Every year — after completing my teaching contract in South Korea — I reward myself with a one week vacation to the place of my choice.
I went to Jeju, South Korea after my first teaching contract in September 2010. The following year, I traveled to Osaka, Japan. In 2012, I enjoyed a week long yoga retreat in Belize. I visited Thailand twice in 2013. This year, to celebrate my fourth year in South Korea, I decided to go to Boracay, in the Philippines.
I read about Boracay and saw pictures of the beautiful island during my first year of teaching in Korea. I have had plans to take a trip there since then. Many of my students and friends have also raved about the pristine beaches there, and Boracay has been named for having some of the best beaches in the world.
I had never heard about Boracay while living in the states. However, I continued to hear about this tiny mystical place while living in Korea.
I booked my trip through Expedia and paid $800 for my flight and hotel. My total budget was $1,500. I flew into Manila, took another plane to the Caticlan airport, and then took a motorcycle taxi to get on a boat to reach my hotel. My hotel was very close to the port, which made it easy to travel to and from the airport. (There are two airports in the Philippines close to Boracay Island — Caticlan and Kalibo. Caticlan is one hour closer to Boracay Island.) Please note: the trip to and from Boracay Island can be very time-consuming, cumbersome and tiring. Make sure you busy yourself with something to read/write or do during your journey to pass the time and to remain patient. The airports are not as efficient as in other countries, and you may have to wait for long periods of time at the airport in long immigration/check-in lines and for transferring flights/shuttles.
When I arrived in Boracay, I overpaid a guy to help me with my luggage. He charged me 800 pesos, when I should have only paid 300 pesos for the entire trip. However — since he carried my bag the whole way and took me directly to my hotel, I really didn’t mind. I did, however, skip the extra payment on my way back to the airport, since I had become familiar with the area at that point.
My hotel was very nice, and I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet staff and the size of my room. All of the staff members were very welcoming and friendly. The hotel was not luxurious, but it was a perfect, quiet retreat for one week. I decided to stay far away from White Beach, because I wanted to have a very peaceful and relaxing vacation away from the party areas. I figured that I could go to Station 1, 2 and 3 when I was in the mood to be there. If you want to stay in a more secluded place in Boracay, check out the Feliness Resort. However, if you want to be close to the action, you should book a hotel on the “White Beach” strip.
Feliness Hotel: http://www.agoda.com/feliness-resort/hotel/boracay-island-ph.html
I spent my first night ordering room service and getting an in-room massage. After traveling all day, I wanted to eat, relax and go to sleep early. I got a full body massage for 1,000 pesos (700 + 300 tip — $20.00) and cooled down with my first of many mango shakes.
I woke up refreshed and well-rested the next day and hit the beach early. Getting to the White beach area was not difficult at all. However, it took about 20 minutes in a motorcycle taxi because of the road traffic and flooding. Many of the drivers tried to offer me a “private ride”, but I refused to pay 100 pesos when I could share a ride for just 20 pesos.
Transportation tip: Share a motorcycle taxi at all times to save money. I don’t think there is a bus system in Boracay. I rode the “tuk tuks” every day, and simply told the driver where I was going. Some drivers will refuse to pick you up, depending on their route. Just wait for another driver to come along. All of the drivers and locals speak English, which makes it very easy to get around the island. You can also rent your own motorcycle if you prefer.
White Beach was just as beautiful as I imagined. I read some reviews online which said the sand had lost its pure white color due to tourism, but I was still blown away by the cleanliness. There are three stations in Boracay. Station one is the most crowded, station two is less crowded, and station three is not very crowded at all. The stations are simply tourist areas that are about a mile long and you can walk from one station to the next if you prefer walking over taking a motorcycle “tuk tuk”. While on the beach, you can enjoy a range of water activities, including Kite surfing, which is very popular in Boracay.
Beach Tip: There will be TONS of people trying to sell you stuff. They are trying to make money. Buy something if you are interested and simply say “no thank you” if you are not interested. There are also TONS of tours available. Make sure you compare prices and ask others what they paid for their tour. No need for you to overpay for your tour. For example, one guy tried to sell me a private sailboat tour for 1,500 pesos (around $25.00). However, I already knew that the cost was 800 pesos (around $17.00). I told him that I would pay 800 pesos and he quickly agreed. Had I not known the typical price, I would have overpaid.
While in Boracay, I paid for a few private tours:
— On my second day, I went on a snorkeling tour for 2,000 pesos (about $40).
— On my third day, I went on a beach hopping tour for 2,000 pesos (about $40).
— On my fourth day, I did a Crystal Boat tour for 500 pesos (about $10).
— On my fifth day, I just enjoyed the beaches.
— On my sixth day, I had my favorite tour, which was on a private sailboat for 800 pesos (about $17).
— On my last day, I spent all day at the beach.
I only spent just a little over $100 for all of my tours.
Some other tours include scuba diving and helmet diving. However, I would highly recommend that you be extremely careful if you choose to go helmet diving. According to a guy that I spoke to during my visit, a tourist DIED while helmet diving. I would strongly advise that you carefully consider which activities would be best for you while traveling. There are many fun activities in Boracay, however, you should always make safety your top priority.
There are also caves and other nearby islands to visit. I’ve heard that Palawan and Bohol are both very beautiful and secluded islands close to Boracay. If you have time, and you are interested in venturing out, I think you should consider a trip to another island.
Five days in Boracay is really plenty of time to enjoy everything there. Make sure you visit the “DMall” area while you are in Boracay for shopping, delicious restaurants, pharmacies, massage places and a huge grocery store. It’s a good idea to stock your hotel fridge water and drinks, because you will need constant hydration during your stay.
I went to Boracay in August, which is the rainy season. Although it rained for the first four days (off and on), I enjoyed perfect weather and complete sunshine during the last three days. September may be a better month to visit. For those living in South Korea, Boracay would be a great place to visit during the Chuseok holiday.
Please be aware and keep in mind that Boracay is still a developing country. The beaches are phenomenal and the people are amazing. However, there may be some things that may seem a bit inconvenient for travelers. One of the best comments I read on an Expedia review was to bring/buy my own toilet paper. There was not an abundance of towels or toilet paper at my hotel, so I was glad that I brought these items with me. I bought more toilet paper from the store after noticing that this item was not automatically stocked in my room. I didn’t want to keep bothering the staff for rolls of toilet paper, so I just bought my own for a couple dollars at the DMall grocery store. I also bought soap, shampoo and drinks for my room. Keep in mind that every hotel may be different. Some hotels only offer fans (instead of AC units), and other hotels may have issues with having a constant flow of hot water. I think you should be very careful when booking your hotel, and read all the details/reviews before making a reservation. For a more luxurious stay in Boracay, consider booking a hotel like the Shangri-La. >>>>>> http://www.shangri-la.com/boracay/boracayresort/
Some visitors may also be annoyed by the many locals who are trying to sell their items to tourists. To that I say, if you want to avoid panhandlers, then perhaps Boracay is not the place for you. I spoke with many of the workers in Boracay who all confirmed that most people make about 300 pesos per day, which is about $7.00 per day. Not per hour — but — PER DAY. Therefore, most of the people who live there are simply trying to make money to survive (just like you —– when you go to work and hustle).
The two best beaches were White Beach and Yapak (Puka Shell) Beach. I actually preferred White Beach the most, because I really prefer white, silky sand over sand with shells. Bulabog Beach was more for water activities, and the other beaches I visited were too small and insignificant to really enjoy or mention.
Food Tips: For breakfast or brunch, I would highly recommend that you try the Sunny Side Café on White Beach. I enjoyed the Red Velvet Pancakes there. For lunch and dinner, I would highly recommend going to the “DMall” Shopping area. I had some great Indian Food, Pizza and Mexican food there. I didn’t have any bad eating experiences while in Boracay. I would say that you should just check the menus and pick a place that looks good to you. The only local dish I tried was the Adobo Chicken, which was a wonderful stewed chicken dish served with rice.
Sunny Side Café: >>>>> http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d6527641-Reviews-The_Sunny_Side_Cafe-Boracay_Aklan_Province_Panay_Island_Visayas.html
Overall, Boracay was a wonderful experience for me. I would def go back there for another visit. Don’t miss the beautiful sunsets, the affordable seafood buffets, the fresh mango shakes and the massages on the beach if you decide to go!!!! ;) ;) ;) ;)
Check out more photos on Instagram at: @KoreanKream