Our final stop in the Philippines is Boracay; one of Condé Nast Top islands of the world (#12). The word is most definitely out on this itty-bitty island, so it's no surprise it’s more developed, busier and pricier than many other spots in the Philippines. But, with bucket-list beaches, incredible sunsets and wistful, glowing recommendations from friends we couldn’t resist taking a peek. Read on for our guide to Boracay's best beaches.

We came with high hopes and bags of enthusiasm and always try and see the best in everywhere we go. But, we’re honest too, and honestly it wasn’t love at first sight with Boracay. We had to dig deep and get off the beaten track to discover the beauty of this island.

To be fair we didn’t get off on the best foot. The first rule about experiencing the true beauty of Boracay is don’t travel in peak season...mmmm we clearly didn’t do our homework and found ourselves in the thick of Holy Week. The busiest, craziest, wildest week of the year when the island is transformed into “Batch-Bora” the ultimate party destination for thousands of wild graduates looking for a monster celebration….oh dear.

That said, if you look beyond the busy, boisterous bits it’s still an undoubtedly beautiful island.

To help here’s a little map of the island. All the action happens at the White Beach. Divided in 3 stations, the beach is where most of the hotels, bars and restaurants are located.

Station 1, the far end of White Beach, is all about luxury in paradise. Home to top-end swish resorts it boasts the finest stretch of sand. Perfect for romantic getaways and honeymoons we were happy to discover plenty of spots with public access where you can plonk yourself down and enjoy the beach (without the hefty pricetag…) Located slap-bang in the middle of White Beach is the busiest part of the island; Station 2. Restaurants, shops, supermarkets galore it’s noisy and crowded with people. For me this is where Boracay has gone wrong; McDonalds and Starbucks right on the beach and massive overdevelopment to cope with the huge influx of tourists means it’s only going from bad to worse. If you like Kuta, Surfers Paradise or Benidorm you'll probably love it but it's not my bag I'm afraid. Station 3 is back to basics and you get more of a feel of Boracay’s backpacker roots - a laid-back area where expats, locals and tourists mingle side by side. Here you’ll find the best range of budget accommodation and cheap eats. The beach has the same laid back vibe and is a perfect spot to enjoy frosty beers at sunset. We were unlucky to hit the height of “green algae” season on White Beach. For a few weeks every year this 4km paradise stretch of white sand and calm waters is thick with slimey green seaweed blooms. You can wade out and escape it but the ocean is certainly not as postcard perfect as normal. It’s worst in April & May so another good reason to take a trip out of peak time.... If you don’t stray beyond White Beach, there’s a high chance you’ll find Boracay overcrowded and over-rated. But, with a bit of preparation and a little island know-how you can discover a different side of the island. Far from the madding crowd you can find rustic peace and tranquility, secluded bays and the paradise we were hoping for. Here’s our guide to Boracay's best beaches:

Weave your way down the beautiful leafy pathway to this tiny, secluded tranquil cove.The views are breathtaking as you meander down the steps and clap eyes on the ocean for the first time.

Set amongst the craggy rocks and lush jungle you’ll feel a million miles from anywhere. A truly idyllic, quiet spot to spend a memorable day relaxing, snorkelling and floating in crystal clear waters.

You pay a small entry fee to access the private beach but it’s redeemable against delicious food and drinks. Watching your lunch being winched precariously down the cliff in a basket is a proper sight. Top tip - the beach is teeny-tiny so get there early to bag a spot and don’t miss the crispy calamari and delicious fish & chips…

Hands down my favourite sunset of our trip so far was Diniwid.

With huge, comfy beanbags, happy-hour cocktails and a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere Wahine Beach Bar is the perfect spot to settle in and enjoy the most incredible sunset.

Seriously, this one just kept getting better and better. We sipped on our cocktails and gazed at the brilliant changing colours - a proper magical time. Our photo’s are totally untouched and without filters - it really is this good. With the uber-cool Spider House also just around the cliff Diniwid is a great place to kick back and enjoy sunset. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Far from the crowds, this beach is a hidden paradise in Boracay, Philippines. Hop on a tricycle to get there and after around 15 minutes you'll arrive on a beautiful long stretch of coral beach with incredible blue water.

There are trees and little coves nestled along the cliffs perfect for setting up a shady camp. The sea was pretty rough with big waves, a sudden drop off and strong currents so not suitable for little ones taking a dip. But, it was one of the bluest seas we’ve seen and we had fun playing on the shoreline.

The beach is quiet and the scenery is stunning - literally glossy, magazine picture perfect. The girls enjoyed a fascinating morning watching a bridal shoot here.

You'll find plenty of stalls selling hand-made puka shell jewellery - we had fun choosing bracelets for us all and they were happy to adjust the sizes to fit little wrists. There’s a small hut selling food and drinks but the choice is limited so you’d be best off going armed with your own supplies.

If you’re looking for adrenaline and the wind blowing in your face then head to Bulubog Beach for kitesurfing paradise.

You just need to cross the island (from D'Mall the walk to Bulabog Beach takes around 15 minutes). Here you’ll find brightly coloured kites & windsurfers galore, from (November to April) in windy season you can sit back and watch them blasting and jumping across the water.

Bulabog Beach is the polar opposite of White Beach. Despite the many hotels and resorts cropping up on this part of the island it’s retained it’s laid back atmosphere.

An isolated quiet white sandy beach with a wild sea; Ilig Iligan Beach also offers a gateway to two secret beaches; the challenge is you have to swim there. Unfortunately not possible for us with the kids in tow but it sounds intriguing so we wanted to share.

The first private beach is about a 5 minute swim and the water is deep, so not for everyone. But, if you like an adventure and you’re a strong swimmer you’ll be rewarded with a paradise stretch of sand all to yourself. From here you can wander around the rocks and discover a second secret cover.

There’s two airports nearby Boracay - be warned both still involve buses, tricycles and boats to complete your journey to the island:

Caticlan (MPH) is a tiny airport right closest to Boracay. It's the fastest connection but as only small aircraft can land here your checked luggage will be limited to 10-15kg per person. Depending on the airline you may actually be weighed at check-in; a mildly mortifying experience. From the airport it's only a 10 minute walk (or 3 minute tricycle) to the jetty port. From the port it's only 15 minutes by boat to Boracay.

Kalibo (KLO) is a around 2 hours by shuttle bus away from Boracay. There are nonstop international connections to Seoul (Korea), Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). If you don't want to go through Manila, this is the one to chose. When you arrive in Kalibo, there are shuttles waiting outside the airport, ready to whisk you to Boracay (PHP250 per person). The journey takes you directly to the port where you hop on the short boat ride to complete your journey.

Boracay is a tiny island and you can get around everywhere by tricycle. The island is so small you can go end-to-end it less than 45 minutes. Puka Beach, Station 2 and Diniwid where all within 10-15 minutes from Balanghai.

When you need a tricycle try to flag one with people already inside. That way you only pay an “individual fare” which is way cheaper than an exclusive ride. Bargain till you find a fair price, everybody speaks English so it’s easy to navigate around.

There’s no doubt that Boracay is a very touristy destination (and pricey compared with the other islands in Philippines), but it’s still undoubtedly beautiful you just need to get out there and explore.

It wasn’t love at first sight for us but luckily we made our own adventures, discovered our own paradise and leave with plenty of happy memories.

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