It’s crowded. There are so many people in the small island that there’s even moderate vehicular traffic along the small main road behind the beachfront properties, which would have been unthinkable decades ago. And should that make you shake your head in disbelief, you can get some comfort from a cheeseburger in McDonald’s or a latte in Starbucks. Okay, time to pick up your jaw from the sand, Boracay-visitors-from-long-ago. Oh, let’s not forget the lumot (algae) that stain the clear waters particularly in the summer months when the tourists come in droves. With so many people jostling for a piece of this paradise, it’s easy to tell yourself, I won’t ever go back. I shouldn’t have gone back.
But then I find myself standing in the water, digging my feet into the white, soft sand below, and (my back to the shore and the lumot) staring at the stretch of different shades of blue before me–from the sea to the sky. And in spite of everything I fall in love with this small island all over again and wonder what took me so long to go back.
Out of the 7,100-plus islands in the Philippines, Boracay is not the only one that boasts a white beach. (This gallery shows some less-touristy islands in the country that are also worth the visit.) But it is one of the handful of islands in the country that has gained recognition from several international travel publications and websites. And with the fame came the crowds, and with the crowds came development. Massive development.
A lot has changed. People talk about how back in the 1980s, it didn’t have electricity or there was only one resort or how the island was so hard to get to. (The city girl in me though has to admit that I rather like electricity and organized means of transportation.) But you don’t even have to look back that far. Every time I’ve gone back in the last 15 years, there are always more resorts being built, more restaurants and bars, even more modes of transportation. And did I mention more people?
During the most recent trip to the island last week for a friend’s wedding, another friend kept saying it would be the last time he would go to Boracay. I understand where he’s coming from, though I wasn’t going to make any similar sort of promise. Maybe, I wouldn’t go back anytime soon just because there are more than enough tourists nowadays who make their way to the small island and there are other islands in the country’s 7,100-plus to explore. It’s always good to spread the tourism love, anyway.
But if you do find yourself in Boracay, and you miss those days when you can have a little part of the beach all to yourself, or when the water remains so clear you almost can’t tell where it starts to kiss the shore, here are a few tips: (1) Go during low season (from June to October, though be warned this is also monsoon season). (2) If you must head off during the summer months of March to May, stay in Station 3, which is far from the high concentration of bars, restos and shops and has (hooray!) less lumot (at least when we were there). (3) Or find a quiet, beach-all-to-yourself (and 10 others vs. and a hundred others) moment when you swim and sunbathe before breakfast.
Of course, these are suggestions of a woman who’s asleep before midnight and whose last party-until-the-sun-rises in Boracay was 15 years ago when I first set foot there and fell in love with the island. So scratch the last couple of sentences if you’re heading to Boracay to party (an activity that apparently the island remains very good at) because this means you probably welcome the crowds and you won’t be waking up before breakfast to enjoy the beach in relative peace.
How to get to Boracay: Enter via Kalibo International Airport, which services flights to and from Manila, Clark, Cebu, Davao and international destinations Incheon, Busan, Shanghai, Chengdu, Taipei, Beijing and Hong Kong. From Kalibo, take an hour and a half bus ride to Caticlan Jetty Port, and take a 15-minute boat ride to Boracay Island. You can also enter via the smaller Caticlan Airport, then take a quick tricycle ride to the port for the boat ride. You can arrange transfers with your resort although there are also services you can avail from the airport.