Apo Island & Dumaguete City Guide

Apo Island is located at the southeastern tip of Negros Oriental and it’s famous for its spectacular marine wildlife. It’s not surprising that it is one of the top diving destinations here in the Philippines. It boasts beautiful corals, colorful fishes and most importantly (in my opinion), AMAZING sea turtles. That in itself became the main reason why I had to include Apo Island in my annual birthday backpacking trip.

HOW TO GET THERE

From Dumaguete City

This is the most convenient route because all you have to do is fly out from wherever you are to Dumaguete City. The entry point to Apo Island is in Dauin so from the city, you can ride a jeep going there. There are a lot of resorts in Dauin if you want to stay away from the bustle of the city.

From Cebu City

From Mactan International Airport, go to the South Bus Terminal and ride a Ceres bus going to Bato (Liloan Port). The ride is 4 hours long (depending on traffic) and the fare is around 170 pesos for an air-conditioned bus. Then from Liloan Port, ride a fast craft going to Sibulan Port, Dumaguete. It’s only a 30-minute trip and I paid 60-70 pesos for it and that includes the terminal fee. Trips from Liloan Port leave every hour and the earliest is at 4:30 AM. Taxis are rare in Dumaguete City so it’s better and cheaper for you to ride a tricycle or a jeep going to your accommodation.

Side Trip

On your way to Bato (Liloan Port), you actually pass Oslob so if you have plenty of time, take a side trip and stay in Oslob overnight so you can swim with the whale sharks. 🙂

WHERE TO STAY

You can either stay at Dumaguete or Dauin. But I suggest you stay in the city since most hotels offer Apo Island tours. Dumaguete has the most amazing restaurants and cheap bars so it’s definitely going to be worth your time. Check out Agoda and Booking for accommodations if you’re with family. But if you’re a solo backpacker like me, Hostelworld is the best bet. I stayed at Harold’s Mansion in Dumaguete because it’s in the heart of the city and they have cheap air-conditioned dorms. Beds cost around 300 pesos a night with a simple breakfast so it’s not bad. They have clean rooms and per room, you have 1 bathroom. Harold’s can also arrange Apo Island Tours and PADI and SSI scuba diving certification. They charge you 2000 pesos per head for the full day trip and that includes transfers to Dauin, boat rental, snorkeling/diving gear, lunch and for scuba divers, a licensed guide. The fun part is you get to share this trip with other people so for a solo traveler, I think this is a very good deal.

There is one resort located in Apo Island called Apo Island Resort. Take note that electricity is scarce and there’s limited fresh water when you stay there.

EXPLORE THE CITY

Dumaguete offers a whole range of places to go to. In all my travels around the Philippines, this is one of the most laid back cities I have encountered. There’s minimum traffic, almost everything is walking distance and the tricycle fare is so cheap. I only paid 5 pesos per ride! Food is amazing, especially the Silvanas and Sans Rival, bars are cheap with bears that cost around 40 pesos and there is a thriving nightlife.

Silliman University

It’s the first American university in the Philippines and the entire Asian continent. It boasts old world architecture which is prominent in their buildings. They have their own museum, zoo and a beach! When I was there, it made me want to become a college student again because I never had that “college campus life”. That’s how beautiful this university is.

There was a prenup shoot going on. 😛

Rizal Boulevard

This is where most bars and restaurants are and you can also hang out by the sea since there are benches around. Here are some suggested restaurants and bars to go to:

  • Sans Rival Bistro
    • They have the best sans rival and silvanas I have ever tasted! Their pastries are also good. You should try their seafood paella, it’s mouth watering.
  • Hayahay Treehouse Bar and Viewdeck
    • This is a good place to chill and hangout. They serve good food and very cheap alcohol. I especially liked their yellowfin kilawin. They also have a live band playing at night.
  • Why Not?
    • Now this place gave me a lot of memories during my trip. It’s a unique building that has a karaoke bar, travel agency, a bistro and an internet cafe. Amazing right? There is an entrance at the side of the building where it houses the club. It gave a speakeasy vibe because of the concealed doors and the decor. The clientele ranges from college students to tourists to local expats (ie. old foreigners looking for a good time) and the ever present local women (if you know what I mean). At first, I was uneasy with the place but luckily my friend Amelia and I enjoyed the place after a couple of drinks. I even met my old gym trainer from Zamboanga City there! The music is quite good and the drinks are still cheap (compared to Manila bars) and there’s a ledge with a pole in front of the dancefloor. I may or may not have tried it and had fun. And I may or may not have a picture 😉

JUST KEEP SWIMMING

The assembly starts at 6 AM so I woke up early to sign up and get my gear from their shop. We left around 7:00 AM and 30 minutes later, we were at Dauin where our boat is located. We went to 2 out of the 3 dive/snorkeling spots because the weather did not permit us to go to the 3rd site.

Basically, all you do the whole trip is to swim around and find turtles. What I did when I found one was to follow it around. Turtles are the most chill creatures. They just swim and swim then go up for air then swim again. Actually, they glide and amazingly it’s one of the most tranquil sites I’ve seen and experienced.

I was this close but it was a struggle to take decent photos because they move so fast.
Amelia with the rest of the scuba divers

We were told by our guides not to touch or be close to the turtles because there is a fine of 3000 pesos and you can get arrested if that happens. So I was extra careful but sometimes you can’t help it if they come near you. There are also colorful fishes. Can you spot a couple?

Around 3 PM, everyone went back to the boat and had our late lunch and me being me, I had the guide take a couple of pictures.

Signature pose.

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT

  • Siquijor
    • A 45-minute boat ride from Dumaguete. Watch out for my next travel guide 🙂
  • Manjuyod Sandbar
    • Due to time constraints, I didn’t get to visit this beautiful place. It’s definitely at the top of my list.
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