I love Boracay. Ever since my first visit to the Philippines’ most popular beach in November 2013, I’ve dreamed about frolicking in its turquoise waters on oh so many occasions. I mean, look at it. It’s no wonder White Beach is my second favorite beach in Southeast Asia. It’s perfect!
Or is it?
For those who don’t know, Boracay is a tiny 7 kilometer-long island. The Philippine isle is dotted with sleepy beaches and hidden coves. But the main attraction is the world-famous White Beach, which takes up a whopping 4 kilometers of the island. This beach really is as pretty as they come. Sometimes…
Let’s just say she can be a bit temperamental.
What to expect when traveling to Boracay during the low season…
What a lot of people don’t know is that Boracay isn’t always so picture perfect. And before I traveled there for the second time earlier this month (in July 2015) I wasn’t really aware of this. Maybe I was just in denial. I mean I had heard that White Beach bears the brunt of Habagat.
Haba-what you ask?
Habagat is an annual wind that blows from June to October and the westerly-facing White Beach bears the brunt of these vicious winds.
Like most places in Southeast Asia, the Philippines’ Habagat season (or the low season) has heavy rainfall, skyrocketing temperatures and high humidity. As a seasoned traveler, these are all things I’m very familiar with. I am actually a big fan of traveling during the offseason. Most of my Southeast Asian travels have occurred during the summer months. And I am very familiar with the monsoon season and the heat and humidity that come with it.
But Habagat was a special kind of beast.
I came to Boracay expecting the placid turquoise waters and the powdery white sand I had fallen so in love with during my previous visit. But what I found instead was a tumultuous sea and an endless barrage of 2-5 foot waves. White Beach, which I remember to be a wide swath of white sand, was under water for most of the day, reduced to nothing more than a narrow ribbon of sand.
Walking on the main beach drag was like walking through a wind tunnel. People were leaning forward fighting to forge ahead, sun hats were blowing off women’s heads, the fine sand was pelting bare faces and legs. On my first day in Boracay, I realized perhaps a little sundress wasn’t the best attire after my, very ungraceful, Marilyn Monroe moment.
What I found out during my week-long visit to the island is that Habagat is kind of brutal. Boracay’s businesses try their best to keep customers comfortable and happy by lining White Beach with two-story wind guards, which shield visitors from the lashing winds and tiny sand missiles. The wind guards are kind of a life saver but they also detract from the beauty of White Beach. During this time of year there are no candlelit dinners on the beach, no sunset cocktails lounging on beanbag chairs, no restaurants with an ocean view.
The winds get so bad at this time of year that many hotels have Habagat specials, offering major discounts to travelers in an effort to drum up business.
I spent a total of 6 days in Boracay in the month of July and while I did my best to enjoy my time there, I can’t say I would choose to travel to Boracay in July again. The beach I saw, while still ruggedly beautiful, didn’t resemble the beach I visited in November 2013. That being said, it’s always possible that I had really bad luck (something that seems to plague my travels these days). In the future I’d probably avoid the months of June and July, but I have a feeling that August-October might be pretty ideal.
The perks of traveling to Boracay during the low season:
I will say that there are some great reasons to travel to Boracay in the low season. One of the main reasons I decided to visit Boracay in July was because I read quite a few blog posts about the perks of traveling to Boracay during the low season months. And while Habagat kind of ravaged White Beach and the weather didn’t cooperate, when the sun did come out it was still beautiful. In my opinion, the low season still has a lot going for it.
I did get a substantial discount on my hotel. Just to give you an idea I stayed at Alice’s Boracay in the semi-budget area between piers 2 and 3. I ended up paying 1280 pesos ($28 US) for a double room per night at Alice’s Resort, which was about a 30% discount off the high season rate.
Seriously, just go onto Agoda and you’ll find that hotels are heavily discounted at this time of year. Also, feel free to negotiate. There are so many hotels in Boracay that you can easily get a 20-50% discount and get breakfast included during this time of year, especially if you agree to stay a week or longer.
The number one issue travelers have with Boracay is that it’s too touristy. In fact, this nearly deterred me from ever even visiting. And it’s true, the tons and tons of visitors who flood White Beach year in and year out can take away from the experience. That’s where the low season comes in.
A lot of people make it sound like if you travel to Boracay during the low season, you’re going to have the place all to yourself. If you are expecting this you’ll be sorely disappointed. Boracay is still touristy during the low season. But the number of tourists is much more manageable during these months.
The low season is also a great time to snag cheap tickets to and around the Philippines. I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Kalibo for $45 US. Not too shabby for a 4 hour flight. Check out out Philippine Air and AirAsia for cheap tickets.
I wouldn’t say that my trip to Boracay was a total bust. Like I said before, I love Boracay. But I really do wish that I’d known just how different White Beach would be in the low season. There is always a chance that I just had really bad luck with weather during my visit. So please, please do your own research before altering your travel plans. Boracay is a wonderful place. It is seriously paradise and I know I’ll be back many, many times in the future.
Do you have experience traveling to Boracay in the low season. I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments! I’m curious to see if I had back luck or if this is the norm at this time of year.