A Boracay guide for first-timers

Chill out in hidden coves, or party with the rest of the gorgeous crowd on the main beach, here’s your quick guide to the popular party paradise of the Philippines.

You can’t call yourself a serious sunworshipper and wanderlust chaser if you haven’t been to Boracay. A constant on lists of best beaches in the world, this beautiful, if somewhat commercial, island in the Philippines is a true hedonist’s playground—with everything from backpacker shacks, boutique villas and five-star hotels, to restaurants, bars, spas, watersports centers and even a mall, to cater to your every need.

Related video: Watch the Yahoo Funbassadors look back on their fun trip to different parts of the Philippines—from the beaches of Bohol to the bars of Manila.

Getting your bearings
Booking a trip for the first time? Maximise your experience with beachfront accommodations along the four-kilometer-long White Beach. Since the stretch is quite long, take note of which “boat station” your hotel is located: Station 1 (the chill, family-oriented station where the beach is widest, dotted with luxe accommodations), Station 2 (the “party” station, where most of the bars, restaurants, and D’Mall—yes, that would be the mall—are located), and Station 3 (not as central, but also quieter, cleaner, more budget-friendly, and closer to some watersports activities).

If you want an adrenaline rush from the moment you wake up, consider booking accommodations along the 2.5 km stretch of Bulabog Beach, located on the east side of the island—best for kite boarding and windsurfing between November and April, and various other watersports from May to October.

Beach bliss
Spread your sarong on the deliciously powder-fine sand and soak up the sun. Or people-watch all day. Or plunge into the turquoise tropical waters and let your worries float away. Nothing is as indulgent as doing absolutely nothing in paradise. For even more decadent me-time, go on a pampering spiritual journey at Mandala Spa or True Yoga.

Adventure time
For thrill-seekers, there’s no limit to the adventures to be had. Rozie Delgado, a kite board instructor who relocated to Boracay from Manila, ticks off the dizzying array of activities in store: “Kite boarding at Bulabog beach, Zorb, cliff jumping at Ariel’s point, scuba diving—try Victory Divers or Fisheye Divers, learn mermaid swimming at the Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy, water activities—parasailing, banana boat, etcetera—at Diamond Water Sports, and stand up paddle board tours at Isla Kitesurfing Center. There’s even amusement park activities—go kart, paintball, etcetera—at Happy Dreamland!”

Sunset alert
Lured by Boracay’s tropical beauty, Lorenzo Recrosio, an assistant concierge at Hotel Le Meurice, Paris, has, spent practically every holiday here since 2007. He never tires of the majestic sunsets—all the more when you can enjoy it with a cocktail in hand.

The best views on the island? “If you want to spend a bit, enjoy the sunset over Adlaw Bar at Asya Premier Suites. It shows the gorgeous seascape on an elevated view. You can also enjoy cocktails overlooking the beach with a sunset view at Sirena at Shangri-La Boracay.”

He adds, “If you are on a budget, take an afternoon trip to Puka Beach. You can bring your own snacks and drinks while enjoying the view. The sand here is not as fine, more pebbly, with a lot of puka shells—hence the name.”

Other great places to chill out at sunset: Baling Hai, Spiderhouse at Diniwid Beach, and the funky hidden haven Red Pirates.

There’s a palpable buzz in the air as the sun dips and the island gears up for the all-night party. Gen Enriquez-Gerodias (a travel industry exec at DirectWithHotels), who recently visited Boracay with her family, shares, “Discovery Shores tops my list with their over the top service and signature Filipino hospitality that's all heart. Happy hour starts at 5 PM where you can enjoy a mojito by the pool or by the beach and watch the sunset while a butler cleans your sun glasses and offers unlimited pandan water.”

Check out Summer Place and Club Paraw, as well as Exit Bar and Epic. Joyce dishes, “Exit Bar is popular with foreigners, and Epic for dancing and booze!”

Food trip
Boracay is like a mini United Nations of restaurants. True Food is tops for Indian cuisine. Lorenzo recommends Kasbah in Station 1 for delish Moroccan fare, with live music by guest artists making your dining experience even more awesome.

Rozie also suggests checking out: “Titos (Filipino fusion), Valhalla (Western), Frypan (Korean), Fridays (for the steak), Dos Mestizos (Spanish), Pamana (Filipino), Real Coffee (for breakfast—and don’t miss the famed calamansi muffins!), Lazy Dog (for all-day Filipino breakfast), and Lemon Café (for breakfast or dessert).”

Gen shares, “Aria remains one of our go-to restaurants with their extensive Italian menu and reasonably-priced items. Their oven-baked pizza is one of the best… It's a sacrilege to go to Boracay and not eat a Choriburger (a small stall located along the stretch of Station 1 and 2). Be sure to have water with you because the spiciness bites back.”

Don’t miss the famous Jonah’s fruit shakes—try the banana peanut shake spiked with rum, or enjoy the detoxing goodness of fresh fruit shakes when you’re nursing a hangover!