While only 7km tall and at its bikini line 500m wide, tiny Boracay is the Philippines’ top tourist draw, fuelled by explosive growth and a tsunami of hype. The centre of the action is dreamy White Beach, a 4km, postcard-perfect stretch of sand lined from one end to the other with hotels, restaurants, bars and dive shops several blocks deep. The beach path is typically awash with visitors, including large groups of package tourists from across Asia – most commonly Korea, Taiwan and China. The ocean is full of romantic paraws (an outrigger sailboat) giving rides; colourful parasails fill the air. After perfect sunsets, live music breaks out, and fire dancers twirl their batons. The party goes on all night. This can be great fun and easily occupy your entire visit.
Being on my third trip to the Philippines, I finally got to check out Boracay. The transfer from Kalibo to Boracay was not as complicated as I thought. Boracay has many activities to keep you occupied, from parasailing, paragliding, diving, snorkelling, helmet diving to lazing by the beach. It caters to everyone of all ages and gender.
For me, I did not like mixing with the touristy crowds, especially at the White Beach area. For a quieter place to relax by the beach, take a shared tricycle up to Puka Beach. It is more peaceful here and you still get to enjoy the sandy beach. Amid the raw verdant coast and coral sand, you shall have the sea all to yourselves to share with only a few people sauntering on the beach.
From Boracay, there are several tours organised everyday to the nearby islands. The most common ones bring you on a island hopping tour to Crystal Cove, or partake in cliff diving up to 10m high at Magic Island. Such run of the mill tours can easily be negotiated along the Boracay Beach, with people trying to sell you between P800-1500. Do take note that entrance fees and conservation fees are not included in the price mentioned, so you would have to top up extra.
Since I was not a fan of following the tourist crowds, I went with a group of domestic tourists to Carabao Island. We boarded a boat from Puka Beach to Carabao Island, which took about 30 minutes. Upon reaching Carabao island, we were amazed by the serenity and tranquility of the island.
Our guide then brought us on a land tour around the island on motorbikes. First, we went to Tagaytay view point which is located at the top of a hill. From the treehouse, we could view Boracay island in the distance. We busied ourselves with selfies at the top of the hill, with a clear view of the whole island from above.
Next, we proceeded to the beach on the other side of the island, at San Jose, Romblon. There was the instagram-famous coconut tree swaying by the beach and its curved trunk made it perfect for more photos, be it lying on it or standing on it. The beach in this area was also calm and lacked tourists, so it felt like our own private beach.
Hearing the sound of some drums and cymbals nearby, we headed towards that area only to be surprised by a community dance event. A group of youthful dancers were putting up a performance with their energetic moves, in the beat of the live music playing in the background. Their dance depicted the history of the village and showcased the livelihoods of the village people.
Next, we rode uphill again, this time to Kuding-Kuding Cave and Cliff. Instead of going to Magic island, this place is also suitable as a cliff diving site. After much coaxing from me, my other friends decided to do the cliff diving and we enjoyed it so much that we repeated it several times. The water was so azul that we could see the base of the ocean from the diving platform. Unfortunately, there were not many fishes to be seen.
After cliff diving, we returned to the house of our guide for lunch and quenched our thirst with fleshly picked coconuts. They were huge and contained lots of coconut water. Finally, we headed back to Boracay and were dropped off at the beach area near Station 1. Total paid for my day tour to Carabao island including paraw sunset sailing? Only P750 which is a real bargain compared to the rip-off tours being sold at Boracay beach.
To end off the day on a high note, we took a paraw to admire the sunset. The sun in Philippines sets really early, but we were so lucky to be able to witness it from the comfort of the paraw. It was simply amazing to share this experience with my newfound friends.
“You never really travel alone. The world is full of friends waiting to get to know you.”
Even though I only met these people for a short one day island hopping trip to Carabao island, it felt that I have known them for the longest time ever because we clicked so well with our similar interests. And they were so friendly and welcoming, such that they made my day trip to Carabao island so enjoyable.