A Mini-Guide To Boracay Island: Reopened And Better Than Ever

by Miles Jackson

Boracay Island in the Philippines reopened its doors to local and foreign tourists late last year after a six-month rehabilitation project. Even after the closure, it remains one of the top beaches in Asia, according to a recently released TripAdvisor poll.

This guide will walk you through the changes to Boracay, and offer up our tips to make the most of this paradise. With the new enhancements that are being done in phases, Boracay is now even more beautiful. 

White Beach, Boracay Island

Why Was Boracay Closed Originally? 

In 2018, Boracay was shuttered by the government after reports of trash littering the island and untreated sewage finding its way to the island’s beaches and waters. After these reports and a viral video of sewage spewing into the ocean, a personal visit by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte resulted in an order that the island be shutdown. He described the conditions as a “cesspool.”

Massive cleanup plan for Boracay in 2018

The beach was closed from April to October 2018. For Boracay Island to be reopened it required a lot of sacrifice, pain and effort

The government spearheaded cleanup measures and forced businesses to be compliant to new sanitation requirements. Additionally, new visitor capacity controls went into effect.

As of today, the government has imposed a limit of 6,405 visitors allotted each day, making a trip to Boracay a rare treasure. This number is based on a calculation that the island as a whole could only handle 19,215 people, with a third allocated to tourists.

Boracay After The Cleanup

The first soft opening to locals happened last October. Another soft opening to tourists is happening in April 2019. Finally, a full grand reopen is scheduled for December. The result is a cleaner, safer and less-crowded paradise.

Airlines are being told to reduce their flights schedule to keep to the new tourist caps. Additionally, single-use plastics will also be banned from the island.

The island features several distinct white sand beaches found in its less than four-square-mile area.

In 2018, Boracay was at the number two spot out of 25 Asian beaches in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award. TripAdvisor’s ranking of beaches is determined by the quality and quantity of reviews and rankings for beach destinations, restaurants, hotels, and attractions on the islands, and traveler booking interest.

Boracay’s most popular beach is White Beach, famous for remarkable sunsets and pure white sand that stays cool even in hot Philippines weather.

Aside from Boracay, two other Philippine beaches located in El Nido made it on TripAdvisor’s list including Nacpan Beach and Las Cabanas Beach.

When to Visit Boracay

The Philippines has two distinct wet and dry seasons. The wet season begins around June and ends late in October. The dry season, obviously the best time to visit, can start as early as mid-October and runs through May. June is historically the wettest month while February is the driest.

Getting to Boracay

The easiest way to get to Boracay is flying from Manila. From the U.S., Philippines Airlines has nonstop service to Manila from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Vancouver. Otherwise, there are plenty of one stop options to get to Manila.

From Manila airport’s domestic terminal, you would then fly to the island of Panay in the Visayas. You have two options of airports: Caticlan (MPH) (closer, but much smaller with fewer flights and often higher fares) or Kalibo (KLO,) which is farther away but has more carriers that serve the airport and offer cheaper fares, more flights, and more reliable service. The flight time from Manila to either airport is about one hour.

There are also a few direct international routes to Kalibo like from Seoul, Singapore, Beijing, and more.

If you’re buying your tickets with cash, I suggest using a card like the American Express Platinum that earns 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar for airfare.  If you are using Membership Rewards points to book, the best card is the American Express Business Platinum Card where you could get 35% of the points back with your selected qualifying airline.

Juicy Miles: Award Booking To Boracay

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Transferring From The Airport To Boracay

Caticlan ferry boat to Boracay Island

Once you get the airport of your choice on Panay Island, you will need to take a ferry to Boracay.  The ferry port is located in Caticlan. Getting from the Kalibo (KLO) airport to the ferry terminal in Caticlan is most often done by a 1 ½ to 2 hour trip by air conditioned bus or private mini-van, called V-Hires. From the Caticlan (MPH) airport it’s a short walk to the trike stand that will take you to the ferry terminal for about ₱100 (Philippines pesos, or about $2 USD.)

After arriving in Caticlan Jetty Port, you will board a bangka (local name for a motorized pump boat) and pay the required tourist fees:

  • Bangka Ferry Boat: ₱30 Pesos/USD $0.60
  • Environmental Fee: ₱75 Pesos/USD $1.50
  • Terminal Fee: ₱100 Pesos/USD $2

Once on the island of Boracay, trikes are the most common mode of transit for locals and visitors in the Philippines. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s an experience!

Trike transportation is common in the Philippines

Boracay Island Layout 

Map: Boracay Island is an area of less than 4 sq miles

The little island of Boracay is small, measuring only four square miles.

White Beach is the prominent part of the island and is divided into three “stations” or areas where the ferry has a stop. Station 3 is where the ferries from Caticlan let passengers off onto the island of Boracay.

A Mini-Guide To Boracay’s White Beach

These stations run north (Station 1) to south (Station 3) on the thin strip (4 ½ miles long with the narrowest point being about one-half mile wide) which make up the island.

Virgin Mary Grotto, Willy’s Rock

Right off of Station 1, visitors will find the Blessed Virgin Mary Grotto, a religious shrine built upon what is referred to as Willy’s Rock by the locals.  The rock is a volcanic outcropping found about 100 meters from the beach. At low tide it is an easy walk to the spot. It is often said that visitors to Boracay haven’t really visited if they don’t get a picture with the grotto in the background. It is the most photographed landmark on the island.

White Beach has two sections that that run parallel to each other. First, there is the White Beach path and second, there is the actual beach. The path runs in front of the hotels, shops and restaurants facing the world-class beach. It is separated from the beach itself by rows of palm trees.

This is a great feature of White Beach as it keeps foot traffic down while you are lounging.

White Beach is a very good place for swimming, since the water is usually calm, has no current and only gradually gets deeper as you move outward away from the shore. Visitors can sometimes walk out 100 meters before reaching neck-deep water.

Powdery white sand beaches & clear waters

Is White Beach Super Crowded?

During morning hours, the beach is relatively quiet. In the afternoon, more people start to come to the beach especially as sunset approaches. Sunsets to be experienced from the western-facing White Beach are simply glorious. Sunset times are pretty consistent as the island sits fairly close to the equator; about 11 degrees north. You can expect sunsets to occur around 6:00pm — as early as around 5:30pm in November and December and as late as 6:30pm in June and July.

What Else Is At White Beach?

The main attraction of White Beach is not only its beauty, but also its hotels, restaurants, nightlife, and activities.

In the evenings, the bars get crowded and the island’s nightlife kicks into gear. A reminder though that with the new changes in effect, alcoholic beverages are forbidden on the beaches of Boracay. You will find that this is strictly enforced so you are better off drinking at the bar, restaurants, pool or your hotel room. 

Other Boracay Beach Choices

Besides the award-winning White Beach, Boracay has numerous other selections which can satisfy the wishes of beach-goers. Here are the top beaches on the island:

  • Balinghai Beach
  • Bulabog Beach
  • Diniwid Beach
  • Ilig Iligan Beach
  • Puka Beach
  • Tambisaan Beach

Lesser Known Local Boracay Beaches:

  • Cagban Beach (close to the jetty where tourists arrive on Boracay)
  • Lugutan Beach (primarily mangroves)
  • Malabunot Plaza Beach (my favorite local beach that is less crowded with very few tourists)
  • Manoc Manoc Beach (used as a supplies point for the island)
  • Tulubhan Beach (local beach; you’ll probably never see another tourist)

Accommodations In Boracay

As a result of the conditions and restoration of the island, all hotels must be certified by the Philippines Department of Tourism (DoT). As of this writing, there are 180 hotels that are approved. If you do not have a reservation with one of these certified hotels, you will not be able to travel to and set foot on Boracay.

Of the 180 hotels, you will find hostels, bed and breakfasts, hotels and resorts. However, most Airbnb listing are NOT approved by the DoT so unless they are listed under the ownership of an approved hotel, don’t risk booking as you may be denied entry into Boracay.

My Favorite Hotel On The Island

Movenpick Resort, Boracay’s Pool

One of the island’s best properties is the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Boracay. It has 312 rooms on approximately 8 ½ acres. It sits in a secluded hideaway far from the all the island action. However the main three areas of White Beach (the aforementioned stations) are easily reached.

It shares the partially exclusive cove with high-end neighboring resorts Crimson and the Shangri-La, and also has the biggest pool on the island.

This is my favorite hotel on the island, and I love the Mövenpick product in the Philippines. Mövenpick is a Swiss-based company that was acquired by AccorHotels with more than 80 properties across the globe. They have two properties in the Philippines; Boracay and Mactan (the island on which the Cebu-Mactan Airport sits).

Bargain Beachfront Hotels Are Abundant on Boracay

Rooms and beds can be found in Boracay for as cheap as $20 (in the form of hostels) to more than $400/night for a luxury resort. Good accommodations, including free breakfast can be found easily for around $36/night. 

The Upshot

In its 2019 Travelers’ Choice Award, TripAdvisor said Boracay Island’s “calm, warm waters, and gently sloping sand made it possibly the most beautiful beach in Asia.”

Now re-opened, the cleanliness, improved infrastructure and daily capacity limits certainly make it a more enjoyable experience for the just over 6,000 guests given the unique opportunity to visit each day. 

My suggestion? Book now before the rest of the world catches back up to this island gem.

Is a visit to beautiful Boracay Island on your bucket list?

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

13 comments
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13 comments

Christian March 31, 2019 - 4:29 pm

Thanks for the information. I’ve been thinking about going there now that it’s reopening. Any idea how you would get to be one of the lucky 6,000? It would suck pretty badly to make travel plans only to get turned away.
Also, can you suggest any other similar great beach destinations in the Philippines?
TIA.

Reply
Miles Jackson March 31, 2019 - 5:49 pm

Christian,
As long as you make a reservation with one of the DOT-approved hotels you will be granted entry onto the island. You must keep your reservation confirmation to show at the ferry port in Caticlan.

As far as other beaches, well with over 7,000 islands, the Philippines has almost unlimited opportunities. Besides the two other beaches which made the Top 25 list (Nacpan Beach and Las Cabanas Beaches) located in El Nido, Palawan, I can recommend Paradise Beach, Bantayan Island and Caramoan, Camarines Sur. Caramoan is so dramatic in its look it has been chosen for three ‘Survivor’ seasons (twice in 2010 for the USA show, and once for the French version.)

Happy beach finding!

Reply
JB March 31, 2019 - 6:47 pm

You have to visit Bohol, Philippines for a more comfortable beach experience. The newly openef airport is right on Panglao Island and much bigger than Boracay.

Reply
Miles Jackson March 31, 2019 - 7:12 pm

JB-

I agree that Panglao’s newest airport (TAG) makes this island easier to get to, while it has hugely increased the visitor population on the island–projected at more than 2 million/year in 2020

My review of the many beaches on this smaller island (Panglao Island is connected to the larger island of Bohol by two bridges) will be featured very soon.

Reply
John July 14, 2019 - 10:03 am

Just my $.02 here:
Don’t let the hotel reservation scare you, my friends tell me that people show up and the jetty port and make a last minute reservation at a hotel.
Once you are already on the island you can easily extend as they only check your reservation when you go to the island, not on coming back.
I do not like the smaller “Pump Boat”and I will usually try to take the fast craft, it is a full sized boat with air con.
If you get delayed and get there after dark, they run a “Speedboat” once it is full. Also preferred to the pump boat.
I love Boracay and will keep coming back as often as I can, but it is not for everyone. It is a fairly urban island with two McDonalds, Sabarro, Subway, and a Starbucks. Lots or great restaurants, beautiful water.

Reply
Miles Jackson July 14, 2019 - 4:56 pm

John –
Thank you for your comments. Although guests to the island may be able to make a ‘last minute’ hotel reservation on Boracay, the information provided in the article is from the government’s new regulations. My advice to visitors (especially those coming from afar) is to have a reservation in hand prior to arrival. I agree that you can extend your stay; know several people who have done that. Thanks for reading!

Reply
kelly farrell September 9, 2019 - 9:25 pm

is the island fully open and accessible? looking to visit in December

Reply
Miles Jackson September 9, 2019 - 9:33 pm

Hi Vladici,

Yes, except for the recent ‘diaper incident‘ the beaches of Boracay are open and welcoming visitors.

Reply
jamie September 27, 2019 - 6:06 pm

miles jackson ,what is the night life there like now..my mate and i are looking for somewhere with a bit of life and party for xmas and new years . two different places..current plan is boracay for xmas and el nido for new years but with the new boracay i wonder will it be to boring at night and quiet ??

Reply
Miles Jackson September 27, 2019 - 6:24 pm

Hi Jamie,
Boracay does have a wee bit of a nightlife. A lot of people gravitate to Charlh’s Bar after sunset. Paraw Beach Club also is popular. Epic is very popular and is managed by the same group that operates a similar bar in Manila. It has a Happy Hour that begins at noon! But certainly the most likely draw is the OM Bar which is impossible to miss with its neon lights! I know you will enjoy Boracay; just be ready to do a lot of walking. The distance spans nearly 3 kilometers between the three stations which contains most of the businesses.

Reply
Rain January 23, 2020 - 2:37 am

I heard Boracay is now boring. No more fun anymore. No more beach parties, no more lights at night, no more music outside, less bars etc. Good for families and old people, boring for the young travelers.

But hey, if that’s what they want.

Cancelled my trip for 2020. A shame.

Reply
Miles Jackson January 23, 2020 - 2:46 am

Rain,

Boracay certainly has ‘toned down’ the raucous character of the beach scene since it’s closure and re-opening. It remains one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia and often includes spectacular sunsets over the ocean. It’s popular and growing stronger every day. It may have changed it’s personality slightly, but it continues to be on many Bucket-Lists.

Reply
Dan Ring April 29, 2020 - 10:16 pm

Do you want it filthy like it used to be full of the type of young people who are completely irresponsible…well done President Duterte..he came he saw & he renewed.. Daniel

Reply

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