The ferry boat ran up onto the beach and crew members pushed a gangplank off the bow so that passengers could disembark. My first footstep onto Boracay Island was on the beach. How cool is that? Boracay delivers that beach experience from the very first moment and from that point on, it seems that the beach is an integral part of a Boracay vacation. This is a destination where flip-flops are essential requirements. And I’m loving it!
The day before my arrival, I saw an online post in which the Conde Nast Traveler magazine’s readers had voted Boracay as the world’s #1 island destination. The same poll placed my home of Bermuda in 8th place. That’s a high standard to meet, but after my first couple of days here, I can understand the love affair with this beachy island.
To get to Boracay, travellers can fly to either Kalibo or to Caticlan airports. Kalibo has the benefit of being larger and has connections to more airports. However, it is a 90-minute bus ride to the jetty port to get across to the island. On the other hand, Caticlan is only about 5 minutes away from the jetty port, but fewer airlines fly there. I chose to fly to Caticlan and took a one-hour Cebu Pacific flight, direct from Cebu city.
On arrival at Caticlan, it was raining heavily and passengers would have to cross the tarmac to get to the terminal building. What a pleasant surprise, then, to exit the plane and be handed a yellow Cebu Pacific umbrella to protect me from the rain until I got inside. Nice touch by the airline!
There are several vendors at Caticlan Airport who sell transfer packages to get passengers from the airport to Boracay island. I bought my transfer ticket onboard the plane, for a company called Southwest (550 pesos for a one way trip – a little over $10). Southwest got me onto their bus for the 5-minute drive to the jetty port. At that point, the red-shirted porters clamoured for the job of carrying passenger luggage into the terminal. It was easier to concede than to continue to say no to every porter offering to help! Of course, they are working for tips and the smallest tender I had on me were 100 peso notes ($2). So, it was a $2 tip to the guy who took the bags into the jetty port. Then another $2 to the guy who carried them down the gangplank onto the small boat. Then another $2 to the guy who carried them off the boat, across the beach and placed them on the roof of a second (small) bus. That bus drove me as close to my hotel as possible, then another porter carried my bags along the sandy beach path to my hotel (another $2). Those guys have it all worked out.
Boracay is one of the many islands that make up the Philippines. It is only 7km long and less than 1km at its narrowest point.The White Beach is about 4km long and stretches for the majority of the length of the western coast line, as can be seen on the map below. My hotel is towards the southern end of White Beach, near to Boat Station 3.
One of the really cool aspects of Boracay, at least along White Beach, is that most of the hotels, restaurants and bars are essentially on the beach, with just the narrow sandy beach path running between them and the beach proper. Wherever you go from your hotel, you are walking on sand (hence the essential nature of flip-flops). Flip flops are accepted footwear in all of the bars, restaurants and clubs.
In Manila and Cebu, I had to actively search for things to do. That’s not the case in Boracay. A whole range of activities is available as soon as I walk out of the hotel. Vendors line the beach walk, trying to sell activities such as island hopping boat tours, sunset sailboat cruises, rentals of all sorts (jet skis, stand up paddle boards, kayaks, motorcycles, bicycles, etc), a host of land based tours and more. There is plenty to do here.
I’ve spent the first couple of days wandering up and down the beach and the beach path and taking in the sights. I haven’t yet taken advantage of any of the activities on offer, but I expect to rent a motorcycle on one day to explore the rest of the island, and I may well take one of the island hopping boat tours. I have a feeling I’ll run out of time before I run out of things to do.