Seven years and a pandemic later, we arrived at a totally different Boracay. This made exploring the island much more exciting as it felt new, yet familiar at the same time.
We arrived on the island on a much bigger aircraft landing on a much longer runway. The Arrivals Terminal was not quite what we were expecting, but seeing the adjacent construction gave me an optimistic impression. And seeing the island transport options already available within the terminal with standardized fare impressed me—no more haggling or fear that you may be paying much more simply because you’re a tourist! 👏
We took the tricycle from Arrivals as it’s a relatively short trip and the cheapest. The tricycle terminal is probably the nicest one I’ve seen in the Philippines as it’s right beside a very nice beach! It’s so nice that this beach can be an attraction in itself! And the tricycles themselves were designed with luggage in mind so it doesn’t get cramped even when you’re carrying a lot.
Admittedly, it was in the port that we got very disappointed. The fact that they ask tourists to queue three times for three different fees makes it look like all they care about is collecting money regardless of the inconvenient and sub-optimal collection. If you’re a solo traveler, this will really take some time. It’s also weird that they ask foreign tourists for passport. They don’t have immigration in the port, so why? Foreign tourists also pay double the amount domestic tourists pay for the environmental fee (₱300 vs. ₱150, respectively). Personally, I don’t have any issues with how much they charge, but they should really think of ways to improve their collection that doesn’t feel like you’re entering a world-class island.
After going through red tape, we were for a quick boat ride to the island. Thankfully, the boats used now are bigger so they’re more comfortable and not as bumpy.
Upon arriving on the island and going out of the port, tricycles and other vehicles are already available in the nearby terminal. Fares are also standardized, again giving you the confidence that you won’t be overcharged. Again, we took a tricycle to bring us to our hotel. You can hire the entire tricycle but if you’re budget-conscious and aren’t carrying much, you can ride with other passengers for the cheapest fare. I think all the tricycles in the island are all electric so that’s another impressive change. There are other vehicles available as well if you find tricycles too small.
After settling in our hotel, we were off to explore white beach. I really like that the beach now seem wider as stores are kept back—no more tables or chairs outside their stores. Notably missing as well were the sand sculptures!
The sands are as white and fine as I remembered them, but it’s probably the algae season so you can see a lot of green in a lot of places. We think that sewage might be a contributor as well as we occasionally smell their stench at a few spots around the beach. But overall, the beach is clean.
It was on our second day that we decided to walk the length of white beach to visit the Grotto. I think it’s one of the things that haven’t changed, including how it’s almost impossible to get the place to yourself given how popular it is.
We started to explore the island beyond white beach on our third day. We took the “Hop On, Hop Off” mini buses to take us to Yapak where Puka beach is located. It is arguably the most comfortable public transportation in the island being air-conditioned and all, but their payment method can be “complicated” for tourists. For starters, they don’t accept cash as they use their own RFID cards. You can buy these cards in the bus itself and comes in two options: a single journey ride that costs ₱100 (₱50 for the card and ₱50 for the fare, as per the conductor) and a 24-hour unlimited ride for ₱300. Both of these cards are non-reloadable (only for local residents, as per the conductor) so we availed of the latter for convenience.
On our way to Yapak, we realized that the bus passes through Newcoast, a new development in the island where the “keyhole” is also located. I honestly have never heard of it until this visit, and it’s apparently a popular attraction especially during sunrise.
Puka beach strangely seems so much finer now than I remembered it! Really, the sand is as fine as white beach for the most part. The pebbles and shells that I remember are only in certain parts of the beach. The missing sand sculptures of white beach are here though, as well as some other beach art scattered along the beach. If you find any of them interesting enough to take a selfie with, please consider donating to the artist via a collection box near the installation.
In general, if you’re avoiding crowds, Puka beach is the way to go. It is much less developed compared to other beaches so it still has the feeling of what Boracay may have looked like before its popularity. We loved its “seclusion” that we only returned to white beach just to catch the sunset!
On our way back, we naturally took the “Hop On, Hop Off” bus and we realized that it only enters Newcoast on its way to Yapak, but not when on its way back.
The runner in me was craving to run on the beach so I did just that on the following day. I still remembered the last time I ran white beach end-to-end, and I can say that the beach is much better now than before, except for the algae, I guess.
Running in the morning is quite pleasant as the crowd is much less, temperature is cooler, tide is low, and beach is as wide as it can be, allowing you to run more comfortably than any other time. And being in a beach setup, you can run in as little clothing as possible!
Later that day, we went back to Puka beach just before our 24-hour unlimited “Hop On, Hop Off” cards expired.
On our return, we decided not to purchase any “Hop On, Hop Off” cards again despite the convenience and comfort of the mini bus. We simply thought we don’t need another plastic card for disposal! Personally, I don’t mind paying ₱300 daily for a card, but I really mind needlessly having so many plastic cards! Doesn’t it have more value to keep these perfectly reusable cards in circulation in the island than have them thrown away by tourists after a single use? Besides, there are so many other transport options in the island (like the ubiquitous electric tricycles) that run around the clock. And so, we simply took one of the electric vehicles back, this time to explore Bulabog beach.