The name Boracay is attributed to different origins. One story says that it is derived from the local word "borac" which means white cotton with characteristics close to the color and texture of Boracay's white sugary and powdery sand. Another credits the name to local words "bora," meaning bubbles, and "bocay," meaning white. Yet another version dating back to the Spanish era says the name is derived from "sagay," the word for a shell, and "boray," the word for seed.
Boracay was originally home to the Ati people. Boracay Island was already an inhabited place before the Spaniards came to the Philippines. It was known to the Iberian conquerors as Buracay. At the time of contact with the Europeans, Buracay had a population of one hundred people, who cultivated rice on the island and augmented their income by raising goats.
Boracay is part of Aklan Province, which became an independent province on April 25, 1956.
Sofia Gonzales Tirol and her husband Lamberto Hontiveros Tirol, a town judge on nearby Panay island, took ownership of substantial properties on the island around 1900 and planted coconuts, fruit trees, and greenery on the island. Others followed the Tirols, and cultivation and development of the island gradually spread from this initial beginning.
Tourism came to the island beginning in about the 1970s. The movie Too Late the Hero was filmed in 1970 on locations in Boracay and Caticlan. In the 1980s, the island became popular as a budget destination for backpackers. By the 1990s, Boracay's beaches were being acclaimed as the best in the world.
In 2012, the Philippine Department of Tourism reported that Boracay had been named the world's second best beach after Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Boracay Island is located off the northwest corner of Panay Island, and belongs to the Western Visayas island-group, or Region VI, of the Philippines. The island is approximately seven kilometers long, dog-bone shaped with the narrowest spot being less than one kilometer wide, and has a total land area of 10.32 square kilometers.
South-facing Cagban Beach is located across a small strait from the jetty port at Caticlan on Panay island, and the Cagban jetty port serves as Boracay's main entry and exit point during most of the year. When wind and sea conditions dictate, east-facing Tambisaan Beach serves as an alternative entry and exit point. Boracay's two primary tourism beaches, White Beach and Bulabog Beach, are located on opposite sides of the island's narrow central area. White Beach faces westward and Bulabog Beach faces eastward. The island also has several other beaches.
White Beach, the main tourism beach, is about four kilometers long and is lined with resorts, hotels, lodging houses, restaurants, and other tourism-related businesses. In the central portion, for about two kilometers, there is a footpath known as the Beachfront Path separating the beach itself from the establishments located along it. North and south of the Beachfront Path, beachfront establishments do literally front along the beach itself. Several roads and paths connect the Beachfront Path with Boracay's Main Road, a vehicular road which runs the length of the island. At the extreme northern end of White Beach, a footpath runs around the headland there and connects White Beach with Diniwid Beach.
Bulabog Beach, across the island from White Beach, is the second most popular tourism beach on the island and Boracay's main windsurfing and kiteboarding area.
Boracay is divided for land use and conservation purposes into 400 hectares of preserved forestland and 628.96 hectares of agricultural land.
Weather in Boracay is generally divided into two seasonal weather patterns known locally as the Amihan and Habagat seasons. In the Visayan language, Amihan means a cool northeast wind, and Habagat means west or southwest wind; southwest monsoon. The Amihan season is characterized by moderate temperatures, little or no rainfall, and a prevailing wind from the northeast. The Habagat season is characterized by hot and humid weather, frequent heavy rainfall, and a prevailing wind from the west.
On Boracay, the main indicator of the switch between the Amihan and Habagat seasonal patterns is the switch in wind direction. In most years this transition is abrupt and occurs overnight. In some years there is a period of perhaps a week or two where the wind will switch between Amihan and Habagat patterns several times before settling into the pattern for the new season. As a rule of thumb, Boracay will be in the Amihan weather pattern from sometime in October to sometime in June and in the Habagat weather pattern for the remainder of the year.
Daytime temperatures on Boracay generally range from 77–90 °F (25–32 °C) from the beginning of the Amihan season into February or March, and increase to the 82–100 °F (28–38 °C) range with the onset of the Habagat season. During Tropical Storm periods, temperatures can fall below 68 °F (20 °C). Tropical Storms can impact Boracay at any time of year, but are most likely to be seen during the Habagat season.
Partly because of its wind and weather patterns, tourism in Boracay is at its peak during the amihan season (start from September or October and ends sometime in May or June). During amihan, the prevailing wind blows from the east. Boracay's main tourism area, White Beach, is on the western side of the island and is sheltered from the wind. During the Amihan season, the water off White Beach is often glassy-smooth. On the eastern side of the island, hills on the northern and southern ends of the island channel the Amihan season wind from the east onshore, onto Bulabog Beach in the central part of the island's eastern side. This makes the reef-protected waters off that beach ideal for windsurfing and kiteboarding / kitesurfing.
In June 2011, it was reported that Megaworld Corporation, a real estate development group led by Andrew Tan had earmarked PHP20 billion to develop tourism estates "featuring an integrated, master-planned layout and world-class resort offerings and amenities" in Boracay and Cavite. The planned Boracay project, Boracay Newcoast, involves four hotels with 1,500 rooms, a plaza and entertainment center.
Leisure activities available on or near Boracay include horseback riding, scuba diving, diving helmet, snorkeling, windsurfing, kiteboarding, cliff diving, parasailing.
Boracay is the site of an 18-hole par 72 golf course designed by Graham Marsh. In addition, as of 2010, Boracay has in excess of 350 beach resorts offering more than 2,000 rooms ranging in quality from five-star to budget accommodation. In addition, Boracay offers a wide range of restaurants, bars, pubs, and nightclubs.
A landmark natural rock formation, Willy's Rock, juts prominently directly in front of Willy's Beach Resort.
Boracay is one competitive venue for the Asian Windsurfing Tour, with the week-long Boracay International Funboard Cup competition usually held in January on Bulabog Beach. In 2010, the event dates are January 25 – 31. CNNGo, a division of CNN focused on travel/lifestyle/entertainment, selected the Boracay International Funboard Competition on the weekend of January 22–24 as one of its 52 weekend recommendations for 2010.
Dragon boat races are held annually on Boracay under the auspices of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation, with teams coming from around the Philippines and from other Asian nations to compete. The races usually take place sometime in April or May. The 2012 Boracay Edition of the PDBF International Club Crew Challenge to is scheduled for April 26–28, 2012.
The Boracay Open Asian Beach Ultimate Tournament, an ultimate frisbee event, has been held annually since 2003, usually in March or April.
Boracay will host a special multi-sport event called the Asian Games Centennial Festival. On its 31st General Assembly in Macau, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has decided to create the Asian Games Centennial Festival in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Oriental Games (later became Far Eastern Championship Games). OCA has awarded the Philippines the hosting rights as it was the same host 100 years ago in the first Far Eastern Championship Games held in Manila. The Asian Games Centennial Festival was to be held in Boracay on November 2013. However, due to Typhoon Haiyan, it was postponed to January 17, 2014, at the Sofitel Plaza in Manila. The 32nd OCA General Assembly was to be held in conjunction with the games.
On April 27, 2014, the Philippine Swimming League was held at Boracay Island for their open water swim after the competition in Aklan Sports Complex in Makato, Aklan. Many swimming teams joined the competition including Aklan Swimming Club based in Kalibo, Aklan and John B. Lacson Swimming Team which it is based in Iloilo City.
The first settlers of Boracay were a Negrito people called the Ati, and who spoke a Visayan language called Inati. Later settlers brought other languages to the island, including Aklanon (as Boracay is part of Aklan province), Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), Kinaray-a, Capiznon, other Visayan languages, Filipino, and English.
The well-known Ati-Atihan Festival takes place each January in Kalibo on nearby Panay Island. A much smaller Ati-Atihan festival is celebrated on Boracay, usually in the second or third week of January.
Boracay island is separated from Panay island by a narrow strait. The island is located opposite the barangay of Caticlan in the municipality of Malay, Aklan. Transportation across the strait is provided by boats operating from the Caticlan jetty port.
Boracay is served by two airports in Aklan: the Kalibo International Airport and Godofredo P. Ramos Airport commonly referred to as the Caticlan airport.
The western part of the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) passes through Caticlan, with car ferries from Roxas, Oriental Mindoro docking at the Caticlan jetty port. Several bus companies operate provincial bus routes from Manila which pass through Caticlan via the SRNH.
2GO, the largest ferry company in the Philippines, offers regular overnight passenger and cargo service between Batangas City and Caticlan.
The two main modes of transport are via motor-tricycles along the main road or by walking along the beaches. Pedicabs, known as sikads, are also available along the Beachfront Path. Other means of transportation include mountain bikes, quadbikes and motorbikes, all of which can be rented.
In February 2016, Boracay received a huge boost in payment-modernization and safety. Although ATMs are now quite common on the island, Boracay now features a cashless payment-system called "BoraPay". Upon arrival on the island, selected hotels give out bracelets featuring NFC technology that can be loaded with any international debit or credit card, reducing the need for ATMs . Accounts can be funded from overseas before tourists start their trip allowing travelers to budget in advance. Most establishments along the white beach are equipped with mobile terminals where you can now pay with a swipe. BoraPay's application also features an up-to-date map of the island helping "newcomers" maximize their time.