Boracay with Vanora

IMG_8544As expected (and warned), Boracay has been developed immensely since my only previous visit, over 10 years ago.

While it injects energy and excitement, I can understand why many wish it was more pristine and less commercialized. Still, there’s no denying the island, its surrounding turquoise waters, and the fierce sunset that graces the horizon every evening, are breathtakingly beautiful.

The powder white sand beach is now divided into 3 distinct areas:

 

Station 1

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This upscale neighborhood is home to the luxury hotels and finest stretch of beach on the island (some say even the world). The lack of crowds is also a big plus.

Station 2

Party central! I wouldn’t suggest staying here unless sleep is a low priority. And if you’re not in your room recovering from a wild night, it’s an enjoyable place to wander through by day. In the evenings, before the bars come to life, there is no shortage of musical entertainment (and massage options). The talent of the artists (and masseuses) ranges from great to poor. Some of the performers had their speakers turned up so loud that they drowned each other out, and the resulting sound had me wishing there were noise guidelines.

IMG_8586Station 3

While apprehensive at first to stay in the least developed part of the island, it’s what made my stay memorable. It felt authentic…like the ‘old Boracay’ I had the pleasure of experiencing all those years ago. We were also reluctant to try a 2-star inn, but the reviews were overwhelmingly great, as was the price, so we decided to give it a try. While we knew to expect basic, the cleanliness, comfort & service we experienced made me happy to call Marzon (currently undergoing upgrades) home. The nearby supermarket was handy. The free breakfast, which we opted to have served on the beach, was a delicious bonus and perfect way to start each day in paradise.

Getting from Station 1 to 3 can be a bit of a hike, so consider taking a tricycle. It can be noisy and uncomfortable, but it’s cheap and fast, and all part of the experience.

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As for getting to Boracay… There are two ways to fly there from Manila. The fastest and most popular way is to take a sea plane to Caticlan Airport. The quick 1-hour flight is followed by a quick boat transfer. The other option is to take a jet plane to the larger Kalibo Airport. It means a 2-hour bus transfer, but the rock-bottom prices ultimately proved too good for me to resist. While highly modern and advanced in some regards, it bears a reminder that it’s still an underdeveloped country, so be prepared for delays, crowds and confusion.

The best time to visit would be November-February. March-May are the summer months, so it’s very hot and busy with local tourists. Note that this is also when you find the most seaweed floating in the water. June-October are the rainy, off-season months.

As for myself, being a regular visitor to Manila, I hope there will be more opportunities to report on the stunning tropical islands of the Philippines!