Upon arrival in Catacalin airport we were picked-up by our travel agency and promptly driven to the port where we were to take a short boat ride to Boracay Island. The travel coordinator requested that we pay 50 Php each for an environmental tax and a 20 Php port fee (70 Php per person) before we boarded the boat. By this time my wife and I had been in the Philippines nearly two weeks and we were totally fed-up with hidden fees, governmental taxes, bait and switch gimmicks and the sort. Since we paid for an all-inclusive vacation package we refused to pay the tax and fee. After several minutes of going back and forth with the agency we asked to speak with his manager which he refused. We threatened to call our travel agent who we bought the package from in Manila and he acquiesced letting us board the vessel. Funny, no one checked upon departure or arrival whether or not we paid any fees or taxes.
The beaches on this resort island are absolutely the best I have ever experienced. The cleanliness of the water and sand is unprecedented. The gradual gradient of the beach into the ocean is so subtle that it is perfect for children or those not confident in their swimming abilities. Restaurants and small shops line the hinterland of White Beach serving-up worldly cuisine and over-priced trinkets. There are also a number of dive shops which provide extensive dive package courses. My wife and I were able to find dive packages as low as $25 US which included everything. The two dives we went on were fantastic! The visibility was superb and the marine life was abundant and exciting.
Our favorite restaurants along White Beach were Don Vito’s Italian Restaurant; Jammers burger bar; Seoul Restaurant; and Le Solei Hotel. Of note, Don Vito’s was one of the very few establishments that offered both indoor air conditioned dining and outdoor on the beach dining. We especially liked this restaurant. On the down-side we had exceptionally poor experiences with the following establishments: Regency Hotel Bolgogi Korean Restaurant; Lavendara Nitan laundry shop; and Southwest Tours transfer service based on Catacalin Island.
Overall our experience in Boracay was positive and we enjoyed our time there. You should keep in mind that although lodging is cheaper than Palawan, it is still equal to or slightly above prices found in Europe or the U.S. You won’t find any bargains here unless the accommodations are substandard (we looked at many, many resorts/hotels).
Although my wife and I didn’t spend much time out at night, the few times we did, we felt the beach bars transformed into this seedy, drunken congregation of prostitutes and drugs. We avoided it as much as possible opting instead to walk along the beach or remain in the resort. We also felt that the main drag along the beach that is lined with shops, restaurants, and resorts was usually very crowded with hawkers, professional beggars, and scam artists. You might want to take this into consideration if you are looking for a quiet and relaxing vacation. You will be constantly haggard. I know this might sound petty, but one of the positive aspects of Boracay was that it did have 24/7 electricity beach-wide which means 24/7 air conditioning. After spending a week of hell in Palawan without any air conditioning, this was a big deal. My wife and I also felt that it was very easy to find good food even though it was pricey for the Philippines but generally worth it. The last positive thing I can say about Boracay is that snorkeling and SCUBA diving is very affordable. Just make sure you have been medically cleared by a doctor and have your certifications current, some dive shops unfortunately don’t care about this and it has the potential to end your holiday in disaster.