Enjoy Boracay Island – Philippines’ Rehabilitated Resort

This is one of those times I’m writing about a popular tourist destination – the island of Boracay, in the Philippines.

That’s it, in the picture above, taken from the aeroplane as we flew in to Caticlan airport on the next-door island of Panay.

In April 2018, Boracay was closed because over-crowding, over-commercialisation, and a painfully inadequate sewage and draining system had turned the island into, in the words of the Philippine president, a “cesspool that smelt of shit”.

He ordered the entire island closed until it was cleaned up.

In October 2018, Boracay was re-opened with a very different approach, designed to protect its environment and restore it to its previous position as the ‘crown jewel’ of Philippine tourist locations.

Some strict restrictions have been imposed:

  1. There is now a maximum number of overnight visitors allowed – 19,000
  2. A big casino project that had been planned by Hong Kong-based Galaxy entertainment was blocked, and casinos are banned
  3. A prohibition on plastic straws and plastic bags was implemented
  4. Limitations on the places where tourists can smoke and drink alcohol were implemented

Although I’ve not visited the island since it re-opened, I am delighted with those restrictions.

I visited Boracay for a week in the quiet season, some time before the closure, when it was ranked in Travel and Leisure magazine as the best island in the world.

It was a magical trip.

And I was horrified when I saw pictures of what Boracay later became.

The following paragraphs contain my pictures and descriptions from that pre-closure trip.

White Beach, Boracay

Boracay is a small island just to the north of the much larger island of Panay:

Boracay island Philippines

You fly into Caticlan airport on Panay and take a small ferry across the 2km strait onto Boracay Island.

The island’s population is around 32,000 – people who work in the resorts, tricycle drivers, tour guides and those who keep the amenities working day-to-day. As a result, there’s a mall on the island, and this was the entrance when we were there:

Entrance to the mall on Boracay

We stayed at the Boracay Peninsular Resort, at Station 3 on the White Beach. Here’s the view we had from the breakfast area:

View from the breakfast area Boracay Peninsular Resort

After breakfast we would wander out, across a narrow sandy track to the beach, and settle down for some serious relaxation.

Here’s the White Beach looking south towards Panay Island:

Station 3 White Beach Boracay

As evening descends, the beach-front restaurants move chairs and tables out onto the top of the beach – which makes for a very romantic dinner location:

Evening dinner on the beach at Boracay

If you can secure a table as near to the water as possible, you get to view a scene like this as you dine:

Evening view from the beach at Boracay

Seafood figured prominently in the menus of all the restaurants (not surprisingly!), and it was excellent – freshly caught that day. I’m guessing it’s still the same.

I was there during May, and the temperatures after dark were warm but comfortable. So an after dinner walk along the beach-front to settle the meal worked very well!

Island Exploration Trip

If you get tired of all the relaxation during the day, I recommend an island exploration trip.

We did that and were picked up in a banca, a traditional Philippine boat with outriggers, and set off around the island.

On the way, we sailed past World Champion Boxer and Philippine Senator Manny Pacquiao’s Boracay residence (that’s a banca on the right):

Boracay residence

We were able to get off the banca at various points and here we climbed up to a crest on the island to see some traditional Filipino huts:

Traditional Filipino huts

And another one at water level:

Traditional Filipino hut at water's edge

That was a half day trip and very well worth it – I’m guessing they still operate it and I would definitely encourage you to take it.

As I said earlier, all these pictures were taken on our trip prior to Boracay’s closure, and I have not been able to find any pictures online that show if, or how, Boracay has changed since it re-opened.

From what I have read, though, it is back to its pristine best and the restrictions I referred to at the top are intended to keep it that way.

That being the case, I do recommend a visit. It’s beautiful.

Getting there

Unless you’re already on one of the islands, you’re going to need to fly to Caticlan airport, on the neighbouring island of Panay.

Caticlan is about an hour’s flight from Manila, and when we did it the aircraft was a turbo prop Bombardier, with high wings. Because of that, we flew at around 15,000 feet and could easily see the country as we passed over it – an added benefit!

From Caticlan airport it’s a short tricycle ride (10 minutes or so) to the ferry and then a short ferry trip (another 10 minutes) across to Boracay.

It’s all very painless and, generally, if you book one of the resorts on Boracay they can have someone meet you at the airport and shepherd you across to the hotel on the island.

Just one tip: take as little luggage as you can and preferably avoid any heavy cases! This is because once you’re on Boracay you have to walk to your resort and, when we were there, that was along sandy paths – not good for dragging heavy cases!

Test your knowledge! Have fun with one of our travel quizzes – click here!

Have you visited Boracay, either before or since it was cleaned up? Let us know in the comments!

Martin Malden

Martin Malden
The Expat Traveller

What do you think?

10 comments… add one
  • Natalie Feb 16, 2020 @ 17:01

    Hi, Martin,

    I really enjoyed your little story about your trip to Boracay island.

    The photos are very beautiful and I especially like that you have used your own pictures, as these are able to transmit the real spirit and atmosphere of this beautiful place.

    I haven’t visited this island yet, but after reading your article, I would love to do that, I think it’s one of the places that will help a lot with relaxation and getting a break from our fast-running world.

    Since it’s so small (I have read that it has only 7 km length and 1 km width), I guess there is not much to do there in terms of recreational activities?

    Do you have any idea if they have scuba diving services?

    Best Wishes,

    Natalie

    • Martin Malden Feb 16, 2020 @ 17:28

      Hi Natalie,

      Yes, it’s a great place to relax – or it was during my visit! With the focus on preserving its environment since it was re-opened, I’m sure it will be just as relaxing now.

      They offered different water sports when I was there, as well as para-gliding.

      The Philippines is a great place for diving, with a number of different locations. Although I’m not a diver, there are great diving resorts on Bohol (that post covers some places on Bohol, but not the diving locations).

      Puerto Galera is another diving location, but there are plenty of others.

      I definitely recommend a visit to the Philippines – I love the place!

      Cheers,

      Martin.

      • Natalie Feb 17, 2020 @ 20:43

        Hi, Martin, thank you for your suggestions, I will look into them in my spare time.

        I hope I am not giving you too much of headache here with my questions, but if you could give me a little more insight if it is a great place for family trips?

        If they have some sort of entertaining for a 3-year kid?

        Thank you again, I appreciate your time.

        Best Wishes,
        Natalie

        • Martin Malden Feb 17, 2020 @ 20:58

          Hi Natalie,

          No problem re the questions..! 🙂

          It’s OK for kids, in fact probably better now than before, given the restrictions they’ve put in place on where people can smoke and drink alcohol.

          But there are no supervised play areas, or playgrounds, for young kids or anything like that.

          So while taking a 3-year-old would be OK, you would find it difficult to find things to keep them amused.

          Also, you would probably find it difficult if you wanted to go off paragliding, or doing one of the other activities, because you would need to have someone to look after them.

          It’s really more of a couples place than a family place.

          Cheers,

          Martin.

  • JRandZen Mar 10, 2020 @ 8:00

    Hi Martin,

    Thank you for this wonderful narration of your experience in Boracay. We love this place and had the opportunity to visit it several years back before the situation got worse that prompted the closure.

    We actually drove all the way from Manila and took a couple of ferries before we reached Caticlan. It was a very memorable trip.

    We are glad that the clean-up happened and we are anxious to visit the place again soon.

    • Martin Malden Mar 10, 2020 @ 10:03

      Hi there,

      That must indeed have been a very memorable trip – fantastic..! You must have some great pictures – have you made them available online anywhere..?

      I haven’t visited since it was re-opened either. I’m building a place on Cebu, so that’s where all my attention is focused at the moment..!

      Cheers,

      Martin.

  • Matt Lin Apr 2, 2020 @ 17:21

    Hi Martin,

    There are many travel destinations in the Philippines that I would love visiting, and Boracay is one of them. It has beautiful tropical weather, excellent service, and many scenic beaches.

    I love that you took the boat (Banca) to see more about this beautiful island, and I will keep it in mind when I make my trip to Boracay. I think the president made a great decision to close it for bringing it back to a better & clean place like it used to be. Otherwise, human activities for Boracay will only cause permanent damage to the island.

    I can’t wait to visit Boracay soon with only a little luggage (maybe just one backpack), as you suggested in the article. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

    Matt

    • Martin Malden Apr 3, 2020 @ 7:15

      Hi Matt,

      Yes, Boracay got into a terrible state, I’m afraid. The new regulations and restrictions should keep it in great condition, though – here’s hoping..!

      Cheers,

      Martin.

  • Mirlay Castillo Apr 3, 2020 @ 4:51

    I love this informative and detail article about Boracay Island as I’ve never been in The Philippines and wanted to go when we were living in Europe. And I love how you describe your trip and the pictures you shared as they invite to visit the island. I also like your website 😉

    I really hope to visit this island and more of the Philippines in the future.

    Cheers,
    Mirlay

    • Martin Malden Apr 3, 2020 @ 7:13

      Hi Mirlay,

      Yes – I do encourage you to visit the Philippines!

      There are many, many beautiful locations there, particularly if you like diving – it’s a great diving location.

      Glad you enjoyed the article 🙂

      Cheers,

      Martin.

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