Boracay is an absolutely beautiful holiday destination with one tiny drawback – it’s not the easiest place to get to. There’s no airport on the island, so you’re guaranteed at least a couple of flights and a boat trip to get there. For us, as we tend to be a little short on time during our holidays, it was a pretty decent chunk of time spent travelling, but the beauty of Boracay was definitely well worth it!
When heading to Boracay, you can choose to fly in to one of 2 nearby airports – Caticlan or Kalibo. There are not a lot of international flights that head into either of these airports (although AirAsia has just commenced direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kalibo), so you’re usually going to need to head to Manila first. We chose to travel via Kalibo, but here are both options so you can make your own choice!
Caticlan is the closest airport to Boracay and so it’s a shorter trip. You can fly into Caticlan from pretty much just Manila and Cebu, so you’ll need to organise to get yourself into the Philippines also. Caticlan is about a 50 minute flight from Manila. Bear in mind that it is a quite small destination and that the boats over to Boracay only run from around 5am to 10pm, so if your flight into the Philippines gets you there in the mid-afternoon, you may want to stay a night in Manila and head out to Caticlan first thing the next morning rather than risk missing the last boat. I believe the boat schedule does also have some dependence on the weather. From the Caticlan Airport, you need to take a 5 minute trike ride to the Caticlan Jetty Port and then a 10-20 minute ferry/boat ride over to Boracay. There will usually be plenty of trikes (the local transport on the island, similar to Thailand’s tuk-tuks) waiting to take you to your accommodation on the island.
So why didn’t we choose to travel through Caticlan? For one, it’s a much smaller airport than Kalibo, and only smaller planes are able to land there (usually twin prop planes). Because of this you are limited to only 10kg of baggage allowance, with 6kg allowed for carry-on. I really struggle to get my checked bag under about 14kg for a 2 week trip, so this wasn’t ideal for us. Also, as there are less flights going into Caticlan, the airfares from Manila are usually quite a bit pricier.
Our flight arrived in Manila at around 4pm, so we had already organised to stay in Manila that night as there was not much chance we’d make it to Boracay that night, especially going via Kalibo which is a longer trip. We left at 9:40am the next morning from the delightful (insert sarcasm here) Terminal 4 at Manila’s NAIA airport. Take note, if you are going on a flight from Terminal 4, take some food with you if you need a meal as there aren’t many options there!
After an uneventful 60 min flight we arrived in Kalibo. Based on some recommendations on the TripAdvisor forums, I had pre-booked all of our transfer starting from Kalibo airport and taking us right through to our hotel with a company called Southwest Tours. I think it was pretty good value, as for the bargain price of 975 pesos (around $23) each that covered us for everything (including environmental fees etc that you need to pay to go to Boracay) from when we stepped off the plane in Kalibo to arriving at our hotel in Boracay and the same again back to Kalibo. I’m sure you could do it cheaper yourself, but I found this to be a good option to eliminate any confusion in a country I had never been to before!
Arriving at Kalibo Airport was an interesting experience, the plane pulled up so close to the terminal (if you could call the tiny, rundown building a terminal!) we pretty much walked down the stairs of the plane and straight into the baggage claim area! Our baggage arrived fairly quickly, and we were on our way. As soon as we walked out of the airport the Southwest Tours desk was immediately on our left, so we checked in with them and were ushered over to a bus. The bus was relatively new and clean, which was a nice surprise. Once all of the booked passengers had boarded the bus, we took off on the long 1.5 hour bus ride to the Caticlan Jetty Port.
Driving through Kalibo, I was amazed by the large mausoleums in the cemeteries we drove past, some were almost the size of a small house! The scenery soon changed from town to rocky coastline, where we saw a lovely little school with playground right on the beach. As we moved further inland, the coast gave way to lush green rice paddies and fields with cows and goats, and rolling hills.
We made a brief amenities stop halfway through the drive at a stop that was run by the tour company, where they also had a small shop set up if you wanted to purchase any drinks or snacks.
Upon arrival at the Caticlan Jetty Port, there seemed to be a state of organised chaos, which seems par for the course throughout South East Asia! We were however guided through by the many helpful Southwest Tours staff, who were all wearing neon orange t-shirts so very easy to spot! We soon boarded a fast boat that seated around 15 people and were on our way on the short boat ride over to Boracay. There wasn’t a lot to see on the boat over, as there were a few waves the clear plastic tarps on the side of the boat were pulled down to help stop us getting wet. However the boats from Caticlan arrive on another part of the island from the lovely beaches, so I don’t think we missed out on much scenery-wise.
When we disembarked from the boat and finally stepped onto Boracay at around 2pm, our boat group was divided between a few trikes and we were whisked away to our hotel – the Hennan Garden Resort. Stay tuned for a review of the hotel and more tales from Boracay!
Have you been to Boracay? How did you get there?