Jul 04

Boracay 2009 - crystal-clear waters and lonely Sailing BoatBoracay is without any doubt the most famous and well-known travel destination in the Philippines for international travelers. It features the whitest beach in Asia, crystal-clear blue waters, resorts and restaurants in all price ranges.

Puerto Galera is not so known outside the Philippines, but has some great beaches too, countless bays to explore, mountains and waterfalls – as well as incredible Dive Sites in close proximity to Manila.

Having visited both within just a few days recently, when passing them during our Tricycle Trip, here is a direct comparison of the status quo, now during low season of 2009:


New Pumpboat landing station eastside BoracaySome changes first. My last trip to Boracay was quite a while back (in 2006), so I was surprised that there are no more Station 1, 2 + 3 to get to the island from Caticlan, the small town with airport attached.

Instead, the pumpboats (which run every 5 minutes from Caticlan jetty) bring you now to the Eastern side of the island, from where you have to take a 15 minute tricycle taxi ride to get you to White Beach.

Positive about that is that there are no more pumpboats allowed in front of White Beach, thus reducing your previously high chances of getting run over by one significantly, when snorkeling or swimming off White Beach.

On the other hand, it adds a now necessary tricycle ride (20 Pesos per head) to the already higher costs of getting to Boracay from Caticlan (50 Pesos Boat Fee, 50 Pesos Environmental Fee and 50 Pesos Port Departure Tax).

Boracay got waves!Even now in low season, Boracay is in full swing. Most restaurants are open and the infrastructure development made big leaps over the last 3 years. All hinterland roads have now either concrete or bitumen surface, hotel prices generally start at 1.000 Pesos per night and restaurant meals are typically in the 200-300 Pesos per head category.

Still there are some 250-Pesos-All-you-can-eat buffet deals available, while a bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen goes for 40-60 Pesos outside of Happy Hour.

Touts and Vendors are roaming the beach, selling everything from T-Shirts, sun glasses, souvenirs, boat rides, island hopping trips to massages and are as aggressive (or even more) than usual.

There are now 5 (!) banks on Boracay and even more ATM’s and 3G internet (both SmartBro and Globe Visibility) is generally available island-wide.

Another positive point about low season is the wind – others might disagree. For me it’s always good to have a refreshing breeze helping with the heat – and you actually have waves now!

If you don’t want to stay on Boracay over night, it’s also possible to rent Air-Con rooms in Caticlan for 600 Pesos/night and simply hop over to Bora for a day trip. This will allow you also to explore the interesting area from Caticlan to Kalibo or south to Pandan (tip of MJ).

Puerto Galera

Tamaraw Falls near Puerto GaleraMy first visit ever to Puerto Galera just 2 weeks ago left me with mixed feelings.

First the sun was out and it reminded me somehow of Koh Phi Phi pre-Tsunami. The whole settlement is nested close to the mountains, all with waterfalls (check out beautiful Tamaraw Falls!), thick jungle and countless small bays with your very own private beach just waiting to be found.

Small lanes and alleys with a plethora of shops, restaurants and bustling with people in Sabang and Puerto Galera town. Puerto Galera actually got its name, because it offered a sheltered harbor (puerto) for the Spanish Galleons (galera), which ran regularly from the Philippines to then homeland of Spain during the Spanish Colonial times of the Philippines.

You can almost imagine the old galleons or even Pirate ships anchoring in PG’s beautiful bays.

The towering castle in Sabang (El Castillo de Sabang), is doing its part also. I really felt like Guybrush Threepwood on Monkey Island.

El Castillo Sabang in Puerto Galera, Guybrush Threepwood and Monkey Island anyone?Then the Typhoon kicked in.

Suddenly there was a brownout – which lasted a whole 24 hours! I’m pretty sure that this was the longest brownout I ever experienced.

It was first raining cats and dogs for about 8 hours, then it was dripping somewhat for another 20 or so. Instead of lights, there were only candles everywhere and the whole scenery was somewhat completely different.

Do you remember that scene in “Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s End” with Chow Yun Fat, where he said “Welcome to Singapore”? The whole place is black and rusty, it’s dripping water from every roof or hole, strange smoke comes from nowhere and you can only make out shadows instead of people, dogs and other inhabitants too strange to mention here.

That’s exactly how it felt in Puerto Galera during that Brownout.

Countless secluded bays around Puerto Galera, waiting to be exploredOn top of that – the infrastructure left much to desire, from the slippery and pothole-ridden streets to the overpriced food (whole meals in Sabang are generally in the 300-400 Pesos range for 1 person!). Many restaurants and shops were also closed and generally the whole place shuts down right when night falls (around 7pm).

Things look better at ‘White Beach’ (about 6 km west of PG town), which has more room towards the mountains and generally offers better value for money, although here also, most hotels and restaurants were closed due to low season and only some larger establishments (like VM Beach Resort) open permanently and offering good, delicious fare (e.g. Fish Sinigang w/ rice for 130 Pesos, SMB 30 Pesos).

Rooms with Aircon here start from 800 Pesos, while in PG town you can rent small apartment for around 600 Pesos per day, if you rent for a week or longer. Sabang is a different world and looked mainly populated by grumpy (Caucasian) Expats and Koreans.White Beach, Puerto Galera on a cloudy day


There is no clear winner here. Both locations are worth to check out and offer different perspectives.

While Boracay has that “international beach destination thing” going for it – it’s a fully established, maybe even over-developed holiday destination; Puerto Galera offers a whole bunch of different activities on another, more intimate scale.

Jungle, mountains, even a golf course and all that in close proximity to Manila, make it an interesting alternative to beach combers and ocean lovers alike.

The nature of PG definitely makes up completely for its downsights!

Too bad that the RoRo ship from Batangas to Puerto Galera (Balatero port) doesn’t go during rainy season, so we had to make it back to Calapan to leave Mindoro for Luzon.

reaching 1000 km near CaticlanTricycle Diaries – Repairs and Maintenance

  • Bald Rear Tire changed in Caticlan, 500 Pesos tire plus 60 Pesos labor. During that occasion, the Rusi Mechanic ‘forgot’ to tighten the screw that fixes the drive chain. I didn’t notice either. The Drive Chain flew off the next day during a sharp curve down in the hills around Caticlan! Hair-raising, but thankfully no losses. Putting Drive Chain back per hand and rolling slowly down-hill. Due to lack of tools, screw then only tightened at next garage for 20 Pesos labor.
  • reached 1.000 kilometer on a daytrip from Caticlan to Kalibo, yeahhhh!!!
  • Broken Kickstarter of Honda TMS125, near Roxas/MindoroKick Starter broke (really!) when rolling off RoRo Ship in Roxas (Mindoro), spare for 190 Pesos plus 20 Pesos labor
  • Clutch Lining Problem (2nd time!) and Oil Shield defect in the hills of Puerto Galera, parts and labor for a total of 950 Pesos. Had to be pulled to next garage for 200 Pesos. Bummer! x( :-o

To follow a more actual version of the Tricycle Route, check out this Google Map here, which is updated more often, than the posting frequency at nomad4ever currently allows. New pictures are constantly uploaded to Flickr here.

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written by Chris

25 Responses to “Boracay or Puerto Galera?”

  1. SteveNo Gravatar INDIA Says:

    The beach and sand at Boracay are beautiful, but I agree it’s overdeveloped… at times it feels like a tropical outpost of South Korea, so popular it is with Hanguk tourists! Oh well… at least it means a hearty bowl of bibimbap is never far away ;)

  2. dodong floresNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    So, no more Station 1, 2, or 3 in Boracay. but you need to take a passenger tricycle to reach your destination. The last time I was in Boracay was in January 2004 and I can see the system had quite change. I guess the “commercialism” was still the same.
    You’re tricycle looks good and masculine in that Puerto Galera photo with the falls in the background…

  3. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Steve, that’s true also! For me, Boracay always makes me want to come back also. The blue waters, atmosphere, Panay mountains in the background – I can’t name it, but it always feels like coming back to a very special place.

    Dodong, yeah the looks of the bike are really good. Guess I fell for that in the first place, although for me she looks feminine. Hehe, just joking! :D

  4. RyanNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    If you think Boracay is in full swing even during the low season, check out Puerto Galera during Easter – there is more people than sand and the room prices skyrockets 300-400%.

    Yeah, there are too many Koreans in the Philippines, the government should really start charging more for the visas of these people to stem the tide. I would feel bad if the entire country smells of kimchi! The horror! Invite more Germans to bump the Koreans off the list Chris!

  5. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Trust me Ryan, I don’t think you want all the Koreans exchanged to Germans, you would certainly regret it. Check my stereotype list to learn more about German mental abysses. ;-)

  6. RyanNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    He he he, Id prefer a German over a Korean any day. Trust me on this. Hotels in the Philippines prefer all guests from all countries except Koreans. If there are more Germans there would be more choices of beer – I wouldn’t be able to live without beer, but kimchi farts – nah – keep them in Korea.

  7. LorraineNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Bora?? You too??? It’s Boracay. Ask the locals over there. They don’t want their island to be called .

  8. dodong floresNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Hehehe… The thread about kimchi is hilarious. Honestly, I like kimchi very much. I almost can’t eat without kimchi in my table. You might not like the first time but you’ll be looking for it the moment you get used to it…
    I’d been with Germans and Koreans in the past and they both have strong personality. That’s if I have to stereotype them ;-)

  9. CathyNo Gravatar SWITZERLAND Says:

    I’m not very fond of Puerto Galera. I guess because when we went there a few years back, we felt very harassed. Everything was so expensive…. Tricycle drivers were charging us 300 pesos a ride…. People selling different things knocking on our hotel room. I prefer Boracay.


  10. dodong floresNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    OMG! People selling and knocking at your hotel room? That’s too much intrusion of your privacy. I’d like to visit a tourist destination where there’s no such thing as like that…

  11. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Lorraine, okay I promise to not call it that again if that helps. ;-)

    Regarding Ryan and Dodong Flores, it looks like everyone has a different relation with Kimchi. Myself I’m okay when I have it, but can also live without it. As for the updating of our stereotypes…ahhh….cancel that. :D

    Cathy, wow – they really bugged you at your hotel room to buy stuff? That’s tough and I have to agree with Dodong, that’s really too much…and I thought the touts on Boracay were aggressive. Haha! But it seems to happen sooner or later in every popular tourist destination, in Bali they are a pest also – in Goa or Phuket they were still bearable, but maybe only just.

    The Tricycle trouble we had also…going via Jeepney from PG town to Sabang during sunset was 20 Pesos per person. Great! Unfortunately there was no more Jeepney to go back after 8pm….so the tricycle drivers asked for anything from 300-500 Pesos. The normal fare is maybe 100 Pesos for one ride on this route. In the end a lone motorbike driver took us for 80 Pesos…3 on 1 bike. :D

  12. CathyNo Gravatar SWITZERLAND Says:

    Sorry to shock you about my PG experience. I have to clarify that I went to PG twice and the first time was okay. It’s when we stayed in small (or big, I don’t remember) La laguna that the harassment happened.

    It’s good to go there for the weekend. It’s convenient because it is near Manila.


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  14. MonNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    “Puerto Galera actually got its name, because it offered a sheltered harbor (puerto) for the Spanish Galleons (galera), which ran regularly from the Philippines to then homeland of Spain during the Spanish Colonial times of the Philippines.”

    Actually the Galleon Trade route was via Beijing-Manila-Acapulco. They never reach the peninsula.

  15. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Mon, oops – have to check again, where I got that from, Wikipredia probably… :-?

  16. marieNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Been to both places. Boracay definitely. More fun..and like you said – in full swing even during low season. =)

  17. MauiNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    for this one…i cant decide. i used to love both with my whole heart. I used to go to PG whenever I want to. Ive made friends with different shades of gay roaming around White Beach and some locals that are now permanently etched to my heart. Unfortunately, I had my downside of PG as well, the prices of the rooms, the bad news about the motorized bancas that transfers you from pier to white beach, and the food are usually the same in all the restaurants.
    In Boracay, I fell in love when I first saw the white powdery sand. It was around 1993, no hotels, no Koreans, no large resorts, no malls…just the perfect setting for the perfect vacation. I would go back to Bora every 2 years and the latest was 2007. I was of course disappointed with all the establishments, left, right and center of the island. the loud music as early as 3 in the afternoon! 2005, I remember I still have that picture: 2:00 in the afternoon, station2 under a coconut tree, cold heineken beer and jack johnson singing in the background. After 2 years, Jack was nowhere to be found, but Kaskade was sure around.

    But then again, if you take out all those negative shots in your mind, both are beautiful and worth visiting.


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  19. Gay BoracayNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    I’ve only been to Boracay, but everyone I know says it is far better than PG. Boracay can be just as cheap, and its a nice place.

  20. Jo MagpieNo Gravatar CANADA Says:

    I went to both places in 2007. If we’re talking about beaches – Boracay definitely takes the cake. Not sure which beach I was on in Puerto Galera but it wasn’t as nice as Boracay. The sand was rough and the water wasn’t as clear. PG did have more locals (who didn’t work at the hotels/bars) out and about though. Boracay had tons of tourists.

    SIGH. I need a vacation.

  21. JanineNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    “Suddenly there was a brownout – which lasted a whole 24 hours!”

    it’s called “Earth HourS” :D *shot*

    I’ve been there both… but my visual attempt of PG is vivid and blurry… I guess I was 7 or 8 when I was there…?

    Funny, the first thing that came to my mind… about Boracay,.. is that…. “ugh, another white beach, boring” *shotshotshot* gimme a break… I’m only 12-ish back then… Only then I realize that it was the whitest beach, so far, that I have ever encountered. Palawan, having the best coral reefs I’ve seen.

    Try Saud Beach, Philippines? it’s like a twin sister of Boracay, except, it’s still not a trend. ^__^
    here’s the picture of Saud Beach!

    (as far as I know though :P don’t kill me if you find my info fraud D:)

  22. borcay travellerNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Saud beach sound interesting.
    ps. in boracay the sand is whitest in the north of white beach

  23. Whitney LeeNo Gravatar CHINA Says:

    i haven’t gone to boracay but i love to see the place its just costly compared to going to Puerto galera. I can’t make any choices right now because i haven’t seen boracay…hopefully soon when we got enough money..hehehe ;;)

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  25. Kat MarchNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    I’ve been to these two and I liked Boracay better. Both are congested with visitors but Boracay got more space and definitely worth the trip!

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