1. Scuba Dive Boracay
It’s no secret that the Philippines has some of the best diving in the world (thresher sharks in Palawan anyone?), but as you might expect of a mega-resort lined island that sees nearly 300,000 visitors a year, the heavy amount of divers taking to the reefs has obviously taken it’s toll. So much so, that our dive instructor told us the shallower reefs of Boracay are experiencing a problem with large amount of Korean and Chinese visitors apparently thinking it’s alright to break off pieces of the coral and take them home with them as souvenirs. Nonetheless, some of the deep water walls and offshore drift dives such as Yapak 2 are regarded as some of the best dives in the country.
My personal favorite? Diving the Camia II shipwreck that sits in about 90 feet of water, it’s scuttled steel hull gradually providing a home for a growing amount of marine species such as a black and blue sea snake that decided to pay us a visit. Though I never got a chance to check out the deep water wall dives at Yapak, Boracay has dives catering to nervous beginners and hardcore tech divers alike. Oh, and the water’s warm enough to dive in a t-shirt, which I always enjoy.
2. Walk the length of White Sand Beach
Continuously voted amongst the nicest beaches in the world, 4km long White Sand Beach lives up to both it’s name as well as it’s hype. In a word, this place is incredible. Yes, the water is actually that clear, and yes, the sand is actually that white. So white, in fact, the reflection is bright enough to actually keep the hordes of beach vendors selling sunglasses barely employed. There are only three places on the beach where dive boats and sailboats can load and unload passengers, and this naturally breaks the beach up into the districts of Boat Station 1, Boat Station 2, and Boat Station 3. While Boat Station 1 and 2 are mega-packed and pulsing with throngs of Taiwanese tourists and shopping districts, southernmost Boat Station 3 still provides a semblance of calm and serenity on an otherwise ultra-happening beach scene.
3. Go somewhere besides White Sand Beach
This might sound crazy to some who have been there, but there is an entire other part to the island of Boracay besides White Sand Beach, and to what I am sure will be your immense amazement, it looks astoundingly like the rest of the Philippines! Though Boracay has experienced unfathomable growth over the last 2 decades into a massive strip of luxury resorts and high end shopping, it’s still possible to pass from the developed world into the developing world by simply walking around a street corner. For me, this was one of the nicest parts of being on Boracay…exploring the other side of the island. Maybe you’ll find an old man tying up a wooden fishing boat or mending a broken net, or perhaps you might want to discuss next Sunday’s cockfight with a local gambling fiend. On an island that is obscenely developed, it’s refreshing to still be able to find some authentic Filipino culture.
4. Get a massage
I know where your mind is going, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Not every man who passes through Southeast Asia is interested in a “massage”–some actually may just be trying to unwind with a 1 hour, $8 Thai massage by the beach. If there is one thing I always say when I am in Southeast Asia is that I regret not getting more massages, because it’s an affordable and highly welcome luxury that’s impractical when back home in Western (read: way more expensive) countries.
5. Walk to Puka Beach–and get a ride back!
The northernmost beach on the walkable island, Puka Beach is named for the tiny puka shells the locals dutifully collect and sculpt into necklaces for the all too willing tourists. Like many Southeast Asian beaches there is a wide array of beach vendors selling anything from knockoff boardshorts to oyster shell jewelry (I bought them both, ugh), although it’s still possible to stroll to the far ends of the beach and be the only person walking in the cool white sand. En route to the beach, the island’s lone paved road winds its way over a modest hilltop and passes through simple villages of one room wooden homes and throngs of children playing and smiling in the yard. Although it’s a great walk from White Sand Beach (maybe 5km or more), it’s all too enticing to catch a 3-wheeled tuk tuk tricycle back to a hammock at your beachside bungalow.
6. Take a kitesurfing lesson
At the narrowest part of the island Boracay is little more than a few hundred meters wide. White Sand Beach is on the western, sheltered side of the island and is largely unaffected
by the prevailing tradewinds that blow through the island’s eastern shore. While these afternoon breezes might be a nuisance if you’re worried about sand blowing into your mai-tai, it’s perfect for those on the eastern side of the island at Balabog Beach looking to harness the wind power and race along the shallow turquoise Boracay waters. Why should you learn to kite in Boracay?Because it’s a lot cheaper than anywhere you’ll learn back home, the water is warm, and you can suck down $1 beers at a beach bar as the sun sets after an epic 4 hour session on the water. Why shouldn’t you learn to kite in Boracay? Balabog Beach looked pretty crowded with a choking amount of multi-colored kites clogging the waterways, and unless you’re going to continue kiting when you get back from vacation it’s not worth the money to learn a hobby you aren’t going to keep up with. (See: Kyle takes kiting lessons in Vietnam). Then again, you always have to start somewhere…
7. Kayak/Standup paddle, sail, snorkel…anything on the water
Even if you’re not going to scuba dive it would be an unforgivable sin to go to Boracay and not do something out in the crystal clear water. There are a litany of places along White Sand Beach renting kayaks, and a few renting standup paddle boards to aid you in your personal aquatic quests around the island. Or, if you want to cover more ground and check out a greater area around the surrounding islands, there’s no shortage of eager Boracay beach vendors all too willing to take you out on an “island hopping” excursion on a traditional wooden sailboat. My suggestion? Head out in the morning for early morning calm and flat water, or for the most dramatic views sunset can’t be beat.
8. Relax with a fruit shake or a San Miguel beer and do nothing at all.
Even though Boracay is swimming in activities (ATV safaris to a guano covered bat cave anyone?), let’s get real: You’re here because you’re on vacation and sometimes you just want to chill. You managed to transport yourself all the way to a tiny island in the middle of the Visaya island chain in the Philippines, and I can guarantee there will be more than two moments where you just want to kick back in a wooden lounge chair, sip one, or ten, $1 San Miguel beers, and think about where your wanderlust is going to land you next.