MANILA, Philippines – While the current state of the world is as chaotic as it is stress-inducing, something to look forward to are vacation trips to the beach when this is all over.
And when it comes to beaches, it is nearly impossible not to mention Boracay in the Philippines. A perennial favorite among travelers, it is not only known for its impeccable stretch of silky white sands, sparkling shores, and spectacular golden sunsets, but also for hangout spots that can make all the difference to your overall travel experience. Think instagrammable cocktails, drool-worthy food, and postcard perfect views!
Many well-loved destinations around the world remain off-limits, but Boracay is slowly opening its doors to tourists with entry requirements and health and safety protocols in place. To inspire your next quarantine fantasies, here are some Boracay go-to spots that should be on your list of new favorites!
DiniBeach Bar and Restaurant
Location: Diniwid Beach
Diniwid Beach has remained the quiet neighbor of White Beach until the DiniBeach Bar and Restaurant sparked a shift when it opened in December 2019. Though it is not the first pub to shake up Diniwid’s sleepy scene, it definitely is by far the hippest.
The bamboo-canopied joint managed by half-Swedish, half-Filipino hospitality professional Noa Macavinta is an incredible sundowner spot where sea-soaked and sandy-footed guests are treated with evocative drinks and sublime beach views.
Positioned in a small palm-fringed cove, DiniBeach Bar and Restaurant prides itself on high-level of service, top notch food and drinks, and easygoing aesthetic that blends seamlessly with its surrounding environment. Imagine sitting on a low-slung wooden chair while reveling in the dramatic sunset and listening to ocean waves lap against the coast.
There is no shortage of alcohol on their menu – from beers, cocktails, wines, to spirits including aperitifs, brandy & cognac, gin, rum, tequila, name… them… all. Their well-iced aperol spritz is one smooth booze that emulates the splendor of orange sunsets. It is refined, easy-to-drink, and overall refreshing – a thirst-quencher for those who are looking to cool down after baking in the sun all day.
A holy matrimony between vodka and coffee? Why not! For an afternoon boost, go for the rich and creamy martini with espresso. Garnished with coffee beans, it is absolutely delicious and stimulating. Would gladly recommend it as a pick-me-up drink when the afternoon slump starts to kick in. The amaretto sour and margarita likewise will give you a lip-smacking sour mix delight. For non-alcoholic drinks, they have a variety of classic fruits shakes and healthy detox juices, but the mint pineapple crush takes the trophy! It is not only an eye-catcher, but it is also bursting with tropical zest.
The snack selection is equally terrific, including kinilaw on fried pita, nachos with homemade cheese sauce, bruschetta, and fish burger sliders which are locally-sourced, beautifully-prepared, and packed with flavors.
DiniBeach Bar and Restaurant is open from 12:00 to 8:00 pm and is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I recommend checking it out on a Sunday for their “sunset sessions.” Come by early for the nibbles and tipples, and laze around until DJs such as the likes of TheBlindside and Djila begin to pump out upbeat funk and soul tracks to set the mood for the evening vibe.
Villa Caemilla Beach Boutique Hotel
Location: Station 3
Villa Caemilla Beach Boutique Hotel which is located at the quieter end of the island has been creating a buzz since it was launched in 2014 under the management of Wesley van der Voort, a young professional who is also the current president of Philippine Chamber of Commerce Inc. – Boracay. Over the years, it has attracted loyal patrons, both as a retreat for toes-in-the-sand sips in the sun and as an excellent accommodation and lunch venue.
The food items at Villa Caemilla’s restaurant are certainly appetizing and filling should anyone drop by for a meal. Choose from a menu that includes Brazilian beef tenderloin served in homemade herb butter, Bicol express with tinapa rice, vegetarian pasta cooked with zucchini and eggplant, and the mouth-watering flatbreads that are made from scratch and served fresh daily.
Rounding out the carte du jour are the extensive list of high-quality wines and exotic cocktails that bode very well for the millennial crowd that has an adventurous palate. With a well-appointed bar area and creative mixologists with fine-tuned bartending skills, it has been tagged as one of the world’s best bars on the island. Restaurant manager Josh Cestina says they are very well-known for whipping up cocktails mixed with the finest local ingredients and garnished with dehydrated citrus fruits.
As a highly visual person, I was immediately drawn to their botanical cocktail “holy water,” which is a gin infused with the herbaceous freshness of celery and fragrant ylang-ylang syrup. The aromatic drink comes with edible white blooms of sampaguita bobbing prettily on the chartreuse liquor.
If you are looking for a drink with a kick, go for the “Lapu-Lapu.” This cocktail is not only named after Filipino’s first hero, but it also pays homage to the abundant Sibuyan seas. Served in a seashell on top of flaky sea salt, it is made-up with a mix of tequila, fresh lemon, and sampaguita syrup. Also, a hit among customers are the rum-based “Juan tamad” and whiskey-based “Angol beach” that are served in a striking presentation as well. They also have healthy drinks that are available all day at 25% off!
By the afternoon, funky eclectic beats are turned up, signaling the happy hour which runs from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily.
The menu is not the only draw at Villa Caemilla’s restaurant. It is also widely considered to be the most chilled out spot to watch the sun drift across the background of vermillion skies. Just a lovely place to forget all your anxiety while resting and gazing toward the sea offering views of the stunning Boracay sunset.
Location: Bulabog Beach
For unbeatable sunrise views that you’ll never forget, this is the place to go to. On the windy and wilder shores of Bulabog Beach is where you’ll find Levantin (means “when the sun rises”), an unassuming resort hotel with its very own restaurant and open-air bar that is perfect if you are in search of a boho go-slow hangout spot, away from the raucous bars dotting the coastline of White Beach.
Embracing barefoot beach charm, the mood at Levantin is definitely unpretentious. Under a thatched hut with fringed straw across a path lined with swaying coconut palms, you’ll find rough-hewn seats, wide-smiled servers, and enthusiastic regulars coming in from kitesurfing.
The owners, gracious couple Hans von Lengerke and Dian Tobes who have been in the hotel business for more than a decade are hands-on hosts who do their best to create a simple and relaxed beach vibe on the fringes of an island that is notorious for its wild party scene.
For tasty and hearty food at reasonable price, the beachfront no-frills shack checks all the boxes. The food is a mix of Filipino, Romanian, and European cuisine, with standout dishes such as the delicious margherita pizza which is made to order and good for sharing and the rich, saucy, and tender beef salpicao served with fried egg and steaming rice. Also, a crowd-pleaser is the moist carrot cake.
The restaurant which operates from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. is low-key and friendly. Nothing fancy, focusing on sumptuous food and service honed to perfection. Best of all, you get to enjoy all of it while planting your toes in the sand.
There are no loud beats during the day, just the gentle breeze and the sound of crashing waves hitting the shore. But not to be mistaken as humdrum, Levantin is just as cool as the other beachfront spaces in Boracay. Instead of all-night raves and booming loud music, they have all-day chilling which frankly is what everyone needs once in a while!
There are many restobars in Boracay that are opening from left to right, featuring different concepts and themes, but all fitting for languid days and creating postcard moments. Other hangout spots that you may find worth your while are Los Indios Bravos for the best craft beers on the island, True Home Bistro which serves “specialty gin and tonic” every Friday, and The Tides Hotel Pelican Sky Bar which offers free-flowing glasses of reds and whites and hosts acoustic nights.
Los Indios Bravos
True Home Bistro
The Tides Hotel Pelican Sky Bar
Photography: AJ Bolando