Boracay has won a “genetic lottery” of sorts. Let’s just say that if there was a beauty pageant for beaches, this tiny island in the Philippines would take the crown. And I suppose in some ways, Boracay has won a “pageant”. For several years, the combination of powdery white sand and turquoise waters has landed Boracay at the top of countless lists, proclaiming it the world’s best beach.
Often times when places are so highly regarded, they can be a letdown in person. When you don’t have the perfect lighting or Photoshop to enhance the colors, it can leave one wondering what all the hype is about. Let me tell you though, Boracay is just as beautiful in person as it is on postcards.
However, being named among the best beaches in the world comes at a price. Boracay is far from undiscovered, and we were hardly the only foreigners. Unlike the beaches in Miami or Hawaii though, it never felt crowded. There was plenty of space to lay out without having to share my towel with that token leathery-tan guy sporting a Speedo.
Tourism has brought McDonald’s to town (cue groan). Oh, and you see those beautiful sailboats in the picture above? Well, what you can’t see in their silhouettes are the giant advertisements for Pizza Hut on the sails.
Yes, the effects of tourism are visible, but in our opinion, it didn’t detract much from the beauty of this postcard-worthy beach. As long as you go to Boracay expecting to see other travelers, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. We certainly fell head-over-flip-flops for this island paradise.
Finding Bliss in Boracay
After nearly 24 hours of traveling and a sleepless night spent in the Manila airport, we were more than excited when our feet finally touched the sand.
Our time in Boracay can be summed up in two words.
Beach and Drinks.
We traveled to the Philippines with our friend Alex, another English teacher. Together we’d escaped the frigid winter temps in South Korea, and felt no need to do anything besides relax and soak up the sun (after several applications of sunscreen for Ben, of course).
We spent our days sipping fruity rum drinks on the beach and wandering through what seemed to be a life-sized screen saver.
We even pampered ourselves with a full-body massage on the beach. And the price for one hour of utter bliss, you ask? A measly $8 USD. I’m only bummed we didn’t have more than one!
Sounds pretty perfect, doesn’t it? Well, I haven’t yet divulged the most beautiful part.
The sunsets in Boracay are a sight that cannot be rivaled. Mind-boggling combinations of yellows and purples filled the sky as sailboats floated past us. They were without a doubt the most stunning sunsets we have ever seen. And I imagine they will be hard to top.
One night, we set up our GoPro to capture a time lapse, and got some pretty cool footage. Oh, and two adorable kids put on a little dance performance for the camera that you can only see in their silhouettes.
Where to stay
This was by far my favorite place to spend the day in Boracay. This establishment is sort of a tree house, bar, restaurant, and resort, all rolled up into one unforgettable place.
We spent our last day at Spider Bar drinking Red Horse, a local beer, and talking until sunset. After the sun went down, we jumped into the water and gazed at the stars overhead from the floating raft. It was the kind of day I daydream about while sitting at my work computer. Absolute perfection.
How to get there: Spider Bar is located near Diniwid Beach. It's quite a walk from downtown, but when you are living on beach time, who cares?! Walk North along White Beach past Station 1, until the beach turns into a foot path. Walk the path through a hole in the rocks and you’ll find a smaller, secluded beach without all the tourists.. Keep on the path until you see signs for Spider Bar.
Where to eat
We had the best meals of our trip on the island of Boracay.
This small restaurant serves up quite an assortment of local fare all for a reasonable price. We ate there twice and had delicious food both times. My favorite was Chicken Kaopad - a rice bowl dish with chicken, egg and fresh mango slices. At just 140 Philippine pesos (about $3 USD), it was a steal!
How to get there: It is only a minute or two from White Beach. With your back facing White Beach, take the D'Mall street that is to your left. Go up the street and take your first left into this semi-circle street, full of souvenir shops. Smoke Resto will be on your left, tucked in between these shops.
We happened upon this restaurant by chance. But as with most discoveries while traveling, it turned out to be the good kind of accident. The food was incredible. They have a large menu, and you can choose from Filipino food and Mexican favorites. The three of us shared some local specialties - Sinigang Stew and Pork Adobo as well as Fresh Fish Tacos. The fruit shakes, though slightly more expensive than average, were delicious too!
How to get there: This oceanside restaurant is a short walk from D'Mall along White Beach. Head toward Station 1, and you'll be sure to find it. It is attached to Jony's Beach Resort.
The small, yet eclectic menu at this gastropub features pub fare from all over the world. Everything we ordered - from Oysters Rockefeller to the Chicken Tikka Masala and the Beef and Mushroom Pie were in.cred.i.ble. We were also impressed that they have their own handcrafted beers on tap and serve pitchers of homemade sangria. With friendly staff, a handsomely decorated interior, plenty of outdoor seating, and reasonable prices, there is not one thing we could complain about.
How to get there: This fabulous restaurant is actually on the ground floor of MNL Hostel (see direction above).
Just as the name implies, shed your shoes before entering this tree house-inspired restaurant. The smiling man who takes your order is the same person who cooks it up for you. And coincidentally, he just happens to be the owner as well. He was so kind to go next store to get us a beer since there wasn’t any on the menu. The food was fresh and we had the whole upper level of the restaurant to ourselves to ogle at the surrounding jungle. Try the Vegetable Curry and the Chicken Adobo.
How to get there: This one’s a bit out of the way, but I promise it’s worth it. It’s near Spider Bar on Diniwid Beach, so make a day of going to both! From the beach, take Diniwid Beach Street near the beachside bar with the colorful umbrellas into the town. It’s a fun little venture to see a local area where you will likely be one of a handful of tourists. This restaurant is a few blocks down on the main street and is on the left-hand side, you can spot it by the second level woodwork.
UPDATE: We have recently been informed that this restaurant is no longer open, which is such a shame. Let us know if you have any further information!
Read more about how we fell in love with the Philippines, and why you should start packing your bags!