Closest airport - Dumaguete
The final leg for all travel to Apo island requires taking an outrigger boat (bangka) for about an hour
1) Take a flight to Dumaguete
2) Take a bus from the airport to Malatapay, Zamboanguita (this is where the bangkas leave for Apo island).
You can also take a jeepney or bus from Dumaguete that drops you at Malatapay.The fare is 20 or 25 pesos respectively.
Alternately, ask your hotel to arrange the transport. The latter is far more convenient but also more expensive.
Boat rental (2 way) it doesn't matter if you stay on the island for a day or a week. The rates are the same.
2000 pesos - small boat max 4 pax
3000 pesos - big boat max 8 pax.
Travellers may also join the boats for 300 pesos per way, note that these do not have a regular schedule so you might need to wait a little at the port in Malatapey
There is a counter at Zamboanguita pier, where you pay the environmental fee.They arrange the boat for you.
Warning : You HAVE to walk through the water to board the boat. So remember to change into your slippers (the water is stony) and either wear shorts or roll up your clothes.
The boats do not have any curtains on the sides, so assume that you will be wet within minutes of leaving. Dress accordingly and be ready to be wet, and keep all your belongings (especially camera, money and documents) in your bag. The boatman will keep your bags inside the boat in the bottom, so it is safer.
Apo is a tiny island with a small beach. The small town uses gathered rainwater as tap water. There is electricity only 3 hours a day (19-22), and there is no wifi connectivity (except for liberty lodge, and it is strictly for hotel guests only—eating at their restaurant will not grant you access to the wifi).
Upon arrival, you will be asked to pay 100p per person as an island fee. This tax is taken even if you are not staying overnight.
Overall the island is very nice, and the locals are extremely friendly.
The island is only 3 km around and 120 m high at the top of the hill, however, it is hilly.
You can walk upto the lagoon and the coral beach on the south eastern coast (through Apo village)
A steep set of stairs takes you up the hill - to the lighthouse (30 minutes trek, medium difficulty). You just have to follow the stairs up to reach it. As there is only one track, you can't get lost. You won't regret the sweat as the view is really beautiful from the top of the lighthouse.
One of the Philippines' famous diving sites, Apo Island has one of the world's best known community-organized marine sanctuaries. It is home to over 650 documented species of fish and estimated to have over 400 species of corals. It is a must dive for any serious aficionado in the Philippines.
- Snorkel / See turtles. Green Sea turtles come routinely to the south west coast (near the beach off the bakery near Liberty resort) for eating and cleaning. Snorkeling here will invariably result in a pleasant encounter with these beautiful creatures. Snorkels and lifejackets are available for hire at the shops that line the lane off Liberty lodge and the tourist assistance center, for about 250 pesos. If you have your own gear and you are exerienced snorkeler/freediver, you can go snorkeling off the beach in front of Liberty resort (near big stones). Head in the direction towards the light house (opposite direction of the village). There are beautifull corals, turtles, lava bubbles and a lot of different marine life to be seen there. Is is also less crowded, because it is a dive spot.
- Trek. There are at least six different treks in the island - ranging from 1 to 4.5 in difficulty (on a scale of 1=easy and 5=tough).
- Dive. Two dive shops are located on the island itself. The reefs along Apo island tend to be among the best dive spots in the world. however, watch out for poor visibility when seas are rough (often)
- Eco Trail. The eco trail is a 45 minute trek (difficulty level = 3) from the lagoon avenue (marked on google maps) to the view deck (on the southern tip of the island). Carry at least 1 liter of water per person, bring your shades and hat, wear full clothes (in some parts, the grass is very close to the trail / covers it). The trail can be steep. Wear walking / running shoes.
- Relax on the Beach. The beaches are small (the island mainly is hilly with rocky cliffs), but clean, and bereft of tourists (mostly residents of the island - who number less than 1000!). You can easily sit on the beach at any time, or even sleep on it at night. After 10 pm, all lights on the island go off (since the generator is switched off) and the view from the beach of a star studded sky is over whelming
- Lighthouse Trek. The trek up the lighthouse (difficulty level = 2.5) consists of concrete steps most of the way (and muddy trails along some part). It takes you to the tallest point on the island, with a modern solar powered lighthouse on one side, and the old abandoned lighthouse next to it (you can see the abandoned lighthouse keepers chambers and the old disused fresnel lens). Views on the eco trail are far better than the views here. Time taken = 40 minutes
Diving and snorkeling are the main activities around the island. Resorts on and off the island typically hold diving programs for different skill levels. Instructors are commonly PADI-certified. The diving is excellent, plenty of reefs, tons of fish and turtles-amazing visibility. Keep an eye out for the Giant Trevally which is known in these waters.
There are dive shops in Apo Island:
- Apo Island resort - USD 25 inclusive of complete gear, boat and divemaste; USD 20 exclusive of gear, inclusive of tank & weights, boat and divemaster. Less USD 2 for shore dives.
- Paul's diveshop - Php 1150 for one dive, P2200 for 2 dives exclusive of gear. For complete gear, add Php 280 per dive.
Conservation tax of P300 is charged if diving within the sanctuary and P200 if diving outside of the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is currently closed ( as per April 2014).
Alternatively Marios Scuba Diving is an excellent alternative for the 2 mentioned diveshops above!
These rates are as of June 2009
- Trek. Six treks (ranging in difficulty from 1 to 4.5) exist on the island.
Local women will try to sell you t-shirts and sarongs when you arrive and when you leave.
- Souvenir t-shirts. Beautiful "Apo Island" t-shirts can be bought (150 pesos each) can be purchased just off the tourist assistance center. It is recommended that these be bought, as they assist the islanders in their subsistence.
- Pasalubong shopping. The five odd souvenir stalls also see sarongs, and small handicraft items such as wooden key chains. They are not allowed to sell items liek sea shells - that itself should tell you how careful they are in nature conservation
Both hotels have restaurants, Liberty's has particularly good chocolate/banana shakes. Menus are limited but what is available is pretty good. At Liberty's, the dive master will go table to table during dinner and help you arrange the next day's dives.
Outside the lodges there are several local eateries scattered throughout the village. prices are higher than in larger islands, but the meals are big and it is better to buy directly from local people.
The owner at Ronor's Guesthouse serves excellent local food and the portions are huge!
Beer and basic liquor can be bought at any store / eatery. Be aware - local "boat captains" finish their workday at about 19:00 and go get drunk and might disturb young female tourists. (they don't mean any harm and wont act violently, it just can be very annoying)
Several beach resorts at nearby towns regularly offer trips to the island, and it is more common among divers and tourists to get accommodations off Apo Island. Examples of hotels and resorts outside Apo Island are Liquid Dive Resort, Playa de Malatapay Resort and Restaurant (www.playademalatapay.com) and Thalatta Beach & Dive Resort in Maluay Zamboangita ( www.thalattaresort.com ), Bahura Resort & Spa in Dauin and Wellbeach Dive Resort in Maluay. Rates span from budget to splurge, with some hotels usually offering a range of activities that explore the mountains, water falls, sulfur springs and other beaches of Negros Oriental.
It is commonly thought that there are only two resorts on the island, Liberty Community lodge and Apo Island Beach Resort. However there are also homestays available.
- Liberty Lodge. Liberty Community Lodge is the larger of the two, it has a very nice restaurant and both private and dorm type rooms. The private rooms are situated in what appears to be a large expensive private house, the showers use barely desalinated water and the island is always on restricted water use. More photos of Liberty lodge can be found here - http://goo.gl/jEo8A
- Apo Island Beach Resort. Apo Island Beach Resort is on the opposite side of the boulder from Liberty Community Lodge. It is 5 minute walking from Liberty and in a more secluded cove. The cottages here are made of earth / concrete mix (as compared to Liberty which has a lot of bamboo / nipa). Remember to bring a rechargeable flashlight if you plan to stay overnight on the island.
- Mario Scuba Diving and Home Stay, (Near Apo Island Chapel), ☎ 09063610254. Marios is 2 minutes walk and inwards of Liberty. The rooms are nicer, but no views (unlike Liberty). It is well sign boarded, and locate just next to the chapel. Send a text / call them to book. They are extremely friendly and will play guitare/cards at night with you. Unlike Liberty, Mario has running water. Electricity tends to be a precious commodity all over the island.
- Runors Lodging. This two storied private lodging can be found inward - on the way, from the beach (near Liberty) towards the Apo island high school.
- mary's house, (from the chapel go east and turn left at the sighn a few meters after). nice place, en-suite double rooms all have a mosquito net. nice common space with bird nests downstairs and a nice balcony upstairs. You can get a breakfast for 50, lunch and dinner for 150 pesos. Olivia, the owner is very nice and very helpful. 500 or 700 pesos per night.
Apo island is generally the place to get out too, Dumagete is the city to get to Apo from. Here is a good write up on the island.
(May, 2015) For those going to Siquijor, there's sometime a boat going there directly from Apo Island. Check with Apo Island beach resort (the boat goes there and back from Coco Grove Beach Resort, Siquijor).