‘New’ Boracay Island Travel Guide: What to Do & Where to Stay
For the first time ever in the Philippines, the government decided to close off a world-famous island for six months to pave the way for the island’s rehabilitation. Boracay Island was closed to tourists and visitors from April 26 to October 26, 2018. During this time, the government started addressing the numerous environmental problems of the island, from zoning, beach encroachment to waste management.
Boracay reopened its doors to the public and tourists again on October 26. And now it has new regulations for local businesses and also for visitors. Find out all you need to know about the new Boracay island with our updated travel guide.
Essential Guide to Boracay Travel
New Rules You Should Know
During the closure, many local establishments who violated the beach encroachment guidelines ended up having these structures demolished. In fact, a lot of them were ordered closed until they complied. Hotels and accommodations needed to go through another accreditation process to make sure that they follow these new rules. Aside from not putting up structures on the beachfront, they also need to implement a strict no-smoking and no-drinking policy on the beach.
- The beachfront also has to remain clear of other structures and activities.
- No more vendors and masseuses who set up shop at the beach.
- But this also means no more bonfires, sand castles and all-night parties on the beach.
Another activity that is no longer allowed on the island is gambling. Many international tourists flock to the casinos operating here, but the government has decided to crack down on these as well.
Aside from overdevelopment, tourist congestion on the island was also a problem. To address this, the Department of Tourism is strictly enforcing a daily limit of 19,215 persons, which is the island’s carrying capacity. This means that not everyone who arrives can be allowed on the island unless they have a confirmed booking with an accredited hotel.
How To Get There
Naturally, when Boracay was closed, local airlines also temporarily cancelled their operations. After the re-opening however, airlines resumed their flights so visitors can now take their pick of daily flights.
- The nearest airport is the Caticlan Airport in the town of Malay, Aklan.
- There are direct flights to and from Caticlan, from major cities such as Manila, Cebu, Clark, Puerto Princesa City, and Tacloban.
- From Caticlan, the island is only 35 minutes away via jetty, which you can take from the Caticlan Jetty Port.
- Another airport is the one in Kalibo, Aklan, which has flights from major Philippine cities as well as some international cities like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
Kalibo, however, is about 75 kilometres away from Caticlan, which is about 2 and a half hours by land. There are shuttles and buses that can take you from Kalibo to Caticlan for around Php 150 to 200 per person.
By Land and Sea
If you are more adventurous or simply on a budget, you can also opt to take the bus from Manila to the Batangas City port south of Metro Manila.
- There are several bus companies that ply the Manila-Batangas City Port route. The trip takes about 2 to 2.5 hours including waiting time and costs around Php 200 per person per way.
- From Batangas port, you can take a ferry to Caticlan Jetty Port. The trip usually takes between 9 to 10 hours and costs at least Php 1,200 per person per way. The fare can go up depending on the type of accommodation you choose.
All visitors to the island have to take a 15-minute jetty ride which costs Php 50 per way. Passengers get off at Cagban Port where you can have the hotel pick you up, or where you can take a tricycle to your accommodation.
Where to Stay in Boracay
After you have managed to book the transport side of your trip, the next thing you need to do is to find a place to stay.
Visitors should take note that you must have a confirmed booking at an accredited hotel prior to travelling to the island.
- The local tourism office checks whether you have a booking before allowing you to take the jetty. Because of the limit on the number of people allowed to stay in a day, it may be risky if you go without reserving a room first.
For first-timers, it is best to know that most accommodations are found near White Beach, the main beach area of Boracay. White Beach is divided into three stations, where the jetties used to dock before the island had a centralized port.
- Station 1 which is located in the north end of White Beach is where most high-end resorts and accommodations are located.
- Station 2, the middle part of the beach, mostly has mid-range options for accommodations.
- Station 3 offers more options for the budget traveller.
If your travel budget is considerable, go for beachfront properties which means having the beach a few steps away from you. If you are like most travellers and are on a budget, it is best to choose hotels that are not at the beachfront but are near enough for you to walk to the beach. If you want a more quiet vacation, there are some resorts that offer exclusive accommodations for a price.
PRO Tip: As of December 28, 2018, 293 establishments are accredited, meaning they are compliant with new environmental regulations. Check out the Department of Tourism website (www.tourism.gov.ph) for the complete list of accredited hotels.
Best Time to Visit Boracay and What to Do
The best time to go to Boracay is the summer months. In the Philippines, these are during the months of March, April and May. This is also the peak season for this tourist spot, so expect more people and more crowds.
- As always, book your flights and accommodations ahead.
- Try and avoid going during the long holidays like Christmas and New Year or the Lent Season.
With sustainable tourism as its main thrust for the island, there are several activities that are restricted on the island. And these are:
- No smoking and no drinking on the beach, so no more all-night parties.
- No structures and activities on the beach – these include masseuse tents and street vendors.
- Single-use plastics are now banned. Hotels, restaurants and other establishments are not allowed to use them, so visitors best bring their own water containers, reusable straws and eco-bags while on the island.
- Water sports and other aquatic activities such as island-hopping, jetskiing and diving must be booked with accredited tour operators and agencies. Tourists are encouraged to choose non-motorized water sports such as paraw sailing and stand up paddling which are environmentally-sound.
Top Tips to Remember for Travellers
Once again, here are the important tips you should remember if you are going to Boracay after the re0pening:
- Book ahead. You must bring proof of your confirmed hotel reservation with you. Local tourism officers will check this before you are allowed to take the jetty to the island. During off-peak season, you may ask the officers to help you secure a booking, but it is better to book it yourself before you travel.
- Book only with accredited hotels and resorts. Check the Tourism department’s website for the latest list. As of Dec. 28, over 200 establishments are on the list. Choosing an accredited establishment means you are staying in a hotel that has complied with the government’s regulations for tourism and environmental protection.
- When booking through online booking sites, double check if they are on the accredited list.
- Tours must be booked with accredited tour operators and agencies. Usually, your hotel would have access to these operators. Online promos through Klook and Viator are usually aware of this new regulation as well.
- Rehabilitation is ongoing, so expect some ongoing road works in most parts of the island. According to the government, the second phase of rehabilitation is targetted to be finished by April 2019.
- Because sustainable tourism is being implemented on the island, choose activities that go by this new thrust. Don’t go for polluting water sports such as jetskiing. Instead, go for parasailing, stand up paddling or kayaking.
Going to Boracay on a budget?
Here are additional budget-saving tips:
- When going around the island, do not charter tricycles. Instead, hail one that already has passengers. That way, you only pay for the regular short-ride fare rather than the more expensive chartered fare. Or better yet, take a walk if you are so inclined.
- Even if you are a solo traveller, you can still opt to join bigger groups of travellers especially for island-hopping trips and other activities. It is also a nice way to meet new friends. Ask the tour agency or the hotel if there are groups you can join, as this means a cheaper price for the tour package.
- If you are the adventurous kind of traveller, don’t limit yourself to the usual fare in the hotel or big restaurants. Go for what the locals eat, usually in roadside eateries. Just make sure that the place is sanitary and food preparation is clean. Another option is to cook your own food if your hostel has kitchen facilities.
- When shopping for souvenirs, remember to negotiate the price down. Most souvenir shops would allow this, and there is no harm in haggling.
So, are you ready for your next Boracay adventure?
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*Featured Image Credit: Alexey Komarov | Wikimedia Commons