Beach blast in the Philippines

Guest blogger Natalie writes about her amazing beach vacation at Boracay and El Nido in the Philippines:

Beach Holidays Philippines

The beautiful Boracay beaches are rarely uncrowded like this.

My latest Southeast Asian vacation to the Philippines can be easily described as a scene straight out of “The Beach,” the movie, without all the death of course. My boyfriend and I went to Boracay and El Nido, unquestionably where some of the world’s best beaches are. (El Nido in fact inspired the guy who wrote “The Beach.”) Getting to either of these places can be a bit of a hassle, but trust me the ineffable scenery that greets you upon arrival is definitely worth the crowded buses and queues.

Kite surfing for the first time in Boracay.

Kite surfing for the first time in Boracay.

We visited Boracay first. The White Beach there is legendary for powder-fine sand as well as the party scene. Getting to Boracay can be tricky so it’s best to arrange such a trip with a reputed travel agent, like we did with Travablue who organized everything, otherwise it would have been a complete nightmare.  We flew to Kalibo airport first, then Travablue arranged for a chauffeur and a private car to take us to the docks for the ferry ride to Boracay. Without the chauffeured vehicle, we would have been on a congested local bus as we were forewarned by friends who’ve been on this route.

We explored the waters off Boracay on this traditional-style boat.

We explored the waters off Boracay on this traditional-style boat.

Boracay is not for people who like peace and quiet. The beaches are almost always crowded and at night the numerous discos and clubs blast music well into dawn.  We expected as such and planned accordingly. White Beach, where we stayed, is partitioned into three sections. Section 1 is the most upscale, 2 has the most nightlife venues and 3 is the most budget-friendly. We stayed for two nights at a modest guesthouse in Section 3. Regardless of where you stay, the scenery—impossibly azure waters and creamy-white sand—remains the same.

The stunning beach and the karst cliffs in El Nido.

The stunning beach and the karst cliffs in El Nido.

We were tempted to just lounge on the beach and sip Boracay coladas all day, but there were so many other equally tempting things to do here. We couldn’t miss out on kite surfing at “kite-surfer paradise.” There are many “kite surfer schools” along the Bolabog beach offering beginner’s courses. I tried a 4-hour basic course on how to set up a kite and let it drag my body across shallow water. It was all very exciting and novel, except my triceps were sore for hours on end. The following day, we went on a traditional-style boat ride. The ocean in the morning was calm so the ride was very relaxing. Other thing I couldn’t help but try was a mermaid swimming lesson. It was, basically, a swimming class in the ocean wearing a stretch fabric mermaid fin. Was it everything I dreamed of ever since I saw “Little Mermaid”? Yes! Our instructor said it improves our core strength and self-expression, too.

About to go banana boat tubing in El Nido.

About to go banana boat tubing in El Nido.

Boracay is also a great place to eat. Along the beach are numerous restaurants ranking from trendy to outrageous serving dishes from all over the world. We had a rice dinner for relatively cheap served with an omelet, fried chicken and mango. Mangoes are everywhere in Boracay. We had mango juice, shakes, lassie and “flaming” mangoes served with melting vanilla ice cream. After dinner, the ultimate must-do is to hit the clubs. We checked out several places before settling at a nice spot blasting classic disco music.  It was pure fun without any seedy business.

Beach Holidays Philippines

The incredible Twin Beach and Snake Island at El Nido.

I didn’t think anything could top our beach experience in Boracay, but El Nido definitely proved me wrong. Getting here was tricky too—we went to Manila, flew from there to Puerto Princesa airport and took an air-conditioned van ride to El Nido. Never mind the exhausting ride; we were greeted by beaches that looked as if they fell out of a fantasy novel. The turquoise waters of the El Nido lagoon are dotted with stunning limestone karst cliffs and vivid corals. Other than the feather-soft white-sand beaches, El Nido is much different from rambunctious Boracay. The beaches are more tranquil, and offer eye-catching views, particularly at the Twin Beach, where the ocean is separated by a brilliant white sandbar that extends off the Snake Island. At first, before arranging the trip, we thought El Nido would be really expensive. But our travel agent assured us that El Nido has a variety of accommodation options and she found us a nice seaside budget resort. Majority of our time here was spent gawking at the otherworldly scenery.  We went swimming, snorkeling, banana boat tubing, island hopping and cruised between the karst cliffs. The multicolor sunset here is quite exceptional against the cliffs.

We never got tired of gawking at El Nido’s otherworldly beauty.

We never got tired of gawking at El Nido’s otherworldly beauty.

I loved the adventurous spirit of Boracay and the serene beauty of El Nido, both truly incomparable destinations. I only wish we’d spent more time the in Philippines, like, forever.