I have been fantasizing about going to Boracay since I was in college. From what I have read and heard, the island seemed to have it all: white sand beaches, great food, crazy night life and a distinct culture only experienced there. On paper, the island more than deserves the moniker as the Philippines’ top tourist destination. But then when I was still a student, some factors didn’t permit my travel aspirations. Priorities had to be set and unfortunately, travelling was a luxury a mere student couldn’t afford. Fast forward a few years later, I was a student no more. And while the landscape may have changed, my desire to visit Boracay was still alive and burning. Last August 2011, Kaye and I finally pushed through our daring travel dream: to explore the island of Boracay for the first time.
To read more about my recent Boracay trip last June 2013, check out the links below:
Since we are from Davao City, going to Boracay isn’t that easy or cheap. Affordable, yes, but not cheap. Davao has no direct flights to Kalibo or Caticlan and we thought passing by Iloilo would be too time consuming (*UPDATE* There are now direct Davao-Kalibo Cebu Pacific flights. I’ll be going back to Boracay this June via this route). We settled on the Davao-Cebu route and booked another flight going to Caticlan (through seat sales of course). We scheduled our trip last August (off-peak season) as it’s also my birth month.
Finally, flight time has arrived. We boarded the Cebu Pacific flight from Cebu to Caticlan. We were rather lucky because our flight took off on time. We have heard of instances of delayed flights especially with the Caticlan route, hence the minor worry. The plane used was a turboprop type which was not as big as its jet counterpart (Airbus planes). The flight was okay in general, except maybe during the final descent when we felt the shaking of the aircraft due to the turbulence. We landed at the newly renovated Boracay Airport.
Tip: Going to Boracay during the off-peak season (June-mid October) is a good choice if you want to avoid the influx of tourists. Hotel rates and water sports activities also tend to double during the peak season. However, there is a risk that your island visit may be marred by rainy weather. Research about the prior year’s weather to give you an idea on what the condition will be this year. It may help you decide which visiting dates are most favorable. Most importantly, PRAY for good weather! =)
Our timing in visiting Boracay couldn’t be better. The sun greeted us with perfect beach weather and we got the chance to use the facilities of the new airport (inaugurated last June 2011). I filled out the travel information form and paid the tricycle fare at the desk (Php50.00 per chartered trip). Tricycle drivers are waiting outside the airport.
The tricycle dropped us at the Caticlan Jetty Port, the main gateway to Boracay’s waters. Upon entering the port, we paid the environmental fee at Php75.00 per head as well as a terminal fee of Php50.00 each. The fees really didn’t bother us because we felt that the entry system of the jetty port was systematic and convenient enough. If only they could implement this in Samal island. Anyway, we also paid for our boat tickets to Cagban Port at Php25.00 per head. The ride took 15 minutes and we were in Cagban Port in no time.
After docking at Cagban port, the next step to take is to hail a tricycle. A chartered trip cost us Php100.00 which was pretty reasonable since the tricycle ride lasted around 30 minutes. Finally, we were dropped off at D’Mall where our hotel was located. D’Mall is at Station 2.
A few steps from the hi-way is Hey! Jude Boracay Hotel, which would be our home for our 2-night stay in Boracay. Upon check-in, the hotel personnel told us that the standard room we booked was located at the 4th flr, which we found a little inconvenient. The personnel checked the 2nd flr and found an available deluxe room (bigger room with an additional bed). Without hesitation, she bumped us to the deluxe room with no extra charge. Ha! A pretty good start to our Boracay trip. And because it’s August, hotels aren’t jam-packed as opposed to peak seasons. The Php1,615.00 per night (off-peak rate) is already inclusive of breakfast for two. Every room also has a safety deposit box which is very convenient if you’re big on securing your valuables whenever you’re out of the hotel. We booked through http://www.agoda.com/ although you can also do the reservations at Hey! Jude’s website here http://www.heyjude-boracay.com/
We left our bags and hurried to Smoke Resto, a small but popular food stall just outside the hotel. We ordered their Chili Chicken (Php95.00). While the chicken dish tasted above average, I regret not having the “spicy” version because I thought the regular one would be hot enough. Their stall also looks tiny and can only accommodate few customers.
After our meal, we strolled around the D’Mall area. Even though it was off-peak season, you can tell that there are still many tourists in the island. One thing that stood out was the number of Asian tourists, most notably Koreans. These guys just came in droves!
Just inches away from the stalls and restaurants is Boracay’s white beach (now we’re talking). I can say this though; Station 2 in Boracay may have one of the finest white sand ever. It has a very powdery texture that walking barefooted may be a better idea than wearing sandals. It’s that fine. The water across the shore was also crystal clear.
After feasting ourselves with the view of white beach, we headed back to our room for a quick change for our next activity: Parasailing.
Tip: We contacted Ron and Nino for our water sports activities. They are experienced middle-men who negotiate with the water sports establishments. You pay them with their rates and they will take care of the rest. This will save you time haggling with the “published” rates and more importantly save you money as well. Ron and Nino are famous for giving the lowest rates for water sports. We learned about them through the Boracay-related threads at http://www.pinoyexchange.com/, which is a very helpful site. They receive commissions from the establishments so they do not collect any service fee. Of course, tips are optional.
Ron met us at the hi-way and off we went to Diamond Water Sports, located at the edge of Station 2 near Astoria Boracay. Diamond is known in Boracay for providing the best and safest equipment for water sports, albeit with slightly higher rates compared to less popular establishments. Better safe than sorry.
We handed over Php1,500.00 each to Ron and the negotiation was made with the person in-charge. Diamond also offers other water sports such as banana boat, jetski rental and fly fish. We were fetched by a speed boat which led us to another boat in the middle of the beach where the parasailing activity is held.
After transferring to the bigger speed boat, we waited for some last-minute checks with the parasailing equipment. Our nerves started to get to us just looking at the people doing the setup of the parachute. While we were confident about their facilities, you can’t really blame us for being nervous, don’t you?
Then, the go signal was given for us to be hooked. We were strapped and buckled to the parachute as the crew were readying to let go of the rope. We also wore life vests just in case. One of the crew served as our official photographer.
It’s a nerve-wracking feeling, slowly going up and being pulled by the parachute. What’s more terrifying is when you realize you are more than 100 feet above the water. I was even imagining the rope breaking and us taking the abrupt plunge to the depths of the ocean. Not a good image to visualize when you’re going up.
Our nerves have subsided (thankfully) once we reached the maximum height, which was good because we got to appreciate the beauty of the island from above. You could see the whole strip of white beach (which is a really, really long strip) and you can also see people swimming, riding jetskis and even people on other parachutes. It’s literally a bird’s eye view of Boracay and we’re more than satisfied with what we saw. I highly recommend parasailing for anyone to try even once in their life. You won’t regret it and you won’t forget it. One of the best 15 minutes of my life.
After parasailing was over, we were transferred again to another speed boat for a ride back to white beach. The driver was generous enough to let us drive the speed boat for quite a while, free of charge.
We wanted to have a quick snack before le swimming time so we went to Zuzuni (still at Station 2). It’s mainly a Greek restaurant but weren’t after the Greek food. We were here for a reason and that reason is the Chocolate Mati Sin. We’ve read many blogs raving about this dessert so we’re certainly not gonna pass on that.
The cake is served warm with a siding of vanilla ice cream. The hot fudge inside the cake just burst with choco goodness. I also liked the texture of the cake: buttery rough edges on the outside while soft and moist on the inside. It’s so sinful you’ll forget the guilt. At Php250+ apiece, this dessert really is worth the money and the hype.
After the satisfying merienda, it’s swimming time! Since Hey! Jude is not a beach front hotel (white beach is a 3-minute walk), we had to leave our sandals and some belongings at the shore. Good thing the shore wasn’t crowded with people so we were confident we wouldn’t lose our belongings, provided we can see them from afar.
Tip: You may want to bring along a waterproof dry sack so that you can carry with you some cash or gadgets, even while swimming.
Another good thing about the white beach is that it’s very wide so crowding isn’t gonna be a problem. And since the water is very clear, it’s very conducive for underwater shots. My Sony TX-5 was up to the challenge once again.
Time just flew by while we were swimming and taking pictures as it was already approaching twilight. We just spent time sitting along the seashore people watching while waiting for Boracay’s sunset.
After the action-packed afternoon, we went to the hotel for a quick rest and to freshen up for the night’s activities. We had dinner at Epic Boracay, one of the relatively new restobars located at D’Mall. There are also many restaurants (mostly offer eat-all-you-can buffet) lining up along Station 2. Kaye had chicken sandwich while I ordered their pork steak with chorizo rice. Since it was happy hour, they had a buy 1 take 1 promo for select cocktails so we each had a Pinacolada.
While Epic is not that famous for its food (it’s more famous for their night parties), I really enjoyed the pork steak and the sandwich. The servings were hefty enough to satisfy and pricing was reasonable. The pinacolada was also good. We liked the al fresco ambiance beside the beach and the candle light dinner setting.
Feeling stuffed, we strolled along D’Mall for some sight-seeing and window shopping. D’Mall is really the place to go as the place is full of restaurants, food stalls and more importantly, souvenir shops and convenience stores. Another thing that makes Boracay special is that the place still very active even at night-time.
We waited for 10pm to arrive since we planned to go to Club Paraw (located at Station 1) for a few drinks and experience Boracay’s night life. By 9:30pm, we started the long walk. Station 1 is fairly far from the hotel. We passed by Sand Bar at the tip of Station 2 where fire dancers were performing. The firework mode on my camera came pretty handy.
There were also fire dancers by the beach showing off for tips. While the fire dancers at Sand Bar may be more pleasing to the eye, the “indie” fire dancers seemed more skillful and had more variety with their moves and tricks.
After the long walk from Hey! Jude, we finally reached Club Paraw. There are also other bars along that part of Station 1 (Guilly’s Island is just beside Club Paraw). Since it was only 10pm, the place wasn’t filled with tourists yet so we had no problem finding ourselves a table. We only ordered cocktails since we were still feeling kinda full.
People were starting to fill the club at around 11pm. Needless to say, the dance floor was starting to get crowded as well.
By past midnight, we were already feeling tired (and a bit groggy) so we decided to end the day. We needed ample sleep to match our equally hectic itinerary set for the next day.
Part 2 covers our helmet diving experience, buggy car tour and Station 1 strolling, plus our food tasting of Hawaiian Bar-B-Que spare ribs, Real Coffee muffins, Jonah’s fruitshakes and SeaBreeze buffet. -rod-