This is how we spent our weekend away from the big city. The trip from Cebu to Dumaguete to reach Apo Island and Balinsasayao Twin Lakes was long but it rejuvenated our minds and nourished our souls. To reconnect with nature is such a refreshing experience.
Early Saturday morning, we traveled by car from Cebu City to Liloan Port, Santander. We left the car parked in one of the available residential parking spaces for a small fee. From there, we took a boat ride to Sibulan Port then rode a jeepney to Dumaguete.
Later in the afternoon, we went to Balinsasayao Twin Lakes and spent a night in a Dumaguete hostel.
By Sunday, we left our hostel very early morning and took a bus to Zamboangita and got on a 30-minute boat ride to Apo Island. We had a wonderful time frolicking with the sea turtles. What a weekend!
The water is calm during summer, but most of the time it is going to be a rough ride. There is nothing to worry though as boat incidents are rare and for safety measure, the Coast Guard requires all passengers to wear a life vest if via motorized boat. All it takes is half an hour boat ride from Santander to Dumaguete, a short jeepney or bus trip, and another 30-minute ride from Zamboangita to reach Apo Island. So sail away for an underwater adventure!
Read on to plan ahead your weekend to visit Apo Island and Balinsasayao Twin Lakes.
Sharing our Cebu-Dumaguete itinerary with a few notes and tips 👇
Day 1: Cebu – Dumaguete Travel + Balinsasayao Twin Lakes
7:30 ETD Cebu City. Take a Ceres Bus from Cebu South Bus Terminal to Dumaguete Ceres Terminal via Oslob for P280 fare. It takes around 5 hours ride. But during this weekend, we traveled by car.
9:15 Carcar. For snacks/stop-over.
11:30 Santander. Liloan wharf or the regular pumpboat port. We parked the car at a store owner’s parking space for P30/day.
11:45 Ride pumpboat with P35 ticket and P2 terminal fee. The boat can carry about 90 passengers. It leaves every 30 minutes. The sea trip only lasts for 30 minutes, too. There’s also a fast craft in Liloan Port where the Ceres Bus stops with P65 fare to Sibulan and is also around a 30-minute ride.
12:15 Sibulan Port
12:00 Take Jeepney to Dumaguete City
12:20 Arrive in Dumaguete near Public Market
12:30 Check-in Hostel (Vintage Inn)
13:00 Lunch (Robinsons Mall for a quick grocery too. But there are many restaurants around the town’s boulevard.)
15:00 ETD Balinsasayao Twin Lakes in Sibulan.
15:10 Take Jeepney going to San Jose, Sibulan. It’s located near a Caltex gas station. You have to wait for the jeepney to be full. Fare is P15.
15:50 Arrive in the jump-off point to Balinsasayao Twin Lakes. There are many habal-habal (motorbike) drivers waiting in line there near the waiting shed in the highway. They charged P200/person one-way.
16:20 Lake Danao. First Smaller Lake.
16:45 Balinsasayao Twin Lakes. Activities available: Boating/Kayaking/Swimming.
18:00 Back to the waiting shed area to wait for a bus or jeeney going back to Dumaguete.
18:30 Dinner at Ching Loong. (There are plenty of restaurant choices around the boulevard.)
20:00 Walk around the boulevard.
Day 2: Apo Island from Dumaguete City
5:00 Wake-up call. Just a tip, since you will get wet during the banca ride to Apo Island, better wear your swim clothes (e.g. swim shorts/rashguard) before hopping in the boat. And don’t forget your ocean-friendly or reef-safe sunblock lotion and a big bottle of water.
6:00 Dumaguete Bus Terminal. We took an aircon bus for P50. Look for a bus with a signboard “Bawayan”. That time there was no non-aircon bus that was near-full, so we took an aircon bus which is a bit more expensive. You can also take a jeepney ride, but a bus ride is more convenient and more frequent. Fare for the jeepney and bus is P20/30.
6:50 Arrive at Zamboangita. You’ll see a signboard: This way to Apo Island. Walk by the deserted flea market road (market opens only every Wednesday) to the banca wharf.
7:00 Breakfast at an eatery in Zamboangita. They offer excellent puto and sikawati. Tip: you can buy your lunch here, it will be cheaper, or you can buy fresh seafoods here in the market to cook/grill them later, or buy food in Apo Island but it will be a little more expensive.
7:45 Ride the banca (motorized boat) for 30 minutes. The roundtrip standard rates are:
Small Boat: P2,000 for 4 persons (max is 6 persons). Additional is P250/head.
Big Boat: P3,000 for 7 persons (max is 12 persons). Additional is P250/head.
There’s also a Public Boat for P300/head per trip if you are travelling alone or less than 4 but you have to wait longer as it’s less frequent. Since we are only three, we waited for other persons to share the ride for the small boat to Apo Island. Luckily, a couple from Luzon agreed to share with us. The first trip is as early as 6am and going back is until 3pm-4pm.
Note: Waterproof your things especially gadgets during the boat ride. Our bags were placed in the bottom compartment of the boat and it did not get wet because the water was a little calm that time but just to make sure, better waterproof your belongings. Expect that you will get wet while hopping in the boat and all the more during the boat ride, and it’s better to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from water splashes.
Entrance Fee – P100/per person. Once you arrive, a local will lead you to the Registration Office and find a snorkeling guide for you.
Cottage to leave your things while swimming – P200/group
Guide Fee – P300/group
Snorkel Rental – P100/per person
Life Vest – P100/per person
Shoes/Fins – P100/per person
12:45 Back to Zamboangita Port. We went back to Zamboangita early because our newly-found friends need to catch a flight in Dumaguete Sibulan Airport to Manila. We took our shower bath here and changed to dry clothes.
13:30 Bus Stop at Zamboangita. We waited for about 30 minutes for a bus ride. Some buses didn’t stop because it’s full but the Ceres bus that we rode on is also very full – we are just standing the whole time. The bus fare going back is cheaper at P25
14:30 Snacks at Sans Rival – the most popular cakes and pastries shop in Dumaguete.
15:30 Ride Jeepney to Sibulan port. You can ask the tricycle driver to take you to the jeepney parking area.
16:00 Ride Bangka for P45 fare including the terminal fee.
16:30 Back to Liloan, Santander.
17:00 Drive Back to Cebu
18:30 Dinner Stop
21:30 Back to Cebu City
Nice to Know
• Marine Turtle Sanctuary is just near the shore. Mostly green sea turtle species are found because they feed on sea grasses in the shallows.
• Electricity in Apo Island is only available a few hours in the evenings.
• There are many sea glasses at the shores due to improper trash disposal from the main island. I saw ones with Tanduay and Emperador marks still obvious on the sea glasses. Look how the sea waves made these bottle trash into a beach gem!
• Not really nice to know: Marine Reserve is closed for rehabilitation due to severe reef damages caused by the previous typhoons, Sendong and Pablo. There are however many other diving and snorkeling points to enjoy.
• You can view a panoramic underwater google map of Apo Island Marine Reserve–explore now at your screen!
You might also like reading: Apo Island Wonders | Sea turtles & Sea Snakes in Coral Gardens