We spent our last day in Manila being extra lazy. We slept until 10 am and we started the day with pizza for lunch. The rest of the day was spent napping by the pool then in the AC and repeating that all day. Finally around 10pm we left our hotel to pick up our friend at the airport and after a late hours burrito run we called it a night.

Boracay just reopened after being closed to tourists by the government for infrastructure repairs, cleaning and general tourism upgrades. The island is broken up into 3 tourist stations along the western beaches, a port side and the areas where the locals live. Station 1 and 2 are complete and 3 is still under repair. The northern tip has well preserved and protected local beaches and several high end resorts, a tiny mall and a beautiful golf course. This area is expensive and represents the future vision for Borocay. Stations 1-3 have nice 3 star and boutique hotels as well as the tourist trap shops and restaurants. The beach along this stretch is clean and has a great vibe. Hawkers aren’t too pushy and the locals are very welcoming. By far our favorite beach destination on this trip so far. The food options are endless and reasonably priced. From local to international cuisine you can’t go wrong. No chance of maintaining a beach body here. Of course, we ventured off of the tourist trail and sought out the local lifestyle as well only to find a complete contrast. The harbor and most roads are still under construction and the quality of life for most of the locals is extreme poverty by western standards. However, with the recent reopening of tourism there is a lot of hope and enthusiasm. The parts of the island that are finished are fantastic and the future is bright. We came here in the begin of the rainy or monsoon season knowing it would be cheaper and less crowded. The mornings are good but it gets cloudy in the evening. During our stay it rained one morning and then only in the middle of the nights. Travel gods had our backs again.

Day 1 Boracay., We caught a quick early flight to Caticlan island then a 30 minute shuttle to the beach where we caught a ferry to Boracay. A last tricycle ride across the island and a short walk down the beach and we were at our hotel for 5 days of beach side bliss and over indulging. After checking in we headed out for lunch and some exploring and then dinner and relaxing.

Day 2 We started the day by taking a quick trip to the mall but by noon we were floating in the crystal clear warm waters 50 feet from our front door. At one point I just swam and bobbed around for over 2 hours without getting out of the ocean even once. Around 4 we went for a walk off the main strip and I saw a woman sitting on her porch talking with a friend so I approached them and asked if they knew anybody with a tricycle who we could hire to give us a tour of the island from a locals view. After a few phone calls she found someone and within minutes we were off. She took us to several private untouched beaches, gave us history lessons and pointed out things we would never had seen as tourists. After 2 hours it was getting dark so we gave her $20 for the tour and headed home. Before letting her go we made a deal to hire her and her family for tomorrow as well.

Day 3. Our new friend arranged to have her nephew pic us up at 4am and take us to the highest point on the island for sunrise. The view was worth the early morning start and after sunrise we returned to our hotel for breakfast. Clouds were rolling in so we rescheduled the rest of the days plans for the following day and instead dropped off laundry and spent the day eating and wandering through “d’ mall”. This area is several blocks along the beach with shops and restaurants and every kind of Asian tourist trap from massages to hair braiding. The vibe is really fun and prices are pretty good. Lots more really good food all day!

Day 4. We woke around 9 to overcast skies but decided to follow through with our plans with our guide. The day before we gave her other nephew money to buy and cook local dishes for us and another cousin agreed to take us out on his boat. So we had food, a guide and a private boat for the day. We spent the day going from one snorkeling spot to another avoiding crowds and commercial tours while getting insider advice. The snorkeling was the best we have done since the Great Barrier Reef. In between snorkeling stops we stopped at an island for some cliff diving while they prepared a huge feast of bbq chicken and pork with salads, rice, drinks and a platter of mangos and pineapple fresher than anything you can get in the states. Fantastic trip. After getting dropped off we showered and headed out with some locals we met for drinks, dinner, more drinks, more food and some dancing until 2am. These days spent with locals are always the best. New friends, new foods and good times. Venture out of your comfort zone, approach a stranger and open your mind! Unexpected adventures that you can’t find in a guide book make the best memories. Walking up to a stranger on her porch ended up being the best move I made on this trip.

Day 5- A lazy start to the day before being picked up at our hotel by our guides nephews again. We hired them today to get us and our bags from Boracay to Caticlan airport for our flight back to Manila. We loved Boracay and almost stayed a few extra days but there’s more to see in the Philippines.