sea turtle snorkeling apo island dumaguete philippines
Sea turtle at Apo Island

              Dumaguete is a vibrant city in south central Philippines known as the “City of Gentle People.”  A university town, thousands of students pour into the city everyday to attend one of its great universities.  Not only is Dumaguete a jump off point for snorkeling and diving trips or travel to the eastern and southern islands, but it offers up some great sightseeing, food, and entertainment itself.

dumaguete island philippines location

What to Do:

 1.  Apo Island

One of the many jewels of the Philippines when it comes to snorkeling and diving, Apo Island is absolutely in the top tier.  Apo Island is known as the best place in the Philippines to swim with sea turtles.  This is because Apo Island is a marine sanctuary with strictly enforced environmental protection; there is a PHP 5000/USD 100 fine for touching the marine life or taking away any coral.  Due to this protection there is a thriving coral reef with 600 species of fish and a lot of sea turtles; you will definitely see them up close and personal.
The best way of getting there is to reserve a spot at Harold’s Dive Shop.  They do both snorkeling and diving trips.  For snorkeling the cost is PHP 1200/USD 24; which includes the car to their boat and back, the trip, food, and equipment.

2. Rizal Boulevard Baywalk

              Rizal Boulevard Baywalk is a popular place to hangout during the day and night in Dumaguete.  During the day many people take slow strolls down the sidewalk, sit on the benches, or hangout under the huge trees to relax and enjoy the soft breeze as they look out over the bay.  At night you may choose to do the same things as during the day, many people do; the Baywalk gets lit up and offers a great environment for relaxing.  The real reason it made the list though is the street food. Stalls, tables, and chairs pop up along the northern end of the Baywalk as the sun sets and vendors begin to sell some amazing tempura.  Cheap and delicious, people flood this area to get their hands on the best tempura the Philippines has to offer.  (Side note: There is also some of the best fried chicken I’ve had just north of the Baywalk.)

rizal boulevard baywalk dumaguete philippines
Rizal Boulevard Baywalk

3. Dumaguete Bell Tower and St Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral

              A trip to Dumaguete wouldn’t be complete without getting to know a little of its history.  Dumaguete Bell Tower is one of the most iconic structures in Dumaguete and, along with St Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral, is amongst the oldest building in the region.  The original structure was built in 1811 and was used to warn Dumaguete’s inhabitants of marauding pirates that sometimes plagued the area and, during peaceful times, to call them to mass.  Today it still stands towering over the city as an emblem of peace.

dumaguete bell tower philippines
Dumaguete Bell Tower
              St Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral, originally in 1776 and reconstructed in 1885, stands just to the side of the Bell Tower.  The cathedral is the oldest church in the region and is a great site to visit when in the area.  With a ornately gilded alter, high vaulted ceilings, and elaborate hanging chandeliers, the cathedral is a wonderful display of old European architecture.    

st catherine of alexandria cathedral dumaguete philippines
St Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral

How to Get There:

By Air

From Manila

Cebu Pacific and Philippines Airlines both offer daily flight from Manila to Dumaguete.

From Cebu

Cebu Pacific and Philippines Airlines both offer daily flight from Cebu to Dumaguete.

sea turtle snorkeling apo island dumaguete philippines
Sea turtle at Apo Island

By Boat

From Manila

              There is a weekly boat that takes passengers from Manila to Dumaguete.  Travel will take about 36 hours on this long-haul ferry.  Check here for the ferry schedule.

From Cebu

There are ferries traveling from Cebu to Dumaguete all day and takes about 4 hours.

sea snake snorkeling apo island dumaguete philippines
Sea snake while snorkeling at Apo Island

By Land

              From Bacolod, the entry point from Iloilo, you will take a southern bound bus to Dumaguete.  The bus will take around 5-6 hours and there are different options of comfortability when it comes to bus options. 

              From Cebu you can catch a south bound bus to Dumaguete.  The bus will travel to the port in Bato, where it will cross by ferry and make its way down to Dumaguete. 

starfish snorkeling apo island dumaguete philippines
Starfish while snorkeling at Apo Island


Where to Stay:

               Dumaguete has many hotels and hostels scattered throughout the town and vary in price depending on what you are looking for.  We stayed at Coast Inn, which is located by the bay and just a short walk to Rizal Boulevard Baywalk, Harold’s Dive Shop, and the ferry port.  It is a low-cost hotel with few amenities, but it did have the basics and good wifi.  Harold’s Hostel is also a good low-cost option for backpackers looking to save some money.

hermit crab snorkeling apo island dumaguete philippines
Hermit crab

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