Beach in Boracay, Philippines

A rocky outcrop in Boracay, Philippines. (ThinkStock)

What to do in Boracay

Of the more than 7,000 islands in the Philippines, this small dumbbell-shaped speck off the northwest corner of the island of Panay in the Western Visayas gets a lot of the attention. A backpacker secret until the 1980s, the isle has seen more than 300 resorts and hotels sprout up, with the sometimes-undesirable travelers and businesses newfound popularity attracts. But Boracay retains its air of tropical remoteness, because it is indeed remote, lying about 200 miles south of Manila. In fact, most tourists still approach the island via small boats and wade through the surf to get to the beach. And despite the expansive outdoor pedestrian malls and the plethora of shops, bars, and restaurants, the island is still laid-back, with casual volleyball games and sun worshippers reading novels all day on chaise lounges. And, of course, the overwhelming friendliness of the Filipinos makes the whole place feel like a local village, despite the jets flying in and out all day.

White Beach, on the island's west coast, is tourist central, while Bulabog Beach on the east side is a little less developed, its breezes making it a favorite windsurfing spot. Long and quiet Puka Beach is in the north, and scattered about the isle are three little communities: Yapak in the north, Balabag in the middle, and Manocmanoc in the south.

Long, sensuous White Beach is broken up into areas: Station 1, 2, and 3. Station 1 being home to the more isolated and upscale lodgings, while 2 makes up the party-hearty bar area, and 3 contains the cheaper accommodations. A footpath known as the Beachfront Path lines most of White Beach, separating the sand from the establishments located along it.

Beyond the beach, a number of pleasant diversions beckon, such as snorkeling at nearby Crystal Cove Island, exploring Bat Caves filled with thousands of the nocturnal mammals, or spending an afternoon among the splendor of the Boracay Butterfly Garden.

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