Top Things to Do in Boracay: Travel Guide to Paradise

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. We certainly fell head-over-flip-flops for this island paradise. 

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 *too* crowded. There was plenty of space to lay out without having to share my towel with that token leathery-tan guy sporting a Speedo...

Is Boracay touristy?

There’s no way around this question other than to say, Yes.

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. Tourism has both a good and bad side.

And the bad side eventually won in Boracay. Pollution and overcrowding left the government with no choice but to close the island to tourism completely in April of 2018. This closure was a big public move that showed the world the Philippines is starting to take sustainable tourism seriously.

Boracay is one of the most visited places in the Philippines, so the 6-month closure certainly left some businesses hurting. However, this time was spent rebuilding infrastructure and creating new tourism guidelines and restrictions so that this fragile paradise is cleaner, less crowded, and stays beautiful for decades to come.

The government and local authorities worked together to create new rules for Boracay, including a limit on the number of daily visitors allowed on this island and the banning of alcohol on the beach. Read up on Boracay’s new tourism rules so you’re prepared and understand why the guidelines are in place.

Touristy? Yes. But getting better than it has been in the last several years.

Things to do in Boracay

With beachside bars selling fruity cocktails and white sand stretching as far as the eye can see, you could spend your days lazying away beneath the sun. But there is more to this island that simply laying on the beach.

There are plenty of things to do on the island of Boracay. Here are just a few!

  1. Have a beach day. Duh.

  2. Go snorkeling or scuba diving. Note: Scuba diving is temporarily banned due to the new tourism rules.

  3. Try out kitesurfing if you are craving some heat-pumping adventure. You can find a handful of kitesurfing schools on the east side of the island. But if you're looking to go surfing you won't find much on Boracay, but fear not. The Philippines has tons of fantastic surf spots you can add to your island-hopping itinerary!

  4. Go paddle boarding!

  5. Get a full body massage (for cheap!) on the beach. 'Nuff said.

  6. Drink fresh fruit smoothies all day every day.*

  7. Drink a fresh coconut* while laying in a hammock and reading a book. Is this paradise or what?!

  8. You can eat at a new restaurant every day of the week, and with local options to fancy-schmancy options, you certainly won't get bored.

  9. Enjoy the sunset with cocktails. There are tons of bars to choose from.

  10. Exploring the island by foot or by scooter is a great way to get out of the tourist zones.

  11. Play on the floating raft at Spider Bar. (More info below!)

  12. Go bar hopping. The nightlife in Boracay is quite good, and if you're looking for a fun night on the town (or beach!) you won't have to go far!

Responsible Travel Tip: pack your own reusable straw so you can enjoy smoothies and fresh coconuts without creating unnecessary plastic waste. This article has more sustainable packing list ideas!

Our Story of Finding Bliss in Boracay

After nearly 24 hours of traveling, a sleepless night spent in the airport, taking an early morning flight from Manila to Boracay, 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.

Epic sunset in Boracay, Philippines

Wanna get a glimpse of those gorgeous sunsets we're speaking of? Watch this time lapse video for a sneak peek at the beauty!

Funny story while we were filming the sunset in Boracay

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 in Boracay

This modern hostel is well-located, just a short walk from D’Mall (the main shopping and eating area) and the beach. We stayed in both the dorm and a private room during our time there and were dazzled by both.

Check out our full review of MNL Beach Hostel.

Where to Eat on Boracay Island

We had the best meals of our trip in the Philippines on the island of Boracay.

Spider House

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.

Smoke Resto

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. 

Mayas Filippino and Mexican Cuisine

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.

Los Indios Bravos 

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).

Vilu’s Place: The Barefoot Restaurant

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 may no longer be open, which is such a shame. Let us know if you have any further information!

Where else should I travel in the Philippines?

With 7,000 islands, there's no way you can see it all in this stunning country. Depending on your travel style, here are some ideas of places to visit in the Philippines:

  • For off-the-beaten-path adventure, visit the jungle of Bohol.

  • For epic diving and island-hopping, look no further than the island of Palawan. The small town of El Nido is pretty darn charming!

  • For a totally different side of the Philippines, visit the Banaue Rice Terraces in the north of the country.

2 Weeks in the Philippines: Best Itinerary

If you have been convinced to travel to this island nation, this ultimate 2-week Philippines itinerary is everything you'll ever need!

Still not convinced?

Is traveling in the Philippines expensive?

We've got all your budget questions answered in the post that details how much it costs to travel in the Philippines!

We want to hear from you!

Have you been to Boracay? What did you think? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!