Wow! Where do I even begin? For the first time, I feel that words can’t begin to describe the full experience of our sailing trip to the Philippines. Considering I do this for a living, that’s a pretty big thing. Before I begin, I must warn you. If you’re looking for an all-exclusive holiday where you will bask on a beach doing absolutely nothing, this is not for you. However, if you’re looking for an adventure where you have to build your own shelter, sail across crystal blue waters, and experience a completely unique side to the Philippines, then keep on reading.

9 days, 9 teams, sailing around various islands surrounding Boracay onboard a wooden sailboat called the Paraw. Organized by the champs over at Large Minority Travel, we spent our days sailing and completing challenges along the way. Think: Fishing, cooking local meals, cliff jumping, surviving full blown storms, and riding carabaos. It was nothing short of epic. Looking for adventure? Looking for an unforgettable way to spend your holiday? Buckle in folks, you’re in for a treat.

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philippines-sailing-challenge paraws

Paraw Sailing Around Boracay

Cruising along on these local sailboats as the sun shines down on you is one of the best feelings in the world. If you’re lucky (or if you can do a really good wind dance), nature is on your side, allowing you to almost glide across the ocean as you attempt to reach the next island you will call home for the night. Although no sailing experience was necessary, the crew had us running up and down the boat to get the perfect balance for maximum speed. On some days, the wind was sparse and the sea was calm. During those days, we floated through still waters with the island crew banging on local drums as if to call the wind. We relaxed, took the occasional nap as we grinned from ear to ear at the sight of peaceful waters and endless horizons (that’s when we weren’t dying from rum induced hangovers).

How it Worked: You have various sailing legs throughout the race. Each time you finish a leg, your sailing time gets clocked in. In order to improve that time, you can complete challenges along the way. Each challenge corresponds to points which you can subtract from your overall sailing time. Kapish?

Read: The Philippines Sailing Challenge: What It Is and Why You Have to Do It

Sitting at the helm of a paraw

Then there were also days where we felt like we were trapped in the middle of a full blown squall. With the wind blowing continuously and the rain pouring down profusely, it was an adventure like no other. This happened on the last day of our race as all the teams were making a mad dash back to Boracay Island. The heavens opened up, the waves were rolling, the wind was blowing, and our adrenaline and excitement was through the roof (or the sky, so to speak). It was intense and was exactly the adventure we signed up for. I can almost see it already. Me sat in a room telling my future grandkids about the time I was on a sailboat sailing through an intense storm as I raced against 9 other teams. The “oohs and ahhs” as they all come to the conclusion that their Grandma was badass. Priceless, right?

While all the participants safely made it back to shore, some boats didn’t make it. We had one mast split in half while another lost its sail. We’re glad we got a bit of excitement, which came perfectly during the end of the race. Through it all, we had back up boats and crew to help ensure our safety.

“The sailing was at times so exciting and at others wonderfully tranquil. The challenges were also great fun and the food we ate was amazingly varied. And it was all set against the backdrop of the Philippines – one of the most beautiful countries in the world.” – Simon Rice (Team Hey Buoy, Hey Girl, 2016)Paraws lined up ready for sailing challenge

The Adventure Challenges

Naturally, I wouldn’t want to reveal all the challenges that we did along the way as after all, the whole point of this is to inspire you all to take on the challenge for yourselves and see what the fuss is all about. Let’s just say that the challenges were fun, creative, and were geared towards interacting with the locals and experiencing the REAL Philippines. The challenges were designed to test your agility, willingness to eat exotic food, and put you out of your comfort zone, all while you embrace the Filipino culture. Yes, that includes lots of Tanduay rum drinking and karaoke wailing singing at 3am.

“The perfect combination of adventure, relaxation, charity, community with like minded people and interaction with the locals made for one incredible week!” – Ryan Beall (Team Abusement Park, 2016)

Read: Epic Adventure Challenges Around the World with Large Minorityphilippines-sailing-challenge challenges

The Accommodations and The Food in The Philippines Sailing Challenge

As mentioned, this wasn’t an all inclusive vacation. This adventure holiday is like no other. Instead of five star resorts, we got to camp out in nearly deserted islands as we starred into an infinite sky bursting with stars. We stayed in our crews’ homes where they welcomed us introduced us to their families. Of course, we won’t lie, there were a few cozy beds along the way as well.paraw sailing large minority

As for the food….man where do I even begin? Let’s just say there wasn’t a shortage of good food and fresh coconuts to help cool you off. Every night, we feasted local style, as we had fresh fish and seafood, grilled meats, and vegetables. On some days, we ate at a nearby river or had picnics by the beach. On other days, we had a giant boodle fight where we ate with our hands and stuffed ourselves silly.  Some teams tried their luck at cooking a native Filipino dish (coincidentally, my chicken adobo cooked in coconut milk won first place) while others ended up with vegetables drowned in soy sauce. It was all part of the fun! The eating, the cooking, and the nightly chit chat were definitely highlights of this trip.

“What I loved most about the Philippines Challenge was just how unique an experience it was. There’s no chance you could do any of the stuff we did on your own. I loved the camping, I loved the homestay, I loved getting to know our captain and crew. It’s a completely new way to travel and it makes for some of the best experiences you can possibly imagine. Oliver Pelling (Team Nauti Boys, 2016)

Related: What to Eat While Traveling Around the Philippines

philippines-sailing-challenge the food

Giving Back: Inspiring Action

One of the things that we loved the most about the whole trip was the whole giving back to local community initiative which Large Minority initiates. From the Philippines Sailing sign ups alone, proceeds go to supporting a local public school in Argao, a village in the mainland where a lot of our crew were from. Through the donations of Large Minority and the other teams who raised funds, much needed Science and Home Economic supplies were donated to the school. We also spent one afternoon planting trees in the mainland as a way of giving back to the environment. Who said you can’t have fun while helping to make a difference?

“The Philippine Challenge opened up a world that I would have never seen if I hadn’t have gone. Standard vacations provide relaxation and comfort. Large Minority trips allow you to stretch yourself, travel more responsibly, learn about the world, and see wonders you won’t find in a book. What an adventure!! I’m a changed woman.” – Amy Cannon (Team Cali Love, 2016 Winners)

philippines adventure holiday

Why I Loved the Philippines Sailing Challenge

Admittedly, I didn’t know what to expect from the trip. Sure, I thought it would be an adventure but for some weird reason, because we were starting off in Boracay, I thought it would be similar to every other paraw trip I’ve done. The only way to describe this trip is that it was raw. It was real and showed the most authentic side of the Philippines. This trip left me wanting more. More beautiful islands which haven’t been over run by tourism. More of the authenticity of the people who never failed to smile and wave at us. More of the kindness of locals who welcomed us into their homes and treated us like family and more of the white sandy palm fringed beaches and islands.

Milky way philippine sailing challenge

Photo By: Chris Beaumont

At the end of the trip, each of us left with a change in perspective as through out our trip, we met so many friendly people who despite not having a lot, were all happy and content. Coming from a society where we are all consumed by consumerism and driven by getting the “next big thing”, it was nice to take a few days off as we celebrated the simple things in life. Adventure, good food, friendships, laughter, and meeting new people from various walks of life. Did we win? Sadly, no. However, for us, this was more than just a race to win. Sure, our crew were all very competitive and slightly disappointed when we lost, however, it was about the entire experience.

So the big question is…should you do it? If you’re looking for just another holiday, absolutely not. But, if you’re looking to venture out of your comfort zone, to experience real kindness and a change in perspective, watch out for the next one. So to our Large Minority family, the fantastic crew we met, beautiful islands and oceans we swam in, and to all the awesome experiences that will keep me grinning from ear to ear, TAGAY!

Related: The Complete Guide to Traveling Around the Philippines

philippine sailing challenge

Photo By: Chris Beaumont

Editor’s Note: After our epic trip, we headed back to Boracay to spend a few nights partying it up- it was Halloween after all! Our home in Boracay? The ultimate party hostel, Mad Monkey Boracay.

Read: Mad Monkey Boracay Review


Looking for more articles about the Philippines? Check out the ones below to help you plan your next adventure

Inspired? Pin it!Officially the BEST challenge we have ever done! Check out the Philippine Sailing Challenge!

  • I always adore the beauty of Boracay. It’s more fun during night. Please don’t forget to visit other beaches in the Philippines too. I’ve heard there’s a lot of them. Thanks for sharing

    • We’ve been to loads of beaches around the Philippines- definitely one of the best parts of Asia!

  • raghavmodi

    What an amazingly wonderful post. Although I haven’t been sailing except for the occasional catamaran tour, it really is quite a challenging expedition no matter where one does it in thew world. I recently read a book about a family they went sailing in the Caribbean Sea it gave me a good idea of how dangerous and difficult the activity is. There’s no doubt that you get to see parts of a country that one might miss out any other way. Really a lovely post and all the best.

  • Gokul

    I have never tried sailing before but this does look like a great adventure. The pics are really amazing and good narration.

  • Jennifer Dombrowski

    This definitely sounds like an adventure! I had an hour long boat ride during one of the crazy rain storms and that got rough, so I can’t imagine being out on the open water sailing through them.

  • What an amazing adventure. Great experience sailing your way through the Philippines. We missed visiting the beaches when we were there and from the sounds of your post, we missed quite a bit!! Agree, life should be as simple as adventure, good food, laughter and friends…looking forward to reading about more adventures 🙂

  • That looks wonderful fun! I love anything involving water and I would imagine this was just the best adventure ever! Lovely

  • Tom Stevenson

    Ahh wow this sounds like great fun! I must have missed when I was in Boracay, had no idea you could do this until I read your post!

    • Yeah it’s the very first one so far but they plan on running it 2x a year!

  • You’ve had some amazing adventures! I’d love to visit the Philippines. Thanks for sharing and happy travels 🙂

  • Vyjay Rao

    This is indeed a full blown adventure on the sea. I loved reading about your exploits. This encompasses the thrill and adventure of travel and is a great way to get into the skin of ‘real’ travel.

  • Punita Malhotra

    A wonderful set of pictures, makes me want to set sail immediately. Such a great way to be one with nature.

  • Megan Claire

    I love the sound of this experience – definitely sounds like there were many ups and downs, but what you’ve described to me is an incredibly rewarding, adventurous, moving, and memorable experience overall. I would love to take part. Thanks for the inspiration.