Your Ultimate Boracay Side Trip Travel Checklist! / by Ryan Buaron

Diniwid Beach, Boracay Island

Diniwid Beach, Boracay Island

It is without question that Boracay Island remains one of the top tourism drawers for the Philippines. The tiny island off the coast of the Northern Panay province of Aklan continues to attract millions of visitors throughout the year, thanks to the close proximity of Kalibo International Airport, the country’s 3rd busiest international gateway after Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila and Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Cebu. Aside from the international airport, Boracay is also served by the Boracay Airport located in Caticlan, Malay, and various ports in Aklan, making it one of the busiest travel and logistical hubs in the country.

We all know the myriad activities Boracay has to offer - from helicopter tours, reverse bungy, ATV, banana boat rides, flyboarding, mystery rooms, parasailing, helmet diving, scuba, windsurfing, skimboarding, paddle boarding, boozing or just plainly lazing in its blindingly fine white sand with a glass of Philippine mango shake spiked with rum among others.

Jonah's Philippine mango rhum shake - still most awesome!

Jonah's Philippine mango rhum shake - still most awesome!

Aside from the fun, sand and sun in Boracay, Northern Panay is filled with many beautiful destinations and activities. So be sure not limit your trip to Boracay alone..here are some of the side trips worth including in your next trip to Philippines’ most fun beach destination!

Kalibo

When in Kalibo, try Hot Chili Ice Cream- sweet, creamy and spicy from  Healthy Options Homemade Ice Cream !

When in Kalibo, try Hot Chili Ice Cream- sweet, creamy and spicy from Healthy Options Homemade Ice Cream!

The provincial capital, third busiest international gateway to the Philippines, and the home of the oldest, grandest Philippine festival Ati-atihan, is your main entry point to Boracay. You can fly direct to Kalibo International Airport via Busan (Korea), Incheon (Korea), Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing (China), Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), with seasonal flights coming from Russia as well as other parts of China. The airport also caters to domestic flights from Manila, Clark, and Cebu.

If you are arriving right in the third week January, you’ll be greeted by colourful parades, street dancing and parties with drumbeats echoing all through the main town and its environs. Book your hotel way in advance for this as accommodation is limited. 

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Kalibo Atiatihan is the Philippines' grandest and oldest festival and is celebrated every third week of January.

Kalibo Atiatihan is the Philippines' grandest and oldest festival and is celebrated every third week of January.

The main site in Kalibo is the Bakhawan Ecopark, which is a successful mangrove reforestation project (15 minute tricycle/tuktuk ride and open from 8am-5pm). There are also two museums - Museo it Akean- a repository of local history and the newer Tigayon Hill museum which houses recently unearthed artifacts from the archeological digs onsite.

If you have time to spare - check out the gourmet ice cream using local flavours and ingredients!

Time Here: 2 days

New Washington

Named after the first President of the United States by the Thomasites, New Washington is home to quiet coastal villages. Sampaguita Gardens and the Lagatic river cruise. The Sampaguita Gardens is a sprawling beach-side property with Christmas decor all year, while the river cruise explores the Isla Kapispisan Mangrove Park and Fish Sanctuary, a mangrove reforestation and eco-tourism site initiated by the local government and the College of Fisheries and Marine Sciences of the Aklan State University.

New Washington is also the site of a proposed yacht club and lifestyle community by the ADS group, so we will see how this area develops in the near future!

Time Here: half a day

Tangalan

Jawili Beach in Tangalan: quiet and very rural. 

Jawili Beach in Tangalan: quiet and very rural. 

Whether you are on your way to Boracay, or based for a couple of days in Kalibo, Tangalan provides a nice quick stop at the seven-basin waterfall in Jawili and Jawili Beach as well as the Afga wave rock formation nearby.

At Pungtod Reef is a marine sanctuary and coral garden which covers 375 hectares and was officially established in 2003. The sanctuary is home to a number of hard and soft rock corals, sea stars, shells, oysters, lobsters, sponges, as well as colourful fish, sting rays, dolphins, endangered sea snakes and sea turtles.

Time Here: 1-2 days

Ibajay

Situated on the border of Tangalan and Ibajay is Campo Verde (28 kilometers away from Kalibo), a trekkers paradise. It’s thick forests reveal various species of Philippine hardwoods as well as pines and mahogany. Campo Verde have places to picnic and do mountain biking. The forests also hug the coasts which have pockets of deserted beaches.

Ibajay is home to another ecopark - Katunggan it Ibajay - another protected mangrove park whose Bugtungbato-Naisud basin boasts of 28 species of mangrove - one of which is centuries old, the Avicennia rumphiana otherwise known as apiapi or bungalon. The piag-ao meanwhile has leaves that change colour from bright yellow, orange, red and then it starts to fall in Late January.

Aside from natural beauty, Ibajay is also home to its (smaller) version of Kalibo Ati-atihan only celebrated a week after the latter. So if you miss out on Kalibo’s head out to Ibajay the following weekend!

Time Here: 1 day

Nabas

Nabas is a fast growing town, thanks in part to the ongoing expansion of the Boracay Airport right on the border with Malay and development in energy production with the completion of the initial phase of the Pawa Wind Farm - currently with 18 wind turbines, the first of its kind in Northern Panay. The wind turbines have become an attraction of sorts just like the wind turbines of Bangui, Ilocos Norte - with a few tourists starting to make their way there. A proposed view deck is in the offing, which affords a view of the surrounding countryside.

Nabas is also home to the popular cold springs of Basang and Hurom-Hurom - a perfect way to cool down! Another highlight for spelunkers would be the Basang Cave - said to be one of the longest caves in the country which stretches all the way to the town of Pandan in the province of Antique.

The beaches of Nabas can be quite windy and are perfect for kitesurfing. We spied at least one resort specialising in this, so on your drive to Boracay, keep your eyes peeled!

Time Here: 1-2 days

Malay

Aside from Boracay, what is there to explore in mainland Malay? One of the highly recommended places to go is the Motag Living Museum where one can learn about the rural, agricultural ways of Aklan. It is the first interactive museum in the Philippines and prides itself in providing authentic Filipino farm experiences directly from locals. Watch and participate in traditional weaving, farming, and play. With all the modernity slowly killing traditions in the country - Motag provides a way for Filipinos to reconnect with their roots and for foreign visitors to discover the true heart and soul of the nation. (By appointment - book here)

By Motag are the clear waters of the Nabaoy River which is a perfect place for tubing. For those daring enough to do longer hikes, there are treks to Agnaga Falls and Nagata Falls, the latter takes at least 3 hours!

Time Here: 1 day

Buruanga

After Malay is the town of Buranga on the Northwesternmost tip of the island of Panay. Often overlooked by travelers heading to Malay, the town offers a wealth of natural beauty. The most famous spot in Buruanga has got to be Ariel’s Point (formerly called Batasan Point) which is a cliff-diving, scuba diving and snorkeling mecca. Tours direct from Boracay can be organised for Ariel’s Point and are becoming alternative destinations for thrill seekers.

Buruanga’s beaches also offer great alternatives to Boracay - make a beeline to Hinugtan White Beach and Talisay Beach’s stunning, clear waters, while Sabang Caves (panoramic view of beaches) and Sapsapon Cave are home to stalagmites and stalactites accumulated throughout the centuries. Note to bring appropriate gloves when exploring the caves. Hacienda Maria, meanwhile has hotpot jacuzzis, local spirit tasting, and a waterfall.

Time Here: 2 days

Libacao and Madalag

Another side trip from Kalibo is the highlands of Libacao where you have lush greenery, forests and mountain ranges. One new activity that is fast becoming popular in Libacao is the wild river bamboo rafting, while Madalag offers the placid, crystal clear waters of Timbaban River - said to be one of the cleanest inland rivers in the country. An hour’s trek from Maria Cristina (in Madalag) will take you to the Liktinon White Rocks - big boulders of white rocks strewn along the river. The place is an ideal place for a nice swim. Make sure you approach the municipal tourism offices at each of the towns mentioned here before you embark on the trip. So far only one tourism company handles the bamboo rafting in Libacao.

Time Here: 1 day each town

Carabao Island, Romblon

Carabao Island, Romblon, Philippines

Carabao Island, Romblon, Philippines

A quick boat ride from Boracay is the island of Hambil (also called Carabao Island). The main attraction of the island are its nearly deserted beaches. You can hire a boat from Bulabog beach in Boracay to San Jose, Romblon (costs vary depending on the time of day and number of people). We hired a boat from White Beach to Lanas  (1,500-2,000 pesos round trip for 4 people) - 40 minutes trip each way. Lanas has a quiet seaside village feel despite the many houses and buildings destroyed from what looked like massive tidal forces. We only stayed there for about an hour as there was not much to do - although we wished we had brought a grill along!

During Amihan months (Northeast wind/Trade winds) which occur between September to May of each year, it is better to head to Lanas and then take a motorbike to San Jose.

Facilities are sparse but it’s a great alternative for a day trip from Boracay!

Time Here: 1 day

Pandan and Culasi, Antique

Malumpati Cold Spring and Bugang River is 1 hour from Kalibo International Airport and 45 minutes from Caticlan (Boracay).

Malumpati Cold Spring and Bugang River is 1 hour from Kalibo International Airport and 45 minutes from Caticlan (Boracay).

Antique is probably one of the under-appreciated places in the country. The province, which stretches from the Western side of Panay, is home to a wealth of places to visit and enjoy. Close to Caticlan and Kalibo is the Malumpati Cold Spring and Bugang River in the town of Pandan. The beautiful river is popular for rafting and tubing.

Pandan Beach Antique Philippines

If you are feeling adventurous, you may head out to Malalison Island in Culasi Town, about 40 minutes to 1 hour away by land and then a short boat ride thereafter. Malalison Island, is fast becoming a windsurfing mecca in the province of Antique!

Time Here: 1-2 days

Any more ideas that we missed? Sound off in the comments below!

BOOKING INFORMATION: 

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Dave Ryan A. Buaron, Owner and Co-Founder THE NEXT ESCAPE: TRAVEL, ARTS, SPORTS AND LIFESTYLE