Homeschooling, Local Travel, Shopping

Our First Trip to Boracay Island, Philippines

Pikinikan Island Boracay island hopping
The island of Boracay is famous for its powdery white sand beach. This photos was taken at Piknikan where we had lunch during our island hopping tour.

Tourism in the Philippines is now slowly booming with majority of the islands in the country already opening its doors to local and foreign tourists. Travel requirements have also eased down with kids and seniors already allowed to go; and with majority of the local populace now fully vaccinated against the SAR-COV virus.

Just like most people, we couldn’t wait to leave the city and take a breather at a local destination. Since we haven’t been to Boracay and it’s been freshly rehabilitated, the whole family decided to visit it this month.

We booked our flights months in advance using the travel voucher we got from AirAsia and Cebu Pacific. The said travel vouchers were the form of refund we availed due to cancellation of our trips at the start of countrywide lockdown due to the pandemic in 2020. Since the vouchers were expiring soon, we opted to use them for this trip.

How to get to Boracay Island:

Boracay is an island under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Aklan. It is famous for its ~4-km long white sand beach consisting of coconut trees, powdery white sand, and gentle waves. To get there, you’d need to take a 45-minute flight from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila to Caticlan. From the airport, you’d need to undergo screening where you’re supposed to have your QR code scanned and IDs shown to the local authorities prior to entry and also for contact tracing purposes. You may read more about the travel requirements from Aklan LGU here. After screening, you’d need to take a van that will bring you to Caticlan Jetty Port Terminal to get a ticket for the ferry that will bring you to Boracay island. Once you’re in the Boracay port, you can take a tricycle to bring you to your hotel.

Since it’s our first time to go to Boracay and we have young kids with us, we asked the hotel to arrange our airport transfers for us. We also booked the hotel in advance because at the time that we were scheduling our flight, a confirmed hotel booking was required before you can enter the island. It was a good thing we did that too because we were able to secure our slot in the hotel at much cheaper rate compared to current rates, now that tourists are flocking in and with summer so near.

Caticlan Jetty Port Terminal
My boys queuing to get inside Caticlan Jetty Port Terminal.

Island Hopping at Boracay

Just like our airport transfers, we booked our island hopping tour package via our hotel for hassle-free transaction. I’ve seen posts of scamming incidents from random strangers on social media regarding tour packages so to avoid this, we decided to just avail the package through our hotel. We arrived at our hotel at about 4 PM so we scheduled our island hopping tour for next day.

The next morning we hopped on a tricyle ride to Astoria Hotel where the boats are positioned for tours and other aquatic activities. People were grouped according to their boat’s departure schedule, with social distancing imposed between the lines. Wearing of masks was strictly implemented.

In front of Boracay Hotel waiting to get boarded for our island tour
Daddy took a photo of us while waiting to board our boat for the island tour. Wearing of masks was strictly implemented when on-land. Wearing of masks is not strictly imposed during the boat ride.

Our first stop was Puka Beach (video below). Puka is a long stretch of white beach consisting of same powdery sand at Station 2 sans commercial establishments. Compared to White Beach, Puka has less green algae and the beach’s slope is steeper so you might need to watch your kids as the water becomes deep at a short distance from the shore. I was happy to see small fishes and a few corals though which was nice. Thankfully also, there were vendors that sold “taho” and “bananacue” so we had snacks while at Puka. The caveat – no garbage bin in sight so we had to bring our trash with us. I wish the local authorities would provide trash bins though because I’d hate to see trash being thrown irresponsibly everywhere.

Took a shot of Puka Beach while it was drizzling. I love how the island’s rock formation is thickly covered with trees. Hope it stays that way!

Our second stop was Coral Garden where we got a chance to snorkel and observe the corals. I brought my swim goggles with me so I didn’t need to use the mask that was provided to us. The fee for mask rental was Php 40 pesos (less than 1 USD). The current was a little strong and since I didn’t wear the life vest, I swam close to the boat so I could hold on to it when I got tired.

Our next stop was lunch break at Piknikan. After having lunch we walked around the beach for a bit and took photos (below). It was already scorching hot so although the water looked nice and tempting, none of the tourists swam in the water so we took photos of the babies instead. 😉

After Piknikan our boat set out towards Magic Island (photos below) to bring some of the guests for cliff diving. We didn’t join the cliff diving activity but opted to snorkel for a bit near the island. However the current around the island was too strong, I didn’t even notice that I was already a few meters away from the boat. The captain of the boat was a little concerned and asked me to swim back to the boat. I did so with a bit of difficulty. It scared me a bit to be honest and was relieved to be back inside the boat, a little shaken by the fact that the current brought me far away.

The coral reef near Magic Island was sparse in terms of live corals and fish.

After Magic Island, all of us decided to call it a day so the boat headed back to Station 1 and 2 to drop off guests. We went back to the hotel, sun-scorched but happy. We rested for an hour then went out to the shore again at Station 2 which was stone-throw away for Paraw Sailing, per schedule.

Paraw Sailing at White Beach

paraw sailing at Boracay
Paraw Sailing at White Beach became our most favorite experience at Boracay.

The last time I saw sailboats was during our trip to Dapitan in Zamboanga more than a decade ago when I was a fresh graduate of Geology. I had wished back then that I could sail on one of the “vinta” boats we saw sailing while the sun was setting.

I saw so many sail boats at White Beach on our first day in Boracay, I told the whole family that we will be sailing on one during sunset the next day. God was good. It was raining intermittently during the day but the weather cleared up in the afternoon so we were able to go sailing. My wish to sail during sunset was granted! Our guide was also kind enough to take these awesome shots of us during the experience! I didn’t know sailboats can go so fast too (video below)!

Land Tour Around Boracay Island

On our 3rd day in the island, we hired a tricycle to bring us around the island for more exploring. Our first and most favorite stop during the tour was Ilig-iligan Beach, a long stretch of white sand with nice limestone formation. Some of the boulders of limestone dot the white beach in places. We simply love this part of Boracay because it was the most distal, quiet, and almost empty of tourists. There were only two other groups during our visit.

There are a few hotel and establishments on this side of the island but these are positioned farther away from the shore, compared to Station 2. The next time we visit, we would love to book in a hotel on this side of the island because it’s so much quieter. The coral reef formation is also nicer here. I was able to paint en plein here too.

painting en plein air at Ilig-iligan Beach
Ilig-iligan was such a quiet spot that I got inspired to paint on my Kuelox sketchbook.

We tried to visit Mt. Luho, supposedly one of the highest points in the island but it was closed when we arrived. We were told by locals that it was under maintenance. So we decided to go to other places such as Keyhole Beach, Diniw-id, and Groto.

If you ever want to go on a land tour around the island, do contact our driver/tour guide, photo below:

This is Jumar Nanoy, our driver/tour guide. To book a land tour, text him at 09307084526 to reserve your slot. I won’t earn anything from referring him, I just genuinely want the locals to earn since the pandemic and the 6-month closure of Boracay Island did affect the locals financially.

Where We Ate and (Window) Shopped

We had free breakfasts during our stay at Boracay Haven. For lunch, we had them at different places around Station 2. We dined at Andok’s twice during our stay on the island because the kids love their barbecue and lechon baka (grilled beef slices). If you decide to eat at Andok’s, I suggest you visit the branch across Balabag Wetland Park, behind D’Mall, along the highway as there are less people there, usually.

For wraps or light snack or dinner, try Meze Wrap. I love their wraps and the art decors. Like Andok’s, it’s also positioned across Balabag Wetland Park, east-side of the main road. It’s a small spot though. You can just order a take-out and eat your wraps along the beach. Please throw your trash in the appropriate trash bin. There are many bins around Station 2.

For dessert, give the local ice cream store, Coco Mama, a try. Yummy!

If you like shopping, go around D’Mall. You’ll find stores there for souvenirs and groceries. D’Mall also has nail salon, spa, eateries, art stores, and more. We didn’t shop much while on the island but you will find all sorts of items there such as swim wears, beach hat, picnic mat (“banig”), clothes, etc. Boracay even has The Body Shop, Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Jollibee.

Another favorite is Halo Mango that serves soft ice cream with mango slices at D’Mall.. Yummy!

Sunset at Boracay

Boracay is definitely a paradise that you should include in your bucket list especially now that so much about the island has improved because of the pandemic and the 6-month closure. Boracay Island is currently building its water filtration pond, Balabag Wetland Park, so that’s a good start, environment-wise. If you like sunsets, Boracay has fantastic sunset view at Station 2 – it was one of my favorites about the island.

I find the locals to be so friendly and accommodating. It can be a little expensive if you eat at sea-side restaurants or go on shopping spree but there are affordable eateries around the island too for those on a budget. You can also take a tricycle (rate was Php 500 pesos per hour) to spots you’d like to visit or go on treks if you are staying a while.

If your concern is the green algae being reported these days- the algae we saw were the type similar to Dacycladacean – these are natural algae that grow on corals that eventually dry and erode into fine sand. You should thank this green algae for the powdery sand of Boracay. They disappear most months in a year, I was told.

Beautiful sunset at Station 2, White Beach.

As usual, I want to end this blog with a video of aerial shots of our flight back to Manila just like I did during our trip to Bicol last December. I took the opportunity to point out the landforms and water bodies to Ian as part of his homeschooling lesson. In the video, we flew over Sierra Madre, Agos River, Rizal Province, and Laguna Lake. 🙂

xoxo

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