Boracay has been the flagship vacation destination in the Philippines for the longest time. Not to mention, it is also the much-loved party place of the privileged and local A-list celebrities. Based on those facts, Boracay has been perceived to be an expensive place to go to and spending your long weekend on the island may not come cheap. From the array of posh hotels, upscale restaurants and exorbitant tours, everything seemed so costly to be on a world-renowned island getaway like Boracay. However, there are ways to make the most of your first time in Boracay on a budget.
Know When to Go, Peak or Off-Peak?
Peak season in Boracay is from December to May as these months are where most non-working holidays such as Christmas, New Year and Holy Week are observed. Festivities like the Ati-Atihan of Kalibo is also celebrated in January so think likely that the island would be packed during these months.
Off-peak season in Boracay is from July to November at the height of the monsoon season in the Philippines. During these months the island can experience high chances of rain throughout the day. It may be an advantage for some as the wet weather entails lesser people on the beach, cheaper hotel rates and low-cost airfares.
How to Get to Boracay
There are several ways to get to Boracay from Manila. The fastest but also the most expensive is taking a plane ride that could take from 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Manila to Caticlan
Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Skyjet Airlines have daily flights to Caticlan. Regular airfare ranges from Php 2,500 – Php 5,000++ per way. From the airport, take a tricycle going to Caticlan Jetty Port, travel time is approximately 5 minutes. Then take a ferry that will take you to Cagban Port in the island of Boracay in just about 10 to 15 minutes.
Manila to Kalibo
AirAsia, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have daily flights to Kalibo. Regular airfare ranges from Php 2,500 – Php 5,000++ per way. From the Kalibo Airport, take another 2 hours of land travel by van or bus going to Caticlan. It will stop at the terminal near Caticlan Jetty Port, from there take a ferry that will take you to Cagban Port in the island of Boracay in just about 10 to 15 minutes.
Roxas – Kalibo – Caticlan
From Roxas City, take a van bound for Kalibo. Fare is PHP 120 and travel time is 2 hours and 30 minutes (includes waiting time). There are also Ceres Buses that go the same route.
From Kalibo, take a van bound for Caticlan, fare is PHP 100. There are also Ceres Buses that go the same route. Private van to Caticlan costs Php 1,300. Travel time from Kalibo to Caticlan is 1 hour and 30 minutes (includes waiting time).
Batangas to Caticlan
An alternative way to get to Boracay is via ferry ride (RORO) from Batangas Port to Caticlan. 2GO Travel sails from Batangas Port to Caticlan several times per week. Regular fare is Php 1,000++ which is relatively cheaper than taking a plane however, travel time is way longer at around 10 hours.
Know Your Boracay Stations – Where to Stay
The island of Boracay boasts of a 4 kilometer shoreline with crystal clear turquoise waters and the finest white sand I’ve seen so far, popularly known as the White Beach. It is the island’s main attraction and the center of commercialization. The whole stretch of White Beach is lined with different hotels, restaurants, bars and other establishments. It is divided into 3 stations each with its own distinct quality.
It is the largest among all 3 stations in terms of length and beach front space. Station 1 is identified as the “expensive station” where most of the luxurious hotels and resorts as well as most of the pricey restaurants are to be found. Willy’s Rock, which is one of the iconic landmarks in Boracay can also be seen in Station 1.
Station 2 is at the heart of White Beach and the busiest section in Boracay. Head to Station 2 if you want to experience the infamous Boracay night life where most bars and clubs flourished along the whole stretch. The skillful fire dancers and other performers showcase their talents along the beach front of Station 2 as well. D’ Mall, the main shopping area in the island and D’ Talipapa seafood market where you can get fresh seafood that are very affordable are also located in this station. Station 2 is categorized as “mid-range” because of the mid-range hotels than can be found in the area.
It is the most laidback part of Boracay. If you’re not into partying, and just wants to be away from the throngs of tourists and enjoy your time on the beach, then Station 3 is the best place where you need to be. Unlike in Stations 1 & 2, there are only a few bars and restaurants in Station 3 and entertainment is mostly acoustic singers which makes the night life in this part of the island more intimate. Station 3 is known as the “budget” station of Boracay where a lot of backpacker hotels and budget restaurants are located.
Just in case you’re wondering, there are no markers indicating which station you are in. There’s just an imaginary border line that separates these stations from each other and you’ll be able to distinguish it with the amount of people traffic in each section. Others who have been in Boracay long enough can also tell it by the texture of the sand under their feet, the finest being in Station 1.CHECK RATES HERE
How to Go Around Boracay
Tricycle is the main mode of transportation to go around Boracay. If you must take the tricycle, flag the ones that are passing by the main road and are already occupied to save on fare (10 pesos/person). The ones that are waiting at the terminals have a fixed special rate.
If you’re not in a hurry and to save you even more, you can always walk along the White Beach to get to other stations. Not only that it is free, you can lose some calories and delight in the astonishing view of Boracay.
What to Do in Boracay on a Budget
The White Beach is the most popular and most populous public beach in Boracay but there are a total of 10 -12 other beaches to choose from that is surrounding the whole island if you want to steer away from the crowd. Some of them are Puka Beach, Diniwid Beach and Bulabog Beach.
*Sand sculpture photo op is not for free. It will cost you Php 20.
Boracay is celebrated for its breathtaking sunset views and you don’t need to go anywhere else because the White Beach itself is already a good spot to see it. Catch sight of the skies as it burst into an assortment of soothing hues. The best part of this activity, it is for free.
There are kiosks in Station 1, in front of Astoria Hotel with several tour agencies that offer different types of water activities. But if you’re staying far from the area, book it from your hotel or with any of the tour agents that are scattered along the White Beach.
Banana Boat, rates from Php 300 per person
Paddle Boarding, rates from Php 300 per hour
Paraw Sunset Sailing, rates from Php 400
Skim Boarding, rates from Php 500
Helmet Diving, rates from Php 500 – 700
Fly/Flying Fish, rates from Php 650 per person
Island Hopping (Crystal Cove, Puka Beach, Snorkeling – gear rental is Php 40) with free buffet lunch, rates from Php 800 – Php 1000 per person, haggle and you can even get it for Php 500 person.
Parasailing, rates from Php 1,500
Jet Ski, rates from Php 2,000
Scuba Diving, rates from Php 3,000
Island Hopping – Carabao Island, rates from Php 3,000 (for 4 pax, chartered outrigger for 4 hours)
*Most of these rates are for joiners, you will be doing the tour with other tourists.
*Early morning is considered peak times; some tours are usually priced higher. If you try looking around 11 AM onwards, some tour agents are offering bundle tours with 2-3 activities for a cheaper price.
People don’t just go to Boracay to soak up all that sun and get a tan. It is also a favored party place, hosting some of the biggest parties in the country. The night life is very much alive and is considered to be one of the best in the Pacific. Several clubs and bars are lined up along the White Beach.
But if bar hopping is not an option, you can always find a spot on the beach and be entertained as you gaze at the remarkable performances of local talents, free of charge.
Where to Eat
The island is very diverse that you’ll never have a hard time looking for places to eat to your liking. There is no denying that Boracay has a lot of high-priced fancy restaurants but there are also some that are tailored for budget travelers like us.
Carinderia, prices start from Php 60 – Php 120 per meal
Mang Inasal, located in Station 2 in D’ Mall, prices start from Php 120 – Php 150 per meal
Andok’s, located in Station 2 in D’ Mall, prices start from Php 120 – Php 150 per meal
D’ Talipapa Seafood Paluto, buy fresh seafood from the market and have it cooked the way you want in one of the restaurants nearby. Prices start from Php 150++ for seafood / cooking service for 100++.
Plato ‘D Boracay, local restaurant offering Filipino dishes, seafood specialty, located in Station 2 in ‘D Talipapa, prices start from 120 – Php 250 set meal.
You can also try:
Jonah’s Fruit Shakes, located in Station 1 White Beach, prices start from Php 120 per bottle
Chori Burger, street food along the White Beach, prices start from Php 20 – Php 50.
Calamansi Muffin @ Real Coffee, located in Station 1 near Le Soleil, prices start from Php 65 per piece – Php 350 for a box of 6
What You Need to Know
- Watch out for airline seat sales.
- It would be best to book months ahead during the peak season because most hotels and hostels are fully booked and last minute arrangements may be too expensive. Do the same even on off-peak months to secure cheaper deals.
- Book in hotels where free breakfast is included, you could save a good amount of money that you can use on something else, like buying more pasalubong for example. We stayed in Boracay Tourist’s Inn in Station 1, for Php 500 per person a night with breakfast included. It is not a beach front property but it is along the main road. It was less than 5 minutes-walk to the White Beach.
- Take advantage on the free lunches/dinners offered by some hotels (but be ready for some membership offers/sales pitches from the hotel’s agents in exchange of the free meal 🙂 ).
- For me, there is no best time when to go to Boracay. Although it may save you more during lean season, it all depends on what would you like to see and do or how would you like to spend your time when you get there.
- Bear in mind that Boracay is not your ideal, chill out beach. It is a premier island paradise and as such, expect it to have multitude of holidaymakers all year-round regardless of the weather conditions.
- Be cognizant of the seasons and important island events to help you decide on when would be the “best time” to visit.
- Manage your expectations and do not assume that you can have the beach all to yourself even in its off season and when you do you’ll see that Boracay is not just an overly hyped destination but it lives up to it.
I hope that this Boracay guide for first timers on a budget would be of help for those who want to know where to start and how to spend their first time in Boracay.
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