Beautiful Boracay Island in the Philippines was recently named by Conde Naste Travel as number one in their ranking of the best islands in the world! The island is well known for its incredible beauty and its wide range of adventure sports. When I was researching beach options for my recent trip to the Philippines, I was torn between the adventure sports paradise of Boracay and the laid-back island of Palawan (ranked number 2 by Conde Naste Travel). Although Boracay is full of adventure sports, there are still ways to find some zen and relaxation among all the action.
Here are a few tips for finding the zen in Boracay
Arriving into Boracay on an early morning flight, I had a few hours to kill before hotel check-in so I went in search of a little “spa therapy”. I was surprised by the wide selection of spas on this small island. The sand boardwalk is dotted with makeshift “spas” where you can flop down on a massage table in full view of people strolling by. One massage place, set slightly off the boardwalk, had privacy curtains that flapped in the breeze offering very little privacy.
The lack of privacy felt little awkward to me, so I kept searching and found my perfect spot – the spa located at the Boracay Sands Hotel near Station 3. I entered the hotel lobby and was directed to their spa downstairs, down to a very dark, quiet, cool, and zen-like spa. It felt and smelled like the real thing, far away from the chaos of the makeshift beachside spas.
The tiny massage therapist showed me to the communal massage room – a common room with curtained partitions offering plenty of privacy. The room was very dark, lit only by small white electric “candles”, and the soothing music added just the right spa-like touch.
The massage was wonderful and the therapist found kinks in my shoulders and calves that I didn’t even know existed. Her strokes were strong and effective yet relaxing.
The one-hour Swedish massage was 450 pesos (about $9.73USD).
Boracay Sands Hotel – phone 036 288 4966 (near Station 3)
With more time to kill before hotel check-in, I stopped by another spa – Good Life Detox & Spa Center located at the Casa Pilar Beach Resort. They offer a wide range of spa services but I chose the basic foot massage, which was a little painful but still felt wonderful. My therapist was very skilled in foot reflexology and explained that the painful spots indicated toxins in my body. This foot reflexology massage lasted an hour and cost only 350 pesos (about $7.30USD) – a great, relaxing way to kill time while waiting for a hotel room!
Red Horse Therapy
In the evening, White Beach along Boracay’s west coast transforms into outdoor restaurants and hookah lounges and the nightlife gets a little dark. However, before the darkness sets in, the sunsets are spectacular. The red bean bag chairs located a few doors down from Bamboo Beach Resort are a perfect sunset spot and became my evening “happy place”. The mellow tunes set the mood, covers of my favorites like “Chasing Cars” and Adele’s “Don’t You Remember” wafting from a nearby cafe. And the Red Horse beer was ice cold too!
Another great Happy Hour spot is a small pub located next door to the Golden Phoenix Hotel near Station 3. They provide comfortable tables set along the sand boardwalk, large bottles of ice cold Red Horse beer, and guarantee stunning sunsets!
The beaches near Station 2 and 3 are typically crowded on beautiful beach days but, determined to find a more deserted spot to enjoy a sunny day, I ventured further south. I found my spot near Sundown Beach Studios, ordered a mango smoothie and grabbed an empty lounge chair. I spent the day undisturbed by people selling stuff, crowds of water-sports enthusiasts, or screaming children. Deserted beaches are probably harder to find during high season, but keep on walking…they really DO exist!
(For more detailed information on Boracay beaches, check out Boracay Compass – The Ultimate Guide.)
The best way to really appreciate the beauty of the Boracay area is from one of the many boats gliding between Boracay and the surrounding islands. Choices range from day trips exploring Crystal Cove to a quiet and relaxing sunset cruise on a sailboat. For more of a cultural experience, set sail on a Paraw, the traditional Filipino boats with outriggers on both sides. Red Pirates or Yachting Boracay are both reputable companies offering a variety of sailing options. Check out more choices on Trip Advisor.
Getting there – There is no airport on the island of Boracay. Fly from Manila into either Caticlan (closer) or Kalibo (cheaper) and take a water taxi from the jetty. The transportation desk in the airport arrival lounge can arrange all transfers from airport to your hotel for 600 pesos (from Caticlan).
*We paid only 450 pesos for the return journey back to the airport. We probably could have bartered with the random guy on the beach for a lower price.
Bamboo Beach Hotel lower priced hotel in a great location between Stations 2 and 3.
Nigi Nigi Nu Noos mid-priced hotel with a relaxing, tropical atmosphere near Station 2.
Coast Boracay higher -priced hotel in a great location near Station 2.
Have you visited Boracay? Did you embrace the adventure sports or find the zen?