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APO ISLAND BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE (with itinerary, expenses and top attractions)

UNDERSTANDING APO ISLAND

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.

QUICK FACTS & 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.

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

  • 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.

Activity Time Budget
Arrive in Dumaguete City 8:00AM
Depart to Malatapay by bus 9:00AM P50
Charter boat to Apo island 9:30AM P500
Sight seeing 10:00AM
Snorkeling adventure 11:00AM P150
Lunch 12:00PM P200
Trek 1:00PM
Beach bum 3:00PM
Back to mainland 4:00PM
Back to Dumaguete city 5:00PM P50

Things to note: 

  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.

WHERE TO STAY IN APO ISLAND

Here is a list of accommodation that you can find in and near Apo island.

Apo Island Beach Resort +63 910 219 3359, 035 226 3716, 035 422 9820, +63 939 915 5122, +63 917 701 7150

Transfers
Dumaguete Airport to Dumaguete Pier – PHP 400 (one way; per vehicle)
Dumaguete Pier to Malatapay Pier – PHP 1,400 (one way; per vehicle)
Dumaguete Airport to Malatapay Pier – PHP 1,600 (one way; per vehicle)

The resort offers PADI or NAUI SCUBA diving courses available for beginner to advanced divers. For certified divers, fun dive rates range from P1,000-P3000.

Apo Liberty Lodge +63 920 238 5704, +63 920 912 4593. For transfer request within Dumaguete area only, call Edmar at +63 915 825 7212. Fun dive rate for certified divers is P1150.

Marios Scuba Diving and Homestay +63 906 361 7254, +63 919 622 3671 | Fun dive rates range from P900 to P2,000 depending on the number of dives.

Room rates:
Big Room: 2 pax, double bed, P1000/night, P200 extra bed
Medium Room: 2 pax, double bed, P800/night, P200 extra bed
Small Room: 2 pax, double bed, P500/night.
Dorm (bed): P300/night

For budget travelers: 

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. 🙂

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

USEFUL PHRASES

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

BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER

While here, STRICTLY NO TOUCHING OF TURTLES AND CORALS.

For always, have fun and don’t forget to be awesome. 😉

EXTEND YOUR TRIP

Visit these major destinations in the Visayas:

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

Or, visit other top destinations in Luzon:

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