Authored by Diane Wuthrich (Contributor)
Advice on Preparing your Boracay Itinerary Today – After it’s 2018 Closure
Boracay is a tiny island in the Visayas region of the Philippines and is the country’s number one tourist destination. Its seven-kilometre stretch of powdery white sand, golden sunsets, coconut tree-fringed coastline, and crystal-clear waters that have won the hearts of many a traveller seeking that postcard-perfect paradise.
It’s not long ago, in the year 2018, when the famous island had a 6-month shutdown to fix a range of problems stemming from the island, that unfortunately, was getting quite unhealthy because of these issues (more on that later).
Since the reopening, changes have been made, laws have been set and in this brief Boracay travel guide, we’ll go over a few of these changes that is important to all travellers entering the island, which in turn, will help you set up your Boracay itinerary for future travel purposes on the Southeast Asian country.
Boracay – An Island for Every type of traveller
What makes Boracay such an appealing destination for every type of traveller around the world, aside from the fact that it has all the trimmings of a tropical paradise, is that it offers something for everyone to do with a range of Boracay activities packages.
Thanks to its natural beauty, the island is a renowned destination wedding location of choice; couples can choose from an excellent range of five-star beachfront hotels for the biggest day of their lives. Though the island tends to be busy, those in search of romance will find many secluded spots in Boracay resorts and around the island – or maybe even find love in Boracay.
Families with kids will find many outdoor activities to enjoy: there is Boracay island hopping, ATV tours, snorkelling and diving, water sports and good old playing in the sand by the beach. Solo travellers can indulge in sun baking while reading a good book with a cocktail in hand. Yoga studios offer a pocket of zen in the midst of an otherwise hectic island during your Boracay solo trip.
Party animals will love the thriving nightlife – Boracay is known as a place where happy hour is every hour and parties can go on until dawn. Best of all, the island doesn’t discriminate. One does not need to be a millionaire in order to enjoy the island with a Boracay package to suit any traveller. There is food, drink, and accommodation to cater to literally every budget.
Its beauty and charm have not gone unnoticed: Boracay Island has earned several accolades over the last few years, including making it to the prestigious Conde Nast Traveller’s list of Best Islands in the Worlds list more than once.
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The Boracay Island Travel Shutdown
Too much of anything is never a good thing. Unfortunately, the popularity of Boracay island has also led to its very own downfall. Mass tourism, unregulated tourist developments, greed and corruption became the norm in what is meant to be paradise.
Add to that the fact that foreign and local tourist arrivals continued to increase year after year, reaching a peak of 2.1 million visitors in 2017 alone, and with those numbers, you’ve got the perfect storm brewing.
Everyone wanted a piece of the tourism dollar and it reached a point that the island was no longer pristine: the entire Boracay island had become extremely crowded with accommodations of all sizes being constructed in every single plot of available land, massive Spring Break-style parties were being held in its famous White Beach only to lead to a cigarette-infested coastline the day after, trash was everywhere, peddlers without permits were harassing tourists trying to sell sunglasses and boat tours, and perhaps most disgusting of all, a faulty sewage system leaking human excrement into the beach.
For anyone looking for a relaxing beach getaway, Boracay was completely the opposite, especially during peak season. Before they knew it, Boracay was no longer paradise. The cost of a holiday continued to go up, but the island was about to pay the biggest price it wasn’t prepared for: a total shutdown.
Trouble in paradise was brewing and this heavy problem had reached the government, who should have nipped the problem in the bud long before it erupted. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte learned that only 25 out of 150 establishments inspected were found to be linked to the sewage line. He called the island “a cesspool”, and accused numerous local businesses including hotels and restaurants of unloading their sewage into the island’s once-pristine waters. In early April 2018, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. made the announcement that the entire island will be closed for a necessary rehabilitation beginning April 26, for a 6-month period.
The news caused widespread panic and led to unemployment for some 36,000 workers in the tourism industry. This also caused a serious dent in tourism dollars, as Boracay alone contributed to PhP 56 billion (AUD $1,488,111,385), which accounts for 20% of revenues from the entire tourism industry. Most importantly, not a single tourist would be able to set foot on the island during those entire six months.
Boracay desperately needed the clean-up. During those silent (and painful, for the locals) six months, the government sent task force groups in charge of cleaning up behind the scenes, both of the island itself and of businesses. The residents were given their own set of rules to follow, even if some of them were completely ridiculous.
Boracay Travel Today
Fast forward to October 26th, 2018: Boracay Philippines officially reopens its doors to the public.
I was able to pay a visit in early December, as I was in dire need of a short holiday, but I also wanted to see the new changes for myself and this is what I found during my brief Boracay tour.
Getting to Boracay Island
The arrival process is still pretty much the same, save for one more step. Travellers can still arrive by plane via the Kalibo and Caticlan airports. Visitors are still required to pay the terminal fee, environmental fee, and a boat fee for the short ride from the mainland of Caticlan.
However, the authorities added one more step for arrivals, which is the inspection and recording of identification (passport, in my case) and hotel voucher, booked from a licensed accommodation provider. This is due to the new “no booking, no entry” policy, so be sure that you’ve made arrangements prior to your flight.
It’s fairly quick and hassle-free, in my opinion. Airlines flying to Boracay Airport also have to comply with the government’s new carrying capacity for Boracay which is a maximum of 6,405 tourists entering the island each day (as per the Philippine Information Agency), while the carrying capacity is set at a limit of 19,215 travellers at any given time.
Once you’ve made the payments and have passed through screening, you’re off to your Boracay island tour.
New Rules to know about your Boracay Trip
I must say that the Boracay beach itself is much more beautiful than I’ve seen in recent years. It’s cleaner; tourists are no longer allowed to smoke and drink on the beach and even in the sea itself. which is fantastic if I say so myself.
In the past, travellers have been guilty of bringing beer bottles into the sea as foolish tourist took a dip in the cool waters, bringing harm to marine life. The coastline is also clearer, as there are no longer any obstructions caused by dozens of peddlers, masseuses, souvenir stalls, lounge chairs and tables.
Hawkers have been banned from the beachfront, so anyone who wants to purchase souvenirs should do so in designated areas. Bad news for smokers: the establishments that do allow smoking, now have designated smoking areas that, well, make you feel like a pariah. Not that I am complaining about any of this.
Kerosene is prohibited, too. In the past, fire dancers were among Boracay’s most popular sights during the evenings on the beach. Now, they have to find other, more environmentally-friendly ways to light up their lamps. Evenings on the beach also feel like you’re in the Boracay of many years ago; locals used to decorate the coconut trees with electrical lights for a festive ambiance, but these are now banned.
The good news is that visitors can enjoy the moon-lit sea and starry skies! Sandcastle-making, another well-loved attraction for families, is also regulated. Getting around the island is a little more challenging since motorcycles are prohibited in most parts of the main road due to the air pollution they caused. Motorcycle drivers were also notorious for charging ridiculously high fees.
Nightlife has calmed down a great deal. While there are no longer clubs that play loud music until the wee hours of the morning, this doesn’t mean that Boracay has turned dull from sunset onwards. There are still lots of places to drink your favourite cocktails, and even get yourself drunk if you wish. Everything is just much more discreet now.
Water sports and activities are limited and highly regulated. These contributed to marine ecosystem damage and pollution in the past, and the island still needs more time for rehabilitating corals and cleaning up marine life. However, windsurfing and kitesurfing are still very much alive in the Bulabog side of Boracay. This is a good time to take up lessons if you haven’t yet!
Accommodations and Restaurants Advice on Boracay
As of December 2018, several establishments along the famous White Beach, as well as in the main road, are still in a flurry of construction and demolition, particularly those that are found to be in violation of the 25+5 easement rule. The main road itself is also being widened. It’s unsightly, but you’ve been warned – this is all for the best of the island.
Due to these new regulations, not all Boracay hotels and restaurants are open yet, while a few hotels have been permanently closed. Be sure to check for the updated list of authorized, accredited hotels that are open before you make your booking.
That being said, Boracay’s beaches are quieter, less busy, much better and there is still hot Boracay deals to be found to be found on the island.
Be A Responsible Tourist when you visit Boracay Island Philippines
If you get to visit Boracay, do your part in being a responsible tourist. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when you travel to Boracay as well as in other destinations in the Philippines:
- Eliminate single use plastic (it’s banned, anyway). Bring your own reusable shopping bags which you can use for souvenirs, groceries, fruit, and produce.
- Walk to your destination whenever possible. Boracay’s main beach is now wider and cleaner than ever, which only makes walking more enjoyable than riding a motorcycle or tricycle.
- Do not bring home shells or pieces of coral that you see. When snorkelling, never touch marine life including corals. It may not seem like it, but in doing so you are disrupting the already fragile marine ecosystem. If you see hawkers selling souvenirs made with animal parts, don’t support it. Don’t eat endangered animal meat even if it’s considered a delicacy.
- Support the local community and artisans by purchasing handmade goods which are ethical.
- Don’t waste water. When not in use, close faucets and only use as much water as you need when washing or showering in your Boracay Beach Resort.
- Don’t pick plants or flowers. Leave things in their natural environment as you see them.
- Save electricity by shutting down all the lights and air-conditioning in your hotel.
- Do your research and stay in sustainable accommodations whenever possible. Look for hotels that employ locals, use solar energy, recycle water, collect rain water, and have other conservation strategies in place.
- Try to use environmentally friendly products, such as natural sunscreens, especially if you intend on spending lots of time in the water. Many sun creams use harsh chemicals that pollute the waters when they wash off as you enter the sea.
- Bring your own non-plastic water bottle or jug. Boracay can get hot and humid; hydration is a must. Avoid buying drinking water in plastic containers and refill your own tumblers instead.
This may have nothing to do with the environment, but it has all to with being a responsible human being and respecting the laws of the land: don’t treat the locals like animals in a zoo. If you want to take photos with locals, do ask their permission, even if it’s the humble peddlers selling wares in various parts of Boracay.
Last but not least, this should be common sense but: please don’t litter. Boracay has trash cans, and if you don’t see one, just ask the nearest establishment if you can properly dispose of your trash. If you are caught littering, you can be charged a fine or even be imprisoned for 10 up to 30 days, even if it is a first offense. It’s for everyone’s best interest to stop littering, and if you see trash, pick it up yourself.
Boracay has had her time of rest and it’s up to us, the tourist, to ensure that she stays healthy. Every single tourist counts and so does every moment of your time on the island. Tourism can be a friend or foe to an island and let’s make sure that we do our part to avoid making the same mistakes we did in the past.
It’s all these things that can help you prepare your Boracay Island Itinerary with the tourist island’s best intentions in mind. Beautiful destinations, indeed, need to remain beautiful and everyone can play a part in doing the right thing.