Best Beaches

Boracay reopens to tourism, but its party days are over

Euan McKirdy, CNNUpdated 26th October 2018
This general shot shows a beach on the Philippine island of Boracay on October 25, 2018. The Philippines re-opened its crown jewel resort island Boracay to holidaymakers on October 26, after a six-month clean up aimed at repairing the damage inflicted by years of unrestrained mass tourism.
(CNN) — The Philippines' famed Boracay island is once more open for business, but those in search of wild beach parties are in for a letdown.
In addition to tourism numbers being strictly limited for the next 12 months -- scaled down to 6,000 from the 19,000 the island had previously been able to accommodate -- there's a host of new by-laws, some of which might leave travelers wondering if the government has taken all the fun out of visiting.
The island reopened Friday, six months after closing for a cleanup operation to reverse the fortunes of a destination once labeled a "cesspool" by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
First arrivals landing on the newly pristine beach made their way to a number of hotels that, following upgrades to their sewerage, have been approved by the government, which is laying down the law in an attempt to keep the island paradise clean.

Boracay's new dos and don'ts (mostly don'ts)

-- Do show your government-approved hotel reservation when arriving. Travelers need to have booked with an accredited hotel that's had its sewage system signed off by the government.
-- Do observe the correct zones for watersports. Powered watercraft like jetskis are now banished to a zone at least 100 meters offshore.
-- Do get around by e-jeepney. The iconic Philippines' public transport has had a green upgrade, and rides are free until December.
-- Don't party on the beach. Beachside drinking (and the trash it creates) is now banned.
-- Don't bring an umbrella, beach bed or deckchair to the sand. They're all contraband now.
-- Don't bring pets onto the beach. Sorry pooch, no frolicking in the water for you.
-- Don't litter. Police will be handing out hefty penalties to offenders.
-- Don't BBQ on the sand. Grilled meats, including the iconic Philippines ihaw-ihaw skewers, are out.
-- Don't have a firework display after 9 p.m. Pyrotechnic displays are now under strict curfew.
-- Don't use single-use plastics. Plastic cups, cotton buds and the humble plastic straw, pariah of the environment, are now banned.
-- Don't gamble. You'd find it hard to anyway, as casinos have been banned from operating on the island.
-- Don't build an unregulated sandcastle. All sand-based seaside structures are subject to official approval.
-- Don't vomit in public places. Keep it classy (and to yourself), people.

Soft reopening

Earlier this month the island, one of the world's most famous beach destinations, had reopened for a limited-numbers test run.
Its famous white-sand beaches were signed off in August as "very clean" and safe for swimming, according to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
While the cleanup has left the beaches immaculate and the waters crystal clear, significant work needs to be done to get the road system up to speed before larger numbers of tourists are allowed back on the island.
At the "soft opening" earlier in October, a panel made up of the four secretaries who comprise the inter-agency task force responsible for the cleanup told CNN's Anna Coren and CNN Philippines' Pinky Webb that the full rehabilitation could take up to two years.
While Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat praised reform efforts, she said tourists should "manage expectations" during this period.
The island should be a model of sustainable tourism, Romulo-Puyat said, and the panel stated that following the overhaul the famous island could regain its crown as one of the world's best beach resorts.
"We can make Boracay one of the most prestigious tourist destinations in the world," Año said.
Romulo-Puyat added that "when (the rehabilitation) is all done," Duterte will visit the island, perhaps next year.

Overdue cleanup

The archipelago nation of the Philippines boasts well over 7,000 islands. Among them, Boracay had become almost a byword for white-sand beach paradise.
But with the influx of tourists that began in the 1980s, the island has struggled to maintain its idyllic allure.
Last year almost 1.7 million tourists, including a significant number of cruise line passengers, visited the island during a 10-month period, according to the governmental Philippines Information Agency.
Among the problems caused by the island's long-running tourism boom were unregulated development and pipes carrying raw effluence directly into the sea.
In a survey of the island's sewerage facilities prior to the closure, the vast majority -- 716 of 834 -- of residential and business properties were found to have no discharge permit and were presumed to be draining waste water directly into the sea, according to a report by the official Philippines News Agency.