On any other day, on any other destination, it takes a certain amount of pondering on how to describe a place. When you write about a travel location, it can get pretty challenging to allow readers to go on that journey with you; to let them in on what you see and what you eat and what you feel—on what makes a certain place worthy of a visit. But such is not the case for the place we’ll be taking you today—Boracay.
We’re all very familiar: white sand, the most wild parties, the stream of foreigners coming in, sand castles, the clearest, most azure ocean, famous milkshakes, and the wide selection of backpacker hostels to 5-star hotels.
The truth is, Boracay needs no introduction. However, we’d like to reintroduce this thriving little island to you, because after all that it’s been through, it’s much more than what you remember it to be. And in its own special way, Boracay holds more life and exuberance than you may have known.
It’s no secret that White Beach is the most popular and most visited place on the island. And why not? It affords everyone a long stretch of fine, white sand and an assortment of restaurants dotting its shore. Right before nightfall, everyone stops to marvel at the sky—arguably the best sunset is here, in all of its vivid orange and pink and purple and blue glory.
DRAGON BOAT IN BORACAY
Over on the other side of the island is Bulabog Beach. A lesser known, yet still frequented by those who seek a bit of thrill. If you come early, just as the sun is rising, you’ll find a group of people on what you’d recognize as a dragon boat.
“What a lot of people don’t know about Boracay is how big some of the competitive sports are here, surprisingly for such a small island.” shared Dan Cardon, a New Zealander now based in Boracay.
Photo of Dan Cardon by Alexis Lim
“There’s Ultimate Frisbee, which has some of the best teams in the world, Kitesurfing, because we also have international Kitesurfing competitions, and Dragon Boat.”
“Dragon Boat is one of my passions from living in Hong Kong. I trained for a team there and we came and competed for Dragon Bat championships here three times, and that’s when I decided to move here in Boracay. I just fell in love with the place,” he added.
It’s a little known fact that the sport is as big as it is in this island. “Dragon Boat here is a huge event. Last year, there were 38 teams from Dubai, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, basically from all over the world. The teams that come here have such an amazing experience. Paddling on the water where you can see at 12-ft deep is amazing, compared to a lot of places where you just don’t get the same environment. This is the #1 location for Dragon Boat, on an annual basis everyone wants to come in and compete in Boracay.”
We see Dan’s demeanor change and his excitement over Dragon Boat is palpable as he talked more about it, “The thing I love about Dragon Boat is that it’s a mixed sport, it’s male, female…and from a spectators view, it looks fairly straightforward with either 10 or 5 people on each side, but there’s a huge amount of technique involved.”
“The great thing about it is you can’t have a star player. You have to have a team on the left and right side, everybody on the same time, the point person on the front, and there’s so much energy involved. You’ve got a drummer that’s screaming at you, and you can see on your side the other team so you’re always under pressure. It’s unlike any other team sport I’ve ever played. Everybody has to be working together on the same time so that the boat runs perfectly. And the Filipino teams are incredible. They’re the best in the world. It’s so impressive to see how they train and compete. Their speed and skill, it’s really on another level.”
One Saturday morning, as we trooped to Bulabog Beach before 6AM, we watched two teams – Boracay All Stars and Boracay Dragon Force – paddle out into the water. The competition season had been over a week prior, but they graciously accommodated us and let us join in on their boats. True enough, we’ve never seen a group of people with as much drive, force, precision, and team work ride it out into the ocean. Needless to say, it was awe-inspiring.
KITESURFING IN BULABOG BEACH
Bulabog Beach is ideal for more extreme sports other than Dragon Boat. Here, we met Ken Nacor, a local from Aklan and a Kitesurfer who now lives in Boracay.
“Nakita ko siya nung high school ako, sa TV. Sabi ko ‘One day, that will be my sport! That’s my future.’ And then nakita ko sa Boracay pala, may Kitesurfing. Sinubukan ko. At nung nasubukan ko, hindi ko na siya binitawan. ”
Ken is now a professional Kitesurfer. He has signed several national and international sponsorship deals throughout his career and was Asia’s #1 and KTA freestyle champion for several years. In 2009, he opened Freestyle Academy, a lifestyle driven school where he provides the highest level of teaching Kitesurfing, located, you guessed it, along Bulabog Beach.
“Kiteseurfing in Boracay started way back in 2000. At that time, walang nakakaalam sa Bulabog dahil ang alam lang nila, White Beach. Pero sa Bulabog, malakas yung hangin, ideal para sa Kitesurfing. Nobody knew about it, but it was an extreme sport, very expensive at that time, and very few locals were doing it. Now, Boracay is the top destination for Kitesurfing in Asia. Lahat ng Kitesurfers, tuwang tuwa sa Boracay.”
Photo by Waltz Siy
“Dati, paddler din ako sa Dragon Boat. Dun ko nakilala si Dan. And then we became friends, nalaman niyang Kitesurfer ako, kaya tinuruan ko rin siya.”
“Once kasi ma-try mong mag-Kitesurf, mae-enjoy mo ‘yung nature in itself. Sa Bulabog, ang ganda ng sunrise. ‘Yung hangin, yung tubig napakalinaw, nakakapagod talaga pero enjoy na enjoy ka. Kapag sunset naman, sa White Beach perfect rin mag-Kitesurf dahil napakaganda ng paligid mo.”
THE NEW BORACAY
After its 6-month closure, Boracay is now once again open to the wide-eyed public. Yes, it’s definitely cleaner now and more under pressure to remain pristine. The crystal clear blue ocean is as welcoming as ever, the businesses are back in, well, business, and the party scene may have died down but it’s definitely still there.
So what’s new? Well, aside from the water activities we’ve grown accustomed to – parasailing, banana boat, island hopping, cliff jumping, and scuba diving – a new kid on the block is Underwater Scooter. If you’re familiar with Helmet Diving, it’s an upgraded version of that, with a scooter. See for yourself.
After a long day of water sports and lounging by the shore, have a delicious fill of food from Subo Boracay, one of Boracay’s most notable restaurants for its ever-changing menu.
Chef Jian Sacadalan is at the helm of this homey place, and his gastronomic feast will undoubtedly please any hungry folk. Some of our favorites include the Sulu Laksa, a dish inspired from his Mindanao travels; Sinuglaw sa Gata, which features only the most fresh seafood; Bagnet Salad, worthy of every sinful calorie; and the Crispy Kangkong Nachos, which is a gourmet version of the snacklite pulutan favourite.
Another brainchild of Chef Jian is Jeepney Stop, which is a resto located inside D’Mall and you have probably taken notice due to its colourful and very Filipino façade.
Once again, Buko Laksa is a must-try, but other delightful options would be the Crispy Dinuguan, Chicken Binakol (cleverly making use of coconut and its juice as the sabaw), the Bagnet Express, and the Watermelon Kansi (a crowd winner and reminiscent of a Pinoy favourite, sinigang).
Photo of The Jeepney Stop by Alexis Lim
For dinner, Nonie’s is always a no-fail choice. They serve healthy, locally grown natural food which makes the fresh flavors stand out even more. The Vegan Chorizo and Bao Sliders are easy favorites, but it’s the Kesong Puti Cheesecake that takes the homerun. One word: heavenly.
Photo of dinner at Nonie’s by Lucky Alabado
Walking along Station 1, you’ll find The Lind, a 5-star resort with a 5-star menu to boot. Crust Beach Café and Bar is a laidback beachfront restaurant with subdued elegance. Their wood fire oven pizza selection is stellar, along with pasta, seafood platter, appetizer, drinks, and a live band on the far end to complete the beachside mood.
Before you go, you musn’t skip out on Two Seasons Boracay. This time, we have five words for you: Four Cheese Pizza and Oyster Sisig. It’s more of a Boracay tradition, really. Just imagine piping hot cheese on a bed of sumptuous crust, along with delectable bites of that fresh oyster mixed with spicy veggies.
It’s now nightfall, and you’re probably exhausted. We highly recommend staying at Savoy Hotel over at New Coast, a vibrant hotel with a private beach.
Walking into its open reception area is already refreshing, and you’ll find the private balconies on every room a good spot to chill as well.
The amenities are complete – a gym, a spa, an outdoor bar, indoor restaurant, and two pools – so you get the full vacation experience.
Boracay is a childhood landmark – a place where we’ve spent family vacations and quick trips outside Manila.
It’s quite nostalgic and we love that after all it’s been through, it rises and thrives. Each gentle wave, each step on its fine shores, and each gorgeous sunset take us back to simpler times and remind us of life’s simple joys.
Photo by Lucky Alabado
We’d like to give a special shoutout and the warmest thanks to Southwest Travel and Tours for arranging this very memorable and hassle-free trip for us. Book your flights and re-discover Boracay via Cebu Pacific Air
Until next time, Boracay!
Check out out 4D3N Boracay Itinerary: http://www.discovermnl.com/4d3n-boracay-itinerary/
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Words by Kyla Paler