Guide to Boracay Island, Philippines

Survival Guide and the New Changes for Boracay Island

White sand and blue sky at Boracay Island, Philippines

Zhang Zheng / Getty Images

 

Beautiful Boracay Island in the Philippines once held the dubious honor of being the busiest—and sometimes rowdiest—island in the archipelago. Too many tourists squeezed in to enjoy paradise, and so keeping the white sand pristine eventually became impossible.

In April 2018, the government made the drastic decision to close the island for six months of restoration and to improve a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure. In October 2018, Boracay became accessible as part of a "soft opening," however, work on the island is planned through 2019.

Boracay Island Is Open Again

Although Boracay is officially open for tourism again, daily arrivals have been restricted, and there have been some major changes made to the Philippines' top island destination.

To travel to Boracay, you'll be required to show your hotel reservation for government-approved accommodation. This restriction was put in place after government surveyors discovered that over 700 properties on the island were dumping raw, untreated waste into the sea.

New Rules for Boracay Island

Some new rules and restrictions were put in place to limit the impact of tourism while the island recovers.

  • Drinking and smoking are prohibited on the beach. There will be some designated areas.
  • Umbrellas and beach chairs are banned on the beach.
  • Harsh fines are imposed for littering of any kind.
  • All pets are banned.
  • The casinos were closed, and gambling is no longer permitted on the island.
  • Single-use plastics (including cups and drinking straws) are banned.

Among the stranger rules added on Boracay is that all sandcastle construction must be government approved. This was probably put in place to control the artists asking for donations after building sand art.

Travelers who have visited Boracay before will be happy to know that the disturbing drone of jet skis has been brought under control. Now all water sports must be kept contained to designated areas.

Where to Stay

As the restoration effort continues, you'll be expected to show a reservation for government-approved accommodation. That means the days of turning up to wander around for budget accommodation may be over. The system is still being tweaked.

Accommodation on White Beach tends to be cheaper in the south around Station 3 and generally gets pricier as you move north toward Station 1.

Tip: Not all resorts on Boracay maintain 24-hour water and electricity—inquire before you book.

Where to Eat in Boracay

As you walk the sandy path along White Beach between Station 2 and Station 3, you'll encounter a multitude of seafood buffets—some are large operations with dinner shows. While most are priced fairly, don't expect high-quality food! Despite the romantic notion of eating so near to the beach, seafood is rarely fresh. Arrive early when buffets first set up for the evening. Sample small portions initially; you could be asked to pay for wasted food.

The beach path is literally lined with restaurants for all budgets. You'll find many more options around the open-air D'Mall at Station 2, along with some familiar fast-food favorites. Food can be surprisingly low quality and quite expensive on Boracay; a little research is worth the effort.

Managing Money

There are a small handful of ATMs located inside the D'Mall in the center of White Beach around Station 2. You'll find one or two more hidden in kiosks along the main beach path. The machines do sometimes run out of cash, and long queues can form during the high season. Eliminate some of the worry by bringing ample cash (especially small denominations) from the mainland.

Drivers and vendors may balk at cashing large denominations such as 500-peso and 1000-peso banknotes. Try to keep some smaller change by breaking big banknotes in busy bars and restaurants.

You can pay with credit card in larger resorts and at dive shops, however, a commission will almost always be tacked on.

Booking Activities

An army of touts once patrolled up and down White Beach hoping to cajole you into watersports, sailing, and every other beach activity imaginable. Tourists were always under sales pressure. Now, competition is fierce. You can negotiate for discounts on many activities, even more so if you team up with other travelers.

If you want to give kiteboarding or windsurfing a try, head over to the windy Bulabog Beach on the other side of the island. You can get there via a 15 minute walk just by crossing the main road opposite of the D'Mall.

All water sports have to be done in designated areas; jet skis must be used 100 meters from the beach.

Getting Around Boracay

You can walk from one end of White Beach to the other. The many polluting motor-tricycles that once rattled along the north-south road are being phased out and replaced by electric tricycles and e-Jeepneys. If you don't prefer to walk, take advantage of these environmental vehicles! Prices are somewhat fixed, depending upon the distance traveled.

Unlike the ancient Jeepneys rumbling around Manila, the new e-Jeepneys have Wi-Fi and are managed by Grab—a popular ride-sharing service in Southeast Asia. You'll want to install the app on your phone so you can pay fares automatically.

Ongoing road work will continue for a long time on the island. You'll probably find that walking on the soft sand is an inviting option.

How to Get to Boracay

Two airports provide access to Boracay Island: Caticlan (MPH) and Kalibo International Airport (KLO). Caticlan is the airport nearest to Boracay Island, however, it can only handle small aircraft. Luggage weight restrictions are strictly enforced, and luggage often gets delayed.

Kalibo International Airport is around two hours drive to the southeast and can handle larger aircraft. You may need to opt for this airport if you want to fly with all of your luggage. Regardless of which airport you choose, you'll need to take a ferry from the Caticlan Jetty over to Boracay Island.

To fly with all of your luggage, you may need to book a flight to Kalibo International Airport (KLO) located around two hours away. Transportation from Kalibo International Airport usually includes the ferry ticket over to the island.

Once in Caticlan, you'll wait at the busy jetty for a boat until you are called. As with many other places in the Philippines, you'll need to pay a terminal fee at the counter as well as an environmental fee. The boat to Boracay Island takes less than 30 minutes.

After arriving in the southern part of Boracay Island, you'll find transportation options for getting to your hotel.

When to Go

The dry and busiest season in Boracay is known as Amihan and runs between November and April. Prices can triple around Chinese New Year (January or February), Easter, and Christmas—book ahead or plan accordingly and avoid the crowds altogether!

The annual LaBoracay beach party once held each May is now banned.

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