“Stefan, let's go to Boracay and become beautiful mermaids!”
The thing is, Seby wasn't joking when he said this to me as we were planning our Philippines trip. He showed me the Boracay Mermaids Instagram profile and exclaimed proudly – “this is going to be us!”
And sure enough it was!
Along with our mermaid adventures along Boracay's gorgeous White Beach (more about this below!), this tropical Filipino island offers so much for LGBTQ travellers. It has an exciting (albeit small) gay scene to check out with many excellent gay friendly hotels, secluded beaches and highly rated restaurants.
Boracay used to be infamous for being a crazy party island where anything goes! However, things got so raucous and out-of-hand that the government decided to close it for a big 6 month clean up in 2018. Post-clean up, Boracay is as buzzing as it was before, but a lot cleaner, with stricter rules in place to adhere to in order to keep it clean.
Following our visit to Boracay, we've put together this detailed gay guide summarising the best gay hotels to stay, places to go out, things to do and other practical tips for LGBTQ travellers. We've also included a section about the rules in place in Boracay after the big 2018 cleanup.
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Is Boracay safe for gay travellers?
The Philippines is generally a gay friendly country, particularly by Asian standards: we'd certainly rank it as one of the most gay friendly countries in Asia. This is largely down to the fact that despite being a very Catholic country, the Filipinos are extremely hospitable and welcoming. They are eager to please and show off their country, especially to foreigners.
Boracay, in particular, is super gay! It's definitely one of the most open-minded places we've been to in the Philippines, and undeniably, one of the gayest places we've been to in Asia. It's very touristic, with people from all around the world both visiting and working here in the hospitality industry. We met many gay couples and LGBTQ travellers in Boracay who felt the same way.
Put it this way, embracing in public on the beach as a gay couple? Usually, we'd avoid it unless we're in a queer-friendly space like Sitges, Fort Lauderdale, Phuket or Mykonos. However, in parts of Boracay, we felt safe enough to have a cuddle in the water!
Landing at Caticlan airport soon?
Caticlan is the nearest airport serving Boracay. To reach it you need to take a public ferry followed by a taxi tricycle. It's quite the adventure! In order to make things smoother we recommend booking your private transfer now. By doing this, everything is taken care for you from the moment you're picked up at the airport to when you're dropped off at your hotel. You won't have to deal with negotiating taxi fares and navigating the public transport system.
The famous big cleanup!
In 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the island to close for an extensive cleanup. Things had gotten so out of hand due to mass tourism that the waters around the island were full of bacteria had become one giant “cesspool” (Duterte's words). Therefore, between April to October 2018, Boracay shut down, and the clean up went ahead.
Today, the island is alive and well, but with strict conservation laws in place. For example, the total number of people permitted at any one time in Boracay cannot exceed 19,000 and tourist numbers entering the island are now limited to 6,000 a day. In addition, casinos are banned, littering is more strictly monitored with hefty fines, partying along the beachfront is no longer permitted and drinking/smoking are also prohibited on the beach except in designated areas.
Whilst Boracay will no longer be the huge party destination it once was, we don't see this as a bad thing at all! We think the big clean up has, if anything, elevated the island to an even more desirable place to visit!
Gay hotels in Boracay
There are many excellent gay friendly hotels in Boracay to suit all budgets. You could spend as little as 300 pesos (£4/$7) for a dorm bed to several hundreds of dollars for a room in a luxury boutique resort – Mandala Spa is our personal favourite we recommend!
From our experience visiting Boracay as a gay couple, we never experienced any homophobia in Boracay. We were always able to get a double bed without any problems. We found Filipinos to be very relaxed, open-minded and super welcoming to us. The places we recommend below are definitely 100% gay-friendly so you can wave your rainbow flag at the door to your heart's content.
NOTE: since the big clean up, tourists are only permitted to stay in a government-approved accredited hotel – ie a hotel that has had its sewage system signed off and checked by the government. We have double checked and can confirm that all hotels mentioned below are definitely government-approved hotels.
Mandala Spa and Villas
Why we love it
- Our favourite Boracay hotel
- Amazing and super gay friendly staff
- Yoga and pole dancing classes
- Romantic packages available for gay couples
Mandala Spa is our sole reason why we would book a flight and head straight back to Boracay. This gay friendly retreat is simply exquisite, charming and one of the highlights from our holiday here!
There are just 12 luxurious garden villas available to book, each set in a large lush green jungle-like setting. It feels like you're transported into a completely different world when you enter the grounds.
Staying here made us feel like we were in our own little private oasis on Boracay! We rate Mandala Spa as one of the ultimate romantic experiences on Boracay. To give you an idea, we had a bath of plumeria flowers waiting for us in our garden villa. Where else in the world are you welcomed with a bath of flowers?! The garden villas at Mandala Spa are jaw-dropping wow! Not only are they huge, each one has its own personal modem, wine cellar, private balcony with garden and outdoor (private) rain shower.
The staff are all really friendly and smiley. They made us feel so welcome and at no stage did we ever have any issue about being a gay couple. The other highlight of Mandala Spa, is, of course, the Spa itself. As part of your stay, you book a ‘package' which includes a mix of spa treatments (which are incredible by the way!) as well as a few fitness classes. The classes range from yoga, jazz and pole dancing. Yes, pole dancing…we had never tried it before, and after our first attempt, though we loved it, we can safely say we're not going to become Cirque du Soleil performers in hurry!
Roger's Place Gay Guesthouse
Why we love it
- Male-only guesthouse
- Terrific budget option
- Nude rooftop sunbed area
- Friendly owners: gay couple Roger and Dietmar
Roger's Place is the only all-male hotel we could find on Boracay.
It's also a terrific find, in our opinion, especially for LGBTQ travellers on a budget, or solo gay travellers who quickly want to make friends.
Roger is the owner of this gem along with his husband Dietmar who also live here. There are only 2 rooms available, so make sure you book well in advance, especially during the busy months.
The upside to having just 2 rooms available is that staying here is like being with your own gay family on Boracay. It's extremely personable and friendly, largely due to the owners, Roger and Dietmar – they are literally the nicest people we met on the entire island! The guys are a fountain of knowledge of what's happening on the gay scene of Boracay and where the best parties are taking place.
Roger's Place has a private rooftop area with hammocks and sunbed. Nudism is encouraged here! The guesthouse is located on the hilltop of Bantud, part of Manoc Manoc at the southern side of Boracay. It's not right next to the beach like the other hotels we've mentioned in this guide, more like a 10-15 minute walk (900m/2,953ft) to White Beach. But the trade-off is the lower price you pay for the room. In addition, it's located in a super quiet and peaceful residential area, far from the crowds of White Beach.
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Why we love it
- Located right by White Beach
- Private beachfront area for guests
- Yummy food and tasty cocktails
- Friendly welcoming staff
Imagine getting up, grabbing your Speedos and heading straight into the crystal clear blue waters of White Beach. This was our favourite memory of Villa Caemilla.
This charming gay friendly boutique hotel is located on a quiet part of White Beach on Station 3, which is the most laid-back part of Boracay. It has its own private slice of White Beach available for guests to use, which quite honestly, is a dream!
There are 39 rooms available to book at Villa Caemilla. We booked a room on the first floor inside, but we highly recommend getting one of their suites with private balcony and sea view – subject to availability. They get snapped up pretty quickly! Our room was super spacious with ensuite bathroom. It was decorated in a contemporary style with a colour palette that reminded us of the beach and the sea: lots of turquoise, sandy beige, sea greens, driftwood greys, shells etc…
The food at Villa Caemilla is excellent, from the breakfast (ahh those pancakes!) to their pizzas. We also loved getting our daily free homemade cookies with chocolates, although I never really had the time to taste any of them since my greedy Seby would snap them up and gobble them down as soon as he saw them! The other thing we loved most about Villa Caemilla is the staff. From the moment we arrived, they were all so smiley and welcoming – no issue at all about us being a gay couple!
Why we love it
- THE best luxury hotel in Boracay
- Literally a private paradise
- The ultimate Honeymoon Bucket List hotel!
- Private butler service available
The Shangri-La Resort is a stunning luxurious hideaway oasis, cut away from everything. It's located in the northwest tip of the island right by the beach, next to Puka beach.
Honestly, it's incredible! Put it this way, any boat trip in Boracay will usually add this as a “sight” to show off to tourists when passing by!
And it's massive, like a mini city of its own, with a 400-yard private beachfront and 3 huge outdoor pools, one of which is adult-only.
In terms of accommodation options, the Shangri-La offers a mix of rooms and villas. We strongly advise splurging on a villa. They are completely private, surrounded by a large garden space, with your own outdoor whirlpool. The other bonus, they come with your own private butler!
Location wise, you're far away from all the action down by Station 2, so if heading out, you'll need to rely on private transport. The hotel does, however, offer a scheduled free shuttle service to Station 2 for guests. If you're not concerned about being based close to the parties, then we think you'll be in paradise here. In any case, the Shangri-La has its own vibe going on, with 3 bars, a beachside lounge and no fewer than 4 restaurants, each with expansive ocean views.
Other perks include one of the best hotel gyms we've ever seen! It's massive and the equipment very modern. The Shangri-La also has its own hair salon, the CHI spa, private yoga classes and plenty of water sports to book.
Gay beach in Boracay
Whilst Boracay does not have any official gay beaches, we noticed that most of the gay guys we met during our trip would hang out on White Beach, around Station 2, close to the D'Mall.
If you want to escape the busy crowds of White Beach around Station 2, we highly recommend checking out Puka Beach, located at the northern tip of the island. It's a paradise here and only 20 minutes tricycle ride from D'Mall. For us, Puka Beach was the best beach on Boracay island. It's more isolated than the White Beach stretch around Station 2 so it has far less development. As such, the atmosphere at Puka beach is more relaxed and the water sparkling clean, perfect for swimming.
Due to its remoteness, we noticed that Puka beach tended to attract more gay locals than White Beach, particularly in the afternoon hours when they finished work and would head here.
Gay bars in Boracay
Gay bars constantly come and go in Boracay. We always strive to keep this list updated with help from our local friends living and working in Boracay. At the moment there are no outright “official” gay bars in Boracay. However, we've included the places that we would frequently visit with our gay friends in Boracay and are commonly known to be “gay friendly” by our local gay friends.
OMBar at Station 2
This cool bar is run by the same team who used to own the former Juice gay bar before they closed it and rebranded. During the day OmBar is a restobar specialising in grilled food. In the evening it transforms into a dancing venue, usually with a live DJ. We loved OMBar – definitely the coolest gay friendly bar to check out in Boracay, especially the unique sand dance floor! Tip: head here between 6-8pm when they have their Buy 1 Take 1 cocktail Happy Hour.
OMBar is located in Station 2 on White Beach, a few minutes walking distance from D'Mall. It is open daily from 4pm to 5am.
JC Karaoke Bar near Bulabog beach
JC Karaoke Bar is a gay friendly karaoke restobar in Boracay. It's located on the other end of the island on the Eastern side by Bulabog Beach. We found the vibe here to be more chilled than OmBar and the other places around D'Mall, more suited for drinks than partying. However, the karaoke nights here get pretty raucous with an impressive sound system…as we found out when Seby tried to belt out Celine Dion's ‘My Heart Will Go On' after his 4th Margarita…
JC Karaoke Bar is open daily from 8am, throughout the day, until around 2am. It is located at Zone 5 on Bulabog Road.
Coco Loco Bar and Restaurant at Station 3
Lovely queer-friendly beachfront bar and restaurant which is part of the Coco Loco Beach Resort. It's located a short walking distance from the busy strip of Station 2, right by Villa Caemilla in Station 3. We came here a lot when we were staying at Villa Caemilla, particularly during their evening happy hour which goes on until 9pm. The best Mai Tais on all of Boracay says we! Coco Loco is also a cool hang out thanks to the games they offer guests like UNO, monopoly, chess, backgammon, you name it!
Coco Loco is located at Sitio Angol Road near Station 3 and is open daily from 6am until midnight.
Gay clubs in Boracay
The bulk of the best nightlife is in and around the D'Mall in Station 2. It's always buzzing with life, plenty of atmosphere, and of course, lots of gay guys!
EPIC is the closest thing we found to a gay club in Boracay. Note, it's not actually an official gay club, but more a straight club that attracts a large gay contingent! The other big gay party to look out for in Boracay is the Jungle Circuit:
EPIC at Station 2 in D'Mall
Epic is one of the largest and coolest clubs in the D'Mall. It hosts the biggest parties in the summer months. Whilst it's not an official gay club, it's the closest thing you'll find in Boracay to a gay party happening throughout the year. When we came here during our visit, we bumped into the same gay guys we met earlier in the day at Puka Beach. During the day, EPIC is a restobar and popular hangout. They have an extensive menu of Western and Asian food, but we'll be honest, we prefer it as a place to come and party in the evening rather than to hang out during the day.
Epic is located in D'Mall at Station 2 on White Beach. It is open daily from 9am, throughout the day, and until around 5am the next morning!
Jungle Circuit Party at Station 2 in D'Mall
The Jungle Circuit Party is the largest gay event in Boracay that happens almost every year in around late-April / early-May. Thousands of sexy gay guys from all around Asia descend on the island to party (usually topless!) at one of the many parties during this week-long event. Some of the parties include a “Foam Party”, “Sexy National Costume” and “Rainforest Wet and Wild”. Check out their Instagram gallery to give you an idea of the sort of guys that come here!
The Jungle Circuit Party doesn't have a website, but we recommend checking their Facebook page and Instagram for the latest details of the next party.
Where to eat in Boracay?
There are many different excellent and highly rated restaurants to try in Boracay. We used Tripadvisor to locate the best ones, embellished with tips from locals and other travellers we connected with during our trip.
Here are our favourite restaurants in Boracay that we highly recommend you also check out. For more Pinoy foodie inspiration, be sure to check out our guide to the best traditional foods to try in the Philippines.
The BEST burger we had in all of Boracay! There is nothing we crave more on a hangover day than a juicy, saliva-inducing burger, you know the type we mean right? Los Indios Bravos burgers HIT that spot! We also like it here because they do yummy local Filipino dishes – their kinilaw (similar to ceviche) our personal favourite! Los Indios Bravos is located slightly hidden away from the busy touristic D'Mall area in Station 2, but don't let that fool you: this place is always busy and you'll usually need to book ahead on weekends and in the peak season.
Lemoni is our favourite place to come for breakfast in Boracay – we love their pancakes and eggs benedict! We came here with a group of friends on a Sunday late morning for brunch following a heavy Saturday night partying in D'Mall. Lemon Cafe is also the perfect place to get a healthy salad for dinner if you're feeling a bit heavy and just want something light…but to add to that, this is our favourite spot to order a cheeky slice of lemon cheesecake – it's legit the best dessert we've had in all of Boracay! Lemoni is located right in the heart of the D’Mall, just across from the Ferris Wheel, so it's always buzzing with life here.
When we were looking for a nice romantic beachfront restaurant for our final meal, we wanted something away from the people traffic of D'Mall. Walking along the beachfront from Station 2 to 3 we eventually stumbled on this gem. 357 Boracay is a super cute beachfront restaurant. It's peaceful and serene – for us, a welcome breath of fresh air after spending most of our days around the D'Mall in Station 2. In terms of food, try their ribs – it is their speciality. They are finger-licking good, succulent and extremely moreish! Other highlights for us was their seafood – we shared a grilled octopus starter. Oh, and their beer, it's got a reputation for being wonderfully cold!
Top things to do in Boracay
Look, we're not gonna lie, dressing and learning to swim like mermaids just tops the list of all the things we did in Boracay! The swimming part less exciting, but the photo session legit ranks as one of the coolest and quirkiest things we've done in all our travels!
Other than mermaids, most gay travellers to Boracay will want to spend their time on the beach (we recommend Puka!). Boracay does, of course, also offer lots of other wonderful activities. Here is a selection of some of our our favourites to inspire you:
Dressing up and learning to swim like a mermaid
When we saw this was something to do in Boracay, we jumped on it. And we think you should as well – you'll get THE best pics ever! Our vanity aside, the Philippines Mermaid Swimming Academy is actually an organisation that promotes mermaidry around the country. In Boracay, they offer a lesson with a (very cute!) instructor on White Beach along with the all-important photo session at the end! It's actually quite hard to swim like a mermaid and requires a great deal of core work. Read more about our experience in our article about what it was like learning to swim like a mermaid.
Island hopping and snorkelling
The Philippines is made up of around 7,641 islands, most of which are tiny and uninhabited. One of the best ways to get a flavour for some of the islands (and remote beaches) around Boracay is on an island hopping tour. We did this and highly recommend it. Our trip included stops for snorkelling (we saw 2 turtles by Puka beach) and a visit to the remote Crocodile Island. On Crocodile island, we took a motorbike ride to explore it and then had a buffet lunch on a remote secluded beach. Absolutely zero tourists here except us! Other stops include Magic Island and Crystal Cove Island.
We love diving and always jump at the chance to see more of the tropical waters in Asia. Naturally, during our Boracay holiday, scuba diving was top of the bucket list just under that mermaid experience of ours! The waters around Boracay are sparkling clean (especially now, post-cleanup), with plenty of healthy coral, lots of turtles and clownfish. For first-timers, we recommend doing this scuba diving experience for beginners to get a flavour of what it's like exploring the world below. I'll always remember the first time I took my first few breaths underwater in my regulator! Find out more in our article about our favourite scuba diving sites in Asia.
Do a romantic sunset cruise
Boracay's White Beach is West facing…enough said! You can pretty much guarantee THE most BEAUTIFUL sunset here every single evening! It's breathtakingly gorgeous, super romantic…and my favourite way to calm an angry Seby after a HANGRY-induced argument. The most unique way we recommend to experience the sunset on Boracay is aboard a Sunset Cruise. This cruise not only gave us a unique panoramic view of the sunset, we also had the chance to do some paddle boarding and snorkelling before it got dark.
Plan your trip to Boracay
We share all our advice and tips that we think all LGBTQ travellers to Boracay should know before planning their trip:
How to get there: The main was to reach Boracay is via a short flight to Caticlan airport from Manilla. Domestic flights in the Philippines are inexpensive, particularly if you book them early on. From Caticlan airport, we recommend getting a private transfer to avoid the queues at the airport and the risk of getting ripped off. Otherwise, it's a ferry ride plus a local tricycle ride to your hotel.
Visa requirements: The Philippines allows visa-free travel for up to 30 days for most countries (Brazil and Israel get 59 days!). You will, however, need to show that you have a return/onward travel ticket and also ensure your passport has at least 6 months validity from the day you arrive. You can check the full visa requirements for the Philippines here.
Getting around: the main way to get around Boracay island is with a motorised tricycle or trikes! It's the tuk-tuk equivalent of the Philippines and an experience in itself. The other main way of getting around is with public jeepneys – a public bus with kitsch decoration. Otherwise it's by foot or bike.
Travel insurance: This is a must! Flights get cancelled all the time, especially during the monsoon season. If your bag is stolen, at least having adequate cover gives you a silver lining of hope. If you need urgent medical care, you know you'll be covered. Don't overthink this, it's simple: get travel insurance before you leave home! We recommend World Nomads. They are our go-to travel insurance for all our trips. Their coverage is very comprehensive and making a claim is quick and simple.
Vaccinations: Travellers to the Philippines should be up to date with all routine vaccinations (such as measles, mumps, rubella), while the CDC also recommends getting vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Depending on which parts of the country you are visiting/what you plan to be doing while there, you may need further vaccinations such as rabies. For more, check the CDC website and most importantly, consult your doctor or travel nurse beforehand.
Currency: The currency used in the Philippines is the Philippines Peso (PHP), subdivided into 100 centavos. Prices will usually be displayed as PHP or P$. To give you an idea of conversions, $1 US converts to around 50 PHP, €1 to around 55 PHP and £1 to around 64 PHP.
Tipping culture: Overall, tipping is not usually expected as most places will include a 10% service fee in your bill. If a service fee is not included, then definitely give a tip – our advice is to use 10% as a ballpark figure, though this does depend on the service. For us, the service was included in all bills except massages and tour guides where we usually added around 10% as gratuity.
Internet access: Internet is generally quite a challenge in Boracay – remember, this is an island. Most cafes and restaurants will have WiFi, but connection not always brilliant! We definitely recommend renting a pocket WiFi for your trip to the Philippines. You can pick it up when you arrive and it allows you to connect several devices at a time.
Accommodation: There are many hotel options in Boracay, but remember to check if your hotel is a government-approved. There are strict rules in place after the big clean up! We love using Booking.com to research and book our trip because we usually find the best deals on it and it offers the most flexible cancellation policy.
Sightseeing and adventure: We've given you just a fraction of the many fun things you can do in Boracay, but for more, we recommend GetYourGuide.com. We love it because they offer so many different (and reasonably priced!) activities to choose from in Boracay, and booking is so easy!
When to visit: The Philippines has two seasons: wet and dry. The dry season is from November to April. This is also peak season in Boracay, especially in December to February. There are more crowds during the dry season and prices more expensive. The wet season is from May to October. July to September is when the typhoons and tropical storms are most likely to hit Boracay. During the wet season, there are fewer crowds and hotels drop their prices.
Gay map of Boracay
This is our gay map of Boracay to show you where all the best hotels, gay bars, clubs and attractions are located. Use it to plan your next vacation to Boracay island!
For more inspiration:
- Read what it's like growing up gay in the Philippines in our interview with Rione from Manila
- Read what it is about the Philippines that makes it so gay friendly
- Learn more in our interesting facts about the Philippines you didn't know
- Get inspired with our gay guide to Palawan
- Check out what we rate as the most gay friendly countries in the world
- Find out what we rate as the most gay friendly cities in the world
- Use our gay guide to Bangkok to plan your trip to Thailand's capital
- You can also use our gay Thailand guide to plan your trip to the Land of Smiles
- Read what life is like for the Asian transgender community in our interview with Regina from Bangkok.