Budget vacation to Boracay Island

A vacation to Boracay Island means a lot of beach time on the famous "White Beach" - pictured here in the golden hour before sunset.

I took a vacation to Boracay Island for two weeks, and it cost me $500.

How was it so cheap – to visit one of the most beautiful beaches on the planet?

Vacation to Boracay Island

I was already here, for one. The spouse and I have stayed on the mainland – nearby larger Panay Island since the pandemic began. So no flight needed.

But I looked, and flights to Caticlan – the mainland port town to Boracay – from Manila are cheap. At the time of this writing, one way flights are as low as $13! The average is $18.

International flights into Manila still are a wild card. The country is not currently open to new tourist visas.

Hotels are running deals for domestic tourists. Weekly rates. Monthly rates. Free breakfasts and other special offers.

The place I chose

I went with Niu Ohana, a family-owned business. It’s a hotel and restaurant/bar on Boracay’s ‘back beach’ – Bolabog – that also has studio apartments. Boracay is the country’s jewel travel destination. Prices are always going to be higher for average accommodations.

Normally, the price is the same for the studios whether it’s rented by one person or a couple. But Theo stayed ‘home’ on the mainland, and so the owner cut the price.

I took a studio for a week for $175. It was more than $100 a night before the pandemic.

Here’s the pad:

Could I have gotten a better deal? Yes. But no one else was renting rooms or studios at Niu Ohana, and I liked the owner and manager. The price I agreed to was lower than the going rate on hotel websites. They’re struggling, like everyone else.

I found it just by walking around an looking, actually. The old-fashioned way. Then I looked at it online.

Near the end of my two-week stay I checked prices online again and saw they were offering a steep discount for just $22 a night for a similar studio.

Studio details

The bed was extremely comfortable. I slept great every single night.

The WiFi was fantastic. For two years on the mainland, we’ve had lame WiFi. It was so fast at Niu Ohana that I was able to update all of my apps at once for the first time in two years. I also uploaded *thousands* of my favorite pictures over the last year from my old iPhone to Flickr in about three hours. Video calls – easy peasy. It was a joy.

It was always peaceful and quiet, except one Sunday when there was a birthday party in the neighborhood somewhere unseen to me but heard. With more tourists, the place wouldn’t be as quiet, of course.

This is the beach to see the sun rise. The beach with kite boarders because the wind is perfect, especially during Amihan season.

A road crew is constructing a new beach walk in front of this property and others at the time of this writing. It will be gorgeous once finished.

There’s a laundromat within a five minute walk. But since it was just me in a bathing suit most days, I hand washed as needed.

My initial plan was to stay for one week. But I was so comfortable and happy in the place, I extended a week.

Best part of vacation to Boracay: White Beach

The best part for me: the 10-minute walk to White Beach. Like everyone else who ever experiences the place, I’m in love with that beach. Ocean swims are a joy, even with the current green mossy, hairy seaweed. (It is earlier this year for some reason. Some days it’s bad, some days it’s not.)

The seaweed spawns no-see-ums, which bite. The bites are more itchy and last way longer than mosquito bites. And – as with mosquitoes – no-see-ums love to feast on me.

I figured out, finally, they won’t land on wet skin as often. So instead of sitting on the dry sand, I sat in spots without much seaweed – in the water!

Bliss.

White Beach won’t be deserted forever…

I do swim on the mainland beach, but it’s dark sand, it’s murky with rice field runoff and, um, well, nipa huts don’t have plumbing. Still, when the current and tides are right, it’s enjoyable. But it’s not White Beach.

Also, there are no lifeguards on the mainland. Since I enjoy ocean swims, White Beach is safer. (I don’t have a swim buddy.) White beach is like a shallow pool with fish.

Food

As with any tourist mecca, restaurant prices are inflated on Boracay. But with limited restaurants on the mainland, I was happy to eat out once a day – usually on White Beach.

There are deals to be found. But please: tip well. The owners are doing all they can to stay afloat, and the wait staff make a pittance compared to the tips they earned before the ‘Rona rocked the world.

All-day breakfasts at Nigi Nigi Nu Noos on White Beach was one of the deals I liked. Real coffee – not instant – three eggs, bacon or ham, a few tomato and cucumber slices, thick wheat toast, and real butter for $3.60. By comparison, a small restaurant in the middle of the island serves eggs (no meat or extras) for 60 pesos – $1.20.

I made dinner at ‘home’ every night except one — the day Theo came for a visit. We went to a Thai place around the corner from my studio, on the road to White Beach. For two meals, it was $20, nice tip included. (Theo paid.)

I often stopped at Real Coffee, Station 2, White Beach, after a swim. It’s $2 a cup, but it’s big mug real brewed coffee with a million dollar view. (By the way – Starbucks opened over the holidays – the first time in nearly two years – but I refuse to go there.)

Budget breakdown

So, $350 on the studio for two weeks was $25 a day. For 14 days, I budgeted roughly $10 for groceries, tips, and whatever else – $150 total. For two weeks. Not bad.

Two week vacation total: $500.

That’s what I decided to spend on myself for a two-week vacation to Boracay. I would recommend Niu Ohana to anyone.

As always, budgets are relative. There are ways to do it cheaper, and of course, you can always spend a lot more at luxury resorts like Shangri-La, on Boracay’s most exclusive beach.

A budget room on White Beach (no air con) can be had for just $15 (at the moment) at Niggy Niggy’s Too, by Willy’s Rock.

Other hotel rooms on White Beach will run you anywhere from $25 to $75, depending on amenities. Some have breakfast included, and the higher-priced “walk-in” rates have pools.

Get off White Beach and you can get a cool studio – like mine – at a bargain price for your vacation to Boracay.

And if you want to ‘slow travel’ on Boracay, decent budget apartments are available for less than 25,000 pesos ($500) per month as this pandemic drags on. You could even arrange to stay for a month at a hotel for a discount if you don’t need a kitchen. They’re all empty.

Next stop?

As I mentioned, Theo stayed ‘home’ on the mainland during my vacation to Boracay and only visited once. I needed a break. I miss travel. I love White Beach. So it was a no brainer for me to take advantage of my situation and splurge on myself. For once.

Yes, we paid double rent for half a month. That’s not very budget travel of me. But in the end, it is a small price to pay for my happiness, my sobriety, my serenity. I feel my vagabond spirit is more at peace now.

We are approaching the two-year mark of living on the ‘mainland’ — I want to move on.

Hopefully my vacation will recharge me to stay a little longer, until we figure out what is next.

Thanks for reading, “Budget vacation to Boracay Island.”

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