A Perfect Day in Tropical Boracay, the Philippines

I’ve heard about the sunsets here. At first, rays of gold and fuchsia shoot down from the sky. White deck chairs, cabanas, and boardwalk bars are thrust into a rose-tinted world. At the last minute, the setting sun changes from tangerine to blood orange…then a lurid flicker of red disappears out on the horizon.

A 50-minute flight from the capital, Manila, the Philippine island of Boracay is a place of in-your-face beauty. There’s no waiting to get to the beach to see if the stories are true. The minute you step off the plane, you can see that the postcards don’t do it justice. The sands are as white as they say, if not whiter…a pearly glitter that stays cool under your feet.

If you come here, you’re likely to stay on White Beach, as most of the small beach hotels are located here. (There are resorts elsewhere on the island, but I don’t feel they are worth shelling out the extra cash for.) The beach is about two-and-a-half miles long, but the locals have divided it into thirds, with sections referred to as “Boat Stations.”

I’ve booked a room at expat-owned Dave’s Straw Hat Inn, at Station One. The beach is a minute’s walk from the inn’s entrance, and the entire Station gets dark and quiet after 9 p.m.

The nightlife is a half-mile northwest at Station Two, where you’ll find the commercial strip referred to as D’Mall. (Station Three is more local than commercial, though there are a few resorts.)

Though there are plenty of foreign visitors here every day, most of the tourists are Filipinos. There’s a full-time expat community of folks primarily from North America, Australia, and the U.K.

One Brit I met has a software company incorporated in Hong Kong—he and his wife run it from Boracay, where they say the Internet service is good enough to meet their daily business needs. The U.S. owner of Blue Mango, a local inn and restaurant, raised his kids in the Philippines.

An American woman, Lee Rosaia, moved from California with her adult daughter and started one of the island’s first cafés. You’ll meet people who live off businesses they can run from anywhere—from online poker to trading shares—as well as those who’ve opted for brick-and-mortar businesses on the island. And there are a fair few retirees who live here full- or part-time.

A perfect day might start early with a walk along the beach. It is usually quite empty apart from a few joggers. Get a California-style breakfast at Real Coffee—try the pesto omelet—and then maybe take a quick dip. Stay out of the noontime sun—midday is a good time to pull out the laptop and get some work done or just reconnect with family and friends.

For lunch take your pick of home-style Filipino eateries, where two can eat for less than $3. The best place for sunset is at Shantal’s on White Beach. Order a $3 cocktail and enjoy the show…it’s an evening ritual for many residents.

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