Boracay, Philippines–Adventure and R&R

At the White Sand Beach there's a bit of sand castle love
At the White Sand Beach there’s a bit of sand castle love

Boracay, one of the 2000 inhabited islands in the Philippines, is known for its white sand beaches, one reason why I chose this busy slice of paradise for a three day trip with my son and my dad. My son, a 14 year-old teen, is into a bit of active adventure and my dad is happy to oblige. We found a perfect pairing of adventure and R&R with an affordable price tag. The few rains that occurred (it was the beginning of the rainy season) didn’t slow us down.

A Boracay adventure starts at the airport. Because Boracay doesn’t have its own airport, getting there typically involves a flight to Caticlan on Panay Island then heading to Caticlan Jetty Port to catch a ferry. The port is actually within walking distance if you don’t have much luggage. We took a taxi. Tricycle drivers will also take you which is an option that costs about $1.

A wooden passenger ferry boat that goes to Boracay
A wooden passenger ferry boat that goes to Boracay

We paid about $10 a piece, however our taxi ticket price included the ferry ride to Boracay and a taxi ride to our hotel at Diniwid Beach as well. Plus, the driver helped us with our luggage and ensured that my dad had help which was worth the extra money it cost us.

Although Diniwid Beach is not in the thick of Boracay’s bustle, it suited us perfectly. The 51 guest room Microtel Inn & Suites was a blend of tasteful and casual with enough hang out places between the lounge with its comfy seats, tables and chairs and complimentary coffee, the pool, and the restaurant, all within steps of each other that we didn’t feel the need to wander far all that often. My son did find a game of pick up volleyball with some local kids on the beach.

View of Puka Beach from out small out rigger boat
View of Puka Beach from out small out rigger boat

I also snagged us a deal on a rigger boat tour around the island for one morning that included snorkeling and a stop at Puka Beach. Arnold, the  young man who was hawking the tour near our hotel showed up as promised and delivered an excellent time. Snorkeling was off the boat at a designated location where many tour boats stop. We were far enough away from others that it seemed we were snorkeling by ourselves. Again, I was particularly pleased how well Arnold made sure that each of us felt satisfied and that my dad was able to safely get on and off the boat.

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The trip we took is a typical one. We paid less than $75, however, this price could be higher depending upon the season and the tour company. Other tours I saw when I browsed through the tour book at the desk of the Microtel included parasailing, mountain bike riding, banana boat riding and kayaking.

The Here and Now shop at the D'Mall has excellent handicrafts
The Here and Now shop at the D’Mall has excellent handicrafts

For us, one tour was enough. At other times, we took advantage of our hotel’s free shuttle to head to D’Mall, Boracay’s extensive shopping and eating area with shops, restaurants and spas that lead from the main road to the White Sand Beach.  In the midst of the typical T-shirt and beach wear type shops one finds at beach destinations, I discovered a few stores with lovely handicrafts. My favorites were baskets woven from juice packets. Restaurants range from upscale Italian and seafood sit down meals to hamburger stands to snack and sandwich shops.

One afternoon my son and I also walked along the rock and paved walkway that goes from Dindiwid Beach to the White Sand Beach where I rented him a paddle board for a half hour for about $3. An hour is more typical, but we didn’t have the time. The most interesting site on this walk was a bride getting her photo taken with the rocky shore and the sea as a backdrop despite the misty rain.

Paddle boarding in the mist is an inexpensive adventure
Paddle boarding in the mist is an inexpensive adventure

If you go, I highly recommend eating at Mama’s Fish House, the restaurant connected to the Microtel Inn and Suites. You can’t beat fresh fish grilled to perfection that you can eat at a table on the beach. Another must is drinks or dinner at the Spider House.

The Spider House, located on the cliff to the right of  Microtel, is a Swiss Family Robinson like fantasy. It used to be a private home, but the family turned it into a restaurant and a hotel. The food is terrific and the ambiance is nothing you’ll have seen before. Bamboo is a main building feature. Railing, furniture, floors, ceiling–it’s amazing and totally fun. Most of the seating is out over the water with fantastic views.

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*As a note, credit cards are not widely used but there are ATM machines. We were able to charge our shuttle ride back to the airport via our hotel’s service. Tours were cash only. The Here & Now shop took credit cards as did the Italian restaurant, however, we had to ask several restaurants before we found one that did go for the plastic.

Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein