Boracay: A White Beach Island Guide


Everyone must believe in something.

I believe

I should go to the beach.

inspired by Groucho Marx



Looks like an early white Christmas already where I am in the Northeast. As an island goddess, I prefer a white beach Christmas so it’s fortunate that I know exactly where to escape to.  With its archipelago of almost 8,000 islands, the Philippines has three that rank among Travel & Leisure’s top beaches in the world. Among its 6.6m tourists last year, about a third visited Boracay, a relatively small island measuring 3.98 square miles with a local resident population of only 30,000. You can dive and snorkel through top notch reefs, enjoy a variety of waters sports, go island hopping, kayak or canoe, hike trails and waterfalls, chill on a lounge chair or beach bar, all the while enjoying the help of smiling locals everywhere you turn.

A couple of decades ago, Boracay certainly was idyllic with its throw back in time feel amidst thatched roof hut accommodations.  As late as 2012, Travel+Leisure declared it the best island in the world for the powder soft sand on its White Beach. These days the main stretch of white beach feels more like Florida’s South Beach party town with hotels and restaurants of all stripes shoe horned one after another.

Getting to Boracay  An hour’s flight from Manila gets you to Caticlan (the Kalibo International airport option is farther away), followed by a ferry ride from the Caticlan Jetty Port and a drive to your hotel. Caticlan is a small airport that allow small aircrafts so luggage weight restrictions are strictly enforced. Book transfers ahead with Island Star Express or My Boracay Guide with your preferred level of service.

If that sounds like too much work, consider a hotel that includes inter-island transfers like the luxury T+L favorite Shangri-La Boracay Resort & Spa, where guests can arrive via speedboat directly from Caticlan to the resort’s private jetty.

Which beach?  Of the island’s 12 beaches, White Beach lives up to its name except it can get busy because most of the island’s shopping, nightclubs and hotels are found here. Spanning 2.5 miles of the island’s west coast, it is divided into three “stations.”

When to go  The weather in Boracay, like most of the Philippines, is either hot or hotter.  Prime travel season runs from Christmas until May. January gets extra busy with the Kalibo Ati-Atihan Festival–the Philippine version of Mardi Gras–and the annual water-sports competition, the International Funboard Cup. Given a choice, I’d pick the shoulder season (October to November), when temperatures have  cooled down after the monsoon rains of July/August. Low season is June to September if you don’t mind rain and wind.

Where to Stay  To get away from the maddening crowd, The Shangri-la Resort and Spa makes you feel like you’re on a private island because it sits on a sheltered bay at Boracay’s pristine northern coast. Heaven must be not unlike staying at a quiet villa looking out to peaceful blue waters with a friendly butler at your beck and call.  The resort’s layout offers rooms with spectacular vistas of lush green scenery and azure ocean views from every vantage point. TheIe hotel airport transfer takes you on a speedboat directly to the property so you need not suffer the usual drive-ferry-drive routine.

If you want relative quiet without having to spend as much money while having the option to walk to the action on White Beach, you want to be at the  farthest end of Station 1. There are Airbnb beach front homes like Mayumi Villa and Robinson Beach House next to The Lind. These are the better beach front hotels on Station 1:

The Lind Hotel is a high rise with modern facilities, a good sized swimming pool, and the only beach front space for weddings/parties.  Their restaurant has pretty good food, too, if the tender grilled octopus and cucumber mint slushee are an indication.

Friday’s Boracay is among the older properties (since 1982) without a pool but their restaurant has an unobstructed beach view while their accommodations are the closest thing you get to going native.

Ambassador in Paradise is a narrow property with a lap pool. Their restaurant spreads out amidst coconut trees featuring a raw seafood bar set up on a quaint little boat in the evenings.

Boracay has gotten overbuilt so I find it a bit stressful to get to with the traffic and before with the throngs on the beach at sunset. The government’s clean-up initiative in the past year has banned sandcastle artists and other beach entrepreneurs but has not remedied the eyesore of dilapidated and abandoned properties amidst better hotels. But with more than 7,500 other islands to choose from, I’ll have to feature a couple other options on future posts

Click on “Leave a comment” (top left) to share your favorite winter escape. (Photos on this page are from Google Images.)


Shangri-la Resort & Spa’s beach cove

Friday’s Boracay beach front


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