New Normal Guide: Boracay

New Normal Guide: Boracay

How travel looks like in the Philippines' world-famous beach destination under the new rules

* Editor’s note: This story was last updated on 22 December, 2020. See here for the latest travel guidelines in Boracay.

In Boracay, behind every face mask is a warm smile and genuine Filipino hospitality, reassuring you that here, you can safely enjoy the island. Indeed, the world-famous beach destination is now open to locals in the Philippines, jump-starting the country’s very gradual reopening to tourism. It's one the government describes as “slow but sure”, with safety as the top priority. 

So what does Boracay look like under this new normal?

Willy's Rock landmark in Boracay. Photo: Getty

First, some things 

From temperature-taking, to thorough sanitization and contactless payments, here's a quick look at critical safety steps being enforced in the country, especially across tourism destinations.

2 - Photo: philippines.travel

Now that you're set, let's go!

 

What to See

1. Soak in the sunset at White Beach

Head over to White Beach with your camera. Anywhere along the 4-km stretch is a perfect spot! Check the weather sites for the exact time and be sure to be there at least 30 minutes before, to catch the full show. As the sun disappears below the horizon, don’t miss the stunning afterglow that explodes into a kaleidoscope of colors.

  • Approximate time: 6PM

2. Catch the sunrise on Bulabog Beach

Second to Boracay’s sunsets, witness Boracay’s morning glory. Head over to Bulabog Beach on the eastern side of the island before dawn, and find a nice spot anywhere along the beachfront. Given the time, it would be a good idea to make prior transport arrangements the night before.

  • Approximate time: 5:30AM

A bit about this beach. The 2.5-km beach that runs parallel to White Beach is a watersports wonderland. And if you’re lucky enough to be here during a full moon, catch an equally dramatic moonrise.

3. Postcard-perfect shot at Willy's Rock landmark

Willy's Rock at White Beach, Boracay

If you’ve ever seen a magazine feature or a postcard of Boracay Island, then you’ve already seen the famous Willy’s Rock. The rocky outcrop, topped by a statue of the Virgin Mary, forms a tidal island right smack in White Beach on Station 1. Named after the resort directly fronting it, it gets quite crowded with Catholic pilgrims during Holy Week. 

Where to Eat

To begin, the restaurants listed are DOT-accredited, meaning they have a Certificate of Authority to Operate, and adhere to all required health and safety standards for cooking and serving.

4. Local Eats - Lazy Dog Bed and Breakfast

Crispy Adobo Flakes (either chicken or pork adobo) served over garlic rice and eggs

A stone’s throw away from Bulabog Beach, Lazy Dog Bed & Breakfast is a favorite haunt of surfers and locals that enjoy the Filipino and international home cooked dishes. Named by its dog-loving owner and innkeeper, the place is dog-friendly and even has a petting area. 

Sit comfortably in spacious abodes at Lazy Dog Bed & Breakfast 

Here, you can enjoy the fresh Bulabog air while dining al-fresco beneath the canopy of an old Palomaria tree. This is of the few places that has maintained the “old Boracay feel,” and a good place to start your food crawl. 

Must-Try:

  • Shrimp Bistro
  • Tinapa Flakes
  • Crispy Adobo Flakes 

Chicken Curry, Filipino-style at Lazy Dog Bed & Breakfast

Chef June Vino shares his philosophy on using fresh local ingredients, “majority of income for farmers and fishermen come from selling to local restaurants, cafes or wholefood shops. If you buy locally, you are in fact helping the community around you to thrive.”

5. Local Eats - Mayas Filipino & Mexican Cuisine

Lechon Kawali at Mayas', it's a Filipino signature of crispy pork belly

Another great place for authentic Filipino cuisine is Mayas Filipino & Mexican Cuisine. It has one of the best beachfront dining spots along Station 1 of White Beach, and one of the best shakes - their legendary Jony’s Fruitshakes originated back in 1982. 

A cold glass of Mayas' signature Jony's fruitshakes

Must-Try:

  • Prawns in Coconut Milk
  • Lechon Kawali
  • Sizzling Bangus Sisig

Outdoor eating at Mayas

5. International Fare - True Home Hotel & Bistro

Mussels in white wine with aromatic garlic foccacia bread on the side

The newest addition to Boracay’s dining circuit is Thai-Bali-Vietnamese fusion True Home Hotel & Bistro, situated on the more premiere stretch of White Beach, Station 1. Glass doors, natural wood and mirrored walls capture the panoramic coast in all its glory, from day to night. 

Cool, clean and socially distanced indoor dining 

Go for the Dai Satay platter as a starter, Shrimp Laksa Soup or the Beef Phó, and you must make room for the Mie Goreng with handmade egg noodles. Or maybe a Tuna or Salmon Poke bowl with quinoa, which I can only describe as a big bowl of happiness! 

Must-Try: 

  • Caesar Salad (with rosemary focaccia bread) 
  • Shrimp Laksa 
  • Mussels in white wine and garlic with rosemary focaccia bread

Shrimp Laksa at True Home Hotel & Bistro

6. International Fare - Aria Cucina Italiana 

Linguine Scoglio, one of Aria's signatures

Located right in the thick of the shopping hub called D’Mall of Boracay on Station 2, Aria Cucina Italiana is a homegrown Boracay attraction for lip-smacking family-friendly food - with the best classic wood fire oven-baked pizzas on the island. 

Must-Try:

  • Pasta: Linguine Scoglio
  • Pizza: Al Metro Pizza 
  • Salad: Insalata Greca

Interiors of Aria under safe-distancing norms

Personally, the reduced seating capacity comes as a welcome change, seeing that the food seems to come out quicker, and I reckon the huge tour groups would choose another place to dine.

Wood-fired meter-long Al Metro Pizza, a definite must-try

Now, some new normal notes on dining out:

Socially-distanced seating arrangements at Lazy Dog Bed & Breakfast. Safe-distancing dine-in is part of the Philippines' new dine-in norms.

  • No facemask, no entry
  • Temperature checks at the entrance via contactless thermal gun, contact-tracing sheet
  • Seating arrangements at least 1.5-meters 
  • Wearing of personal food safety apparel by the servers
  • Digital menus, contactless payment systems
  • Buffets and salad bars are prohibited

Related: New Normal Travel - How the Philippines is Reopening, One Step at a Time

What to Do 

Paraw sailing is an iconic Boracay experience. Now operating at 50 percent capacity, contact MASBOI to enquire.

At publishing time, the island’s operators are on “standby” mode, just waiting for the “start” button. When tourism is in full swing though, here's some ideas: 

7. Dive into Boracay's underwater beauty

Boracay underwater. Photo: Eclipse Dive Center Boracay

With numerous Scuba diving sites all over the island that are within 20-minutes of the beach, from walls and wrecks to natural coral reefs to explore, Boracay is a great diving destination for both inexperienced and seasoned divers.

Local diver Mike Martillano, who started diving in 1994, is full of praise for Boracay's flexible dive sites, saying they are "shallow enough for beginners and more exciting dive sites like airplane and ship wrecks for experienced divers."

Boracay underwater. Photo: Eclipse Dive Center Boracay

In light of the pandemic, he assures us that diving is very safe since it is a non-contact sport. As current vice president of Boracay Business Administration of Scuba Shops Inc. (BBASS), he says the “new normal” includes the beefing-up on handling and disinfecting personal dive gears.

8. Go on an eco-cycle adventure

SARPAN Team Boracay on a morning trail

You might want to consider packing your bike to join this hearty band of cycling enthusiasts, the SARPAN Team Boracay – short for “SARdinas and PANdesal”. That's because their last stop is frequently Dos Mestizos (a popular and legendary homegrown Spanish restaurant) that makes freshly-baked pandesal bread which they pair with sardines and freshly brewed coffee.

Starting as early as 6:30AM at Yellow Cab along White Beach, Station 3, each trail takes around 45-minutes to an hour, and between 14 - 18 km. 

One of the cyclists, Russell Cruz, who's also President of the Boracay Water Sports Association (BWSA), recommends mountain bikes for the long flat rides, adding that face masks are better than face shields that may fog up, limiting your field of vision.

9. Pick up kite surfing

Kite boarding in Boracay

Boracay and Asian kiteboard champion Khristopher Ken believes that Boracay is "the perfect playground for kitesurfing with its constant wind, warm flat waters, and sunshine.” Bulabog Beach on the eastern side has earned the distinction as the “Number One Kiteboarding Beach in Asia” for its flat and shallow reef-protected waters, and strong winds during the peak summer months.

And it seems that this high-speed aerial sport's individualistic nature is perfect for the new normal too. "Kite surfers naturally ride far away from each other due to the kite line lengths. Once you’re out on the water there is plenty of space out there," says Nacor.

In Pictures: Entering Boracay

1 - Electric-tricycles at four passengers maximum

2 - Solar jeepneys allow eight passengers; ply from the arrival area in Cagban Jetty Port to Yapak, both ways

3 - Alternate Tambisaan Jetty Port. Bring a pen for all the contact tracing sheets. 

4 - Cagban Jetty Port arrival area

5 - Ferry boats to the island

Disclaimer: Boracay is currently open to domestic travelers ONLY

Freida Dario-Santiago is the author of “The Complete Guide to Boracay Island” (First to Fourth Editions, published by Boracay Foundation, Inc), and editor-in-chief of the Boracay Sun News

Jack Jarilla is a resident of Boracay Island and known as the island’s “in-house” photographer, enjoying a front row privilege to the island’s every blush. 

  • This guide is in association with Philippines' Department of Tourism, read more about the Philippines' new normal at app.philippines.travel
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