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 more laid-back island of Palawan (ranked number 2 by Conde Naste Travel). Although Boracay is full of adventure sports, there are still places where you can find Boracay relaxation.
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, has privacy curtains that flap in the island breeze and offer very little privacy.
The lack of privacy feels a little awkward to me, so I keep searching and find my perfect spot – the spa located at the Boracay Sands Hotel near Station 3. I enter the hotel lobby and a woman directs me to their spa downstairs, down to a very dark, quiet, cool, and zen-like spa. It feels and smells like the real thing, far away from the chaos of the makeshift beachside spas.
The tiny massage therapist shows me to the communal massage room – a common room with curtained partitions that provide plenty of privacy. The room is very dark, with small white electric “candles” that light the way. The soothing music adds just the right spa-like touch.
The massage is wonderful as the therapist finds kinks in my shoulders and calves that I didn’t even know existed. Her strokes are strong and effective yet relaxing.
The one-hour Swedish massage is 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 stop 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 choose the basic foot massage, which is a little painful but still feels wonderful. My therapist is very skilled in foot reflexology and explains that the painful spots indicate toxins in my body. This foot reflexology massage lasts an hour and costs 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. I find my “happy place” as I sprawl in the red bean bag chairs a few doors down from Bamboo Beach Resort. They are the perfect sunset spot! 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. Thankfully, the Red Horse beer is 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!
Crowds of tourists typically gather on the beaches near Station 2 and 3 on sunny days. However, I venture further south and, luckily, I find my spot near Sundown Beach Studios. I order a mango smoothie and grab an empty lounge chair. Happily, I spend 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.)
Appreciate the beauty of the Boracay area from the bow of one of the boats that glide 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. You need to 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. The cost from Caticlan Airport is 600 pesos.
*We paid only 450 pesos for the return journey back to the airport. You can probably barter with the random guy on the beach for a lower price.
Bamboo Beach Hotel A lower price in a great location between Stations 2 and 3.
Nigi Nigi Nu Noos A mid-priced hotel with a relaxing, tropical atmosphere near Station 2.
Coast Boracay* A higher -priced hotel in a great location near Station 2.
* For an excellent review of Coast Boracay, see Moe’s Atlas “New Hotel Review – Coast Hotel, Boracay Philippines.”
Do you have any other tips on Boracay zen experiences? Please share!