Carson has serious wanderlust. She loves exploring the world and sharing travel tips for budget-conscious individuals.
Imagine lying down on powdery white-sand beaches, while the sun rises over clear blue waters...During the day, ride a boat and hop from one rustic island to another…Then watch the island come to life at night, while the bass drops and strobes of light dance on the sand.
It’s no surprise Boracay constantly appears on lists of the top beaches on the planet. You get a taste of both worlds here—you can bask in the quiet of being far away from the city’s noise, while still enjoying some of the amenities of urban living.
Boracay is one of the few islands I LOVE going back to. I make it a point to return every year.
Now if you think Boracay is too expensive to visit, let me give you a more wallet-friendly guide so you can enjoy one of the top tourist spots in the Philippines.
5 Things to Know Before Visiting Boracay
From April to October 2018, the Philippine government closed down Boracay for intensive rehabilitation. Although the island is open to tourists again, there are several new policies that you need to be aware of.
Hotels now need to comply with much stricter rules if they want to stay open. Do not forget to check the list of hotels accredited by the Department of Tourism posted on their website.
2. Reservation Slips
You need to present the accredited-hotel reservation slips to local officials before you enter the island. Do not forget to print them out!
You’ll find designated booths in Kalibo and Caticlan airports. For those coming from Iloilo and Aklan, you’ll also find booths in the Caticlan Jetty Port.
3. Entry Form
When you are at the booths, you also need to fill out a Department of Tourism Tourist Arrival Form. You can download the form on their website and accomplish it beforehand to save time.
4. Drop-Off and Pick-Up Points and Schedule
To maintain the island’s 19,000 daily carrying capacity, docking time of boats to and from Caticlan island (the jump-off point to Boracay Island) is limited to 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM only. You can then take a boat from the Caticlan Jetty Port to the Cagban or the Tambisaan Port (two ports on Boracay island).
Take note of this when booking your flights. Late arrivals and departures are allowed, but you’ll need the approval of the Philippine Coast Guard and the administration of the Caticlan Jetty Port.
5. Additional Rules for Tourists
- No pets allowed.
- No littering.
- No vomiting in public places.
- No sand-castle making.
- No fireworks display after 9:00 PM
- No partying along beachfront.
- Casinos are not allowed.
- Hot-coal roasting of meats along the beach is prohibited.
- No single-use plastics
- Present reservation slips from your government-accredited hotel before entering the island.
- Use LED lights instead of kerosene for fire stunts.
- Go to designated water sports areas.
- No beach beds, chairs, umbrellas along beachfront.
Also, just don't be a bad tourist! This island has done wonders for Philippine tourism and gave jobs to Filipinos. You wouldn’t want to be one of those who helped close it down for good, would you?
Another policy that you should be aware of (and this has been enforced before the rehab) is that you can’t remove sand or pebbles. I know it is tempting to have your own piece of the island, but if you do this, it is punishable by ₱2,500 ($50) for your first offense and can land you in jail for 1 to 3 months.
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When Is The Best Time to Visit?
Now that rehab is over, you can visit the island year-round.
And since it is located in the Philippines, prepare for weather that can either be scorching hot or drench you in a deluge of rainwater. There is no in-between.
Here is what each month is like:
January to February
These are two of the coolest months in the Philippines. There is not a lot of rain during this time and it is still considered off-peak, so rates are relatively low.
March to April (Until About Mid-May)
March to April are what Filipinos consider “summer.” Since it is the perfect beach weather, expect the highest airfare and hotel rates. Also, expect the temperature to rise up to 38˚C (100˚F).
Mid-May to October
Summer paves way for typhoons during these months. Wet season months are considered off-peak. You will catch the lowest hotel and airfare rates during this time.
I personally go to Boracay during these months.
- Flight delays because of bad weather.
- Too rainy to walk along the beach.
- Might not be able to go island hopping because of strong waves.
- Not a lot of people.
- Low fares.
- You can still swim when the rain lets up.
- You won’t look weird wearing a light jacket along the beach.
November to December
This is the best time to go to Boracay. It can get crowded during Halloween, Christmas, and New Year, but other than those dates, crowd volume is low.
The Philippines has only two seasons, wet and dry!
What Are the Modes of Payment?
Since Boracay sees plenty of foreign tourists, you have a variety of options:
- Currency: Philippine Pesos and US Dollars are accepted, but don’t expect all stores to accept foreign currency. It’s always best to have PHP money with you.
- Cash/Credit Cards: All stores/restaurants accept cash; not all stores/restaurants accept credit cards. Err on the safe side and bring cash with you.
- ATMs and Money Exchange Services: There are a lot of ATMs on the island. You will see most of them on the main road along Stations 1 to 3. There are also a few in D’Mall. As for money changers, you will find Western Union branches in the same area.
How to Get to Boracay Island?
Step #1: Ferry or Plane?
You have three options available:
Take a bus to Batangas Port. Arrive a few hours early, so you won’t miss your ferry. Book 2Go Ferry (choose Batangas to Caticlan Jetty Port).
This is the cheapest option as it’s as low as ₱950 ($19) to ₱1250 ($25) each for economy class. Rates go up for AC rooms and suites.
Travel time: 2 to 4 hours on the bus; 9 hours on the ferry
2. Plane via Clark Airport
Flights from Clark Airport are cheaper than from Manila airport.
Book Cebu Pacific or AirAsia flights for cheaper fares either to Kalibo or Caticlan.
From Manila, take a bus going to Clark Airport. I recommend taking the P2P bus by Genesis. Schedule is every hour starting 4:00 AM, and ticket price starts at ₱230 ($4.6).
At the Clark airport, you need to pay ₱150 ($3) terminal fee as part of the boarding process. Mobile boarding passes are accepted.
Travel time: 1 to 3 hours on the bus to Clark; 1.5 hrs flight to Kalibo or 1 hr to Caticlan
3. Plane via Manila Airport
If you have more budget to spare, then book your flights from NAIA to either Kalibo or Caticlan.
Travel time: 1 to 2 hrs to NAIA; 1.5 hrs flight to Kalibo or 1 hr to Caticlan
Step #2: From Kalibo Airport
(Skip this step if you’re taking the ferry or the plane straight to Caticlan.)
Booking flights to Kalibo Airport is cheaper than going straight to Caticlan Airport (around half of Caticlan airfares).
You, however, need to take a 2-hour van ride from Kalibo to Caticlan Jetty Port. The van ride is usually ₱200 ($4) each way. You will find these vans waiting outside Kalibo airport (you will be riding with other passengers).
There’s an option to take a roomier bus to Caticlan Port or a taxi, but those are much pricier.
Step #3: From the Caticlan Jetty Port to Hotel
If your flight goes straight to Caticlan, you only need to take a 10-minute tricycle ride to the jetty port (costs ₱50 or $1).
Whether you choose ferry or plane, you will end up in the Caticlan Jetty Port. Fill out the necessary forms (if you didn’t go through the airports).
To get to Boracay, you need to pay for:
- Terminal fee = ₱100 ($2)
- Environmental fee = ₱75 ($1.50)
- Boat = Pump boats cost ₱25 to ₱30 ($0.5 to $0.6) per head, while the bigger boats are ₱100 ($2) per head
The boat ride to Boracay island is about 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll be taken to either the Cagban or Tambisaan Port.
From Boracay port to your hotel, you can:
- Ride a Tricycle: If you haven’t arranged pick-up service with your hotel, you can take a tricycle. It is about ₱150 ($3) for each one, depending on your drop-off point. If you want to share your tricycle with others, then it’s ₱40 ($0.8) per head.
- Hotel Service: If you want to avail pick-up service from your hotel, they usually cost around ₱600 ($12) but you can haggle it down to ₱450 ($9). Note that this is more expensive than just taking the tricycle yourself, so I wouldn’t go this route. Besides, the tricycle drivers are nice and they know their way around the island!
Best Ways to Get Around Boracay
If you love taking in the sights and sounds of the island at your own leisure, then walking around will be your best option.
Of course, consider that the island isn’t as small as you may think, so your next option is:
Cost is about ₱10 to ₱20 ($0.4) per person, if you’re along Stations 1 to 3 (White Beach). Going outside White Beach is ₱20 to ₱30 ($0.4 to $0.6), while Diniwid Beach is ₱35 ($0.7) and Puka Beach is ₱40 ($0.8).
If you want the tricycle all to yourself (called “special” or “chartered” trips), that will cost you ₱100 to ₱120 ($2 to $2.4). And if you’re going somewhere far from the main road, expect to shell out ₱150 to ₱200 ($3 to $4).
How Long Should You Stay in Boracay?
At least 2 days will give you enough time to see the main attractions (e.g. island hopping) and do several activities. Adjust your schedule, especially if you’re coming in from Kalibo.
If you have extra budget, stay for 3 to 4 days. The island has so much more to offer than just the White Beach like going up to Boracay’s highest point.
- White Beach – Around 3 to 4 kilometers long, this beach is famous for its powdery white sand. It’s divided into Stations 1, 2, and 3, where most of the hotels, restaurants, bars, and stores are located.
- Bulabog Beach — Also called “back beach” by the locals, this is the jump-off point for island hopping and other water activities (e.g. kitesurfing). There are also a few hotels in this area.
- Diniwid Beach — A much smaller beach close to White Beach, you’ll find a luxury hotel sitting atop the cliffs and a couple of shady spots if you want to be away from the crowd.
- Ilig-iligan Beach — Not a lot of tourists visit this place, so head here if you want a spot all to yourself. Note that since tourists don’t come here much, you won’t find restaurants or hotels. You may also find it hard to go back to the main road because tricycle drivers don’t frequent this place.
- Puka Beach — Often part of the island hopping package, this beach is famous for its puka shells. There are a few small beach bars, great spots to swim, and fresh coconut.
There are also a few private beaches on the island, but you have to pay ₱500 ($10) to enter.
Where to Stay in Boracay?
Posh hotels are mostly located at Station 1. So if you want to save money, stay in hotels/hostels in Stations 2 or 3.
One of the best things about small hostels and inns is that you can get a room for only ₱600 per night. If you find one in Stations 2 or 3, expect your room to be a 5-minute walk to D'Mall, 8 minutes to the White Beach, and 1 minute to Bulabog Beach.
In most hostels, the rooms have lockers, so bring your own padlock. And despite their small size, they offer plenty of activities for your entire group such as playing board games in the lounge. This is also an excellent opportunity to strike up conversations with other guests. Don't forget to check out any promos they might offer, especially when they have a bar. Happy Hour and Buy 1 Take 1 promos are not uncommon, giving you even more value for your money.
Best Activities to Do in Boracay
1.Explore White Beach
2. Water Activities
- Snorkeling = ₱40 ($0.8)
- Helmet diving = ₱1000 ($20) for 15 minutes
- Paragliding = ₱2000 to ₱2500 ($40 to $50) per person for 15 minutes
- Island hopping + banana boat with lunch = ₱800 ($16) per person
- Island hopping + snorkeling = ₱600 ($12) per person
- Paraw sailing = ₱1,000 ($20) per person
- Pub Crawl = ₱990 ($19.8) per person
- Cliff diving = ₱2,800 ($50) including buffet lunch, snacks, drinks, and amenities on Ariel’s Point
Although it’s an option, I don’t recommend booking your activities online as these often have higher rates. Each hotel has its own "guide" who will offer these activities. You can even haggle to get cheaper rates.
Not many people know that you can go to boatmen directly to save even more money. The “tour guides” who will approach you along White Beach are just like middlemen—they will gather enough people to fill a boat, but you'll still end up with the bangkeros. The guides won't be with you in any of the activities. So go to Bulabog beach, approach the bangkeros, and ask them directly.
3. Souvenir Shopping
There are lots of stores along Stations 2 and 3. You can also go to D’Mall, where you’ll see stores (from cheap to mid-range to expensive ones) that sell Boracay gifts and trinkets.
4. Food Trip
Here are a few cheap things I tried:
- D’Talipapa: This is the local market where you can buy fresh seafood and let one of the 23 restaurants around to cook them for you.
- Cheap Restaurants: Some meals that can go as low as ₱100 to ₱300 ($2 to $6) from places outside D'Mall.
- Carinderias: I found a few of these near Station 3 and D’Mall. They can give you a full meal for about ₱100 ($2). Locals are the best source of info on where to find these.
- Cook Your Own Food: As long as your hotel/hostel allows it!
5. Mt. Luho
If you want a change of scenery, go up to Boracay’s highest point. Mt. Luho can give you a great 360 view of Boracay on its decks. They also have a small zoo and zipline.
Cost is usually ₱300 per hour (for four people) or ₱150 each way. You also have to pay ₱120 ($2.4) per head for maintenance.
Boracay Sample Itinerary for Three Days
Here is a sample itinerary to help you explore Boracay in just 3 days.
Day 1: Exploring White Beach
Arrival at caticlan Airport
Tricycle to Caticlan Jetty Port
Boat fee: ₱25-₱30, Terminal fee: ₱100, Environmental fee: ₱75
Arrival in Boracay
Tricycle to your hotel
₱150 per tricycle
Freshen up at the hotel
Swimming at the White Beach
Back to the hotel; freshen up
Walk around D'mall
Back to hotel
Day 2: Beach Activities
Breakfast (Local Carinderia)
Island Hopping Tour + Banana Boat with Lunch
Go for snacks
Freshen up at the hotel
Seafood Dinner at D'Talipapa
Boracay Pub Crawl
Back to Hotel
Day 3: Departure Day
Wake up early; walk along white beach
Breakfast (D'mall/Local Carinderia)
Back to hotel; check out
Tricycle to Port
₱150 per tricycle
Boat fee: ₱25-₱30, Terminal fee: ₱100
Arrival in Caticlan Jetty Port
Tricycle to Airport
Plan Your Boracay Adventure
Boracay's dazzling beauty never fails to astonish both local and foreign tourists. It has its magical way of luring visitors back. Perhaps it's the impeccable white sand, the calm blue waters, or the many activities that keep you on your toes.
And when someone tells you that you can't travel to Boracay on a budget, this guide proves otherwise. Complete with a sample itinerary that immerses you right at the heart of this tropical paradise, the only thing left to do is to start planning your Boracay adventure. I would love to hear more Boracay travel tips from you. Feel free to share them!
© 2020 Carson McQueen