Browsing Tag

Palm Trees

Philippines

Boracay, The Philippines

Condé Nast Traveler readers choice recently named Boracay the number one Island in the world! To be completely honest with you in my opinion it is pretty far fetched but I have a few photos from there that say differently. I arrived to Boracay before Christmas and was just looking for a good beach to relax on and celebrate the holidays. Boracay is a place that you can spend as little or as much money as you would like. If you aren’t into partying then you better do your homework about where you are going to stay because this place knows how to do that very well! Boracay also has no shortage of things to do. From diving, snorkeling, helmet diving, sailing, day trips, island hopping, parasailing, sunset cruises to cliff jumping, there is something for everyone.

After arriving to Caticlan from Cebu upon arrival to the airport I grabbed my backpack and got onto maps.me (which I must say has completely changed the travel game! Its an offline map that operated from your location. It is completely brilliant!) So there was tricycles (Moto taxis) outside of the terminal picking up people to take them to the ferry terminal for Boracay. But after looking at my map I saw that the terminal was only a 5 minute walk away. When you arrive to the ferry terminal you have to pay three separate fees that add up to about 150 Pesos ($3) to board the ferry boat. A 10 minute boat ride will take you to the port in Boracay. From there you have to take a tricycle to your “Station.”

The beach area in Boracay is split into 3 stations. Station 1 is a bit quieter with ocean front hotels and guest houses. There is also many good higher end restaurants and bars here. Station 2 is where the party is at. This is also where you will find most of the hostels and the walking streets. And Station 3 is probably the most relaxed of the three. I stayed at the Boracay Backpacker which is right on the edge of station 1. It is close enough to the party and there is a bar on the property but you can also rest in the evening. It is a minute walk from the beach and lots of good restaurants. The walls, the sheets, the towels, everything is white. There is a tiki bar in the courtyard and bamboo cabanas to relax on.

(Photo- Hostelworld.com)

White sand beach is the main Beach in Boracay. It is the finest example of paradise lost I have ever seen. You can tell that 20 years ago this was one the best beaches in the world! One of those beaches where the palm trees go all the way up to the sea and thats followed by white sand and amazing aqua water. If you happen to walk the beach at sunrise while everyone is still sleeping you can get a good look at what it once was.

By 9:00 in the morning the entire beach is full of dive tanks and boats loaded full of people going to take day trips and soon after comes the guys selling sunglasses and tours. My first stroll down that beach I remember thinking man, I could live here. I think a day or two later that opinion had faded but at the right time of day it is still a sight to see.

I spoke to some local women about the island and they told me how sad it makes them because as children, they knew everyone on the island and it truly was paradise but now many businesses are owned by people from other counters and with that came big price increases. And now they do not know their neighbors. But there is still many amazing places on Boracay to visit!

After a good rain if you take the 5 minute walk to cross the island, on the other side Bulabog beach is good when the crouds aren’t there. When the weather is good the entire beach will be filled with kite surfers and wind surfers as far as you can see. This beach also has many hostels and hotels lining it but most are geared towards the wind surfing.

In my opinion the best beach I saw was Diniwid Beach. While I just so happened to be in Boracay I was watching a video of the top 10 bluest waters in the world and Diniwid Beach was on that list! A few minutes after watching that video I packed up my camera and started walking down white beach to do some exploring. After you walk north past the stations is when Boracay starts getting good! A beautiful beach and a few resorts in the distance. You will walk past the occasional tiki bar with a few locals and tourists hanging out. At the end when it looks like you can not go any farther follow the path and you will walk around a cliff face to a small shore of colorful fishing boats. Another 10 minute walk and you will arrive to Diniwid Beach. Women drinking tropical cocktails sun bathing on a white sand. The water is so turquoise its hard to believe its real.

If you keep walking past the beach and follow the trail will lead you to the Spider House. This has to be the coolest bar on the island! Levels of seating over looking the ocean, a giant raft in the sea to swim out to and a plank for diving. The Spider house is one of the best places in Boracay! You can grab lunch or a beer, take a swim, lay in the sun and watch the sun.

I had to move hostels before New Years for three nights because the Boracay Backpackers was booked. I moved to the W Hostel and I have to say, this was one of the best hostels I have stayed in many years of traveling! Pod bunks with curtains, your own plug and light, big lockers, All day AC, hot breakfast and good wifi. Those things might not mean much if you’re reading this and you aren’t a backpacker but to us those things mean the world! By this point I had been in Boracay for 8 days, which for me was about 5 days to many already but the flight prices were outrageous to leave because of the holidays. And after talking to people they told me that Boracay was the best New Years party in the Philippines so whats a few more days. New Years Eve was a blast though! I joined some friends in a pub crawl of three bars, two night clubs and a firework grand finally on the beach! It was one of the biggest firework displays I have ever seen! It went on for a solid hour from a pier, the shore and a barge. The whole sky was full of explosions in every color.

 

 

Getting to and from-

-From Caticlan it is just a short ferry boat ride away.

-From Kalibo you must take the bus 2.5 hours to the port in Caticlan and then the ferry. There is mini busses and taxis at the port when returning to Kalibo. The mini bus does not leave until it is full so if you are in a hurry the taxi is the way to go.

Where to stay- 

-Boracay Backpacker- 500 pesos per night ($10) Prices here seem to change by the day.

-The W Hostel- 700 pesos per night. ($14) I believe this is a fixed price.

What to eat- 

-Army Navy- Amazing hang over food. Burritos, steak sandwiches, burgers and french fries. Its owned buy a guy from the USA so you know its good and terrible for you.

-Cheaper local food, go to Munchies on Bulabog street. Good food fast and cheap.

-For cheap booze go to Coco Mangas in Bulabog. Basically a store in the back to buy convenient store priced booze and seating in the front to drink it! (make sure you go to Coco Mangas in Bulabog. The other one is a dive bar down the street)

Panama Travel

San Blas Islands, Panama

The archipelago of San Blas is off the coast of Panama. It’s made up of 365 islands that stretch about 100 miles. It was once a hideout for pirates and explorers.

 

We arranged the trip through El Machico Hostel in Panama City. There are a few options of islands to stay on but they told me Diablo Island was a bit more money but that it was the best. The next morning at 5am a guy in a land cruiser picked us up. After a pit stop at a 24 hour grocery store for supplies we hit the road for a couple hour jeep ride. From Panama City through the jungle from the Pacific to the Atlantic it took about two hours. We drove through the hills and farm land of Panama to the Kuna Reservation. The Kuna have rule of the islands and some of the jungle of the mainland Panama since Spanish conquest. They have their own borders, checkpoints and police. A few “taxes” paid and they welcomed us with open arms to their islands. They picked us up at the shore in basically a motorized canoe. We were taken to Diablo island. If you are backpacking for many months and want the best for less, this is the island for you!

  (the proper ratio)

 When we arrived we were greater and set up with a bamboo and palm leaf bungalow on the water for a few nights to stay.

San Blas like many places can be done on many different budgets. There are over water bungalows on stilts and many islands have 10 or so 40 foot catamarans moored in the waters surrounding them. It is also an option if you are traveling to Colombia to book a 4 day sailing trip. Three nights sailing around San Blas and one final passage from Panama to Cartagena, Colombia. All meals included plus transportation for $400. Next time I will give it a go..

 

The Kuna people fed us fresh sea food every day for lunch and dinner. I didn’t think a fish with the head still on it looking at me was my kinda thing. Boy was I wrong! These little guys were amazing!

Coconuts were available and snorkeling gear was there for the taking. Next to Diablo is Pero Island. It’s about a 10 minute swim across a really short, really deep channel to the other island. There you will be greeted by hundreds of tropical fish and a huge steel ship wreck!

 

Much of the ship as rotted away over the years about I bet about 100 foot of it still stands.

The evenings on the island were spend having a group dinner. Usually some kind of white fish, Latin music and many many beers. They also sold bottles of rum for $15 which as a bit of a problem. Watching the sunset in a hammock with a beer in had. This is what dreams are made of..

 

Waking up to breakfast and to start it all over again..

 

They also offer a free your every day. Every day it is different. One day they took us to a sand bar with star fish on the bottom. One day they took us on an hour boat ride to the last of the islands in the archipelago Isla Tortuga.

 

It was the finest paradise I have ever seen!

Where to stay- Isla Diablo (Devil Island) $40 per night per person. All meals, snorkeling gear and tours included. Beers $2.

Getting there- You need to organize your tour in Panama City. They will arrange for your jeep to take you from the Pacific through the jungle to the port on the Caribbean side. Cost-$70. There is also a $20 tax to enter the Kuna Yala land. It does add up but it’s worth every penny! Book through El Machico Hostel. They are very helpful!

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