Now, I can say that my first time in Boracay would not be the last. Although, it was not the case when I was still in the planning stages of this trip. With all the accolades and recognitions that were awarded to Boracay year in and year out, I was a bit intimidated. My reluctance to take a journey to this top destination grew more and more as it might be too expensive or too mainstream and overcrowded. Is it really what they say it is or is it just over-hyped? My curiosity kicked in and I gave it a go.
I have realized that Boracay is after all, a world-renowned destination and it is already here in the Philippines. Plus, it is in the same region where we were planning to go so, why not make Boracay as the last stop. The plan was to embark on a 9-day Panay Island tour, not as a solo traveler, but with a group of seniors, my parents and my aunt. Prior to arriving in Boracay, we were to visit Islas de Gigantes in Carles, Iloilo and Roxas City, Capiz.
Read my other posts in this Panay Island series:
A Short Background
Boracay is a world-class beach in the Province of Aklan in the Western Visayas region. Boracay’s claim to fame was its clear turquoise waters, its uber-powdery white sand beach that stretches for kilometers as well as the gracious people inhabiting the island. Tourism in Boracay began as early as the 1970’s. Twenty years later, it started to make waves and became a household name in the Philippines and the rest of the world can’t help to just ignore it and they’ve started to recognize its splendor.
Most people say that it is a battle of emotions between admiring Boracay and hating it because of what it has become. It has transformed from being a far-flung island paradise to an overcrowded, super-commercialized vacation destination and party place in the Philippines.
Welcome to Boracay – First Impressions
It was already 4:00 PM when we arrived at Caticlan Jetty Port. I’ve noticed the incessant people traffic that were going in and out of the terminal and everyone seemed to be in a hurry. We followed the crowd and went to the first window to buy our tickets for the boat that will transport us to Boracay. After the transaction, we were asked to go to the next window to pay for the terminal fee, then again to the next, to pay for the environmental fee. We haven’t even entered the port yet there came the fees, easily slashing Php 200 each on our budget.
While on our way to the dock, a man approached us and was offering some kind of free dinner at their hotel to promote its newly opened restaurant. Yeah right, I was sure that there was a catch somehow with their free dinner offer but we took the card anyway and moved along. It felt like there was a credit card agent chasing us at a mall. Oh well, this must be the norm in Boracay.
10 to 15 minutes later, we have reached Cagban Jetty Port and we’re officially in Boracay!
We’ve managed to book a hotel in Station 1 for Php 500 a night, A/C room with free Wi-Fi and breakfast. It was not beachfront but it was along the main road and less than 3-minute walk to the White Beach, which I thought was a fair enough deal.
As we navigate the narrow two-way street from Cagban Jetty Port to Station 1, I was wondering if were we really on a small island or were we in the streets of Quiapo, Manila? There were lots of stores and buildings on both sides of the road, there were people everywhere and traffic was horrendous. I was ok with all of it and commercialization is good for the economy. I just didn’t realize that Boracay was already that highly-industrialized. I must have stayed under my rock for a very long time and have forgotten that Boracay has been thriving for nearly 2 decades now, maybe more.
A Very Informative Free Dinner
Remember the man at Caticlan Port who offered us free dinner? He was very persistent, he texted us and called us to confirm if we will be coming over for dinner. Eventually, we caved in and said YES. Aside from saving a few hundred on food on our first night, it was one of the most luxurious hotels in Boracay who had extended the offer so, who are we to decline. Amazingly, their hotel was just a stone’s throw away, literally across the street from where we were staying, what a coincidence.
It was a buffet style dinner and the food was actually good and as promised, it was absolutely FREE. The catch, however, was we have to stay afterwards for a hotel room viewing tour and it progressed eventually to a full-blown sales pitch for a club membership with their hotel. Since we didn’t have any idea anyway of what to do on our first night, we went for it.
We came to Boracay unprepared in a way, I just took care of booking for a hotel and nothing else. I didn’t prepare any itinerary unlike in other places that I go to.
Luckily, the agent who was assigned to us didn’t just share her knowledge about the offer for the hotel membership but she also disclosed some very valuable tips and hacks for people like us who were visiting Boracay for the first time. She told us where we can find this and that, how each station is different from each other, even the texture of the sand can be associated to which station you are in. Where to eat, how low we can haggle on tours, where we can book the tours and so on. Even though we didn’t sign up for the membership and she didn’t make a sale from us she still gave us a tour of Boracay through her entertaining stories and we were very thankful that we’ve chanced upon her.
What Sets It Apart
I wrote a post about Maho Beach and Mullet Bay Beach found in the Caribbean island of St. Maarten (Sint Martin) and was asked by a reader if which among Boracay and Bohol can I compare it to. At that time, I wasn’t able to respond to the question properly because I haven’t been to either of the two islands.
I haven’t been to Bohol until now but comparing those Caribbean beaches to Boracay, I find it to be similar in some ways. Maho Beach and Boracay White Beach are similar in a way because of its popularity and overcrowdedness but most tourists don’t mind it all. Mullet Bay Beach on the other hand is more like Boracay’s Puka Beach because of the texture of its sand, its more laid back vibe and its huge and pounding waves. Nevertheless, they are all stunning in their own right.
The moment when I first felt that Boracay sand under my feet, I began to understand why most people rave about it as it was indeed, irrefutably exceptional. It’s truly one of a kind. The powdery sand of Boracay is one of its distinct qualities. In my opinion, it is what sets it apart from other local and international white sand beaches and I couldn’t agree more. I have never come across a beach that has a sand as fine as what Boracay White Beach has been blessed with.
There is one that comes in a close second in my book and I’ve found it in Carabao Island of San Jose, Romblon approximately an hour away from Boracay (Puka Beach) by boat. On the other hand, Punta Sebaring Beach of Bugsuk Island in Balabac, Palawan is also in the running for the “finest sand” title and I hope to see it for myself someday soon.
My First Time in Boracay and the Algal Bloom
We came at a time when there were swarms of algae in the crystalline waters of Boracay. We already heard about it over a local radio news while in the van going to Caticlan. The locals are saying that the algal bloom was a natural occurrence and it was already happening as far as they can remember, even when they were still young.
I took a closer look at the algae and it was like a fine thread afloat the waters and on the shore of the White Beach. They believe that the algae are the reason why Boracay has that kind of powdery white sand. When the algae are dried up, it turns to white powder. It also has its own season from February to May, usually during the summer months. The issue has been raised by environmentalists and concerned citizens that the island needs to take a break because the volume of the algae in the water rises each year. But whatever it is that is behind the algal bloom, we can all agree that the most important thing to do is to sustain Boracay.
Diversity in Boracay
Boracay has evolved into a multi-cultural island paradise. Its allure had cut across different races and social classes enthralling people from all parts of the globe. For people who frequently flock to Boracay, they have already outgrown the white sand and the picturesque sunsets. Instead, it is the whole experience that the island can offer them is what they are after. From trying various water activities, staying at luxurious hotels, or backpacker inns, dining in fancy restaurants or indulging in street foods, practically anything under the sun.
Realizations After My First Time in Boracay
It is better to experience a place at least once in your lifetime than to hear stories about it a thousand times.
I remember reading this quote somewhere and for me, this quote best describes Boracay as you really have to experience it for yourself to appreciate it.
What helped me to come to terms with the filled up beach was the fact that I already knew what I was getting into from the start. It was already expected given that it was peak season, right before summer officially started in the Philippines.
Another thing why I liked Boracay was even if there were lots of people around, no one seemed to care at what I wish to do. No one stared at me when I took photos while in silly positions (which I usually experience in other places) because people were already used to it. Nobody asked me why was I walking all by myself on the beach and all those sort of things.
A trip to Boracay can be spontaneous, no itinerary, just get a place to stay and go with the flow. You will never run out of things to do.
There is always something for everyone and even those people who have been to Boracay for the nth time are still amazed because there’s always something new for them to try.
Though Boracay has now become very touristy, a lot of people, both local and international travelers, still have it in their bucket list. It has been named among the top beaches and most beautiful destinations in the world more than once over the years. Why not? For me, it’s truly deserving.
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How about you? Have you been to Boracay? How was your first time in Boracay? Did you like or not? We would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts..