The final stop on this 10-day trip, and a place where I envisioned a wholly relaxing three days. Coron and El Nido were nothing short of spectacular, but had been packed with activities and tours. Boracay was a place where I just wanted to wander and let time pass me idly by, no expectations, just that gorgeous white sand and crystal clear water.
Landing at Caticlan Airport feeling a little rough from the prior evening out with friends, I waited with hordes of other passengers in the line for the ferry departing to Boracay Island. It’s a short bus ride from the airport to the port ferry where you need to fill out documentation and produce your proof of accommodation. Once that’s done, your shuttle operator will get you onto a speedboat and you’ll get off at Tambisaan Port, which is where most of the speedboat shuttles dock. In our case, once we had disembarked, we were left to bake under the palm trees for about 20 minutes before getting ferried to different vans which would drop us at different hotels. Far from organised, but it got the job done.
After settling into my hotel (Altabriza Hotel), I decided to wander around to get a feel of the island. White Beach, the main strip of shoreline on the west of the island, is divided into three stations; 1, 2 and 3 (obviously). Being so close to Station 2, I moseyed down to see what was happening.
Now, the one thing that I had not accounted for at all were the sheer numbers of tourists on Boracay. To be clear, Boracay is not a big island. It is, rather, minuscule in size. At only 10 square kilometres (yes TEN square kms), space is limited – and you feel that. There’s only one single carriageway main road that bisects the entire island. Needless to say, this leads to a huge backlog of traffic which makes driving completely impossible at times. Well, why not just walk everywhere in that case? Given that Boracay is still very much in a development phase after closing down for six months, there simply isn’t provision for pedestrians amongst all the construction. Pavements are narrow and with everyone else choosing to walk, I often got stuck in pedestrian traffic jams. Frustrating.
One of the highlights, however, was trying Jollibee. I ordered the Super Jolly Meal, a weird combination of a burger steak, rice, spaghetti and of course, the signature Jollibee fried chicken aka Chickenjoy. As bizarre as this combination was, it seemed to be the perfect tonic for my sensitive stomach.
At this point, I honestly felt like Boracay was an underwhelming final leg. I try not to sugarcoat my travel experiences and I always endeavour to be as honest and upfront with you about the places I visit. Granted, the hordes of Chinese and Korean tourists who chose this same week to visit may have just been an unfortunate coincidence, but as many locals told me; Boracay doesn’t really have an off-season. Perhaps it could have been a case of solo traveller fatigue setting in, maybe it’s my aversion to crowds or just maybe I was just so desensitised to all the beauty I’d come across that Boracay didn’t really grab me.
Another thing worth pointing out is the differences in tours between Coron, El Nido and Boracay. Where Coron and El Nido offer deep, engaging tours of the islands that last an entire day, Boracay tours don’t venture very far out from the island and only last a couple of hours. Sure, there’s more to do here in terms of adventure activities (things like parasailing, jet skis and helmet diving), but they feel a little ‘gimmicky’ in comparison to the more satisfying tours that you can find on Coron and El Nido. If you’re booking through a hostel you might have better luck than I did, as they offer activities like booze cruises which are more tailored to groups.
So with that, let’s talk about the Boracay tour that I took. The water in these parts is just as gorgeous as you’ll ever come across, and the marine life is rich and thriving. Departing from a crowded Bulabog Beach at around 10.30am, our tour stopped at the following places:
Snorkelling near Snake Beach
Disappointingly we didn’t go diving at Ariel Point, something which I was looking forward to. Overall though, a great experience brought down, once again, by the masses of people who descended on this island for summer vacation. Make no mistake, this opinion comes from a position of unashamed privilege, after all – why should I get to experience this while others can’t? Boracay simply wasn’t gelling with my travel style, tbh. In Coron and El Nido I’d been in my element, left to my own devices to explore the vast expanses that made up these places. But Boracay felt restrictive, cramped and overrun in comparison.
I did still manage to make the most of this trip and met some interesting solo travellers along the way; kindred souls with whom I shared drinks, laughs, struggles and hopes. I was also treated to an afternoon of painting at Villa Caemilla as part of a commissioned article for work and the sunset views from my hotel were quite captivating.
My final transit leg would see my catch a flight from Caticlan through to Manila, where I would stay for an evening before catching my flight back to Incheon. Coasting over those clear, emerald green waters in the speedboat was a final goodbye to these scintillating islands. Everything came into focus during our ascent over Boracay – you get an idea for just how tiny and overrun this little island ‘paradise’ really is.
The final evening in Manila was an outing to BGC, or Bonifacio Global City. BGC seems a far cry from Manila’s manic streets, almost a sheltered enclave from the harsh reality of the surrounding. In any case, I enjoyed the night out at a chic Spanish tapas eatery called Bar Pintxos and awoke early the next morning to catch my flight back to Incheon.
Maraming salamat, Philippines.
I enjoyed our time together and I hope to see you again soon.