Boracay Island: unofficially referred to as “The Maldives of The Philippines” always attracted visitors for it’s powdery white sand beaches and clear blue water. Being a regular traveler to the Philippines throughout my life, I’ve always dreamt of making a trip to this 7km-long island in the northern Visayas region. Just this past week, I finally did it.
Unfortunately, throughout the years, the islands have become a dumping ground for garbage and polluted water due to a number of factors from careless tourists to poor infrastructure. This resulted in a 6 month closure of the entire island for renovation and clean up. Although I’ve never been here before the renovation, I can tell that the efforts to clean this place up have been tremendous.
After landing in Caticlan Airport and getting in our van to the ferry terminal to Boracay, the first thing I noticed was the strict process of getting on the island. Upon arrival, we were directed to a table just outside the ferry building where we were required to fill out a form stating our name, contact information, and the number of people we were traveling with, along with proof of our hotel stay. We were guided inside the terminal building where passengers who provided proof of their hotel stay were given a boarding pass to board a boat taking them to the island. I could already tell that part of the renovation process was restricting access to the island to those with confirmed hotel reservations. Those only visiting for a day trip would be required to surrender a form of identification before boarding a boat.
After a tedious registration and boarding process, we arrive in Boracay after just a 5 minute boat ride. The relatively short journey to our hotel at station 2 gave me an opportunity to see the amount of construction and care that had been taking place on the island. Everywhere I looked, there was some sort of construction going on — from roads to the buildings — something I don’t see a whole lot of in other parts of the Philippines. Although I wanted to think of this as a good thing since it shows that whatever slummy buildings or pot-hole filled roads were here before were currently being improved, it reminded me of how much time had passed since the island reopened to the public — in this case, 1 year — and made me question what was actually done during the 6 month closure in 2018?
Upon arrival to our hotel, I noticed a slew of signs up and down the beach with a laundry list of restrictions when accessing the beach. This included eating & drinking, flying drones, soliciting, dumping garbage, pets, etc. I was told that there used to be beach chairs on the beach for lying down. Up and down the island, I saw no such chairs.
The beach itself was everything I thought it would be — blue water and powdery white sand. I did not encounter any garbage or litter anywhere along the beach or the walkways near the shops. It definitely felt like a world class beach. For a moment, I even forgot I was in the Philippines. To be fair, this is only because I was used to the crowded, polluted, and littered streets of Manila — none of which I saw in Boracay. If there was any work done during the 6 month closure last year, I’m pretty sure the bulk of it consisted of trash and waste cleanup.
As far as establishments were concerned, I found a handful of bars and small clubs along the beach with gift shops and restaurants scattered up and down the walking area. At night, people crowded the dinner buffets and bars but it did not feel as rowdy as I thought it would be for a popular tourist destination. It gave off a sort of former party place vibe that had transitioned into more of a family oriented destination. I’ve watched videos and heard stories of Boracay being a big party island with lit clubs and rowdy drunk tourists. I saw very little of that here. Everything seemed fun and lively but in a very low-key way.
Overall my first impression of Boracay was a good one. There definitely was some sort of clean up that went on during it’s closure that still seems to be going on to this day with on-going construction. I can tell significant efforts are being made to maintain the island’s face as the Maldives of The Philippines. Hopefully this is just the beginning of it’s make-over and more improvements to it’s overall infrastructure will be seen in the coming years.