Mention a long weekend getaway on a beach resort island and places like Phuket, Langkawi or Bali comes to mind usually. These are all time favourites of Singaporeans and many other tourists. However, there is another island getaway that is within reach of our Little Red Dot and although it is well known, it doesn’t usually feature on the radar of our local vacationers. This is the island of Boracay in the Philippines.
Getting to Boracay from Singapore isn’t the most convenient journey which may explain why it isn’t as popular a long weekend island getaway as compared to places like Phuket or Bali. As Boracay lies in the Philippines, a flight there itself takes almost 4 hours from Singapore. Add to that another 2-3 hours of additional transfers and almost the whole day is spent on travelling there.
There 2 routes to get to Boracay. The first way is to fly to Manila (4 hours flight time), then catch a domestic flight to Caticlan (1 hour flight time). And from Caticlan airport take a tricycle taxi to Caticlan jetty (5 minutes).
The second way is to fly to Kalibo (4 hours flight time) and take a bus/minivan to Caticlan jetty (1.5-2 hours). This route is more popular now because of international budget airlines like Tiger Airways and AirAsia which fly to Kalibo.
From Caticlan jetty, take the ferry service to Boracay which is around 10-15 minutes ride.
Either way, Your total journey time is going to take easily between 6-7 hours. For ourselves, we left Singapore in the morning to Kalibo and only checked into our hotel in Boracay at around 7pm in the evening. So if you are in a rush to enjoy your long weekend and want to maximize your time, then Boracay may not be the right destination for you.
Kalibo to Boracay
This blog is about the second option since this is the one that we took for this trip in June.
Boracay Back to Kalibo
Again, you can arrange the transfer from Boracay to Kalibo yourself or get your hotel to arrange it. We got our hotel to arrange it and it was seamless as we didn’t have to worry about buying tickets for the ferry or looking for the correct bus. The total cost of a round trip transfer from Kalibo-Boracay-Kalibo is around 1,400 pesos if you book directly with Southwest.
For the return flight to Singapore on Tiger Airways, the flight is at 3.20pm.This means that we had to leave our hotel by 10am latest. We arrived at Kalibo airport by 12pm and we had more than 3 hours before boarding our flight. Being a small airport, there aren’t many options for food inside the airport.
So if you want more substantial food like a full lunch, you’d be better off exiting the terminal building and making your way to the various restaurants across the road. However, if you have already entered the terminal and checked in your flight and exit the terminal, you will have to go through security checks again at the entrance of the terminal when you come back.
At 7km long and less than 3km at it’s widest point, Boracay is really tiny. It earned it’s fame in 2012 when it was declared one of the best islands in the world to visit in Travel & Leisure magazine. Along with fame has come commercialization, and these days the island is not known just for it’s beaches but also as a party destination. If you are looking for sun, sand, sea and booze (and sex if you are single) then this is paradise. But if you are looking for a cultural experience then you are better off looking elsewhere.
The main tourist hangout is White Beach on the western side of the island. Here you will find the majority of hostels, hotels, restaurants, pubs and beach front activities. There are a few other luxury resorts located in more secluded areas of the island and if you want privacy and peace away from the crowds on White Beach then these resorts are probably your best choice to stay at. They come with their own private beach and the only other people you see are other hotel guests.
For ourselves, we booked a hotel along White Beach. It’s the convenience of finding restaurants, shopping and entertainment that makes White Beach popular. However, be prepared to put up with touts and vendors who come up to you every few minutes to sell island hopping tours, massages, hair braiding, hats and sunglasses. There was even one property agent trying to sell houses in Boracay to tourists.
Things to Do
Feast on Fresh Seafood at the Local Market
One of the things to do on an island is to eat seafood, and what better way to do it then to experience it the local way.
Feed the Fishes Underwater
Maybe you’d like to dive into the ocean but don’t know how to scuba dive and don’t have time to learn. Well, there is helmet diving, where you wear a heavy helmet which is continuously being pumped with fresh air. So you don’t have to learn to breathe through your mouth using a regulator.
We decided to try helmet diving and booked our tour through MyBoracayGuide. They are quite popular with tourists to Boracay and their prices are reasonable. We called them to make the appointment and their guide came to our hotel to fetch us. We took a minivan to a beach on the eastern side of the island and set off from there in a boat to the diving platform.
If you have never done scuba diving before but would like to get close and personal with the fishes then this could be something interesting. The dive is around 15 minutes long and you have to sign an indemnity form. If you suffer from high blood pressure, are pregnant or have cardio-vascular conditions, then you are advised not to do this. Likewise, you are also advised not to do this activity if you are going to take a flight the next day. It cost us 1,500 peso each and includes the hotel pickup, boat ride, dive, return to hotel and a CD with photos and a video of the dive.
One of the more popular activities is the island hopping tour which takes up almost the whole day. From what I see, we only ‘hop’ onto one other island, while most of the activities are actually centered on Boracay itself.
Puka Beach is definitely less crowded than White Beach and not so commercialized. So if you are looking for a rustic beach experience, Puka Beach will probably be a better option to hang out. One of my readers, Paul Fournier from Boracay Compass, has made a guide to Puka Beach and all things Boracay. So if you like to find out more, please click on the link: Boracay Compass.
After the visit to Crystal Cove we headed back to White Beach and we got off the boat onto the beach, walked through the surf and back to our hotel. We paid 1,500 peso per person for the tour and prices are around that range depending on whether you visit more places or lunch is included.
Watch Sunset from White Beach
I must admit that they really keep White Beach clean and free from litter. The sand is fine and powdery with no rocks along the beach. The gentle slope also exposed a lot of beach during low tide and makes it rather safe for children to play here. This is a place where people actually gather in the evenings to watch sunset. And the sunsets here are spectacular.
Sail into the Sunset
If the idea of sailing into the sunset sounds romantic to you then sailboats are available at White Beach for sunset cruises.
Other Things to Do
Besides the activities above, there are other things that visitors can do while in Boracay. These include various sea sports like scuba diving, stand up paddling, para-sailing, jet skiing, ATV riding, zip line, horse riding and visiting Ariel’s Point which is a cliff diving spot on Panay Island. Besides White beach, the rest of Boracay town isn’t much to shout about as roads are quite bad making walking around an unpleasant experience.
When to Go
So you decided to jump on the next plane after reading this blog and are wondering when would the best time to come here?
Boracay is tropical and like most South East Asian countries has a distinct dry and wet season.
The high season is from November to May. This also coincides with the dry season where rain storms are less and waves are smaller on White Beach. Prices of hotels are also around 30% higher than in low season.
The low season (June to October) is also characterised by more rainy days, strong winds and waves. We went in June which is the low season, although based on the crowds of tourists it didn’t seem any different to me. There were a couple of days with rain but it cleared by mid morning.