One of the more scenic trips you can do when in the Philippines is doing a hiking trip to one of the volcanoes. There are 37 volcanoes around the country, of which 18 are still active. In Luzon, there are several volcanoes that you can visit for a day trip away from Manila, and Mount Pinatubo, located only 100km NW of Manila, has always been one of my favorites. Mt. Pinatubo is one of the most picturesque volcanoes I’ve visited with the crater lake having turquoise waters. Although it is quite tempting to take the plunge, swimming at the crater is prohibited because of no standby lifeguard in the area.
The last recorded volcanic explosion was on the 15th of June, 1991. It marked the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.
Mt. Pinatubo was considered home for a tribe of the Aeta people, the indigenous tribe of the Philippines. Aeta’s are believed to be the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Philippines. You will get to see them on your trip to the volcano.
How to Get to Mount Pinatubo
There are two options in getting to Mt. Pinatubo from Manila.
Option 1: Purchase an all-in package (round trip) with tour guide. You can select a location in Metro Manila where the van will pick you up from. There are a couple of tour groups such as Trail Adventours or Trekking Pinatubo. The bigger the group, the better the prices will be.
Costs: Tour ~ Php 3,500 (USD $70) per pax on scheduled tour with other people, and can get cheaper when the group is bigger and more expensive during peak season. Ideal group size is 5, as that is the amount of people that can fit in each 4×4 vehicle.
Option 2: If you have your own vehicle or if you prefer to cut costs by riding public transport to the starting point of the trip, make your way to the 4×4 jump off point in Sta Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. For public transport, ride any bus that is Tarlac, Pangasinan, Baguio or Ilocos Province bound and stop at Capas Public Market. From the market, take a jeepney or tricycle to the Tourism office in Pinatubo Spa Town in Sta. Juliana. This is also where the Capas Pinatubo Four Wheelers Club Association can be found.
Costs: Bus ~ Php200 (USD $4) Tricycle ~ Php 300 (USD $6) 4×4 Rental ~ Php3,000 (USD $60) Local Guide Fee ~ Php500 (USD $10) Environment Fee ~ Php300 (USD $6) per pax
The Adventurous Trip
Once you get in your 4×4 vehicle, you start the scenic journey to Mt. Pinatubo crater. The ride is around 1hr, and you get to stop by the Aeta community and buy some of their produce. While driving down on the 4×4, I felt like I was in another planet – the surroundings look like nothing I have never seen before, and the valleys add to the feel like I was in a Holywood SciFi movie.
After the ride, you start the 30 – 40min hike up to the crater. The hike passes through water streams and can be quite slippery with tougher inclines at some points, but when you reach the crater, you will appreciate the whole journey there.
The view is quite breathtaking, and even if you are not allowed to do many activities aside from setting up a picnic, the trip would still be worthwhile.
What to Bring
Water – and a lot of it. The journey there can get really hot as you will be riding in unroofed 4×4 vehicles and there are no trees to give you shade.
Food – trail snacks to munch along the way and possibly packed lunch if you plan to stay long and enjoy the view.
Picnic Gear – there are barely any, and if there is a crowd, you might need to set up a spot by the rocks or on the sand.
Extra clothing – at the end of the journey, you will feel very dusty and sweaty. Bring a change of clothes, and there are public showers which you can use (for a small fee).
Backpack – bring a small backpack to hold your water, money, towel, food, etc. It’s easier than dragging around handbags, you might need your hands to remain free in case you need to balance around the slippery rocks.
What to Wear
It’s most likely going to be very hot and humid, so ensure you wear fast-drying clothes (similar to what you wear while playing sports or going to the gym). Just avoid wearing light-colored clothes as it may stain.
A cap – if it’s not raining, the sun will be very strong and the rays reflect from the rocks so it’s better to remain protected.
Sunscreen – Similar reason to the cap, it could get very hot and a big chance you will get sunburn if you don’t protect your skin.
Comfortable footwear – It’s not that necessary to wear hiking shoes, but it is important to wear comfortable shoes that can get wet and also grip well to the slippery rocks.
Just remember to also check the weather before booking your trip! Also check for any travel advice in case there may be any disruptions to visiting the crater. For more information, you can contact the Satellite Municipal Tourism Office.