“There are, sadly, a lot of terrible bars in Boracay now,” my friend Chris told me, as we walked towards his favorite spot for cocktails and food — a small, al fresco joint just off the sand called Maya’s.
His point wasn’t hard to prove. Boracay’s most famous stretch of sand, White Beach, is crammed end-to-end with oversized seafood restaurants and nightclubs. One or two could have been charming, but the options are now overwhelming. Each tries to outdo the others with garish design, loud music and constant entreaties from wackily dressed waiters. The result is, you’ll need a stiff drink just to deal with the options for having a drink.
If you head to Boracay, absolutely drink and dine at the delicious, aforementioned Maya’s. Or, leave the tourist sand trap of White Beach entirely for the solitude of nearby Puka Shell Beach and the Shangri-La Resort. Their bars are an option even if you aren’t staying there.
This resort is one of the most famous Shangri-La properties on the planet. A gorgeous blend of South Pacific thatched huts and modern touches like marble and chandeliers, it’s got an island feel and extreme luxury. You don’t have to take a room to enjoy the splendor for a few hours. Call in advance and book a table at one of the seven restaurants or bars on property.
Have your first drink at Alon, a beachside bar located next to one of the largest swimming pools in the Philippines. Then wind up through the trees via wooden staircases to Solana. You and friends climb into wooden perches, filled with cushions for lounging. These treehouse tables extend out over the cliff, giving unbeatable views of pretty Puka Shell Beach below. In your personal perch, you can nibble tapas, sip fine wines, or split a pitcher of excellent, fresh-fruit sangria.
Drink: During happy hour (5 p.m.-7 p.m.), sangria is 350 pesos per glass, roughly $7.
Details: 011-63-36 288 4988; www.shangri-la.com/boracay
MAYA’S FILIPINO & MEXICAN CUISINE
At first, there is a moment of hesitation for a menu that claims both Filipino and authentic Mexican dishes. But they nail both. If you aren’t craving alcohol, the fresh mango shakes are outstanding, and if you are in the mood for booze, their abundant juices make daiquiris and margaritas solid choices here.
The real draw of Maya’s is the location at the less-crowded end of White Beach and the decor. The restaurant, attached to a guesthouse called Jony’s Beach House, is simple and clean, raised slightly and set back from the sand. You get the beach breeze and calm atmosphere … without passing tourists kicking sand on you.
Hint: Happy hour pricing on cocktails is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Details: www.jonysbeachresortboracay.com; Station 1, Boracay Island; 011-63-36 288 6119.