Is Boracay safe? If you’re asking that then we can only discern that you’re considering making the trip over to the stunning isle in the heart of the Philippines. Great choice! White-sand beaches, sky-blue seas, and some of the coolest beach bars on this side of the Philippines are ready and waiting.
This guide will focus in on the safety of the island itself. Look at it as a bit of a 101 on the ins and outs of the crime levels, the prevalence of travel scams, and all the other practical info you should know before jetting across the Sulu Sea and into Boracay’s beach hotels.
The good news is that we think you’ll be happy to find that Boracay is among the safest of all the islands in the Philippines. It’s among the most-visited of the lot, and the vast majority of people that come and go between the sun-soaked sands and palm-fringed shores leave without a single problem at all. Let’s take a closer look…
Is Boracay safe in 2023?
Generally speaking, yes, Boracay is safe to visit in 2023. In fact, this isle is considered to be one of the safest in the whole of the Philippines. A lot of that is down to just how popular it is. Hundreds of thousands of people – over half a million according to official arrival stats in the local airports – come here each year, most of which leave without a hitch to speak of.
Anecdotal remarks from previous travelers highlight that the main dangers in Boracay are more to do with natural hazards, like the risk of drowning in the sea, and from other tourists, typically when intoxicated, although he nightlife has slowed down here a lot in the last 10 years. You might also find some common tourist scams and petty theft.
The crime stats in Boracay
One of the best ways to get a handle on how safe you’ll be in a destination is to take a look at the official crime stats. The good news is that macro crime trends for the Philippines as a whole show that incidence rates have been dropping almost across the board year on year, and were down something like 16% in 2019 alone.
Travel stat collator Numbeo also lists Boracay itself as having a “low” risk when it comes to overall crime levels. More specifically, it notes that the island only has “moderate” levels of risk when it comes to drug crime and muggings and theft. Plus, the island gets the best rating of all, “very low,” for car theft and auto-related crime.
Compare that with, say, Chicago and you find that the paradise Philippine island is a much safer place pretty much across the board. It’s rated 37.5 overall for crime and danger levels, compared to the Windy City’s disconcerting 78.24.
Is Boracay safe at night?
There’s no getting around the fact that one of the major draws of Boracay is its legendary nightlife scene. However, you should know that this is no longer the Philippine answer to Koh Phangan that many think that it is. A controversial and complete island shutdown in 2018 saw the whole place entirely cut off to tourist arrivals, with authorities citing out of control bar development as one of the main driving factors.
After reopening following the COVID pandemic, Boracay has seen a whittling down of the number of big hotels and hotel bars crowding the seafront, more stringent planning laws, and stricter laws governing nightlife venues. The upshot? Gone are the days of wild all-nighters. Boracay is now a spot for more relaxed nightlife, albeit still rather lively compared to lots of other islands in the Philippines.
We have to say, the changes have made the whole after-dark scene here feel a whole load safer. Before, intoxicated travelers would hit the fire shows and guzzle big bucket cocktails, and there was plenty of potential for things to get out of hand, as they often did. Today, things are more reserved, more easy-going, and the nightlife scene is generally safe. Noticeably, there are no beach parties anymore, and no parties with fire shows that use kerosene lamps. All of that was prohibited after the 2018 redevelopment.
One thing we would add is that it’s probably still best to avoid the less-developed parts of the island away from the main tourist strips during darkness hours. Lots of places here don’t benefit from good public lighting and there’s always the risk of opportunist crime.
Natural threats in Boracay
One of the greatest risks in Boracay doesn’t come from people and crime stats, but rather from the natural world. Most notably of all, Boracay sits in the heart of the Philippine archipelago, where there’s the constant threat of tropical typhoons in the wettest months of June, July, and August. When strong storm systems sweep across, you can expect several days of gale-force winds and high rainfall. That’s been known to mix with poor infrastructure to cause landslides, electrical outages, and even property destructions.
Then you’ve got the animals. Because much of the jungle that once covered the island has now been lost to buildings and development, most of the deadliest creatures here are in the water. There’s a good chance you’ll cross paths with at least one if you’re planning on doing any snorkeling or scuba diving in Boracay, which we totally recommend you do! Here’s a quick glance at the most dangerous animals of the lot…
- Sea kraits – Black and white banded water kraits are very common all around the Philippines. They also happen to be one of the most venomous snakes in the world, though tend to timid and rarely bite humans.
- Catfish – These aren’t the larger catfish that we’re used to in Western Europe and the US, but rather small striped fish with venomous needles hidden in their spine. Don’t get too close!
- Titan triggerfish – These beefy fish species have a strong bite and are known to regularly attack divers.
- Stonefish – Masters of camouflage, stonefish sit on the sea floor, usually in and around coral reefs. They possess a dangerous poison that can be deadly to humans. It’s injected via hardy spines if you step on one.
- Box jellies – These guys seem to be just about everywhere in the Philippines and are a constant nuisance on the beaches. Boxes have varying levels of sting but can be deadly to humans so keep a watch out for their long tendrils!
Other things to know about Boracay
There are a handful of nuances that all travelers to Boracay should be aware of. They are the things that often catch out tourists on the island and are actually unique to this destination, having been implemented after the 2018 shutdown and redevelopment of the beachfront…
Firstly, drinking and eating ANYTHING on the beach is not allowed. In fact, it’s punishable with a fine of up to $80 and these are regularly enforced. Secondly, drinking in public is no longer allowed on Boracay. If you want a cold one, then you have to head to a bar or risk getting a fine. Thirdly, smoking isn’t allowed on any beaches whatsoever – this was introduced to cut down the number of cigarette buts that were retrieved from the sand during the cleanup. Fourthly, and rather strangely, the building of sandcastles on the beaches is regulated, so don’t go building your own without permission!
Finally, there are still limits on the number of visitors who can go to the island each day. This is currently set at just over the 19,000 mark. If there happen to be more people around than that then you could struggle to get a permit to cross over and even find it difficult to book a hotel. You should also have an official copy of your hotel booking at hand when you land to prove that you’ve got somewhere to stay.
Is Boracay safe? Our conclusion
Is Boracay safe? Yes, Boracay is actually among the safest of all the island destinations in the Philippines. That’s in large part down to the fact that it’s also one of the most-visited islands here, with generally good infrastructure and hotels that are used to welcoming all manner of visitors, from families to party goers.
Naturally, there are some things to watch out for. We’d steer clear of venturing to lesser known parts of the island after dark, avoid getting so intoxicated that you aren’t in control of your faculties, and always tell people where you’re headed when you go out. There are also some natural threats to consider, from typhoons in the monsoon season to deadly creatures in the ocean.