Boracay Island

Adjudged one of the top ten beach islands in the world by a noted travel magazine a decade ago, Boracay Philippines has since endured good and bad press, comparisons to beaches in Thailand and Indonesia, and relentless property development. But Boracay Island remains a stretch of blindingly white, sugar-fine sand—sand that remains cool underfoot at noon, and does not easily blow away. Boracay beaches' unusual puka-shell sand and gem-like aquamarine waters draw droves of tourists to sunbathe on its beaches, experience its world-class nightlife, and try an astounding number of watersports. Boracay hotels offer all kinds of lodging options, from shorefront straw huts to concrete monstrosities to cliffside villas with private Jacuzzis. The more upscale Boracay resorts offer internationally renowned wellness and golf facilities.

Boracay Philippines is a 35 minute flight from Manila, with the closest airport in Caticlan. From Caticlan, tourists take a ferry to White Beach, largest and most popular of Boracay Island's many beaches. White Beach is roughly divided according to the three boat stations where the ferry docks—Station 1 in the north, 2 in the middle, and 3 in the south. Station 1 is where the more posh Boracay hotels are situated, notably Waling-Waling with the comfy beachfront cabanas, and Nami with the cliffside Jacuzzis. Station 2 is where the action is, being in the middle of Boracay Island and close to all the bars, shops, and the market. Boracay resorts in this area which are worth mentioning are Le Soleil de Boracay, Boracay Regency, and the interestingly named Nigi Nigi Nu Noos E' Nu Nu Noos, a hut village which serves up a hearty breakfast. Station 3 is a quiet haven compared to the other two stations. Situated near Angol Point, the narrow end of the island, it offers budget accommodations, like straw huts that are a few steps away from the water. Further inland is the Mandala Spa and Resort, one of the top Boracay resorts and among Asia's most awarded wellness retreats. Try the watsu treatment, a truly cathartic therapy conducted in the pool.

Foodies will have a hard time deciding where to have their next meal, as Boracay Philippines has food from all over. Internationally themed Boracay hotels typically have excellent restos showing off their regional specialties, whether Italian, German, French, Thai, Polynesian, and so on. Favorites include True Food, an Indian restaurant with an airy veranda; Cyma, a Greek bistro serving bright, crisp flavors; and the local seafood grills. Do not miss having a choco banana peanut shake, or the local-style fish tamales found only in the village market.

If you're looking for a party, just walk down White Beach. Practically the entire stretch is filled with bars blaring songs from different genres. The dress code is fast and loose, and it's acceptable to be barely clothed and barefoot. Hey Jude is a Boracay institution, known for throwing huge parties and being a usual stop during one's bar crawl. Summer Place offers some laidback reggae and billiards. If you just want a quiet drink and fantastic sunset views, get your fix at the treehouse down at Angol Point—a little difficult to find, so ask for directions.

If you can, take a one-day cruise to see more Boracay beaches and attractions. Snorkel around the golden Puka Shell Beach, Crystal Cave, Bat Cave, and rock outcroppings from which you can get a good view. If you're into more active fare, try the jet skis, skim boards, and kite surfing over at Bolabog Beach. Boracay beaches generally don't provide good diving, but other sports options abound.

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