Apo Island in Dauin, Negros Oriental is seriously magical. This tiny island offers some of the best diving in the Philippines and is a sanctuary for hundreds of sea turtles drawing in visitors from all over the world. Above sea level, this charming little island is home to a village of happy locals, picturesque hikes and stunning beaches. Our ultimate Apo Island travel guide will help you plan your trip so you don’t miss out on any of the magic Apo Island has to offer.
WHERE IS APO ISLAND
Apo Island is around 8km off the coast of Dauin, just south of Dumaguete in Negros Oriental. It takes around 45 minutes on a pump boat from Dauin to Apo Island.
HOW TO GET TO APO ISLAND
OPTION 1: DIY BUDGET BACKPACKER
If you’re staying in Dumaguete City or Dauin, the first thing you’ll need to do is make your way to Malatapay Apo Seaport in Zamboanguita. From Dumaguete around 30 minutes if you have your own transport, which we recommend. You can rent a scooter for $8 USD a day or you can take any public Ceres bus going south for around $1.20 USD, just tell the bus driver you’re going to Apo Island and he’ll drop you off on the road by the Malatapay Market.
Once you’re at the market, head down to the beach and you’ll easily find the port. If you go on a Wednesday, you’ll experience the famous Malatapay markets, an entirely crazy but authentic local experience you shouldn’t miss out on.
FULL BLOG POST: MALATAPAY MARKET GUIDE
You have two options for boats from Malatapay port. A private boat will cost around $60 for 4 passengers, $91 for 8 and $182 for 22. Depending on your group size, you might find this the best option! Otherwise, you can take a public boat for $6 but these are subject to availability and depend entirely on whenever locals need to head back to the island.
You’ll have to pay a $2 entrance fee, as well as an additional $4 if you’re diving. If you’re in need of a snorkelling guide, you can hire a guide for $6 plus a mask and fins for $2. Save a few extra bucks for food and drinks, and keep in mind that Apo Island is marketed 100% for tourists, so you’ll be paying tourist prices.
OPTION 2: APO ISLAND DIVING TOUR
Since Dauin is a major diving destination in the Philippines, a lot of people will book their Apo Island tour through the dive resort they stay at. It’s more expensive to do this but a lot less hassle. We weren’t scuba certified when we visited Apo Island, but since then Carson obtained his PADI certification through Atmosphere Resorts. We can’t recommend them enough and would’ve loved to have booked our Apo Island tour with them!
FULL BLOG POST: ATMOSPHERE RESORTS & SPA REVIEW
OPTION 3: BOOK A TOUR WITH KLOOK
Another way of booking an Apo Island tour is with Klook. They have full-day packages that include transport, swimming with turtles, lunch and hiking for ₱ 3,080/$60. You can check out this package and all the details here.
BEST TIME TO GO TO APO ISLAND
We recommend booking your Apo Island tour as early as possible to ensure a smooth trip there and back. The wind and swell really pick up in the afternoon from around 3pm, which can make for a bumpy, slow trip back to the mainland.
WHAT TO BRING TO APO ISLAND
Prepare for your trip to Apo Island with our must-have travel essentials.
Waterproof backpack & phone case: Earth Pak 35L or 55L Heavy Duty Backpack, IPX8 Waterproof Phone Case Included (click for price)
Quick-dry microfiber travel towel: Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Travel Towel (click for price)
Insulated water bottle: Hydro Flask Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle (click for price)
Snorkel, mask & fins: Cressi Adjustable Mask, Fin & Snorkel Set with Carry Bag (click for price)
If you’re interested in photography and/or videography this is the gear we can’t live without:
To see our complete camera gear read this post here.
SWIMMING WITH THE APO ISLAND TURTLES
The thing that everyone goes to Apo Island for is the turtles! We had both swum with turtles before but never any quite this big. The Apo Island turtles aren’t there to nest but rather feast on the seagrass on the west side of the island, so they can be found year-round and not just during nesting season. The other fantastic thing is that they’re found in shallow water so you don’t need to be a scuba diver to experience the Apo Island turtles.
There were literally dozens of turtles at Apo Island, most of which were Green Turtles but also some Hawksbill Turtles in deeper waters. Almost all the turtles you’ll see at Apo Island are females and have been residents of these waters for a very long time since the Apo Island marine sanctuary offers them protection and a safe haven.
FULL BLOG POST: SWIMMING WITH THE APO ISLAND TURTLES GUIDE
HIKING ON APO ISLAND
After we finished swimming with the Apo Island turtles, we decided to dry off by hiking the Habagat Trail to Rock Point View Deck. The hike starts off with some rugged concrete steps before turning completely natural, weaving through thick foliage and up and over rocks. We were even lucky enough to see a species of monitor lizard endemic to the Visayas. It’s a short hike and the view from Rock Point View Deck is incredible, so we definitely recommend giving it a go!
FULL BLOG POST: ROCK POINT VIEW DECK HIKE
THE BEACH ON APO ISLAND
After all the swimming and hiking we were ready to just laze on a beach and soak up some sun. The beach stretching along the west coast of Apo Island is beautiful, even where the boats pull in every day. This main beach is where we snorkeled with the Apo Island turtles but also makes for a good spot to wade in shallow rock pools and relax on the sand. A lot of the small houses along the beach are actually homestays where backpackers are welcome to stay the night for next to nothing. We even met a French couple who had chosen to ride out the pandemic in one of the homestays.
We decided to check out the beach on the other side of the coastline which led us through a cave with shallow water. Sammy the dog was not interested in getting his toes wet so he hiked around, which is good to know there’s an alternative route.
The cave spat us out onto this little secluded beach in front of the Apo Island Beach Resort & Dive Center. Since we visited mid-pandemic the resort was closed so we had the entire place to ourselves. We have read that it can be pretty crowded during peak season with day-trippers booking out lunch at the resort.
The area directly in front of Apo Island Beach Resort drops off fairly deep to a sandy bottom. Turtles will sometimes swim past here, having wandered from their usual playground, but we had a fun time just swimming around looking at coral and other marine life.
PIN IT FOR LATER
WHERE TO STAY NEAR DUMAGUETE
Most people who visit Negros Oriental are told to stay in Dumaguete, but what they really mean by that is stay around Dumaguete. True, Dumaguete City has plenty of tourist inns and budget hotels, but it’s the surrounding towns of Dauin and Zamboanguita that offer the best spots to stay. There’s not a whole lot to do in the city itself, so when you stay in the nearby municipalities there’s plenty of nature to explore whilst still being nice and close to Dumaguete City. Check out our top picks for accommodation near Dumaguete City.
LUXURY: Atmosphere Resorts & Spa, Dauin
Atmosphere Resorts & Spa in Dauin is the resort to stay at if you’ve got a big budget and fancy the finer things in life. Atmosphere has hosted its fair share of local celebrities and deep pocketed divers looking for the best beachfront luxury in Dauin. Read our full review of Atmosphere Resorts & Spa here.
MIDSCALE: Mike’s Dauin Dive Resort, Dauin
If you want to stay by the ocean without breaking the bank, Mike’s Dauin Dive Resort in Dauin is a comfortable midscale accommodation option perfect for diving enthusiasts. If you’ve never dived before, you can get your certification at Mike’s, and divers of all skill sets can enjoy the abundance of macro diving opportunities in and around Dauin.
BUDGET: Bongo Bongo Divers, Dauin
Bongo Bongo Divers is one of the most popular hostels in Dauin for backpackers looking for cheap accommodation in a convenient location. The rooms are simple, without any glitz and glam, but the vibe is fun and welcoming. They have a variety of room styles to choose from, ranging from couples rooms to AC or fan only dorms.
AIRBNB: Villa Amani, Zamboanguita
Villa Amani in Zamboanguita is the perfect holiday home for small families or groups of friends looking for privacy that a traditional resort or hotel can’t offer. The main house sleeps 4 with additional space for 2 in the guest house, or you can book the guest house separately if it’s just the 2 of you and you’re on a budget. The property has a swimming pool, an unbeatable view of Apo Island and kayaks to use whenever you want. Read our full review of Villa Amani here.