Over Chinese New Year, my two of my really good friends from back home in the US came to visit me in Hong Kong. We decided to do an excursion to the Philippines for a few days, and we settled on Boracay on the suggestions of quite a few of my friend Brittany’s coworkers. I absolutely adore the Philippines, but was a bit hesitant on Boracay, it being named the most touristy spot in the country, but was willing to give it a chance. (Will discuss how wrong my preconceived notions were in another blog!)
While normally I try to find the cheapest deals possible (I like to be a frugal traveler, what can I say?), with my friends flying half way across the world and in need of a vacation, we decided to splurge and stay at a nicer resort, 4 star or higher as my friend said. Major kudos to my friend Brittany for finding the Boracay Mandarin Island Hotel. I was able to get us a great deal on my go-to site for hotels in Asia, Agoda.
The Boracay Mandarin Island Hotel is located on Boracay Island, Station 2. There are three stations on Boracay Island, and while Station 1 is supposed to be the “happening” place for those looking to party and have some fun, I personally loved Station 2 and thought it was a great location for the hotel and for dining, swimming, shopping, partying, etc. We also happened to go at one of the best times this year- while Boracay’s peak tourism season hits around the holidays and apparently it can become unbearably crowded (but hey, I live in Hong Kong, can’t be worse than that, right?!), this year wasn’t too busy for CNY!
We booked the Premier Sea View Room, which included a king bed, twin cot, TV, bathtub, and balcony with a view. While you had to go onto the balcony to see the sea, it was still an amazing view, and we weren’t there to sit in the room! Now, I accidentally made a mistake in the booking and only reserved the room for two people, despite the fact there were three of us and I ended up having to send an email a week before we arrived to explain the situation. The staff at the Boracay Mandarin were so kind and understanding and were able to get us another twin bed in the room + add on to the buffet breakfast for only 1300PHP (Filipino pesos) – just $29USD a night. Knew we would have to pay, but thought it would be a lot more, so we were pleasantly surprised!
The Boracay Mandarin Island and Resort Hotel offers airport pickup and drop off to both Caticlan and Kalibo Airports, and while it isn’t free, they do offer a discount if you do round trip for 1200PHP (~27USD) to Caticlan Airport (they also do round trip to Kalibo, it is just more expensive). Of course our flight was diverted to Kalibo instead of landing at Caticlan (again, save this story for another blog!), but the staff waited almost two hours for us to arrive via bus to Caticlan and the ferried us Boracay Island. While rule number one is never let go of your belongings, the Mandarin staff are very reputable and kind, and carried all of our luggage to and from wherever we needed to go – which was a saving grace for me when leaving Boracay, because a backpack and sunburn do NOT go well together. It is about a 10-15 minute boat ride, a 5-10 minute van ride on Boracy Island itself, and then a 5 minute walk to get to the hotel.
Despite the three hour delay getting into Boracay, we were still too early for check-in, which is 2pm, but they welcomed us warmly with a free, refreshing drink (much needed for how how it was!), stored our luggage free of charge, and let us change into our swimsuits and head out to their private beach until check-in. They provide free towels, and security guards watch the portion of the beach, while the staff from the attached restaurant, Don Vito, will come out and see if you would like any food or drinks (
and yes did we want drinks!). You also receive a 10% discount at the restaurant if you stay at the Boracay Mandarin!
At night, they turn the beach into a hangout area – as do most of the hotels/restaurants on Boracay. They set up more seats for the restaurant, as well as, to drink and enjoy the entertainment. The hotel has a stage set up on the beach to entice those passing by, with acts ranging from fire-dancers to the hotel’s local band that sings and performs until midnight. It is a great way to unwind after a long hard day of lying in the sun, and the band has a long list of songs, new and old, that you can request from should you want.
My only two problems I had with my whole experience, and honestly they aren’t even that big of a problem, was the fact that you could not open a tab while on the beach during the day – you had to pay for your drinks, service charge, and tax every time, but at night you could open one. Seems a bit silly, but what can you do? The other small issue was the time it took to actually get a drink/food, whether in the restaurant or on the beach. It could take 25-30 minutes before we would finally see what we ordered (this was just for drinks, mind you, not food!), and at breakfast it took a half hour for us to receive our eggs – the day we had to catch an early flight. However, the staff were still so nice and went above and beyond what they had to, so we didn’t mind too much on waiting.
Location: Excellent – I loved Station 2
Price: $150-$300USD per night for two in the Premier Sea View Room depending on the season and where you book it from (please note that holidays can see a 10%-25% increase on prices!)
Airport Pickup: Yes, but it is not free
Staff: Amazing – the nicest people you could encounter. The owner actually walked us to our transport back to the airport, just to tell us more about Boracay.
Rooms: Cozy, clean, and very comfortable
Food: Breakfast is from 6:00-10:00am and be prepared for them to run out of things the later you go, but overall pleasant. Bit slow at coming out at times.
Drinks: Delicious and loads of options from soda, mocktails, cocktails, and local & foreign beers. Quite slow at coming out at times.
Overall, I absolutely loved my time in Boracay and at the Boracay Mandarin Island Hotel and would definitely recommend and stay there again. Already thinking of when I can go back!