Despite my long and exciting love affair with Asia, I had never made the jump across the pond to the Philippines… but this year that changed and I’ve been left wondering why the hell I took so long!
Of course, the well-trodden Banana Pancake trail, beginning in Bangkok and spiralling out to the closest and most accessible surrounding countries is fantastic if you want to travel a few countries when time and budget are limited. The Philippines is often over-looked as it’s just that bit more awkward to get to. But as the archipelago consists of over 7,000 islands it’s a safe bet your own personal version of paradise is somewhere out there waiting to be discovered.
And if your version of paradise contains coconut trees, sugar-spun sands and sea that’s fifty shades of blue (I’m not kidding, I have never seen colours like it) then get thee to Boracay – you won’t be disappointed.
As the big name island of the Philippines, don’t expect to have this stunning island to yourself. It is a holiday island with plenty of accommodation, bars, shopping and places to eat. It can also get busy and is a popular destination with Asian tourists at peak times of the year (the rest of the world is still only slowly catching on!). However, this doesn’t take away from the fact there are still options to enjoy Boracay on a budget and it has a beautiful, laidback side that ticked all the right boxes for me. Honestly, it really was love at first sight.
So, here’s the Best of Boracay for Backpackers Part 1– from the frontline!
Beach life – sand, sun and swaying palms
Life’s a beach in Boracay and the sparkling diamond in its crown is the magnificent White Beach that streaks down the sunset side of the island. Broken up into three stations, the bulk of the action takes place along this shore.
Station 1 is home to some upmarket accommodation; the notoriously delicious Jonah’s Fruit Shake Bar; and is characterised by shallow waters and sweeping sands. Station 2 is bursting with beachfront bars and is home to Boracay’s shopping plaza – D’Mall – with its eateries, shops and convenience stores tucked between the beach and the main road.
However, the best part of White Beach for backpackers in my opinion is Station 3. Even in peak season, it felt like there was plenty of space to relax on the sand; the swimming is great (it gets deep fast but is calm and tranquil); and there are some chilled out cheap bars and places to stay really close by. The sea also stays warm into the evening – a sunset swim at Station 3 was one of my favourite parts of the day.
The opposite side of the island is home to Bulabog beach where kite-surfing is the name of the game, due to the high winds that buffet the shore. Try it yourself if you think you’ve got what it takes. I can cheerfully say that I do not have what it takes! But I do have a unique ability to track down cold, alcoholic beverages in a comfortable spot – great for watching the aquatic action unfold. As it’s a bit more rough and ready than White Beach there are a few cheaper places to eat – more in the little lanes leading from the beach to the main road.
Walk the beach road to take in all the action or hop in a trike – the green ones are environmentally friendly and it should cost two you about 30 pesos each to hop from station to station depending on the season. It costs less if there are more of you crammed in too.
One of my favourite spots was actually further afield than Station 1. A long, beach walk (avoid the midday sun – that shit is intense!) brought us to the cliffs that signal the end of White Beach. Don’t stop there. Hit the cliff path and follow it round to Diniwid Beach – a tiny bay hidden from view. It was so chilled here – you’ll hardly believe it’s the same island. And it’s bloody beautiful.
Hope you’ve enjoyed my picture of paradise… Next post I’ll be giving you the lowdown on how to eat, drink and sleep on the cheap in Boracay!