If you’d ask me to describe Boracay in a word, I’d say—in a heartbeat—stunning. Because truly Boracay is absolutely stunning! The oh-my-gosh-can-this-be-real kind of stunning. Pristine, unbelievably clear turquoise waters that you don’t want to leave forever, blue skies, miles and miles of the best and finest white sand (like sugar!)—it’s an absolute paradise on earth! No wonder it landed the #1 spot in Travel+Leisure’s World’s Best Islands of 2012 and #2 on World’s Best Islands of 2013.
Boracay is without a doubt one of the top destinations of the world. It’s one of the places I’d like to go back to again and again. It is also where the rich and famous enjoy the sea, sand, and sky, and flock to see and be seen. But, no matter how famous and widely visited Boracay is, you can still enjoy it on a budget. I’ve been to Boracay twice and on both occasions I’ve gone on the cheap. Here are some ways you can do Boracay without breaking the bank.
How to get there
Boracay is a small island, about an 315 kilometers south of Manila, Philippines’ capital city. To get there, you have to take a flight from Manila or Cebu, a city in the south. If you’re coming from another country, chances are that you’ll be landing in Manila, from where you need to book a flight to Caticlan (Boracay’s designated airport). From there, take the almost one hour boat ride to reach Boracay island.
Watch out for $10 airfares!
Direct flights from Manila to Boracay’s Caticlan Airport are served by local carriers like Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air, or by the Malaysian-owned Air Asia. To get the best deals, watch out for Cebu Pacific and Air Asia’s promo fares that cost for as low as only $10! They give that out every month for flights schedules as early as the next month to three months thereafter. Check out their websites regularly to catch these promos, or better yet download the Airlines Promo app on your smart phones to get notified in advance of these deals. A tip: these cheap flights usually come up whenever there’s a regular holiday in the Philippines.
Read: How to Get Cheap Flights
Travel During Low Season
Boracay’s peak season occurs from mid-December to the end of May, while low season starts from June to December 20. Avoid going there from December 26 to January 2 (Christmas season) and during the Holy Week, when it’s the most crowded.
During the peak season, the island is especially packed, and airfares and accommodations are in their all-time high. You cannot even successfully haggle for low hotel rates, with rooms being in demand.
Now I like going to Boracay during the low season. Not only do I have the feeling of having the island to myself (no crowd to contend with), but I get good deals on airfares and at times half the price on rooms as well. Don’t worry that it’s not summertime because most of the time it’s sunny and warm in the Philippines, and what little rain it gets wouldn’t ruin your trip. Besides, the weather is unpredictable in most cases.
For only $14, you can already stay in a standard double room with a fan in Boracay. In Philippine Peso, the country’s currency, that’s only P700. You can find some of the cheapest hotel rates at Agoda.com.
Boracay is divided into 3 areas known as Stations 1, Station 2, and Station 3. Passenger boats from Caticlan dock at these stations. Station 1 is where the luxury resorts are located. Station 2 is a bit busier and livelier than Station 1, since it’s crawling with shops and restaurants. Station 3 is less crowded than Station 2, and where the cheaper resorts can be found.
During both our visits, we stayed at a hotel in Station 2, just off the shores. We like staying in this upbeat area because we’re a fan of the lively scene vibe. But it really depends on what you prefer.
Check out our Tips for Finding Cheap Hotels for more ideas on scoring the best deals.
For as little as $1.25, you can already enjoy a filling meal in Boracay. Andok’s in Station 2 offers 2 pieces of pork barbecue with rice for only $1.17. If you have a higher budget, plenty are available around.
If you want to eat big, eat-all-you-can buffets are also available. For P550 pesos, you can already partake of the wide selection of food from appetizer, to soup, to dessert. Plus, drinks (soda or juice) are free most of the time. Try Paradise Garden Buffet when you’re in the mood for an eat-all-you-can meal.
For a fresher variety and a more unique experience, you can pick out fresh seafoods at D’Talipapa in Station 2 and have them cooked by one of the surrounding restaurants. D’Talipapa is a wet market with vendors selling fresh fishes of different variety, crabs, shrimps, lobsters, sea weeds, and other sea harvests. This is a bit on the pricey side since aside from paying for the seafoods, you also have to pay the restaurant for cooking them. But it’s a different kind of experience that’s worth a try.
Walking along Boracay’s 7 mile stretch, you’ll pass by plenty of take out or take away food stalls that offer quick eats at reasonable prices. I found several to be good for their prices.
The best things to do in Boracay are free and they are plenty, so rest assured that you don’t have to splurge to enjoy the island.
1. Keep swimming
Of course, there is swimming—the ultimate way to enjoy Boracay’s magnificent clear turquoise waters. Whether you frolic during the day or at nighttime, it doesn’t matter as both offer an equally fantastic—yet differently unique—experience.
2. Watch the sunset
Boracay has one of the most beautiful sunsets around. It’s a joy to watch. Be sure you take the time to see this magnificent spectacle before you leave the island.
3. Soak in the sun
Bask in the warm sunshine and give yourself a really good tan. Plus, there’s no better way to get a good look at the paradise-like beauty of Boracay than by just lounging under the sun and taking in all those magnificent views.
4. Go cliff diving
Cliff diving is free. Just be sure that the water isn’t shallow to be safe. There are many spots along the shore that are great for cliff diving; all you need to do is ask the locals where they are; they would be happy to direct you to some.
5. Create sandcastles
Building sandcastles is fun, but if you’re not keen on the idea, you can watch others do it. Scattered along the shoreline are plenty of artful sandcastles built with care. They’re very creative and seeing them get created is entertaining.
6. Watch free shows
There are some shows in the evening that you can watch for free. Station 2 is especially popular with this. To get a good view, you can order a drink and get to seat at a table. A fun way to while the night away.
7. Walk the island
A wonderful way to get up close and personal with the island is to walk the entire shoreline. It’s around two hours walk from Station 1 to 3. We found lots of interesting nook and crannies when we made this trek. We even came upon an interesting cave.
8. Watch Fire Dance shows
Dancers with burning fires put their talent on display to the tune of lively music at night. You can catch these shows along the beach as they’re done in an open area in the beachfront. These shows are free, but if you want to take pictures with the performers afterwards, donation in the form of money is much appreciated.
9. Talk with locals
I love talking with the locals wherever I go because it’s one of the most effective ways of learning about their culture. It’s fun to hear stories about things I’m not familiar with or know nothing about. It gives me perspective and broadens my horizon.
10. Play Volleyball
Volleyball on the beach is one great way to soak in the sun. Plus, you get some exercise, to boot. If you feel too hot afterwards, just take a dip in the inviting waters to cool down.
You don’t need to splurge to enjoy one of the world’s most beautiful islands. You can do it within a budget.