A travel guide for a weekend in Boracay, Philippines

Picturesque palm trees swaying on white sandy beaches with romantic sunsets that you’ll never forget, Boracay is the epitome of a paradise island and is a hotspot for both Filipino locals and international visitors. If you are visiting Philippines for the first time, I highly suggest including Boracay in your itinerary as well as its less known (and less visited) northern counterpart Coron.
 

How to get to Boracay from Manila

 
The popular beach getaway is only an hour away from Manila by plane and another 40 minutes or 2 hours by land depending on the airport you fly into. The 2 main airports in Boracay are Caticlan and Kalibo. I flew from Manila to Caticlan Airport with Cebu Pacifichowever Philippine Airlines and SkyJet also service this route with turboprop aircraft. Upon arrival into Caticlan, we were greeted by a representative from the resort we were staying with who escorted us  to a waiting area. Overall travel time was approximately 2 hours as follows:
 
1. Manila Airport to Caticlan Airport: Turboprop (1 hour)
2. Caticlan Airport to Caticlan Port: Van (5 min)
3. Caticlan Port to Boracay: Boat (15-20 min)
4. Boracay Port to Stations 1-3: Van (15 min) / Tricycle (20-25 min)
 
Our hotel booking included our transfers, however you can book one way transfers separately on board with Cebu Pacific for 500 pesos or on arrival at the airport with different transfer companies. Cebu Pacific also offer pre purchased tickets  at a cheaper rate of 400 pesos- more information on how to purchase them can be found here.
 
Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Air Asia service the Manila to Kalibo route with jets with larger capacity, so prices are usually cheaper than flying into Caticlan. However, the land transfers are longer and overall travel time was approximately 3.5 hours as follows:
 
1. Manila Airport to Kalibo Airport: Jet (1 hour)
2. Kalibo Airport to Caticlan Port: Van (1.5 – 2 hours min)
3. Caticlan Port to Boracay: Boat (15-20 min)
4. Boracay Port to Stations 1-3: Van (15 min) / Tricycle (20-25 min)
 
Transfers from Kalibo to your hotel in Stations 1-3 can also be purchased on board with Air Asia Zest for 520 pesos, or with Cebu Pacific for 500 pesos.
 
I would personally recommend flying into Caticlan Airport as it saves time, however the one disadvantage with flying there is that it has a smaller runway and can only accommodate turboprops – I booked my return flights to and from Caticlan however as luck would have it, we had bad weather on the day of our departure from Boracay and Cebu Pacific eventually had to transfer passengers to Kalibo Airport which has a longer runway and larger jets. On the upside, they fed us some complimentary Chicken Joy while we waited at Kalibo Airport.
 

How to get around the island

 
If you’re staying in the main strip, the walk between the stations is relatively easy and from one side to the other takes approximately 30 minutes on the sand – faster if you go behind the sand and walk on the street. Should you want to leave the beachfront area and explore the town, the eastern beaches or head to Puka Beach, there are plenty of transport options to take you around the island. The most economical and popular would be a motorised tricycle. You can charter them for the whole day on the cheap, or flag one down by the side of the road. If you’re planning to spend some time at any other beach resorts such as the Shangri La or Monaco Suites, check with the hotel if they offer complimentary shuttles (The Shangri La for a fact does from D’Mall and back).
 

Stay

 
The famous stretch of sand you probably see on your instagram feed is called White Beach and is where most of the resorts are located. The 3-4 km strip is made up of Stations 1, 2 and 3 – named after the stops where boats previously docked to drop off passengers on the beach which is now no longer permitted. Sandwiched between the resorts and hotels are restaurants, bars and stores that make up the lively beachfront strip.
 
Depending on what you are after, the stations all have a different vibe – Station 2 is the busiest and populated with the most commercial space which is good if you want to be close to everything. In saying that, the walk between stations is quite easy. Stations 1 and 3 are quieter if you want a little peace – although you probably won’t feel completely secluded.
 
There are plenty of accommodation options ranging from the luxurious Shangri-La Hotel, the modern The District, the affordable Best Western Tropics, to no fuss budget hostels. I highly recommend a beachfront hotel, but there are plenty of options behind the main strip that are cheaper and more private.
 
During both my trips to Boracay, I chose to stay at the Henann Regency Resort on Station 2 as it was quite central, perfect for my short stay in Boracay. The package included a daily buffet breakfast, transfers to and from the airport and free wifi in the lobby area. If I was staying longer than a weekend, my first choice would have been the Fairways and Bluewater Resort as it was quite private but still relatively close to White Beach (a short 15 minute tricycle ride away). Located on the eastern side of Boracay the resort had a golf course as well as their own private beach, ideal for longer relaxing stays.
 

Stations 1 2 3 boracay

Beachfront stalls in station 2


 

Watersports

 
For a small fee of 300 pesos for 30 minutes, work on your core and do a stand up paddleboard session while simultaneously working on your tan. Cheaper than any personal trainer I’ve ever encountered, and amazing blue panoramic views to boot.

Paddleboarding in Boracay

Paddleboarding in Boracay

Stand up paddleboard SUP in boracay

Paddleboarding in Boracay

If you want to see the surrounding beaches of Boracay, book an island hopping tour which starts from as little as 1500 pesos for a large group without lunch. Prices vary depending on the group size (it’s more expensive if you want to go on a private tour) and if you want meals or not.  I didn’t do the island tour in my most recent visit to Boracay, but I did back in 2007 (pre-instagram and blogging days so I don’t have many decent pictures of it) which included a visit to the secluded Puka Beach and beautiful Crystal Cove Island

Pufferfish Boracay island hopping tour

A pufferfish we found during the island hopping tour

If you’re keen to try out other water activities, they also had jetskiing, helmet diving, scuba diving, parasailing, banana boat rides and kayaking. Water activities can be booked easily through the hotels or from one of the sales agents that you’ll find throughout the stations.

Sailboats in Boracay

Sailboats

Sunset in White Beach boracay

Sailboats in White beach Boracay

Eat

 
Most of our breakfasts were in Seabreeze Cafe inluded in our hotel package, however I did try Lemoni Cafe on the first day which serves traditional cafe food and a Filipino breakfast menu. Try the longsilog – the sausage didn’t have a strong garlic aftertaste or wasn’t as fatty as other sausages I tried in the Philippines.

Breakfast cafes Lemoni Cafe Boracay

Breakfast spread at Lemoni Cafe

Where to eat breakfast lunch dinner cafe Boracay

Lemoni Cafe

For lunch, order the grilled chicken platter from Spice Bird. The meats are marinated for 36 hours which makes for a very succulent flavoured poultry. Served with baked vegetable crisps, yellow rice, a dinner roll and salad, its the perfect all round meal. Theres also no shortage of international chains if you’re craving something familiar from McDonalds, Johnny Rockets, TGIFridays and Sbarro. If you’re after a local chain – Mang Inasal and Andoks restaurants which served barbecued and grilled meats were pretty popular with diners.

where to eat in boracay spicebird peri peri chicken cafe

Spicebird

IMG_1592

To satisfy your sweet cravings, try the famous calamansi (cumquat) muffin. Made popular by instagram accounts of local celebrities in Philippines, the citrusy baked treat from Real Coffee and Tea Cafe definitely lives up to the hype. The nondescript exteriors of the shop are quite easy to miss, but its located on Station 1 and adjacent to the Seaworld dive centre.

Cafes in Boracay Calamansi muffin from Real Coffee and Tea Cafe

Calamansi muffin from Real Coffee and Tea Cafe

Drink

 
Most of the beachfront bars have a dressed down crowd and were busiest in the late afternoon just before sunset. Some of the bars that I visited included the infamous watering hole Cocomangas which attracts a younger scene taking on the ‘still standing after 15 shots’ challenge, Spider House Resort bar which had a no fuss casual vibe with a cosy wooden deck overlooking the sea, and  Aplaya Beach Bar with a cool house playlist and optional shisha for the extra mellow factor. If you want to escape the crowds of White Beach for a beverage, head over to Alon Bar in Shangri La Resort. The open thatched roof bar with views out to the private beach and blue seas makes for the ideal tropical aesthetic and vibe. For more recommendations, this website has a good run down of the bars and clubs in Boracay.

Aplaya beach bar boracay bars in boracay

Sunset at Aplaya beach bar

bars in boracay

Beachfront bar

tips

If you're transferring from Caticlan Airport - make sure you are wearing some shoes or sandals that are waterproof on the boat - getting on and off the boat during high tide can sometimes be tricky and your shoes will get wet! We got lucky and the helpers carried us all off the boat one by one. Pretty funny sight though 🙂
I found most cocktails in Philippines are catered for a sweet palate -  ask the waiters to hold off on the sugar syrup or put it on the side so you can add it yourself if you don't like your drinks too sweet.
If you're planning on spending the day at the ShangriLa Hotel, theres a complimentary shuttle bus from D'Mall.  The shuttle timetable to and from D'Mall and Shangri La can be found here.
Although the watersports and tours were pretty cheap by western standards, most of the sales agents I found were still happy to negotiate the rates
When flying from Manila, make sure you check which terminal you are departing from as there are several terminals depending on the airline and aircraft type.
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