If your idea of a Southeast Asia summer vay-cay involves plenty of suntan lotion in the day and frenzied partying after dark, then consider the island of Boracay in the Philippines in your itinerary - and take note of one particular weekend.
Filipinos call the weekend closest to May 1 LaBoracay: the hottest party season on the island coincides with Labor Day (or May Day in the U.S.). On May 1 and the weekend closest to it, Boracay fills up with college students and young professionals raring to join in Boracay's near-unhinged revelry, letting everything loose in a riot of dancing, music and free-flowing liquor.
(Read about the Philippines' drinking culture.)
Is LaBoracay for you? If you're in your 20s and want a party experience whose intensity rivals the full moon parties in Koh Pha Ngan, then go for it! The inconveniences of Boracay during its peakest-of-peak-seasons (the hard-to-find hotel rooms, the crowds around D'Mall and on White Beach, dodging the occasional barf puddle) won't matter much to the committed fun-seeker.
Activities in LaBoracay
LaBoracay is arguably the first holiday to owe its popularity (and notoriety) to social media. As "#LaBoracay" crests a trending wave on Twitter and Instagram on the week before May 1, the crowds start coming to Boracay, building anticipation for the LaBoracay weekend. By the first week of April, Boracay hotel bookings fill up to bursting, and airlines add extra flights to Kalibo and Caticlan airports.
The revelers who board the boats to the island come prepared: they know they'll get the following activities and events in prolific abundance:
Partying till the wee hours. Clubs like Epic Boracay, already red-hot during the Philippines summer season, reach a sizzling peak in capacity and energy during LaBoracay. The parties spill out from the clubs to the beachfront itself, maintaining a feverish energy till close to sunrise.
(Fun fact: the peak party season in Boracay used to occur during Holy Week, as Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are national holidays in this overwhelmingly Catholic country.
The Holy Week debauchery unleashed by out-of-towners horrified Boracay locals so much, organizers were obliged to reschedule the parties for the next available holiday - thus Labor Day and LaBoracay.)
Beverage brand Nestea has held the monopoly on the party action in Boracay for the past dozen years, and LaBoracay is no exception. For 2016, Nestea's “Love the Beach” campaign focuses more on cleanup than getting down: you can purchase a Nestea tumbler or merchandise to sponsor a beach clean-up machine. Other Nestea activities include a beach volleyball match and an epic beach party co-produced by Singapore party monster ZoukOut.
Photo ops against Boracay's White Beach. The Twitter hashtag "#LaBoracay" trends globally as April turns into May, and anybody who tunes in will find a flood of skimpily-clad Filipinos posting holiday snaps of themselves neck-deep in the festivities. Boracay's White Beach - already stunningly gorgeous in the summer sun - finds its looks much improved with the addition of selfie-mad eye candy.
Of course, the tidal wave of #LaBoracay posts often veers into outright narcissism - the latter is often mocked mercilessly elsewhere, most memorably in the Boracay Hater blog.
Long lines to Boracay activities. Boracay's water sports and other fun activities will be quite fully booked during the LaBoracay weekend; book early and avoid the rush!
Tips for LaBoracay Revelers
The LaBoracay rush turns the otherwise calm island into a "sardine can"; the high-energy, high-density party scene is definitely not for everybody. But if it is right up your alley, take heed of the following tips to ensure your LaBoracay break is one for the books:
Get plenty of sun protection. May is the peak of the summer hot season in the Philippines; when going outside, slather on the sunscreen and guard against UV damage.
Boracay's White Beach is somewhat lacking in shady spots, so prepare beforehand - bring a floppy hat to guard against sunstroke, as unfashionable as such items may be during LaBoracay!
Get a prepaid GSM simcard at the airport and top up there. You'll be happy to know that Boracay's cellphone coverage ranks among the best in the Philippines; if you want to keep up with LaBoracay's parties (or share your own party selfies in real time) then get a GSM simcard at the airport as soon as you arrive, and top up (reload) with a data-heavy plan. Don't wait till you hit Boracay to do so, or you'll pay more with Boracay's jacked-up holiday rates.
Water is your friend. Expect long queues at stores and restaurants; if you don't want to suddenly collapse of thirst in the middle of wandering around White Beach, get your own water container and top up before leaving your hotel.
Make friends, watch for scammers. While the overwhelming number of partygoers in LaBoracay are friendly locals just looking to make some new friends, a few others aren't in it for the new Instagram follows: theft and scams may occur to any visitor who lets their guard down for the wrong people.
Follow these safety tips for Philippines visitors or these theft prevention tips for travelers to find out how to avoid the worst.