The main reason people from all over the world come to Boracay Island is for its warm weather and beautiful beaches. Thus, it was once voted as the Best Island in the World 2012 by Travel + Leisure magazine.
This year, it dropped by one place to No.2 behind Palawan, also in Philippines. Although I haven't been to the current winning island Palawan, I believe it's more fun in Boracay for a number of reasons. One of them could be how established it is as an award-winning island destination. It basically has everything to offer for holidaymakers. Visitors can enjoy luxurious comfort of 5-star hotels or just make do with any less expensive accommodations which to me are 'closer to nature' like the beach huts or tree-houses. Foodies might find Boracay as one food haven in Philippines for their wild taste buds. Samples can be from the local's weirdest masterchef menu to scrumptious seafood platter to Adobo chicken.
Boracay Island is surrounded by water of Sibuyan Sea and maybe of Visayan Sea as well. Since the island is small (7 km length and 1 km across at the narrowest), anyone can actually hop from one beach to another while spending an hour or two at each of those sandy beachfront in just one day. However, no one was crazy enough to do that, including us. There are 12 beaches altogether located around Boracay.
Some of them are located off the beaten path and some beaches are owned by private resorts and inaccessible by road. One can access these private beaches though, of course one by staying at the respective resorts that own these beaches or by taking an island hopping boat trip that can take you there for a fee. The 12 beaches are as follow:
- White Beach
- Bulabog Beach
- Puka Beach
- Diniwid Beach
- Ilig-Illigan Beach
- Balinghai Beach
- Punta Bunga Beach
- Tulubhan Beach
- Lapuz Lapuz Beach (privately owned by Fairways & Bluewater Golf Club & Resort)
- Lagutan Beach
- Tambisaan Beach
- Cagban Beach
More popular beaches among local and foreign tourists are White Beach (Station 1 to Station 3), Bulabog Beach, and Puka Beach. White Beach or also known to locals as front beach is a long stretch of white sandy beaches with coconut trees and business establishments on one side while the blue-turquoise water on the other. Bulabog beach is located on the eastern shore of the island and it's also referred to as the back beach. Puka Beach aka Puka Shell Beach is quite a popular beach in Boracay, especially to those who prefer a quieter place to relax or sunbathing.
In our considerably short stay on Boracay, we spent quite a remarkable moment at three of those beaches. In fact, there were four including Diniwid Beach, which I think a good place to unwind but mind you, there are topless lasses and highly venomous banded krait scouring the area. I know the first one is far from lethal but be careful when you go swimming or snorkeling near rocks and crevices even in shallow water. You might need 360-degree view when approaching these areas to avoid possible fatal incident, like what we'd experienced. It was so close that wifey missed the sea serpent by half a meter before she surged ahead and accidentally threatened the legless creature which I saw in its 'on-guard' stance. If that happened I believe the trip would have ended right there for us. So, for that reason Diniwid failed to impress me much.
This 4km-long beach is now the main tourist spot in Boracay especially during high season. The beach can be divided into three areas which the local authority named them as Station 1, Station 2, and Station 3, from north to south within the Balabag barangay. Previously, boats were allowed to dock on the beach along White Beach, thus the naming. The authority, since long time ago, had put up a great effort to maintain the cleanliness of surrounding water by preventing boat docking on White Beach but only in either Cagban or Tambisaan jetty.
Since we stayed in Station 1, not far from the post office, we just need to walk about 10 minutes before reaching perhaps the most eye-pleasing natural structure on the island. This place is called Willy's Rock, where a group of rock formations created by natural forces over a very long period of time stand in the ocean not very far from the shore of White Beach. We tried to photograph this unique and attractive mini rocky island on our first day but it was too late for us as the tide was already high. We went there again the next morning and it was low tide so we were able to get to Willy's Rock on foot. Since the islanders and Filipinos are mostly Catholics, a stone statue of Virgin Mary can be found on top of the highest peak on the rocky structure, just to make it looks a little more sacred.
As soon as the sun went into hiding, most people will make their way south to the livelier Station 2. This is actually the place to hang out after dark. Be it a candle-light dinner, bar hopping, performance watching, or shopping, make sure you come by Station 2. This is not only the center of White Beach but also the heart of Boracay where it continuously live on till the next morning. While at Station 2, don't forget the famous Boracay sandcastle in front of Obama Grill, where you can take as many pictures as you want without paying a single cent.
Meanwhile, Station 3 has a lot less to be admired. Closer to Manoc Manoc barangay, this station is maybe a good spot to catch a boat for island hopping or to experience the paraw sailing.
We spent most of our days in Boracay on Bulabog Beach. It was almost habagat (low season) and most resorts and chalets in Bulabog were empty. We managed to get a very cheap, double-bedding room at one of the kitesurfing centers there. We even got the sea-facing room that was located about 10 meters away from the beach.
Unfortunately, Bulabog Beach is not really for swimming. The water quality is totally opposite of what we saw earlier in White Beach. There were swarms of thousands of coral-eating Drupella snails making highways in the water of Bulabog, closed to our resort. And I spotted a sewage line half buried in the sand that leads to the sea. Maybe that is where all those snails headed to. Yuck! Or they could be crawling towards the open sea to feed.
However, its location is good if you want to stay away from the touristy and noisy Station 2 but still within walking distance to the center of Boracay. Remember the 1 km narrowest ends about this island? I think this is it. In just about 500 meters from D'Mall in Station 2, we can walk across the island to the other side of it where Bulabog Beach is located. The landmark is the local-style pool hall just nearby the intersection from main road, not far from the Budget mart.
During low season when almost no easterly winds blowing into Bulabog, it was so dark and quiet at night. Even the ocean was so calm that I didn't feel like I was staying very close to the sea. That was somehow kept me asleep at night knowing that the bay was protected from the open sea. A good night sleep is a must as catching the sunrise the next morning is one main activity in Bulabog, other than kitesurfing.
Puka Beach aka Puka Shell Beach
This beach is located in the northern shore of barangay called Yapak and it is one of the best sunset beaches in Boracay. Although the cost to get to Puka Beach was a tad high at Php 150 per one-way trip from White Beach area, it is a must-visit beach and expect to spend at least a few hours to enjoy what Puka has for you. I loved this beach so much that we've been here four times, including twice on a same day. From the tricycle stand, the point where all tricycles must disembark all passengers at Puka Beach, we must walk a little to get to the beach.
There's a row of stalls selling local-made, traditional souvenirs that you can browse through before getting yourself wet in the ocean. Ask any of the sellers here for puka shells, the white, roundish shells that were only been found on this beach.
However, I'm not sure of the authenticity of all those puka materials used to make bracelets sold at a higher price nowadays.
Anyway, as far as I know this is the only place on the island that one can get such things. There may be one in D'Mall street market but since that place is huge, finding a souvenir shop can be a daunting task. Be reminded, haggling is the key here, as in any other parts of South East Asia when it comes to street-shopping.
After a while of photography session with my sweetheart, it was already time for lunch. We then decided to have it by the beach, at Puka Grande Restaurant, the nearest and the only restaurant nearby.
We ordered two plates of steamed rice and a plate of ginger prawns. Tasty but just a little bit on the sugary side. Maybe that was how the locals prefer their food to be - sweet. While eating, I stumbled upon a statement on the restaurant's menu board that made both of us startled. It reads "...still exist after 18 years of hard work and faith in God, despite of unhealthy competition". I couldn't understand where the competition came from since I didn't see any other restaurants that opened anywhere nearby. Hmmm...
Not far from the restaurant, there is an informal boat-building site. A few skillful workers were hard at work when we passed by. They seemed to be building a traditional paraw, most probably to be sold to tour operators for a few hundred thousands pesos. Beyond the boat-making area, the beach is long and sandy.
To the east, the horizon on Sibuyan Sea is as far as the eye can see and it is just perfect for a sunset experience. And days later, we got back here just for that purpose.