First impression Situated on Bulabog road, MNL Beach Hostel is on the side of Boracay that many tourists don’t get to see, the side that is favored instead by locals, backpackers, and the kite-surfers who trawl Bulabog beach, which is on the opposite side of the island’s famous White Beach. The vibe here is more laidback and far less tourist-y, with a non-descript facade on the second floor of the same building that houses local watering hole Los Indios Bravos. The reception on carries the same relaxed, sunny vibe, with notes on the walls from previous guests, colorful walls, and a friendly front-of-house staff. Though check-in is not as breezy and efficient as expected, but their casual, “we’re all friends here” manner makes the mishaps easy to overlook.
The hostel was recently declared by student Chantal Van Putten on the youth lifestyle website Society19 as one of 16 Cool Hostels to Stay in Around the World for under $20 a night. Putten said, "Known for its beautiful white sand beaches, Boracay is the place to be in the Philippines. MNL combines the laid back style of a backpacker’s hostel with the luxurious feel of a beach side resort. To top it off, their staff are some really cool locals that can give you some great tips on the best spots in town."
Room MNL has 18 rooms all in all, a mix of private rooms on the second floor, and all-female dorms on the third floor, and two mixed dorms on the fourth floor. I am initially booked in the 10-bed mixed dorm on the top floor, a good sobering climb from the entrance. Beds are pod-style, which allows me to keep some degree of privacy even when sharing the room with nine other people. It has a firm spring mattress, clean white sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. Each bed is also fitted with its own reading light and power outlets. Lockers are available as well, though I don’t find it necessary. The top bunk is a bit of a struggle to clamber up and down on especially when inebriated, so those who plan on making the most of the Boracay party scene would do best to book a bottom bunk.
The air-conditioning in my room is comfortably cold, though in such closed quarters, with lots of wet bathing suits and towels hanging about, it can get musty. A scheduled airing-out of dorm rooms during midday doesn’t seem to be strictly enforced, and is highly-dependent on the consensus of the entire room. Showers are cleaner and more comfortable than the usual hostel showers, with enough space to place toiletries on, good water pressure and a reliable water heater. WiFi is spotty in the rooms, but is decent enough in common areas.
Food Rooms come with free breakfast - just the usual toast, jams, spreads, and some fresh fruit that are standard for most hostel breakfast. Nothing special, but good enough for filling up in time for a busy day. There is also a kitchen where guests can keep and cook their own food. There is no shortage of restaurants in the area. Right next door is gastropub Los Indios Bravos where you can get craft beer and steaks. Down the road, you can also try Munchies Restaurant, which serves up sandwiches, pasta, fajitas, chimichangas, and rice meals. Try the garlic chicken and the nachos. Also nearby is Two Brown Boys, which is known for their massive and filling burgers and relatively cheap drinks. D’Mall, the island’s commercial center, is just a 5-minute walk away, giving you endless choices for drinking and dining.
Activities With Bulabog beach a five-minute walk away, MNL makes a great basecamp for kitesurfers. It’s also just a 10-minute walk from White Beach, where many water activities can be enjoyed during the day. Try island hopping, paraw sailing, stand-up paddle boarding, or snorkelling if you want some action, or book a beachfront massage if you just want to relax. Try My Boracay Guide. The hostel is also a great starting point for the Boracay party circuit, with an open-air roofdeck and party area that are perfect for pre-gaming, and just 10 to 15 minutes away from bars and clubs like Exit Bar, Epic, Pat’s, and Summerplace. The roofdeck on MNL is also a great place to catch the sunrise over Bulabog beach.
Service The reception is manned by a relatively young staff who are casual and friendly, if a little disorganized — on the third day of my stay, my bed is double-booked so that I am forced to move, which poses the slightest inconvenience on my part. On the whole though, the staff are helpful, calling the coast guard and other authorities when flights and boats are cancelled and guests need help with rebooking and finding ways to get home.
I Like The location, the colorful, painted walls that are covered in messages from previous guests, the relaxed vibe, the relatively private beds that offer some peace and quiet even when there’s a full-blown party going on in the common area. Also, I really like the hostel’s free-for-all, easygoing energy. Unlike most hostels, there doesn’t seem to be too many rules here. Friends of guests come and go easily, booze is brought in freely. It sounds like a security nightmare, but there aren't any untoward incidents throughout my stay that I hear of and all of my valuables remain in tact even outside the lockers. The CCTV cameras all over the place are reassuring.
Not so Keen The musty dorm rooms! The rooms need better ventilation.
Verdict Recommended, but only if you’re fine with the lax security and casual feel. Price is a bit on the high side for a hostel, even in Boracay. But the location is convenient since it’s close to everything, and it’s also a fun place where you can easily meet a lot of people.
Essentials MNL Beach Hostel Boracay, Road 1-A, Bulabog, Brgy. Balabag, Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan, tel +63998/ 220 5700 or +63917/ 702 2160, email [email protected] Dorms from P600 (US$13) per person, privates from P935 per person
Published December 2015. Updated March 2016