APO ISLAND BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE (with DIY itinerary, top attractions, tips and how to get there)

APO ISLAND AT A GLANCE

A modest work of nature and human geniality that is APO ISLAND lies 30 minutes off the coast of Malatapay in Dauin, Negros Oriental – less than an hour away from Dumaguete City. It stretches for about 72 hectares terrestrial area, and 619 hectares marine area – and has been home to a small community of only a thousand people. The island is a community-organized marine sanctuary for over 30 years and as such acclaimed as one of the well-documented sanctuaries in the world by the global science community, estimated to have over 400 species of corals and 600 species of fish.

What draws most tourists are the soft coral gardens that are well-orchestrated in the shallow waters of the island down to the steeps of its ridges; and the turtles that are exceedingly just about everywhere because of the abundance of algae and seagrass that make up for their food. These two create a brimming beauty of underwater scenery that launches Apo island as a premiere snorkeling and diving destination in the Philippines.

A rocky and coarse side of the island. Two meters away is the site for snorkeling adventure.

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QUICK FACTS AND TIPS ABOUT APO ISLAND

Here are few facts and tips to consider when traveling to Apo island.

  1. The island is frequented by 2 species of turtles: green turtles that are found in the shallow areas and hawksbill turtles that are present in the deeper parts of its waters.
  2. Most of the turtles are female as can be identified by its tail – they have a shorter tail compared to the males.
  3. As observed, the old turtles are more used to people than the young ones which tend to shy away as you approach them while snorkeling.
  4. As you head out to the island, waterproof your belongings as sea swells can be large and rough. You are most likely to get wet.
  5. The island has a limited resource for food. There is not much to expect from its restaurants in terms of price and taste so bring a few food items with you.
  6. To those of a sensitive stomach, bring enough water. The island has a limited stock of distilled drinking water.
  7. Electricity may not be available past 8PM. If your accommodation doesn’t have an electric generator, make sure to charge your gadgets ahead.
  8. The snorkeling area is a stone away from the shore and water level is mostly at chest. One doesn’t have to be a good swimmer to enjoy the underwater scenes.
  9. For day tour guests, you can leave your belongings at the registration office or on the boat if you are renting one.
  10. Be flexible with your time. Boats come and go on an irregular schedule. Boat trips will still be available up to 12:00PM.
  11. Turtles and other marine life can be found all year round. However, the best time for diving in Apo Island is during October to early June. July to September is not ideal because of the tendency to have a strong monsoon.
Behind the limestone karst is a pass that leads to the white, coarse sands of Apo Island resort.

HOW TO GET TO APO ISLAND

The journey to Apo island usually begins in Dumaguete city which can be reached by air and ferry from a list of domestic destinations. Once there, head out to the bus terminal beside Robinsons mall – fare is P8 by tricycle. Take a bus bound for Zamboanguita or Bayawan city – fare is P50 for aircon and P25 for non-aircon. Tell the driver you head off to Apo Island. Your drop off is at Malatapay where there is a sign for Apo Island. Go to the shore where the sign points. It will take 15 minutes of walking before you will reach the market with a black, sandy area where you will charter a boat. Please note that the market goes busy every Wednesday so don’t get too distracted by it as you wait.

You have two (2) options in chartering a boat to Apo island.

  • Private – so you can leave right away. Two-way cost ranges from P2,000 to P3,000 depending on the boat size.
  • Public – You will have to team up with other travelers depending on the capacity of the boat. Round trip boat rental:

P2,000 for 4-passenger capacity
P2,500 for 6-passenger capacity
P3,500 for 8-passenger capacity

To get off the island, ride back to your boat. Take note that boats are not allowed to depart beyond 4pm for safety reasons. If you are staying overnight, arrange ahead with the boatman a depart schedule for the following day. You can also walk into the shore area and charter a mainland-bound boat for around P300 per person as you plan to leave.   At the mainland, go for a few-meter walk to the highway and hail a bus or jeepney that go north towards Dumaguete City. (Side note: Click here for Dumaguete Budget Travel Guide.)

For convenience, the following nearby resorts offer a day trip to Apo island. 

In Dumaguete, Negros Oriental

  • The Flying Fish Hostel (035) 422 0167 for a group of 4

 In Zamboaguita, Negros Oriental

  • Thalatta Beach Dive Resort +63 939 925 6326
  • Kookoo’s Nest +63 919 695 8085
  • Wellbeach Dive Resort +63 917 300 4674

 In Dauin, Negros Oriental

  • Bahura Resort and Spa (02) 892 3477
  • Liquid Dive Resort (035) 400 3244

In Siquijor (Click here for Siquijor Budget Travel Guide)

  • Coral Cay Resort +63 908 896 5263, +63 917 325 1292, +63 917 700 7136
  • Coco Grove Beach Resort +63 0939 915 5123
A pile of beautiful rock formation that extends from the shore to the tinged soft green waters of the island.

Klook.com

TOP THINGS TO DO IN APO ISLAND

The island is most enjoyed by seasoned divers for its healthy coral gardens and rich marine life. For the rest of us whose swimming skill is kept at a conservative level, here are things we can do in Apo island.

  • Snorkeling adventure and swimming with turtles!
Swim with the turtles in Apo island
One of the old turtles that can be found in the shallow waters of the island.

Rating: 3.5/5

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  • Trekking
A boat-like edifice is a chapel under construction (photo taken last 2015) as seen high up from the mounds of Apo Island. Getting there on brisk is quite taxing. You will climb up concrete stairs and walk along a terrain of obscure trail that will take you to a village before reaching to this site where you can catch the sunset.

Rating: 3/5

  • Visit the lighthouse
The usual first stop on your trek, which can be found after you take on a flight of concrete steps to an exhausting height.

Rating: 2/5

  • Sunset!
One good reason to stay in the island overnight is the sunset, fascinating and imposing as ever.

Click the link for the top attractions that can be found in Negros Island. 

APO ISLAND SAMPLE ITINERARY

Getting around Apo island is relatively easy and better done in a DIY instead of an arranged package tour to save up your money. The sample DIY itinerary below covers a day tour to Apo island which can also be stretched to 2 days, and assumes a party of two which will set you back with a P950.00 budget per person.

ActivityTimeBudget
Arrive in Dumaguete City8:00AM
Depart to Malatapay by bus9:00AMP50
Charter boat to Apo island9:30AMP500
Sight seeing10:00AM
Snorkeling adventure11:00AMP150
Lunch12:00PMP200
Trek1:00PM
Beach bum3:00PM
Back to mainland4:00PM
Back to Dumaguete city5:00PMP50

Things to note in this sample Apo Island DIY itinerary:

  1. Upon arrival, proceed to the registration office and pay P100 for the environmental fee. You can leave your belongings at the office while you enjoy the island.
  2. A tour guide fee of P300 for four (4) persons is imposed for each snorkeling activity inside the marine sanctuary, P200 if you only opt to swim outside the sanctuary.
  3. It is recommended to bring your own snorkeling gear. If you haven’t, you can rent a snorkeling mask, aqua shoes and life vest (if you feel the need or goes 7 meters away from the shore) for P100 each from the guide or any boatman around.
  4. For divers, the notable resorts in the island offer diving services. Check out below for details.
Frolic around in the clear waters of Apo island.

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Look for discounted deals from Klook from the major destinations in Asia, including the Philippines.

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WHERE TO STAY IN APO ISLAND

If you want to stay overnight, below are two homestays that can be found in Apo Island.

  • Ronor’s Lodging +63 915 775 2422
  • Mary’s Homestay +63 906 823 4932

During peak season or summer time, most homes offer a space-for-rent for a reasonable price. Feel free to look around and ask. 🙂

If you want a more convenient accommodation that are just near Apo Island, check out any of the following:

Fun and Sun Dive and Travel is located in Dauin, Dumaguete. The resort offers day trips to Apo Island. Click the photo for room rate and availability.
Allura Resort Dive and Spa in Zamboanguita, Dumaguete. The resort may arrange a day trip to Apo Island. Click the photo for room rate and availability.
Also located in Zamboanguita, Dumaguete is the White Chocolate Hills resort. Click the photo for details, including rate and availability.

USEFUL PHRASES

English is widely understood in Apo Island. But in case you want to speak the local tongue, here are phrases that proved to be useful.

English to Cebuano (the main language)

Good morning – Maayong buntag
Good afternoon – Maayong hapon
Good evening – Maayong gabii
Thank you – Salamat
Where is… – Asa ang…
How much – Tagpila

My friend sitting glamorously on the swelling edge of this beautiful rock formation.

EXTEND YOUR TRIP

Go to other equally fascinating islands in the Visayas

Tour around the city of Puerto Princesa on a budget tour. Click the link for details.
After Puerto Princesa, El Nido is always the next stop over. Check out this El Nido Budget Travel Guide to know more about this top tourist destination.
San Vicente Palawan is four hours away from Puerto Princesa. Check out the San Vicente Budget Travel Guide which includes a travel itinerary to Port Barton, its most visited barangay, and learn few things about this laidback municipality. And oh, did I mention that San Vicente has the longest beach in the Philippines? Just look at the photo.
Balabac Travel guide with top things to do, travel itinerary and sample expenses.
How about extending your trip to Balabac at the southmost part of Palawan. Personally, Balabac group of islands is the best place Palawan can offer. Plus, it’s not touristy. Check out this link for details: Balabac budget travel guide.

Or, visit other top destinations in Luzon:

Or, go to the surfing capital of the Philippines – Siargao! Budget Travel Guide here.

Or visit other countries in Asia using these budget travel guides:

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