Boracay: The Ultimate Tropical Island

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Have you ever sat to the ultimate healthy meal, only to find yourself gazing at the unopened bag of Sour Patch Kids in your kitchen?

You made yourself a salad — an exceptionally healthy one. It’s vegan, gluten-free, has seasoned tofu for protein and even a good dose of goji berries and various nuts and seeds loaded with antioxidants.

You’re about to serve yourself — and then that bag of Sour Patch Kids catches your eye. It’s filled with Sour Patch Kids. And right next to it is a package of peanut butter M&Ms.

You know you should eat your salad like a proper person…but you really, really want that candy. And it wouldn’t be so bad to eat it. Just for one meal.

Boracay is candy in destination form.


With only two weeks allotted to explore the Philippines before heading on to Hong Kong and back to the US, my time was limited. My original plans for the Philippines had been to head up through North Luzon to see the UNESCO-listed rice terraces along with the hanging coffins of Sagada.

This region shows off some of the Philippines’ natural and cultural beauty, and I wanted to explore it — it seemed like the “smart” thing to do.

That said…it wouldn’t be the smoothest journey. It would take two overnight buses there and back, plus some crazy bus journeys along cliffs, very basic guesthouses, spotty connectivity…a region that I’d love to visit at the right time. But this wasn’t the right time. I had too much work to do and not enough energy to give this trip the attention it deserved.

Sabrina, my Philippines-expert friend, nearly exploded when I told her my plans. “You can’t go to the Philippines and not see a single beach!” she admonished me. “The beaches are the best part! Go to Boracay.”

That was all the convincing I needed. I booked tickets right away.


Getting to Know Boracay

Boracay is a tiny island in the Visayas region of the central Philippines. As the most popular travel destination in the Philippines, it’s far from undiscovered — the island absolutely teems with tourists, especially Filipinos, Koreans, and Chinese.

White Beach is the main hub of the island, stretching along the west coast, and it’s often cited as one of the world’s best beaches. And with a beach path running parallel to the shore, you could spend your whole stay on Boracay on sand — I know I nearly did!

White Beach is divided into three sections named after the former boat stations: Station 1, furthest north, is home to luxury resorts. Station 2, in the middle, is a huge commercial hub and home to tons of shops, restaurants, and hotels, as well as DMall, a massive shopping complex.


Station 3, furthest south, is much quieter and more relaxed. Just south of Station 3 is Angol, an even more chilled out neighborhood. Some people say that Angol is the only remnant of the “Old Boracay” before it got so developed.

There are a few other beaches — Bulabog Beach in the east is popular with the kitesurfing/windsurfing crowd in high season, and secluded Puka Beach in the north is a big day trip destination.

As for me, I loved the Station 3/Angol region and spent the bulk of my time there, but would often head up to Station 2 for dinner and drinks.

Kate in Boracay

Boracay Life

Wake up, sit on the beach, get brunch, get lunch, read, swim a little bit. Watch the sunset, get dinner, maybe get a drink or two. That’s all you have to know.

The thing about Boracay is that the beach here is so great — the sand so white and fine, the beachfront so long, the landscape so beautiful, the water so warm and turquoise — that you can do nothing else and still feel entirely accomplished.

Also: eat mangos day and night. I swear that the Philippines is home to the sweetest, juiciest mangos in the world. I had mango juice, mango shakes, mango lassis, even a mango set on fire with burning cognac and topped with ice cream!

Boracay Sunset

The World’s Best Sunsets

Back in the day, I thought that Koh Lanta was home to the world’s best sunsets. While I’ve seen some amazing sunsets on Lanta, quite frankly, they didn’t hold a candle to what I saw on Boracay.

On my third night on Boracay, I saw what was indisputably the best sunset of my life. My photos don’t remotely capture how incredible it was, but here are a few shots of it anyway.

Boracay Sunset  Boracay Sunset Boracay Sunset Boracay Sunset

The Philippines are OPEN FOR TRAVEL!

When I arrived in Manila, I got a tweet from one of my readers: “Must be crazy with the typhoon damage!”

“Not at all,” I replied. “Manila’s fine. The typhoon was nowhere near here.”

I thought it was a fluke — but then I got another message saying the same thing. And another. Many people thought that the Philippines was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) in November 2013.

The truth: most of the Philippines was either unaffected or mostly unaffected by the typhoon. The city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte was hit the worst, and the city is still in very rough shape today. Volunteers are still working on rebuilding Tacloban.

But you know where was mostly unaffected by the typhoon and is functioning as normal today? Manila. North Luzon. Palawan. Bohol. Cebu. Negros. Malapascua. Sirgao. Siquijor. Camiguin. Most if not all of the major tourist hotspots.

And, of course, that includes Boracay. “All we got was a power outage and a new layer of white sand on everything,” one local told me. “It looked beautiful.”

Please don’t write off the Philippines. The small businesses on these islands are struggling due to the Philippines’ PR problem, and they need your tourism now more than ever. The pictures in this post are from an incredibly developed island. The less-developed islands are even more pristine and gorgeous. And they are waiting for you.

Essential Info: To get to Boracay island, you can fly to either Caticlan or Kalibo, which are both on the island of Panay in the Philippines. Caticlan Airport is right by the ferry to Boracay; Kalibo is a 90-minute drive away (and tends to have cheaper flights to more destinations). The ferry takes 15 minutes.

I stayed at a few different guesthouses, but the only one that I would recommend is Gracia’s Inn in Station 3. It has no website and is hard to find (on Google Maps it looks like it’s on “Angol Road,” which appears to actually be an alley), so ask around. I paid 1000 PHP ($22) per night for a private room with a double bed during Chinese New Year (peak rates). No wifi, and 3G did not work inside the room (something that I found throughout the Philippines), but it was clean and comfortable. You can find other hotels in Boracay here.

In Station 2, I highly recommend CYMA for excellent Greek food (get the flaming cheese, mussels and flaming mango!) and Nigi Nigi Nu Noos for drinks (their Boracay Colada is the best pina colada I’ve ever had!). In the Station 3/Angol neighborhood, Cowboy Cucina was the most reliable wifi I found (though far from ideal), and they had great pizza and lattes.

Be sure to get travel insurance before you visit Boracay. I never travel without it and always use World Nomads.

Is Boracay your kind of tropical island?Boracay: The Ultimate Tropical Island

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92 thoughts on “Boracay: The Ultimate Tropical Island”

  1. I can only imagine how incredible that sunset was from your photos! They are stunning enough! Boracay must be beautiful. And the fact that you experienced no problems in the aftermath of the typhoon just shows how we don’t always see the full picture in mainstream media. That’s why blogs have so much use for trip planning – we can read about what’s really happening and find out which particular parts of a country might be just fine to visit, rather than writing the entire place off.

    1. Yes sunsets are super amaze in Boracay! I live there for 4 months last year and I love it. I always roll my eyes when bloggers/travelers who are traveling in SEA are posting pics of their “best sunsets ever” and know that they haven’t seen the ones in Boracay yet. I am so happy you enjoyed your time in Boracay and in the Philippines in general. We need more bloggers/travellers to talk more about the Philippines and not just Thailand all the time 😀

      1. After seeing what I saw in the Philippines, I’m shocked that it isn’t more popular. Boracay was better than any beach I saw in Thailand, and the Philippines have far more unknown beaches at a lower price point.

    2. I’d say I agree. Boracay is indeed beautiful. When I was still living in the Philippines – we never missed a summer in Boracay. My cousins and I always booked the trip ahead of time. Its our summer bonding. We stay up to watch for the sunrise and then sunset afterwards. Not only that its stunning and a must tourist destination – but who could ever say NO to the parties. I miss my hometown. You should also check Puerto Gallera and Palawan.

  2. Wow looks so beautiful! Love your pictures and it sounds like this is a place I need to visit.

    P.S. I told my sister about your website and I’m pretty sure she is in love. She now wants to travel the world by herself! 🙂

  3. OMG your pictures made me so homesick. I grew up in Manila and spent several summers vacationing in Bora (as locals like to call it). Even after moving to South Florida, the beaches here don’t hold a candle to Boracay. Glad you visited the Philippines… I always look to your blog for travel inspiration. Have fun in NoLa. That’s another one of my fave travel spots.

    1. Manila people like to call it ‘Bora’

      Boracay locals have a very active advocacy group: Boracay Please, Not Bora.

      We like to encourage people to call the island by its name to avoid confusion with other islands in the world

  4. I thought about traveling to the Philippines and especially Boracay this summer, but then changed my mind to visit Thailand and Indonesia on my first trip to Southeast Asia instead – but your post and your pictures almost make me regret that decision! 🙂

  5. Ah, I miss Boracay. It’s one of my fave islands in the world. Those sunsets are fantastic, as is the fresh seafood at restaurants with toes in the sand

  6. Kate… You writing is clearly progressing and just getting better and better. That intro with the candy! Good work – you’re rockin it! Keep kickin ass!

    P.S. Those sunset pictures are unreal.

  7. I was in Boracay in 2011 and loved it, in my top 3 islands I think. It was touristy but had a great vibe and of course, stunning beaches! Stayed in a bungalow called Friends Hostel, one of the best places i have stayed in my travels.

    Was this your second visit to Boracay Kate? As I’m pretty sure I read that you’ve been before. If so, has it changed much in the past few years?

    Also interested to know how it compares to other islands in the Philippines as I’m planning on going in the next few years.

    1. This was my first visit. Sabrina, who I mentioned and linked to earlier, has traveled to Boracay a few times and has been all over the Philippines. She’s a great resource for that.

  8. That last photo of the sunset?! DAMN. If that doesn’t do justice to what the sunset actually looked like…it must have been phenomenal. 🙂

  9. I sort of love that you skipped the UNESCO site for the beach. Sometimes you just have to go for the candy! Looks like some amaaazing candy too.

  10. I love Boracay! I first went in 1996 when I was 14 (family had just moved to Manila) and there were only about 10 guest houses there! Visitors still got dropped off at their required stations in the traditional “bancas” and you had to wade through the shallow waters with your bag on your head to get to the shore. Nigi Nigi Noo Nus was already there, though!!

    I have been lucky enough to return every few years and even though it has become more commercial every time, it is still one of my favourite beach holiday destinations! There are actually more beautiful beaches in the Philippines and yes, it´s touristy, but Boracay is one of the few places where you can have it all: a beautiful beach stay, outdoorsy activities, great selection of accommodation and restaurants to fit any budget and really good night-life that hasn´t yet become tacky.

    I hope you get to return to the Phils soon, and discover more of the country!

  11. It looks idyllic! I’d heard it was a crazy party town, which is often a little off putting for a relaxing vacation but after reading this I definitely want to visit next time I head to the Philippines.

  12. Boracay is definitely a beautiful piece of nature. The sunsets are magnificent as you said. Even I am curious to taste the mangoes. 🙂

  13. Wow! Usually photographs do a horrible job of capturing sunsets but yours actually gives a glimpse of how impressive it really was. Definitely sounds like an indulging place to visit 🙂

  14. Wow Kate! This place is beautiful and those sunset are gorgeous. I had never heard of it before I read you were visiting. It so close to my in Sydney I might just have to pop on over there at some point, even if it is a bit of a trek once you get to the Philippines. Well worth it by the looks of it.

    1. You know, it’s actually incredibly easy from Manila — just hop a flight to either Caticlan (easiest) or Kalibo (usually a tad cheaper) and you’ll be taken straight to Boracay.

  15. I would love to taste all the mango variations!
    Have you been to the Seychelles already? This was the most stunning place regarding beach and sunset for me.

  16. Ah! I can’t wait to go here… The Philippines is certainly one of the next places on the list. I think it’s sometimes better to go after natural disasters because not as many people are there! I guess it can be a good thing for travelers. Looks beautiful Kate!

  17. Honored to be the mentioned as the Philippines-expert friend lol 😉

    I’m happy you had a great time in Boracay, this place is kinda magical, isn’t it? Did you had a chance to see the spider house?

    I’m already 2 months in the Philippines and don’t want to leave.
    Next time discover the south, Mindanao is incredibly beautiful and far away from any tourism.

    We’re heading to Boracay in April, full 3 weeks, just relaxing and working, I’m so looking forward to return to Boracay after more than a year.

    I hope to welcome you soon again here in the Philippines, who knows, I might be still here… Hugs from Cebu 🙂

  18. Have heard, read and saw (pictures) so much about Boracay. Would definitely love to visit one of these days! Oh, did I mention I LOVE mangoes too 🙂

  19. First of all, I want your life. I just stumbled on your blog while trying to figure out credit card, student loan debt, and not going crazy from being stuck living in the same place for the last four years (even if that place is Japan).

    I went to the Philippines to visit my bf’s family and didn’t get a chance to go to any beaches there. Hopefully I’ll get to go next time we visit.
    I met someone a few days ago who is heading to Manila next week for only two days. When I asked why he wasn’t going longer he had said because of the typhoon. I was surprised that, like you said, everyone seems to think that the Philippines has been completely destroyed. Everyone in Manila was going about their business like nothing at happened. It actually annoyed me a bit, especially after going to Leyte (where my bf is from) and seeing the damage and then back to Manila to see people acting like nothing happened. But I suppose it was the same way after the tsunami and earthquake in Northern Japan. The tourism is finally picking up again this year after three years of people being afraid of the radiation.

    Safe travels and next time you’re in the Philippines, check out Biliran off of Leyte or Bantayan near Cebu, I’ve heard both places are beautiful and need the tourism more than ever now.

  20. Seems absolutely gorgeous! Those white sands and the crystal clear waters are a dream, and those sunsets complete all that is needed for a complete soul-therapy!!

  21. Boracay is #1 at the top of my Phillipines to-do list!

    Isn’t it amazing how peoples’ minds work when it comes to disasters. It can be very hard for people to grasp the geography of a location they are not familiar with, and they can just write off an entire region based on a news report.

    When I moved to Thailand in 2005 I was staying in Chiang Rai – you can’t get much further away from the tsunami zone than that (I was 45 minutes from the border of Myanmar, for crying out loud). Yet the day after the tsunami I had my co-workers coming to me begging to reconsider moving to Thailand. It was so hard to explain that not only was most of Thailand perfectly safe, but that these events are rare, I was far from the ocean (a wave would have to be very big indeed to reach that far inland or that altitude), and that, more importantly, the locals both in and out of the affected zone now RELIED UPON people coming to give them all the help they could get – both practically, and through their tourist dollars.

  22. Wow, are those unretouched?!

    My favourite sunsets were probably in Santorini, though there was a pretty spectacular one toward the end of our time volunteering in Italy

  23. Yes, please! That looks amazing. This is always the time of year I am most craving some quality beach time. Currently, I just want to live full time on a beach and spend my weekends paddle boarding. Have you paddle boarded?

  24. Kate, I just went to Boracay Island (working on a set of posts for it as well, funnily enough!) and LOVED IT! The Filipino people are some of the nicest people in the world! We stayed closer to Station 1 and I actually loved how peaceful it was, although the beaches weren’t as stunning as Station 3 🙂

  25. I used to live in Manila when I was a kid, about 14 years ago. We used to go to Boracay all the time and I have so many incredible memories from there. Even now I can remember a the amazing sunsets! In fact, we used to stay at nigi nigi nu noos! I graduate University this year and I’m planning to spend 4 months travellind SE asia early next year; I can’t wait to go back to Boracay! It will certainly be very nostalgic, I just hope it hasn’t changed too much. It’s great to read that people are still loving Boracay and that its still a wonderful beach.

  26. Awesome to see more endorsements for the Philippines – in my opinion, the most underrated country in Asia. Sunsets on Boracay are certainly magical, but #1 for me is still Kota Kinabalu. Just breathtaking.

    So glad you enjoyed the Phils!

  27. It was my first time going to Boracay this year for #Laboracay and man, the party scene was out of this world! I’ve never seen so much people on the beach partying although I really expected it that why that’s why one of my requirements was that I should have a hotel that’s away from the noise after all the partying. The hotel that I chose was 7stones Boracay. It was a little far from station 1 but I think that it really fulfilled my requirements.

    Just message me if you wanna get in touch!

  28. Kate this is some great information! Seems like you definitely enjoyed your stay on Boracay! I totally agree on your love for the Philippine mango too. They have to be the sweetest, smoothest mango’s I’ve ever eaten! The mango’s near and around Boracay all come from an Island called Guimaras! If you’re like me and can’t get enough of the heavenly mango’s I would suggest going to the Guimaras Mango Festival. It would be the most delicious stay of your entire life eating all sorts of amazing mango recipes! Though a bit of a drive from Boracay (6hrs), it is totally worth it. They even have all sorts of resorts and some great day spots like caves and waterfalls.

  29. Hi Kate, thanks for visiting my country and enjoying your stay in the most popular beach in all of 7,100 islands. It will please you to know that Boracay is currently ranked by TripAdvisor as 19 in the Top 25 best beaches in the world and number 1 in the Top 25 Best Beaches of Asia in 2014. That said, with the number of islands we have, many hidden paradise and stunning but undeveloped beaches are waiting to be discovered. I have been blogging about a few best ones in our part of the islands. You would love them as well.

    May I proudly share my photo of Boracay waters as recent cover of Silkair’s inflight mag? I agree with the most spectacular sunset scenes, you just can’t get enough of the sight. Do come back and explore more of the Philippines.

  30. Hey Kate!

    Great post! Boracay is indeed one of the best attractions in the Philippines. However, I was looking at your blog for other attractions like Palawan, Cebu, Davao, Bohol and the rest but found none. Hope you could check out these spots as well.

    Thanks for this writing this post! Carpe diem!

  31. What a great post Kate.. I really love the sunset in Boracay it was breathtaking. and you will enjoy Boracay in so many ways. Im a party person, so Boracay just had a perfect night life I ever experienced in my life 🙂 but I always look for a peaceful place to rest and relax, and The Orient Beach Boracay is the perfect place I find.. It was so peaceful, relaxing and really had a great breakfast.. it was also affordable too.. I can say that it really made my vacation special. You gotta check it out guys! Cant wait for my next visit in Boracay. So excited! 🙂

  32. Thankyou for sharing your experience at the Philippines. I personally haven’t been to Boracay myself, nor do I live in the Philippines, but I’m glad to hear that it looks like you’ve hit a jackpot of a destination.
    Happy travels! 🙂

  33. Great info, glad to hear that as a seasoned traveler you enjoyed it. I’ve been to a few places in the Philippines including Palawan (amazing!!) but haven’t yet been to Boracay. Just booked tickets to go for a week in January.. we decided on Boracay over Langkawi in Malaysia. Have you been there at all? Of course I’ll be blogging my whole trip 🙂

  34. Hi Erika. I am in Boracay right now and I was in Langkawi 3 years ago for 10 days for a visa extension. Boracay is a zillion times better than Langkawi. Langkawi is a duty free island, that’s the only good thing because booze is cheap (in Malaysia booze is quite expensive if you are on a lolowudget).

  35. I was in Boracay during Typhoon Yolanda and also during the latest one (I forgot its name). The latest one was very hyped up and all we experienced was a puff of wind, nothing extreme. Yolanda knocked out power for a week though and internet for 3 weeks.

    Anyway, life goes on 🙂

    Boracay has a reputation of being crowded but when you know where to go (and when to go) then you can totally avoid the crows when you want peace. I love the place myself, and have been living there for the last 3 years.

  36. What a great article! Philippines is really gifted with natural wonders and scenic places that is just waiting to be discovered. The country is really easy to travel with the opening of more routes going in from all over the world. As 2015 is now tagged as the Visit The Philippines year, we are expecting more people being drawn to the simple piece of paradise on earth.

    Every island in the country is indeed worth a visit but on top of everyone’s mind is Boracay. I couldn’t agree more as Boracay is e\very tourist (and traveler) friendly! From the locals, vendors down to the visitors, you’ll get loads of smiles and nods on a single day! Strolling along the white sand beach is a must and just take in the serendipity of being in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Different types of food is abundant so one should not worry about being hungry.

    Totally agree with you that one of the best sunsets in the world can be found in Boracay! Breathtaking and truly a mother nature’s piece of art! Glad you shared it here with that magnificent shot!

  37. Boracay is probably my favorite place on earth, and I’ve done Thai beaches and Bali. I’ve gone to Boracay more than 20 times and have made many friends there. The vibe, sand, sun and fun are just overwhelming in a great way. The sunset, GOSH, I can’t express in words how much I love it, and now that I have a baby daughter, I want to show her the beauty of that island.

    Alas, the pace of development and influx of tourists could be the ruin of that wonderful island. First, El Nido is named the best beach of the Phils, not Boracay, but the former is hard to get to but hopefully completion of the San Vicente airport in Palawan will fix that (whenever that happens).

    I once stayed nearly four weeks in Boracay but it was the rainy season in July and August, and I don’t recommend going there at that time, though you might luck out and get a few sunny days. You might also avoid Boracay in peak season like around Christmas, New Year’s or Chinese New Year because prices shoot up and the crowds multiply.

  38. Victoria Dela Cruz

    A confession from a Filipino: I haven’t been to Boracay so it’s definitely in my bucket list. I’ve heard so much about it and I’m really envious of my friends who have gone there already. I hope that next year, I’d be able to go and experience all the good things that Boracay has to offer. Any here can recommend when is the best time to visit and where to stay? TIA.

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