A complete guide to Apo Island – an incredible hidden-gem off the coast of Dumaguete, Philippines. Experience one of the most biodiverse marine parks in Asia on this magical, 74 hectare paradise.
Apo Island is one of those destinations that’s really going to blow your mind! If you’re looking to get off-the-beaten-path to discover a Philippines hidden paradise that your friends have probably never heard of, then do yourself a favor and check out Apo Island.
This incredible volcanic island is very small, covering a land area of only 74 hectares. However, what is remarkable about this place is the 106 hectares of pristine coral reef surrounding Apo Island.
In this guide, I’ll detail everything you need to know about Apo Island, from logistics to inspiration for things to do, as well as some great underwater photos that I captured on my visit.
About Apo Island
Firstly, you won’t want to confuse Apo Island with Apo Reef. Apo Reef is the largest coral reef in the archipelago and it’s located off the coast of Mindoro, another island in the Philippines.
Apo Island, off the coast of Negros, near Dumaguete City, is a beautiful volcanic island popular with divers, snorkelers and those interested in seeing one of the most beautiful spots in the Philippines.
There really isn’t much infrastructure on here. You won’t find any cars or even many motorbikes. Everyone gets around on foot and all of the roads are unsealed. It’s a beautiful place which focus is on nature and small, local community. There are only two accommodation options here but most people only visit on a day-trip from Dauin or Dumaguete.
Apo Island is a marine protected area and the longest-lasting community-run initiative of its kind in the Philippines as of 1982. As a result, the coral and sea-life is absolutely thriving!
To be honest, I’ve never seen so many turtles in one area as I have here!
Where is Apo Island?
Apo Island is located approximately 30 kilometers off the coast of Dumaguete, Negros. You’ll find it just south of Siquijor.
It’s hard to spot on the map at first because it really is that small!
Easiest Way to Get to Apo Island From Dumaguete
You’ll have a few options in front of you for getting to Apo Island. Below I’ll detail all of them.
However, if you’re only looking to get here for an epic day-trip of snorkeling and exploring the island, your best and easiest way is to book an organized trip from Dumaguete.
This trip includes:
- Transfer from Dumaguete to Malatapay
- Pumpboat transfers
- Organized snorkeling trips to Turtle point
- Delicious island lunch
- 30-minute trek to Habagat Trail
- Free-time to explore and relax
- Return transfers to Dumaguete
This trip is really bang-for-buck since you’ll have everything paid for including food, which is expensive on Apo!
Book best price online: Day Trip from Dumaguete
Dive/Snorkel Option From Dauin
On the east coast of Negros, you’ll find a few dive-shops running packages to Apo Island. This is because it is truly the best snorkel and diving destination in the region, by far!
I’ve compared all of the offerings and spoken to a few to get the best prices. What I discovered is that the offering by Atlantis Resort (Atlantis Dumaguete) near Dauin (pronounced da-win) and Liquid offer the best options for snorkeling and diving on Apo Island
Both of these dive centres/resorts offer daily trips to Apo Island.
Choosing to stay at these resorts is a good option if you would like a nicer place to stay on Negros Oriental than Dumaguete. Also, this way they will offer you access to 20+ more sites on the black-sand coast of Negros. This area is famous for frog-fish and unique critters that you won’t find anywhere else!
How to Get to Apo ISland Independently
To get to Apo Island independently, you’ll first want to make your way to Malatapay Port near Dauin, a tiny port village 30-minutes south of Dumaguete. You can take a Jeepney down here for about 20 pesos from the bus terminal in Dumaguete (south-bound routes towards Zamboanguita).
It’s a good idea to tell the driver you want to go to Apo Island, they’ll know where to drop you.
Once you arrive in Malatapay, look for the signs pointing the way, follow them through a palm-lined market area towards the boat jetty. Here, you’ll pay the ferry fee and the environmental fees.
Ferry price to Apo Island: 2500 pesos (return)
Environmental fee: 150 pesos
Boats run multiple times a day depending on demand.
Can You Fly to Apo Island?
No, you can’t fly directly to Apo Island. The closest airport is in Dumaguete. If you’re looking for cheap flights in the Philippines, check out CheapOAir and then compare the prices on SkyScanner to make sure you get the best deal possible.
Apo Island Things to do
Whether you booked a day-trip or you’re planning a visit for a couple of days, you’re in for a treat! Below is a run-down of what to expect with insights into things to do on Apo Island. I’ve also included a bunch of photos from my trip that I hope will inspire your visit.
Snorkeling on Apo Island
Snorkeling is definitely one of the top things to do on Apo Island! This marine park is absolutely incredible! No matter which site you visit on Apo, you’ll be bound to be surrounded by rich and unique sea-life.
Turtle Point is a great snorkeling spot to see turtles. In fact, you’ll probably spot a couple even on the way in on the boat! That’s because Apo Island is somewhat of a turtle hotspot. Female turtles come here to feed on the abundance of algae and to exist safely with in the tranquil absence of poachers and predators.
It’s no exaggeration when I say that Apo Island is one of the best diving islands in the Philippines. You’ll undoubtedly see large pelagic schools, bannerfish, bat fish, turtles, mantas, reef sharks, frogfish, plenty of nudibranchs and of course, turtles!
- Rock Point East
- Marine Sanctuary (incredible)
- Cogon Point
You can visit Liquid Dive Centre to learn more about the dive sites.
Relax on the Beach
After all that snorkeling and diving, one of the best things to do on Apo Island is simply relax and unwind on the beach! There are a few beaches to explore on Apo Island, including:
- Main Beach (just beside the boat harbor)
- Rock west beach
- Marine Sanctuary beach
Hike Up to the lighthouse
If you’re looking for a great sunset spot or to get an awesome vantage point of the crystal clear waters below, then one add a hike up to the Apo Island lighthouse to your list of what to do!
This slightly steep track begins from the boat harbor and climbs to the highest spot on the island. There’s of course, a lighthouse here, as well as some cows who seem to love the view.
Hike the Habagat Trail to the Apo Island Viewdeck
One of the best hikes/treks you’ll find here is the Habagat Trail to the viewdeck. This beautiful walk winds through the tiny villages and up to a beautiful deck viewpoint.
I flew my drone from here and captured some of my favorite images out of my whole trip to Apo Island from Dumaguete!
Related: Best Things to Do in Cebu
Soak Up Real Island LIfe
You might think you know island life, but you really don’t until you’ve visited Apo Island! This incredible slice of paradise is the epitome of the term. Tiny villages, beautiful nature, no time-constraints and limited resources.
The people living here are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. It’s a testament to their nature and a wake-up call those of us, myself included, who are often sucked into to a fast-paced, often materialistic world.
Where to Stay on Apo Island?
While a few small guest houses have popped up in recent years, there are only two main accommodation options on Apo Island: the Liberty Lodge, and the Apo Island Beach Resort.
Currently, you can’t actually book these online. Instead, it’s best to just rock up and hope for the best.
Otherwise, it’s a good idea to stay in Dauin, at either Liquid or at the Atlantis Resort, and simply visit on an Apo Island day trip.
Tip: click the “stay in” links above to find the best accommodation options with current prices for each destination.
More Photos from Apo Island
Here are some more photographs that I captured on Apo Island. Hope you enjoy! If you do, let me know in the comments.
MY CAMERA AND PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT
- Mirrorless Camera: Canon R5
- Drone: DJI Mavic Pro 2
- 360 Action Camera: Insta360 One X2
- Landscape Lens: Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L
- All-Round Lens: Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L
- Telephoto Lens: Canon RF 100-500mm f/f/4.5-7.1 L
- Long Action Pole: Insta360 Invisible Pole (BulletTime)
- Landscape Lens Filter: Hoya Circular Polarizer
- Camera Backpack: F-Stop Tilopa
- Favorite Photography Accessory: Peak Design Capture Clip
For a list of all my recommended photography gear (including what I use and why) check out my guide to camera gear for travel.
More Philippines Travel Guides and Adventure Inspiration
And that’s a wrap for this comprehensive travel guide to Apo Island Dumaguete (Negros Oriental). This secret paradise is by far one of my favorite destinations in the Philippines and one that I would hand-over-heart recommend to anyone interested in seeing what the Philippines has to offer.
While you’re here on my blog, make sure to check out some of my other guides to the Philippines. I’m sure you’ll find some epic travel and adventure inspiration!