APO ISLAND: A PRACTICAL TRAVEL GUIDE FOR DIY & BUDGET TRAVELERS [UPDATED as of 2021]

Note: As a precautionary measure in this time of COVID-19 pandemic, it is best to check with the authorities the updated travel requirements and possible restrictions that might affect your travel plan. Contact Negros Oriental Provincial tourism office at info@visitnegrosoriental.com or at +63 (035) 225-1825, +63 (035) 422-0675 to know the latest update.

Remember to always follow the health and safety protocols imposed from your travel origin to your destination. I wish you a safe trip ahead!

Traveling to Apo Island for the first time? This detailed DIY travel guide is exactly what you need. Scroll down and take note of the outlined information from sample itinerary and budget, best places to visit, top things to do, recommended transports, budget-friendly accommodations, and other travel tips. Have a fun and enjoyable trip ahead!

START HERE!

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.

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

What draws most tourists are the soft coral gardens that are well-orchestrated from 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.

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:

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.

HOW TO GET TO APO ISLAND

The journey to Apo island usually begins in Dumaguete city which can be reached by bus, ferry and plane from few locations in the Philippines.

Once in Dumaguete, head out to the bus terminal beside Robinsons mall; fare is P10 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 P2,500 to P3,500 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:
    • P2,500 for 4-passenger capacity
    • P3,000 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 4:00 p.m. 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-P500 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.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN APO ISLAND

Apo 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 the tourist spots and 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.

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.

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.

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 & BUDGET

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 back with a P1,450.00 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 adventure11:00AMP650
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 for P100, aqua shoes for P200 and life vest (if you feel the need or goes 7 meters away from the shore) for P200 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.

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 8:00 p.m. 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 time. Boats come and go on an irregular schedule. Boat trips will still be available up to 12:00 p.m.
  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.

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

Visit other top tourist destinations in Negros from Apo Island. Check out the list below:

MEET THE BLOGGER

Leaning on our boat at Punta Sibaring 1. This photo was taken during a high tide.

Hey there! I’m Ker, The Fun-sized Traveller. Fun-size because I’m a short guy from the Philippines. Thanks for checking out this virtual block I have started building since my 30th birthday to document my 2nd quarter life. Yup, it’s more of a personal pursuit, but a part of me also wants to give back to the travel community that is why I make it a point to share travel articles out from my trips around Asia.

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