Stepping out onto the perfect white sand for the first time and seeing the brilliant crystal blue water, it’s hard to believe Boracay is for real.

The air is humid and the beach is alive with busy locals organising tours and visitors taking photos, trying to capture the beauty of what’s around them. It’s a place unlike any other, but surprisingly, there aren’t many Aussies on the beach or around town and it’s high time we all knew, there’s a perfect paradise waiting to be discovered and it’s not so far from home.

When you think of picture-perfect beachside destinations, places like Indonesia and Thailand usually spring to mind. The Philippines tends to go under the radar, but with some 7,100 islands it really should be showing up as priority number one on our travel bucket lists. It’s an accessible, affordable and beautiful destination sure to keep you coming back time and time again.

Getting to Boracay is not only easy, it’s budget friendly too, thanks to low-cost airlines like Air Asia. You can hop aboard a flight from the Gold Coast, transiting in Kuala Lumpur, and onto Kalibo. Places like Henann Lagoon Resort, at the heart of Boracay, can organise your shuttle to the coastline, then a quick transfer by boat and another short drive to your accommodation.

The scenery in Boracay is unlike any other. It’s impossible to take a bad photograph and, somehow, each place you visit is more beautiful than the last. Finding ways to fill your days is easy and enjoyable.

Climb aboard a local boat, called a Paraw, and spend the day island hopping. Take a trip to Crystal Cove Island where you can look out over a never ending sea of perfect, blue water that’s so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. Explore the island, climb down into the cave using the winding stairs, then go swimming or snorkelling in the most perfect, temperate water you’ve ever experienced.

Sail over to nearby Magic Island and test your nerves by going cliff jumping. The platforms start small and build up to a 5m jump into the cool water waiting below. Jump aboard a Paraw at sunset and sail into the magnificent orange horizon, leaving your worries behind.

Stroll along Boracay’s main beach and go shopping at D’Mall, where you can pick up all kinds of souvenirs, clothes, hats and hand-crafted items like artworks and woodworks. Just remember, full-price is for chumps, so be sure to haggle for the best price.

Stop in for a monster of a buffet at Sea Breeze Cafe, laden with fresh seafood, meat and local fare. There’s a nightly show where the chefs dance and a stage with live singers too, who take requests and serenade you all night. At most of the restaurants you’ll find a live show of some sort, from dancing and singing to fire-twirling.

At the heart of Boracay you’ll find lovely locals who are incredibly welcoming and make you feel so relaxed and taken care of. The service from everyone you meet is fantastic and the locals aren’t too pushy at all, a simple ‘No, thank you’ and a smile is all that’s needed if you aren’t interested in something.

Boracay will take your breath away. The food is great, the locals are friendly, it has a chilled out, safe and relaxed vibe to it and, best of all, it really is a paradise on Earth. The never ending stretches of pristine water, the warm climate and the gorgeous beaches make it the ideal holiday destination and, one of the best places to visit in South-East Asia.