Its postcard-perfect beaches and famed nightlife scene attract millions of tourists every year—making Boracay a great destination for both budget backpackers and luxury travelers.
Once a quiet town with just a handful of resorts, Boracay has become the Philippines’ top tourist magnet. A quick flight to Caticlan, followed by a boat ride, will take you to this tiny, bone-shaped island on the northwest corner of Panay province in the Western Visayas region. Whether you’re a budget backpacker or a luxury traveler, you can find a noteworthy getaway on Boracay’s famed shores.
Known globally for its white sand beaches, vivid waters, friendly locals and thriving nightlife, Boracay counts tourism as its bread and butter. Driven by the desire to protect the island from over-tourism, the Philippine government closed Boracay for rehabilitation in 2018, reopening several months later and welcoming visitors with a spruced-up beachfront and promising sustainable tourism.
There is always plenty to do on this idyllic Philippine resort island, which annually charms millions of holidaymakers (including Hollywood celebrities) and rivals other tourism hotspots in Southeast Asia. Boracay has managed to retain its mellow island vibe, despite the influx of tourists and rapid development — making its waters and serene coastlines the perfect urban escape.
Main Attractions: Sand, Sea, Sun
Most of Boracay’s attractions can be found along the picture-perfect White Beach, which is divided into three stations (Stations 1, 2 and 3, running from north to south) and has the highest concentration of hotels, restaurants and nightlife spots. Station 1 has the finest sand, the most luxurious resorts and the quietest environs. Station 2 is the busiest, with plenty of restaurants, bars and mid-range hotels. Station 3 is closest to the jetty port and has budget-friendly accommodation options. Some hotels provide easy access to the main road behind them, where motorized rickshaws and motorcycles traverse.
At peak times, White Beach is filled with sun worshippers and divers. Here, you can cap off your day with a cold drink, warm sand between your toes and a front-row seat to Boracay’s breathtaking sunset. Watch — or join in! — as locals and tourists alike play volleyball and beach ultimate Frisbee (the island is home to some of the best teams in the world) on the sand.
But White Beach is certainly not the only thing that the island has to offer. There are over a dozen other lesser-known beaches that attract fewer tourists and have plenty of activities for those looking for more than a tan. Walk to the main road and flag down a tricycle to take you to Bulabog Beach on the other side of the island, considered the best kiteboarding and windsurfing spot in Asia. Seek refuge from the crowds at Diniwid Beach beyond Station 1. Hop on a boat and visit Puka Shell Beach on the northern tip of the island and Tambisaan Beach in the south; return to the coast and cliff-jump into turquoise waters; feel the adrenaline rush and go parasailing for a spectacular bird’s-eye view of Boracay; and snorkel in the pristine waters of the Coral Garden. After enjoying the water sports, you can recuperate and pamper yourself with a traditional Filipino massage.
Looking for souvenirs? Get a permanent one from the slew of tattoo studios on Boracay. After dark, wade into the island’s vibrant nightlife scene and find out for yourself why it’s earned its “Party Beach” reputation. Enjoy the music and booze and meet people from different parts of the world. Alternatively, you can join a pub crawl, where you mix and mingle with fellow tourists while hitting the hottest spots in matching T-shirts.
Eating Out, In And Around Boracay
From local cuisines to an international assortment, the island has surprisingly diverse food offerings at different price points. Seafood is a given and there are quite a few local and international chains for those who’d rather have familiar fare — the sea-facing Starbucks here arguably has one of the best views of any Starbucks in the world — but there are also restaurants serving up Indian, Italian and Japanese cuisine.
In the morning, feast on the all-day breakfast menu available at many establishments. Try Real Coffee and Tea Café, one of the first coffee shops on the island. The café, run by an American mother-and-daughter team, is also renowned for its calamansi muffins, made with a local lime. Get a seat at the table facing the shore and take in the majestic view between bites and sips. In the afternoon, cooling off with a fresh mango shake, available pretty much everywhere, is practically de rigueur.
Shop for fresh ingredients at D’Talipapa Market, located in Station 2 between White Beach and the main road, and cook them at your hotel (if it is allowed). You can also pay one of the restaurants in the vicinity to prepare the food for you. Want to try Filipino food without making a big dent in your wallet? Head to Smoke, a family-run restaurant that serves traditional favorites like spicy squid, pancit and beef salpicao. Just before the sun sets, food carts will come out, from which you can have your fill of Boracay’s version of street food. Try their famous chori burgers: sliced and grilled chorizo, slathered in sauce and stuffed into a soft roll.
How To Get To Boracay
Two airports serve flights to Boracay: Caticlan, the closest to the island, and Kalibo.
It takes just an hour’s flight from Manila to Caticlan and a short boat ride from there to reach Boracay. At the port, pay the terminal and environmental fees before boarding the boat. For a hassle-free transfer to the island, make sure you have a confirmed booking with a government-accredited hotel on the island or you will be denied entry.
While summer is a good time to go, the sun can be scorching and the crowds, maddening (particularly around Holy Week and Labor Day). Going in the off-season, outside of the rainy months (June to October), means less-busy beaches and cooler weather. A trip in early January can coincide with the Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo, around 71km away. Dubbed as the “Mother of All Philippine Festivals”, it’s a week-long street party devoted to Santo Niño, the local name for the infant Jesus, and also showcases the pre-Christian traditions of the Ati people, who are believed to be the original inhabitants of Boracay.
By Ian Cigaral.
As of January 2020.
Azzuro Di Boracay, Station 3; +63 36 288 5119; azzurro-boracay.ph — A beach resort with amenities that include free WiFi, a library and complimentary usage of a beach bed and umbrella. $
Boracay Pito Huts, Station 3; +63 2 788 5697 — The beach houses here can accommodate up to 15 people, making them a good option for big groups. $
Discovery Shores, Beachfront, Station 1; discoveryshoresboracay.com — Experience the height of island luxury and impeccable service at this five-star resort. Located near the end of Station 1, the resort offers some peace and quiet while still being close to the action. $$
Henann Regency Resort & Spa (Formerly Boracay Regency), Beachfront, Station 2; henann.com/boracay/henannregency — While this four-star resort boasts modern rooms and three pools, it particularly prides itself on its Filipino hospitality. $$
Lazy Dog Bed and Breakfast, Bulabog Beach; lazydogboracay.com — Get a feel of “old Boracay” away from the hustle and bustle of White Beach. Hammocks are strung about and the rooms are built around a century-old tree. $-$$
Lugar Bonito, Station 1; email@example.com; lugarbonitohotel.com — Six cozy and charming rooms with a Greek-Mediterranean aesthetic – think whitewashed walls with blue accents. $
Nami Resort Boracay Island, Diniwid Beach, nami-resort-boracay.hotelsboracay.org — This quietly luxurious boutique resort has just 12 well-appointed rooms, all with a balcony and spa bath, some with a breathtaking view of the sea.
Residencia Boracay, Station 1; +63 36 288 5394; residenciaboracay.com — A pleasant and low-key property located away from the madding crowds of Stations 2 and 3. $$
Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa, Brgy Yapak, Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan; shangri-la.com/boracay/boracayresort — A private paradise cocooned in nature’s lush beauty. Nestled in a sheltered bay on Boracay’s pristine northern coastline, this glamorous resort exudes tropical island luxury. $$
Savoy Hotel Boracay, Newcoast Drive, Boracay Newcoast, Brgy Yapak, Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan; savoyhotelboracay.com.ph/ — This hotel features four types of rooms that range from 27m² to 55m²s. All come with private balconies that provide views of the ocean or the golf course, as well as modern amenities such as an LED TV, a WiFi connection and air-conditioning. $$
Aria Cucina Italiana, D’Mall, Station 2; +63 36 288 5573; aria.com.ph — A contemporary restaurant serving up Mediterranean-inspired Italian fare. $$
Dos Mestizos, Remedios St, Sitio Manggayad; +63 36 288 5786; dosmestizos.com — Specializes in Spanish-Filipino heritage cuisine. The flavors in every dish are as authentic as they can get, especially in the callos de garbanzos, or tripe with chickpea. $$
Hoy, Panga!, Beachfront, Station 2; +63 36 288 9039 — At this tuna specialis, your best bets are its grilled dishes, panga and tuna belly, but its menu also includes traditional and fiesta-style Filipino food like sinigang, grilled pork belly, tuna kinilaw and grilled pork barbecue. $
Jonah’s Fruit Shake and Snack Bar, White Beach, Balabag — There’s nothing like an ice-cold fruit shake after a sweltering afternoon at the beach! What’s even better is that it’s made from perfectly ripe Philippine mangoes. $
La Cozina Boracay, Station 1; +63 917 324 9051; lacozina.ph — Order a feast of tacos and churros at this beachfront Latin bistro. $$
Los Indios Bravos, Road 1A, Bolabog; +63 36 288 2803; indiosbravosboracay.com — This gastropub offers the widest selection of Philippine craft beer on the island. Take your pick from brands like Joe’s Brew, Nipa Brew Craft Beer Co, Craftpoint Brewing Company and more. $$
Palay Restaurant, Asya Premier Suites, Sitio Cagban, Brgy Manoc-Manoc; +63 36 288 1790; asyapremier-boracay.com — Located on a secluded strip of beach, Palay offers fresh, simple fare in a balmy, luxury-resort setting. $$
Real Coffee, Beachfront, Station 2 — This once-hidden café now has a beach-front spot where you can enjoy good coffee, all-day breakfast food and their famous calamansi muffins. $-$$
Sea Breeze Café, Main Beach Wing, Level 1, Boracay Regency Beach Resort, Station 2; +63 36 288 6111 to 17. Enjoy an all-day buffet by the beach, at what is probably the largest buffet restaurant on the island. $$
Smoke, D’Mall, Station 2. A no-frills grillery where you can get Filipino favorites at a pocket-friendly price. $
SpiceBird Piri-Piri Grill, Unit 108, D’Mall, Station 2; +63 36 288 4023; thesunnysideboracay.com/spicebird — Treat your tastebuds to dishes like grilled chicken and slow-cooked pulled pork, with generous lashings of spicy piri-piri sauce. $$
Subo Boracay, Calle Remedios, Station 3; +63 36 288 2849; suboboracay.com — This restaurant is a cultural showcase as much as a gastronomic one. It’s designed as a heritage home and built from materials upcycled from a 115-year-old house. We’d recommend dishes like the kare-kare, or beef shanks in peanut butter sauce with bone marrow, and chicken paru-paro, which is butterflied grilled chicken with a special ginger sauce. $$
Supermagic Burgers, Beachfront, Station 3; +63 36 288 1592; supermagicburgers.com — Sink your teeth into incredibly juicy burgers, all of which are seasoned with the restaurant’s signature Umami Dust made from kampot pepper, sea salt among other secret ingredients. Then, round off your meal with some frozen custard with sea salt and chocolate-covered potato chips. $
The Sunny Side Café, Beachfront, Station 3; +63 36 288 2874; thesunnysideboracay.com — This happy beachfront café serves up delectable breakfast favorites: Think stacks of oversized pancakes, buttery home-made bread, artisanal flatbread pizzas and gourmet coffee. $$
Two Seasons Boracay, Beachfront, Station 1; twoseasonsresorts.com/boracay — Go for the four-cheese pizza and oyster sisig. $$
Ariel’s Point, Batason, Buruanga; +63 928 226 8210; arielspoint.com — Head to this eco-adventure destination (listed by The Huffington Post as one of the best cliff-diving destinations in the world!) for activities like cliff-diving and kayaking. Day trips from Boracay are offered seven days a week.
Boracay Sun Cruiser, Willy’s Beach Hotel, Main Rd, Station 1, Balabag District; +63 36 288 9079; boracaysuncruiser.com — Party onboard this 65ft outrigger fiberglass boat customized to accommodate up to 80 passengers. It’s equipped with a giant inflatable slide that launches you straight into the sea, but if you’d rather relax with a drink courtesy of the full-bar service, there are sun beds and bean bags on spacious decks.
Butterfly Garden and Farm, Bulabog Beach; +63 36 288 6701; boracaybutterfly.com — A beautiful sanctuary that’s home to approximately 300 butterfly species.
Crocodile Island. Perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Package tours available from travel agents or hotels and resorts.
Hinugtan Beach, Buruanga; +63 36 288 3288; hinugtanbeach.com — Escape the crowds on this private beach on the pristine coast of Panay island, just a 45-minute boat ride from Boracay.
Kitesurfing. Bulabog Beach is said to be one of the best kitesurfing beaches in Asia, so it would be a shame not to visit! An introductory two-hour course costs from ₱3,000.
Mandala Spa & Villas, Station 3; +63 36 288 5857; mandalaspaandresortvillas.com — Pamper yourself with a traditional Filipino massage, which involves the use of banana leaves and bamboo sticks.
Motag Living Museum, Brgy Motag; +63 921 556 3111; motaglivingmuseum.com — The first interactive living museum in the Philippines where you can watch farmers at work, learn how to make toys from coconut leaves and play traditional games.
Parasailing. Check out Diamond Watersports (+63 36 288 6621) for parasailing. You’ll get an unbeatable bird’s-eye view of Boracay.
White Beach. Hands down the most popular beach in Boracay, with a 4km stretch of fine white sands and crystal-clear waters.
Yanninks Tattoo Studio, Station 3; +63 917 327 9841; yanninks.com — Get a permanent souvenir at this tattoo studio, whose famous clientele include boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, Journey frontman Arnel Pineda and actor Michael Madsen.