. My parents were staying at Fairways and the ride going there was dreadful.

3.) How’s the night life?

Well it wasn’t in my agenda, because you know, sleep training and bedtime curfew of an infant and all… but it seemed pretty dead. At least where I walked around, mainly station 2-3, D’mall, and the usual crowded spots. Alcohol is no longer allowed on the beach so you can drop your expectations of sipping Mai Tais on a lounge chair with the sand on your toes.

Back to night life, I’m sure those popular underground hostels are still pretty poppin’ but I wouldn’t know, because mom life.

4.) Where’s a good place to stay now?

If you’re opting for beachfront, I would recommend Station 1 still. But if you want a quieter side of the island, Station 3 is a great choice. My friend Gil hosted me at Roy’s Rendezvous, and it was such a lovely little oasis within a paradise. It’s great especially if you’re in a budget but still wants to sleep comfortably because they have budget friendly prices. It comes with breakfast too, which is always a plus. I love the tropical vibes here, and the hammocks! The beach is just a two minute walk away, in a quiet area where there’s plenty of coconut trees to keep you cool and shaded.

I also enjoyed Ferra Hotel and Garden and Suites near Bulabog beach, as always, but I will be writing more about this pretty soon. Meanwhile, you can read my experience last year at their original hotel. But this hotel is great because of their luxury rooms without the overly high price tags, AMAZING food, and their never ending phenomenal customer service. But again, more on this later, watch out for a full blown review. But meanwhile, you can read my previous post on its original sister hotel here.

5.) Is it more expensive?

In general, yes. But not much of a drastic rise. I could be wrong too, but this is personally what I experienced. Or maybe everything is just more expensive when you’re a party of 3 now.

6.) Is it still crowded?

Sigh.

Yes. Still. Very. Crowded.

7.) Is it really boring now?

Having seen Boracay through all the different phases of my life, the vibe is definitely different now. Gone are its days of drunken stumbling walks along the shore… but then so are mine. If you’re 23, looking for the good ole’ reckless parties, kissing and dancing with strangers just as drunk as you are, and passing out right on the sand, then the new Boracay is probably not for you anymore.

They still serve alcohol at most restaurants, but they didn’t seem to be playing music that loud anymore. You still get a plethora of choices of places to eat and drink. However, one thing I’m totally sad about is that the seafood market is gone. Apparently it burned down two years ago, so it was replaced with a smaller one. It’s still in d’Talipapa but like I said, smaller, and kinda sucks. The options are very limited, and the prices are much higher. Locals are saying the supply isn’t that great these days anymore, so that’s a little scary to hear.

They still offer water sports and inland activities and I’ve heard it’s more mandated now. So it’s still the same Boracay when it comes to this aspect.

Is it really boring now? Honestly I wouldn’t go there. I’d say it’s more family friendly these days, which I absolutely appreciate at this point in my life. But five years ago, I would have found that completely boring.

8.) What are the new must try places to eat at?

Good question! Although most places are back to business, there’s a few places that I gotta rave about. The first one would be Brick and Basil at Ferra Hotel. The first time I’ve heard about it was when I first stayed at Ferra Hotel a year ago, and it was still under the preparation phase. It sounded so appealing already that I couldn’t wait to get back to Boracay that coming summer. But then, Boracay closed down, and then I was too pregnant by the time it opened again. So when I finally had to the chance to try their food… oh my Lord…. I am actually salivating as I type this, thinking about how great their food was.

We ate here pretty much every day and their bestselling beef kebab is my favorite. Their pizzas are amazing too. But I will give a further detailed review about their food pretty soon because it was that amazing!! Lots of pictures too!

The following restaurants I’m going to mention aren’t so new, but they’re kind of new discoveries for me so I think they’re worth mentioning.

Now I mentioned that the seafood market is gone, but you shall not worry! I found a seafood place right at D’Talipapa that serves AMAZING seafood meals. Aquafresh is one of the cleaner paluto restaurants along the many others at the market. They accept paluto, where you buy the seafood outside and have them cook it for you, but the prices wouldn’t really be that much of a difference. All of this learned from my friend Gil (my host at Roy’s Rendezvous), a true blood local of Boracay, so he knows THE best of the best in the island. And yup, let’s just say I’m glad I listened. We ate here on my parents’ first night and they loved it a lot. We all loved it.

Another place I’m obsessed with is Nonie’s. The first time I went here was last year and I already raves about how good their food and concept is. Everything is healthy, the vibe is super LA brunch but with a Filipino island twist, and the flavors are just super delicious! I loved their healthy version of kare-kare!

Now this last one I’m gonna mention isn’t really new at all, but I wondered why this was the first time I’ve heard about it. Also recommended by Gil, Don Mestizos is a great Spanish restaurant that serves very flavorful dishes. Of course their Paella is the winner, and although I haven’t been to Spain and aren’t really experienced in Paella, I know good flavors when I taste it. The vibe is lovely, very Español, and I heard they play live Spanish music at night, but we went during the day so I didn’t catch any of that. It’s a bit on the pricier side, but it was a great birthday meal!

9.) What are the other changes you noticed?

I’ve spoken to the tourism officers of Aklan before, and they’ve always been upfront about their target market, which are Koreans and Chinese, because Boracay is just a huge hit to them. You’ll definitely notice that there are more Korean-owned or Korean targeted shops and restaurants along the beach, outside the beach, in the market… everywhere. Korean signs are almost ubiquitous, and it’s no longer a novelty to be seated by a local waiter who speaks fluent Korean.

Another change I noticed, and this one I’m not keen on and I’m hoping is temporary, is the traffic. It’s worse. And I get it, construction is still going on. But it’s pretty bad.

10.) Is it actually a better Boracay?

 

Like I said earlier, I’m at a calmer and tamer point in my life, so personally, yes, I actually appreciate the new Boracay. Environmentally, yes, it’s definitely much better, much cleaner, and the government is doing its best to look out for it. Generally, yes, there are things that has gotten better–it’s more mandated, more standardized, and it’s just friendlier all around. But over all, authenticity wise, is it a better Boracay than the Boracay I knew 10 years ago? No. And I’ve come to terms that it’ll never be that authentic anymore the instant they’ve built a McDonald’s there.

But at the end of the day, I’m very proud of the government officials that took action. It was a much needed change for the island.

Bonus question:

Where do I find my cute bikinis and swimsuits?

Okay, this is a frequently asked question I get not just on my email, but my Instagram as well. I try to tag the brand as much as possible, but I can’t just list down each and everyone here to answer your question. However, I did find a local brand I really liked called Eika Swimwear. I love the variety of their swimsuits, but what’s even better is that their brand is so affordable! Most are under 1k, with most of their best selling suits averaging at 799php. That’s for a PAIR, not per piece. Isn’t it a little sucky when they sell the top and bottom separately? Here’s a sample one piece suit that I really love from them. Being postpartum and all, I really need to find something that flatters my body. You can check out their designs on their website or follow them on their Instagram (@eika.ph) to get updates about sales and promos. Speaking of promos, you can also use my code ERICA15 for 15% discount at checkout.

wearing the Leia suit in Mustard

Hey, you! If you loved this post, let’s connect on Instagram too? I’m all about spreading travel inspiration one photo at a time so, see ya there? I’m also on Facebook and Twitter— come say hi!

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