Ok for those of you far away from Boracay and wondering what you might expect, let this California based traveler clue you in.
I was a bit concerned about going in August to this tropical resort but August is fine as long as you dont have a typhoon. Its a nice remote place, primitive in some ways but very modern in others.
If you can come in at Caticlan that is much easier. Flying into Kalibo is more strenous. Kalibo is a little airport about 1 1/2 hours from the boat docks near Caticlan. As with many 3rd world airports, its a very confusing place. Once you get outside you will be approached by the Van guys who will take you to the boat docks for around 200 pesos a person ($4.50) in an "Air Conditioned" van. Our van guy said that the 200 included the boat ride which turned out to not be true. It seemed like you had your choice of which van you wanted in Kalibo which wasnt true on the return trip. So if you can, have the time, or the presence of mind you should check the A/C because the one we had did not work. Im not sure how the van guys will react to this since I took the guy who looked the most knowlegeable. You will have to wait till van fills up which isnt a big deal when you come in on a plane at Kalibo since the plane usually floods the place with people that need rides to Boracay.
The ride is slow and tedious through lots of tricycle traffic and small towns with slow vehicles everywhere and lots of smoke around the road from the 2 cycle engines of the tricycles. Dont expect a fast cruise down a California highway because its not. If its a nice day and you arent packed in the back of the Van its quite scenic. Still its almost two hours so use the bathroom and buy some water. Dont expect a nice Pontiace Safari or Toyota Odysse van. It will most probably be a well worn tiny van packed tight with luggage and people. You can take a private van for about 1700 pesos ($30) but I didnt do that so I cant comment on the value. This takes you to the Boat Dock.
When you get to the Boat dock its confusing once again. You have porters coming out and grabbing your luggage and pointing you at the boats. They dont speak english that well so you dont really know where you are going and you just sort of get out and follow them. You then have to pay the environmental fee and the boat fee to get you to Boracay proper. Its hard to know what your doing and bit scarey but if you go with the flow it seems to work. Getting on the boats is a bit tricky if you arent sure footed but the porters will carry your luggage and you can tip them 50-100 pesos ($1-2) each. So you just sort of follow your luggage to which ever boat they choose. The boats are old Banka boats with hard woden seats that fill up very fast and you are on your own to get your seats. The driver seems to know no english and pilots you across the channel to Boracay. When you get there, the porters come out and grab your luggage again and take you to the multicabs or the tricycles. Its all kind of chaotic and whimsical. It sort of scares you at first but its all taken care of by the porters who seem like good folks. The tricycle fee to your hotel at station 2 should be 100 pesos.
You have your choice of what kind of experience you want to have. Station two is the center of the west side of the Island and its where the mall (small shop mall nothing like Sears or Macy's in this mall) is and where there are lots of bars and restaurants. In August its not very crowded at all with the exception of night time. Then it gets a bit peopled. During the day at this time the restaurants and bars are mostly vacant. Station 2 has plenty of good places to stay. There are hotels right in the mall and many along the Boardwalk. The boardwalk is like 10 meters from the edge of the beach and the hotels and bars are on the island side of the boardwalk. Since its August the Habagat winds are coming from the west and the hotels put up lots of wind screens because you get the wind and it blows up the sand on windy days. Windy is not bad because its warm and humid. I mean really humid. If you get some showers or clouds its not really bad because it has a Los Angeles type sun haze even when its cloudy and you can still burn or tan. If you have a rain shower it could be a frog choker (major down pour) but then its over. I only had 1 such shower in the 10 days I was there.
The roads are not nice and white lined like in California and they are not really a place to ride bikes. The tricycles rule and they also make lots of noice and smoke. the roads are all very narrow and not the kind you would like stroll down. You can forget about roller blading or anything like that since the boardwalk is really a sand walk. Its also behind a line of palm trees to protect you from the wind.
Station 3 to north is just less full than station 2 and station 1 is the same. The hotels and restaurants and bars thin out like a bell curve. There is still quite a bit of poverty there and you see this when you take a tour of the island. There are many people who live similar to the way they live in Jamaica or Belize. At station 2 there is a department store that is right on the main road and it is 3 stories high with an open air bar at the top. Its the place where the locals hang out. There are some good places to eat in the mall. Rumba's has good drink deals and some good food. It sits right next to the Hobbit House which has good steaks and a large selection of beers including German and Belgium Beer.
Seafood is the main course and in the evening the area just beach side of the board walk is loaded with buffets and live seafood grills. We went to the Pardiso which is a little pricey but you get a nicer atmosphere and really cold beer. A good sized green monster lobster goes for about $20 and bottle of wine is about about the same. Dont expect a large selection of wine though, they keep a few bottles on hand. Paradis also has some excellent tasting ribs. I highly recommend you try the ribs.
There are several resorts lilke the Shangra la that are far away from the action. They are nice if you want privacy but they are also far from the best beach which is White beach. White is the best for body surfing and beach fun. It is a long wide beach and the water is very clear and turquois colored like in the Carribean. If you are at the more remote resorts at the north end of the island then you might have a transportation problem to the beaches and Im not sure how good the hotel beaches might be. Again the roads are narrow and you have to face the poverty each time you travel to them.
If you are at station 2 you will be acosted (approached) by many people wanting to sell you sunglasses, pearls, religious artifacts, model boats, massages and water sports. The water sports guys are commissioned salesmen for the two main outfits that do water sports. We went with Napoleon water sports and our salesman was Nemo a dwarfed young man who is very friendly and trustworthy. I recommend you use him for a square deal. He hangs out outside of the Le Soleil hotel where I stayed. Just ask for Nemo. Everyone knows him.
The parasailing is fun and is about half the cost of in the states and if you use Napolean the boats and equipment are fairly new. I did it and I survived. The Jet skiing is fun but its running around a big circle on the east side of the Island. You cant really go where you want with the rentals, its basically round and round. Its fun for about half an hour but an hour is a bit too long.
Chartering a Sail Boat for about 2000 pesos takes you around the island. The boats are small hulled outriggers and you will get soaked in August because of the waves. You can snorkle on the east side with this charter, but I would recommend you buy your own snorkle at the mall rather than use the ones the boat provides.
Leave plenty of time to get to the Airport at Kalibo when you leave. It took us about 2 1/2 hours to get there from our hotel in Boracay. And that was with everything going well.
Its fun place even in August that is about half what it costs to visit California.