Is Boracay worth it for a vacation? Looking to embark on a new adventure in the Philippines? Read this detailed breakdown of our trip to Boracay.
So you have the itch to walk along a white sand beach, dotted with palm trees, and surrounded by a beautiful crystal clear ocean, teeming with all kinds of marine life.
Most of the time, Boracay, an island in the Philippines, can scratch that itch – and more.
The island shut down for a while, seemingly for renovations and infrastructure improvements. Now, it’s open once again.
Is Boracay Worth It?
And you’re probably wondering if Boracay is worth it. Did they manage to improve the island? Is it still a cesspool?
Overall, in my opinion, Boracay is a bit overrated. It receives so many local and international tourists, and now with all the new rules in place, there’s not that much to do. I believe Boracay is worth visiting once, but there are definitely better places in the Philippines to check out.
Regardless, you can still have a good time, even with the crowds of tourists and constant hecklers. I think Boracay is worth visiting at least once.
One thing to remember is now you need to show proof of reservation at the port (or if you use package transportation, they’ll deal with that).
Why Did Boracay Close?
If you have been following the news, you probably heard the president of the Philippines, Duterte, ordered the shutdown of Boracay, calling it a cesspool. The reason it shut down was that the sewage was getting a bit out of control.
Some hotels were cutting corners and just dumping waste into the ocean which would end up back on the beaches. Pretty pleasant. So the president decided to close the island to renovate and get things back under control.
Also, I recommend bringing a GoPro and some other cameras.
Planning a trip is kind of pointless without a budget. The good news is almost everywhere in the Philippines is cheap, especially if you have U.S. dollars.
On that note, I recommend changing money to U.S. dollars beforehand and making sure you have enough PHP to get around.
Some of the restaurants and retail stores will accept credit cards, but it’s better to have cash on hand.
What to Bring:
Once again, Boracay is a great spot to test out action cameras. I recommend bringing a GoPro. If you don’t have one, consider buying one through this link.
Other than that, the usual tropical clothing is more than enough. It never gets cold, so shorts and shirts it is.
Another note to remember is to bring small PHP bills.
Our Boracay Budget:
|Spending Cash (Food, Activities, Shopping, etc)
While fancy hotels are a bit pricey, there are plenty of great budget-friendly hotels.
We stayed at one called Turtle Inn Resort, located down some creepy (and flooded) back alleys. Once inside, the hotel was nice. The staff was friendly, and the room was okay.
They only served breakfast, from a menu, no dinner, but they do have a bar. And most importantly, they had a lot of cats… and geckos.
But if you’re (for some reason) terrified of geckos and cats, then you probably won’t like this hotel.
The Wi-Fi is pretty slow on the higher floors, actually, it refused to connect altogether.
But SIM cards with data are super cheap anyway.
What is Boracay Known For?
Honestly, there’s not that much to do on the actual island. The Island Hopping Tours and other activities are off the island.
We’ll expand more on these later on.
1 – White Beach
Boracay is probably best known for the white-sand beach, which is actually called White Beach. It’s the main beach in Boracay.
2 – Island Hopping
Like most islands in Boracay, it’s close to many other smaller islands, some of which are much more beautiful. There are all kinds of island hopping tours that you can check out, most of which are 6 hours long and include lunch.
We went to one that stopped at Carabao Island, an island that’s actually much bigger (and quieter) than Boracay, and has nicer beaches too!
Those are the mains ones, it’s famous for other things too.
3 – D Mall
D Mall is Boracay’s shopping area. It’s more like an outdoor mall. There aren’t many people trying to sell you things here, but there are plenty of stores and restaurants.
It’s the main place people go to do some shopping and they have stores for pretty much everything you will need. We bought a SIM card here. The SIM cards are really cheap and you don’t need an ID to buy one.
My Experience with Boracay:
I have been to Boracay two times so far, the first time was in 2012, and the second time was… yesterday.
(Well, knowing me, the article will probably be written years after the trip!)
After spending 8 days on the island, I wanted to share some of my opinions with you.
In this article, I’m going to share my thoughts on the island, the food, activities, and overall impressions. Think of this as a Boracay review.
I wrote a similar article for Palawan, so if you want to know if Palawan is a good alternative, read my Palawan guide.
Now, when I visited Boracay this time, it was during the tail-end of a typhoon, so the weather wasn’t that great.
And by “not great” I mean, it was still a typhoon.
Our first couple of days were pretty miserable, but that’s our fault for choosing to travel in the middle of a typhoon.
After a few days, the weather cleared, and the island was back to its usual sunny self.
Getting to Boracay:
If you have never been to Boracay, here’s a crash course.
Boracay is a very small island off the coast of a much larger island.
Which Airport is Closest to Boracay?
The closest airport to Boracay is Caticlan, it’s near the ferry port off the coast of the island. The actual island does not have an airport.
But flights to Caticlan are usually expensive, so it might be worth booking a flight to Kalibo, another airport a few hours away. We’ll talk more about that below.
Take a look on Google Maps:
The easiest way (fastest, most expensive) to get to Boracay is to…
- Book a flight to Caticlan Airport
- Ferry to the island (either charter or hop on a local one)
- And a tricycle to your hotel.
Now, if you’re not loaded with cash, that’s probably unnecessarily expensive.
But there are no direct international flights to Caticlan Airport.
You’ll have to transfer to Manila, which can be a pain since it’s one of the most popular airports in the world.
We avoided that by booking a direct flight to Kalibo, a small city about two hours from Caticlan Airport. It has an international airport.
You can easily find direct flights to Kalibo, and they’re usually a lot cheaper than to Caticlan. What I use is Skyscanner.
Can I Enter Boracay Without a Reservation?
One thing you might have heard of is Boracay no longer accepts people without a reservation. And that’s true.
You can’t enter Boracay without a hotel reservation.
It’s a rule designed to cut back on backpackers who roam around or sleep on the beach. It’s not the end of the world, it’s better to sleep in a hotel anyway and there are plenty of cheap ones.
Get a reservation!
Getting From Kalibo to Boracay:
We bought a transportation package from KK Day, which included the bus from Kalibo, a ferry to Boracay, and a minivan to your hotel.
Honestly, it was a pretty good service. You can check it out here.
For what’s included, the package is a really good deal.
- A shuttle from Kalibo Airport to Caticlan Port (Modern Bus, no Mini-vans!)
- Transfer from bus to a private speedboat.
- Drop off (via van) at your hotel, or near.
The process was very smooth for us, and they gave you little name stickers with your hotel name.
Flights to Kalibo are usually a lot cheaper, especially with Air Asia. And there are lots of direct flights there from other countries in Asia.
We got a direct return flight from Taiwan for 4,000 TWD (down season, and also in the middle of a typhoon, hence the price).
So even though it’s a little longer and you have to switch transportation methods, flying to Kalibo is still cheaper.
Overall, it takes about 4 hours from Kalibo to your hotel in Boracay.
Luckily, they have full-scale buses, with aircon, so you can usually sleep a bit. But once there, you can relax! No need to travel anymore!
And that brings us to Boracay, the actual point of this article. Of course, if you want to avoid all that, try to get on a flight to Caticlan.
Did Boracay Really Change?
From what I could tell, the actual condition of the island is pretty much the same as it was when I visited seven years ago.
The only difference now is there are more regulations and rules and fewer parties. You’ll see the police and other people patrolling the beach and enforcing rules.
It’s less “crazy” and more organized, at least on White Beach. Not as many parties, and no vendors on the beach.
It doesn’t stop the hecklers on every corner. You can’t even take a step without someone asking you to buy something from them.
How Boracay Island Looks Now:
Boracay is pretty nice now, not that it wasn’t nice before.
The White Beach still looks the same, but there are fewer tables and tanning chairs on the beach. It’s a little bit cleaner, but overall, it’s about the same.
There are tons of new rules, like:
- No drinking or smoking on the beach
- No eating on the beach
- Restaurants can’t put tables on the beach
- No fire dancing or fireworks
- No umbrellas
- No pets
- Plastic straws are banned
- To name a few.
There are patrols of police walking around waiting to catch someone. We got “busted” for walking with unopened beers on the main walkway, not even on the beach. They asked us to throw away the beers, so we did. They probably drank them later.
Not to mention a new department of police called POLIS, made up of mostly young people, roaming around everywhere…doing absolutely nothing useful. Obviously, these rules are to keep the beach and environment clean.
Like most rules, they don’t really seem to be helping that much. And it’s kind of stressful having police watch you like some sort of criminal.
I found all sorts of trash in the water, and washed up on the beach, including a nice shard of glass that I nearly stabbed myself with.
From what I could tell, no effort was being made to clean the beach. Or very little.
Also, the condition of the roads seems to have gotten worse, with massive potholes almost everywhere, full of suspiciously colored fluids.
Speaking of the roads, tricycles, motorbikes, and jeepneys take up every inch of the road, constantly spewing toxic fumes into the air.
And it’s crazy loud. There’s lots of drilling and renovation going on. I’m not sure what they’re improving but I hope it’s useful.
But overall, it’s about the same as it was before the shutdown, minus the parties… and with more rules.
Does that mean it sucks? Not really.
It just hasn’t improved that much.
Getting around is the same as in most cities in the Philippines. The best way to get around is to use Tricycles, a motorbike attached to a cage with seats.
You might find people offering to drive you with their motorbikes too, we got a ride on the back of one when we got a bit lost in the backstreets.
People are pretty friendly and if you pay them they’ll be happy to help out.
Since there’s really only one main road, you can just take a tricycle up and down it for 100 or so pesos.
Recommended Places to Eat:
The good thing about Boracay is it has a wide range of food, which caters to many different countries.
Tip: Open the list in a new window, and save it to your starred places, so you can find them on your maps when you visit.
You can find…
- And a wide range of street food.
Most of the food is around D-mall.
But you’re looking for specifics, so here are some restaurants we liked:
This restaurant specializes in burgers, bite-sized and normal sizes. It’s a pretty small place, with only a few tables, during dinner hours it’s usually crowded. The burgers are great though, and they have other dishes, like sandwiches, too.
I’ll be honest, we didn’t get a chance to visit this place. We wanted to, but every time we went over it was crowded, and the wait time was 30 minutes or more.
It seems like it’s never empty, it’s always at maximum capacity. And we didn’t even go during the high season!
Maybe you’ll get lucky. Here’s the location.
This is a really cute and colorful cafe with lots of great dishes, mostly for brunch and breakfast. We came here twice. It’s really nice!
Here’s a picture:
And a friendly cat came over to say hi too.
Great place to stop by for some lunch or brunch. Recommended.
I was surprised that this place still is in business, not because the food or service is bad, but because it’s been around for a long time. I went here back in 2012, so it’s been going strong for 7 years. And not much has changed.
Dos Mestizos is a classical Spanish restaurant. It’s a little pricier than the other options, and they mostly serve dinner. But the food quality is great.
They have lots of dishes, the most popular being tapas and Paella.
Here’s a picture of ours:
Overall, it was great. We went a bit crazy and ordered a bunch of dishes and lots of Sangria!
I don’t know much about authentic Spanish food, but I think it was pretty close. Their desserts are great too.
Henann Boracay Resort Buffet
Now, this is an interesting one. I would have never figured it out.
The restaurant is a part of the Henan Boracay Resort hotel, but you can buy a voucher for the buffet only on KK Day.
Considering it’s all-you-can-eat, it’s very cheap. Buy the voucher, and show it at the entrance, and you should be shown to a table.
We filled ourselves up! One thing to keep in mind is this place is quite popular, so it can be a bit crowded. Also, everyone randomly started dancing.
Speaking of crowds, when the crab and lobster are served, there will always be people fighting over it, very civilized.
You need to be fast if you want some. My girlfriend went back a few times and it was always empty.
So if you want to eat until you pop and then dance… try this place.
Another dish that’s popular here is the sticky rice dessert.
It looks… interesting – but the taste is not bad.
Ocean Club Restuarant
Another restaurant that is a part of the Ocean Club Hotel in the South Beach area of Boracay.
The restaurant is nice, quiet, and cheap. There was a guy singing some Bob Dylan too.
We got a pizza and some other stuff.
Here’s a picture of the pizza:
It’s was great. But we got full too fast. Here’s the location on maps.
The hotel looks nice too, and they have a pool.
Crazy Crepes (Snack)
Want to cool down after all the walking in the sun? Try a Crazy Crepe. We came here… a few too many times.
What is it? It’s a Crepe with a bunch of ice cream, whipped cream, and other sprinkles inside.
You won’t be able to resist. Every time we walked passed we had to get one.
Hey Jude South Beach Boracay
This one is down South a bit, further away from the crowds, which makes it a nice spot to relax.
The restaurant belongs to the Hey Jude South Boracay Hotel, but they allow non-guests to eat there. The food is more Western style, with burgers, and pasta.
Their signature burger is called Hey Jude Burger:
Overall, the South Beach area is a lot quieter, and we found the restaurants (and hotels) are cheaper too.
Their drinks are cheap and nice too:
If you don’t mind walking and you’re on a budget, that’s one area worth looking for hotels.
So yeah, long story short, there are lots of places to eat. Perfect for foodies.
Actually, we spent more time eating than anything else.
Halo Mango (Icecream and Shakes)
Halo Mango is a chain shop that sells ice cream and shakes, specifically Mango ice cream and shakes. There are a few in Boracay, one at the main beach, and one in the D Mall.
We passed by the one on the main beach a few times. They serve shaved ice too. Overall, pretty nice, but really sweet.
Andok’s (Fried Chicken Fast Food)
If you want some comfort food, similar to KFC, then you can try out Andok’s. It’s a local fried chicken fast-food chain. You can order takeout too.
We got takeout to eat in the hotel. It’s one of the few places that are open all night. We recommend the barbecue chicken.
Boracay is probably best known for island hopping and you can’t take two steps without someone trying to sign you up on a tour.
We got so used to ignoring them that when we actually wanted to go island hopping we didn’t want to talk to any of them.
How to Organize:
There are a number of ways to organize an island-hopping trip in Boracay.
|2,200 PHP approx.
|Full Day. Leave 8 am and come back around 4 pm.
|We were able to lounge around on one beach for about 30 minutes.
- Approach any random seller (you won’t have trouble finding them).
- Use a booth on the beach.
- Ask your hotel for assistance. They usually have packages.
- Jump on a random boat at the port.
- Pre-book through KK Day or a similar site.
Eventually, we met someone less aggressive, and we talked to him a bit to organize some activities.
There are lots of island hopping options, and you can even customize them a bit. You can even hire a private boat, although that’s more expensive. You can also bargain.
I didn’t have much interest in the regular options, they usually take you by some islands like Crocodile Island (which basically just shaped like a crocodile) and some other ones that aren’t that special.
Tip: I recommend buying a local SIM card so you can keep in touch with your tour guide. They’re super cheap and you don’t need any ID. I think we bought 3 GB of data for 400 PHP or something like that. Globe is a good carrier.
We did island hopping in Palawan, so we already have some experience.
What I wanted to do was check out Carabao Island, an island I mentioned earlier, it’s off the coast of Boracay.
Luckily enough, it’s a popular destination for tours. And for good reason, it’s really nice.
What is Carabao Island Known For?
Carabao Island is not really a hotspot, which is one of the reasons I wanted to go there. But it’s just as nice as Boracay, and bigger too.
The island is famous for white-sand beaches, cliff diving, and snorkeling. There are also some caves to explore.
It’s honestly refreshing to get away from the crowds of Boracay, so I recommend coming here.
What You Need to Know:
It took quite a long time to secure a boat.
We took a tricycle with our tour organizer to the port, where he left us with someone else.
We had to wait for probably an hour in the crowds and sun. Not the best experience. I feel like their organizational skills weren’t the best.
I guess since you’re not allowed to party anymore (at least on the beach) the next best thing is to do island hopping so everyone ends up there.
And it was even low season, I can’t imagine what it would have been like during the high season.
Long story short, expect to be surrounded by lots of tourists. Once you manage to get on a boat and you head out to sea, it’s a lot nicer.
I noticed the tours are spread apart across the island so there are not too many people in one area at a time, which is good.
The boat will take you to different spots, depending on the availability, and not necessarily in order.
I can’t remember the exact order, but here’s where you might end up:
Cliff Diving Spot:
The diving spot has bamboo platforms built on to a cliff, with a variety of diving heights. You have to climb up a series of steps, basically, a ladder, to get to the top.
At the top, there is a little store that sells drinks (and even beer!) and you can take turns jumping off the platforms.
If you don’t want to jump, then you can swim around, the water is really clear.
The lunch is a buffet-style of local food, fried fish, and barbecue. rice, mangos, watermelon, and other dishes.
It’s not bad. And definitely needed after swimming and running around in the sun.
The boat will take you to a random spot, hand out goggles, and throw you in the water. The boat will anchor and you can take your time swimming around and checking out the corals.
I was a lot more impressed with the corals here, the ones in Palawan were almost all dead. We also found lots of starfish.
This is one reason why you need a GoPro!
The boat will take you to the port, and then it’s up to you to find your way back to the hotel.
And that’s it.
Is Boracay a Tourist Trap?
Boracay is kind of a tourist trap and there are too many people and sellers, it gets a bit too much. The upside is there are lots of things to eat, so at least you won’t starve.
I think Boracay is worth visiting once or twice, but there are lots of other cool places to check out in the Philippines. Palawan is worth exploring too!
The Bottom Line:
So if you made it this far, then you’re probably still at least somewhat interested in Boracay. I think Boracay is an okay place for a visit but it’s a bit overrated. There are many other beautiful islands with white-sand beaches in the Philippines.
Thanks for taking the time to read this Boracay travel guide. I hope you appreciate the time it took for me to write it.
If you’re planning a trip and have some questions, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer.