The sun begins to set in Boracay, voted as the World’s Best Island in 2012 by readers of the prestigious Travel+Leisure magazine.
BORACAY Island in the province of Aklan consistently rates as one of the best beach destinations in the world.
Last year, tourist arrivals were expected to have reached 1.2 million despite the unofficial ban on Chinese group travels. South Koreans continue to account for the largest group of foreign tourists in the island paradise, but the bulk of visitors are still domestic tourists.
So I find it incredulous when I meet, as I have over the last couple of years, new friends or acquaintances who have yet to swim in the island’s cool clear waters, or wiggle their toes in its powder-white sand. I’ve always thought that if one must travel outside one’s provenance for leisure for the first time, Boracay has got to be one’s first destination, or at least on the top list of go-to places in the country.
And with the stiff competition among local carriers driving down airfare, one no longer needs to spend a humongous amount of funds just to fly to Boracay, and enjoy the many pleasures it offers.
There is also an overwhelming number of choices of accommodations for every type of tourist—from the seriously bare one-note cottage that attracts the backpacking set (usually at Station 3), to the high-end-$1,000++ a-night villas that exude luxury for the pampered leisure traveler (Station 1).
And if you have a phobia of crowds, this is absolutely the best time of year to go to Boracay. The air is chilly especially in the morning, and while the sun is usually out, the heat is quite tolerable.
The beaches. While the 4.5-km stretch of white beach is the main attraction of Boracay, and is the central area where revelers sunbathe and hang out before taking a swim, there are other beaches on the island that are worth a look-see.
Yapak Beach, commonly called Puka Shell Beach, is located on the northern tip of the island and accessible by motorized bancas or pump boats. The beach is literally littered with the bead-like cone snail shells that are usually made into necklaces and bracelets. (Puka shell jewelry became popular in the 1970s when actress Elizabeth Taylor started wearing her pieces made in Hawaii.)
The main white beach of Boracay is famous the world over as one of the best beaches in the world.
Bulabog Beach is every windsurfer or kiteboarder’s paradise, with strong winds from January to June encouraging amateur and professional competitions among locals and visitors. From the main white beach, one can reach Bulabog by crossing to the opposite side of the island via several pathways.
For amateur spelunkers and wildlife enthusiasts, Ilig-Iligan Beach is a good place to explore caves and see fruit bats hanging from trees. Located on the east coast of Boracay, the beach is accessible by motorbikes or on foot although the hike will probably take about 30 minutes or longer, depending on one’s pace. It is also a favorite among snorkelers.
The mountain. To further appreciate the beauty of Boracay, one can rent an ATV or motorbike and drive to the top of Mount Luho. It is the highest point on the island and will reward the hardy trekker with stunning views of the island and the surrounding sea. There is a viewdeck, a mini-zoo, as well as zipline that will please both the animal lover and the thrillseekers. There is an entrance fee of P60.
The mall. Or D’Mall as it is called on the island. This is ground zero for the enthusiastic shopper. Here there are a hundreds of sarong (the tie-died and batik varieties) to choose from, as well as the gamut of native handmade jewelry, bathing suits, souvenir T-shirts, even furniture and home accessories. The spot is also famous for bars and restaurants offering a variety of international and local cuisine although the entire white beach is riddled with numerous restaurant and café choices to please even the most discriminating of palates.
Ride the waves. One of the newest activities on the island is Wavepool Surfing. The pools are at Crown Regency Resort with the Philippine Surfing Academy conducting basic surfing lessons in a safe environment. (You attend a class first where you are taught how to handle and balance on a surfboard on land, before you are actually set free on the wave pools.) While the activity is in a controlled environment, one cannot underestimate the thrill and rush of popping on the surfboard and riding the waves. If you fall, just get back on your board and skim the waves again. (Call PSA at 631-2805 or 0917-894-6767 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site: www.philippinesurfingacademy.com.)
Like pretty mermaids, all in a row. (Photo from Sailorgil.tumbler.com)
Swim like a mermaid. Indulge your fantasy and get a workout as well—mermaid swimming offers tourists a fun way of keeping fit. Two-hour swimming lessons are conducted at Ti Braz restaurant between Stations 1 and 2, and yes, you do get to slip into a mermaid tail. Basic swimming skills are required. The classes are run by the Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy, composed of expert swimmers and divers. Mermaid fitness workouts will soon be offered. (For bookings, check out https://www.facebook.com/PhilippineMermaidSwimmingAcademy/info).
Party during the full moon. The newest place to party or chill to the island vibe is at Area 51, located at a secluded spot in the southernmost tip of Bulabog Beach. Set up by the former owners of Hey Jude!, Area 51 hosts new moon and full moon parties where patrons can just let loose and dance to the trendy sounds of resident DJs Manster and Reo. (For reservations, call Jude at 0917-3274824 or Karen at 0917-7161626, or click www.facebook.com/area51boracay.)
Gorge on seafood. Name it, Boracay has it. Whether you are hankering for lobsters or oysters, mud crabs or sweet shrimps, prawns as well as a variety of reef fishes, D’Talipapa assures that your favorite seafood is available at the most reasonable price.
After buying your seafood, take them to any of the nearby eateries and for a minimal charge, have them cooked any which way you want, and enjoy a tropical feast.
Though seafood is top of mind in beach destinations, Boracay is also home to some of the best international cuisines offering meat-based dishes and fabulous desserts. Some choice restaurants and cafés include Caruso (Italian) at The District along Station 2, Kasbah (Moroccan) at Station 1, Lemoni Café at D’Mall for the best lemon tart.
Where to stay
Sun Villa Resort & Spa (back of D’Talipapa, Station 2) is one of the island’s little known secrets for bang for the buck spa treatments. The resort is a haven of calm and tranquility. Sleep all day, dine on lovingly prepared home-cooked meals upon waking, then just laze about in the pool area with the iPod playing away while you leaf through a book or magazine. (For reservations, call 036-288-5541, 036-288-4410, or 036-288-1306. For more details, check out its web page at www.facebook.com/sunspaboracay.)
For luxurious accommodations and professional caring staff, Discovery Shores Boracay (Station 1) is the obvious choice. The rooms are spacious with an oh-so-relaxing bed that immediately lulls one to sleep. But what is really endearing about Discovery Shores is its friendly, courteous and efficient staff ever ready with a smile for guests and a warm greeting to perk up one’s day. Everyone speaks English fluently and will answer with their de riguer “Certainly!” when asked to perform a chore, or when responding to a request. Its mojitos are also the best on the island. (For more details, click http://www.discoveryshoresboracay.com/discoveryshores/)
(Travel Bites is published every Monday on the front page of the BusinessMirror. This piece was published on Jan. 7, 2013. All photo copyrights owned by this blogger, except for the mermaid photo.)