Boracay Island was ranked among The Top 10 Best Islands in Asia 2014 in last year’s TripAdvisor 2014 Travelers’ Choice Award. It is truly a paradise, a beautiful island with pristine white sand that extends from the beach on to the crystal clear blue waters. Really. A walk on the powdery white sands will quickly reveal why it’s rated as one of the finest beaches in the region.
Getting to Boracay from Malaysia
If you Google around, you will find that quite a few websites stating that Air Asia flies ‘direct’ from Malaysia to Boracay, Philippines. Frankly speaking, to me if the plane landed on the island itself, then perhaps you can call it a direct flight. But flying from KLIA2 to Boracay (Kalibo Airport) – there is nothing ‘direct’ about it.
First of all, the flight from KLIA2 to Kalibo takes about 4 hours. Upon reaching the airport, you will have to board a bus, a 2 hour journey that will take you down to the Caticlan jetty, where you have to hop on a boat for another 40 minutes. Upon reaching the island, an open-air van will take you to your hotel. Depending on where you stay (Station 1, 2 or 3), Station 1 being the farthest from the jetty, the journey will take another 20 minutes or so. A total of 7 hours traveling altogether in a day to reach Boracay. Longer if you count in any flight delays, time spent waiting for the bus or ferry to start moving as they tend to wait to fill up the passengers. My suggestion – it’s best if you book the earliest flight possible from Kuala Lumpur, so at least by the time you arrive on the island, you might still see the light of day.
- Journey from KLIA2 to Boracay Island – 7 hours in total +/-
- Best time to go – summer March to the end of May. Monsoon or rainy season – June to September
- Station 3 is near the jetty, Station 2 in the middle, Station 1 is the farthest up north
- Halal restaurant – not many around, most restaurant here even the seafood ones sells pork. However a few is available on Arab street, about 10 minutes walking distance from D’mall area. Just ask the locals, they will happily show you the way.
- Must try their juicy, sweet and authentic mango juice
- The Pinoys (Filipinos) are friendly, and mostly can speak English
- Must do activities here – island hopping, snorkeling, cliff diving, zipline from the top of Mount Luho
Upon arrival at the Kalibo airport, you will need to book a transfer to Boracay Island. I opt for the services operated by the Southwest Tours Boracay. You have the option to book in advance online from their website, or easier just buy a ticket from their counters outside the airport. I bought my tickets straight from the counter at the airport, which is much cheaper then buying it online. (They charge an online admin fee of PHP50.00 when you book online.)
I recommend that you buy the all-in ticket – a round trip bus and boat transfer from Kalibo Airport to Caticlan Jetty and back with the Terminal and Environmental fees included. There are other operators offering transfer and cheaper tickets, but always check with the counter if they include the terminal fee or do you have to pay separately. (Saves time so that you don’t have to queue again at the jetty to pay for the terminal fees.) With Southwest Tours, you will board an air-conditioned bus to Caticlan Jetty, then take a boat and upon reaching Boracay jetty a van will take you to your respective hotels located in Stations 1, 2 and 3. Note that additional charges will apply if you stay at a hotel other than these locations.
Where to stay
As you can see, White Beach is divided into 3 stations – Station 1, 2 and 3 respectively. The station naming originated from when there were boat stations way back when boats were still allowed to bring tourist directly to the beach from the mainland. A summary to describe the 3 stations :
Station 1 : Posh & Stylish
Plenty of some expensive luxurious hotels & resorts can be found here, also where the famous Willy’s Rock is located.
Station 2 : The Party Central
Where most people will flock to at night to party so it can get a little crowded here, especially during and after sunset. Mid-range resorts and chalet as well as D’mall (the main shopping mall of Boracay) can be found here.
Station 3 : Peace and Quite
You’ll find lots of budget chalets and backpacking hostels here. The most quite station compared to all, so if you love to be surrounded by some greens, peace and quite, this is the place for you.
White Beach is exactly what the name is – pristine white beach; and personally, I think it’s the best place to stay on the island because everything you need is just walking distance on this beach strip. If you’re on a honeymoon and looking forward to some quite time, White Beach Station 3, Station 1 and Diniwid Beach on the north is the best location to stay. If you like to be at the center of the happening hustle bustle, Station 2 is right smack in the middle where bustling shops, massage huts, cafe’s, beach bars and everything you possibly need on an island getaway.
I had the pleasure of staying in Astoria Boracay located on the heart of Station 1. It’s more on the pricey side but you get what you pay for – clean, freshly designed rooms with free wifi, daily laundry service and illuminated pool. Unfortunately they do not have rooms facing the sea since the rooms were built around the swimming pool. At night, the pool glows in different colors. For Muslim visitors, unfortunately the breakfast buffet here is not halal.
Zuzuni Boutique Hotel
Another great place to stay on the White beach is the Zuzuni Boutique hotel. It’s a Mediterranean-inspired hotel and restaurant with rooms with balcony facing the beachfront, just steps away from the hustle bustle of the nightlife. And you get to wake up to the crystal clear blue sea!
What to do – Activities
Snorkeling and island hopping
On an island as beautiful as Boracay, snorkeling and island hopping on their ‘Paraw’ sail boat is a must. The experience of going on their Paraw sail boat is totally different from going on the long tailboat in Thailand. The Paraw is a double outrigger sail boat native to the Philippines. The Paraw is manned by 3 people, wind operated, (no awful gasoline smell) and you don’t actually sit proper on a wooden seat but on the strings tied up like a hammock on each side of the boat which are made out of wood or bamboo. That means when they go fast, you will definitely get wet!
Going on island hopping in Boracay is a good excuse to experience those Paraw boats, and also the islands are just quaint little gems – like the Magic Island or the Crystal Cove island, where you can just sit, have a nice packed lunch under a hut and enjoy the surrounding view. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, try jumping of the cliff here. There are also underground holes or tunnels that opens straight to the ocean that you can venture into.
Zipline at the top of Mount Luho
If height doesn’t bother you, “superman” style zipline is the way to go. Your trip to Boracay is never complete unless you get to see the whole island from its highest point, which is Mount Luho. One gets to see the other beaches and the nearby islands, a magnificent way to get a birds eye view of the whole island. It may seem scary at first, but once you start moving, the view and fresh air on your face makes its an awesome 45 seconds experience. You will be going one way on the zipline and coming back on a cable car. A GoPro camera is available for hire (for a small fee) if you want capture it all on video.
The price for all this? There will be guys on the beach holding up boards and selling these activities. I suggest that you book with them in advance and try to choose more then one activity so that you can bargain more. Other stuff you can do here : ATV ride, learn to swim like a mermaid.
Food and Shopping
White Beach is the island’s vibrant hub. There’s plenty of seafood restaurant on this strip offering fresh, large catch of the day. Unfortunately for Muslims, these seafood joints also sells pork, so if you’re looking for Halal food, you can ask the locals around to point you to Arab street where the halal stalls are which is not not far from D’mall. Another option is to pay a visit to the talipapa (market), buy your choice of seafood and bring it to the halal kitchen for them to cook for you.
D’mall is the largest shopping area on Boracay. You can find all sorts souvenirs and trinkets here, as well as various restaurants & cafes serving international cuisine – from Mexican, Spanish, Italian or even fast food. There is this one unique restaurant in D’mall called the D’Hobbit House Boracay, which took the inspiration from the ever so famous Lord of the Rings franchise. The waiters and chef here are all ‘hobbits’ or midgets, hence the name adaptation.
All in all, despite the tedious journey to get here, Boracay is such a fun place to be! I am officially spoiled with the highest standards of water quality ever… Till next time!