Tagaytay tourists love to admire the view of the volcano island called ‘Taal‘. Most of them are contented by simply admiring it from the ridge or highlands of Tagaytay, while some (but not a lot) of them would choose to cross the water and hike to take a closer look at its ‘crater lake’.
Well, I was one of the latter. To date, I’ve been to Tagaytay numerous times since it is one of the best weekend getaways from Manila — and I must say, I have never set foot on the volcano, until June this year. I was touring my friend into these parts at that time, and I thought, why not treat the both of us to an adventure so that we could both check ‘Hike to Taal Volcano’ off of our bucket lists? And so we did!
How to Get to Taal, Tagaytay
» Journey from Manila
It can take you approximately 1 hour to reach Tagaytay from Manila (provided there’s not much traffic). There are several ways that you can do this…
- By Car
Just whip out your Google Maps or Waze app. Either way, you basically have to drive through the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), and from there, take the Eton Greenfield exit. Afterward, just follow the signs that lead you to Sta. Rosa, and then eventually to Tagaytay.
- By Bus
Costing at around Php150.00, a lot of bus companies offer rides to Tagaytay. It is said that it’s best to choose those who are marked as “Mendez-Tagaytay-Nasugbu” or just ask the operators as to what Tagaytay bus would pass through SLEX and not through Cavite or Aguinaldo Highway. To best avoid traffic, go in the early morning. (My friends said they once used buses in Buendia, Taft Terminal Station, Cubao or Araneta Center; just ask around if in doubt).
» From Tagaytay to Talisay Bay
There are jeepneys in Tagaytay center that regularly go to Talisay and back; for this, check out the jeepney terminal near the Tagaytay Rotonda. From there, you need to look for those that go to Olivares Plaza; get off at that stop, and then ride another one that goes to People’s Park. At this point, hire a tricycle (for about Php200) to take you to Talisay Bay.
If you’re driving a car, simply set your destination via Google Maps to Precious Boat Station.
» Boat to Taal Volcano Island
I had a pleasant experience with Angelo (who you can contact at +63 9197280514) who manages a boat rental service in Talisay Bay. It’s best if you text him beforehand so that he can meet you up at the Ligaya Drive and then lead you to where his boats are. We managed to get a deal of Php 1,000 from him (originally Php 1,500) which was a round trip ride. This was a good deal because others at Precious Boat Station asked us to pay them Php 2,500 to 3,000 (which is the standard price).
If in case you can’t contact Angelo, simply go to the Precious Boat Station where several other boats are available for hire and the trip will take about 15 minutes.
TIP: Others have also recommended Taal Volcano Tour (+63 9172032792). Book in advance and you can score a packaged deal of Php900 for the round trip boat, guide and horseback ride.
Be prepared to be splashed here and there in the boat, but it’s not so bad especially if you’re going out to the lake on a clear day or in the early morning. Speaking of which, boat rides may be canceled in case the waves are too strong (this usually happens in the afternoon).
FUN FACT: The first visible cone in the topmost photo of this post is NOT Taal Volcano. This is just one of its small craters called as ‘Binintiang Malaki’. The actual/biggest crater mouth that has a lake in it (the one just behind it), will be the place we’ll be hiking to, called the Volcano Island.
Now here’s the cool part. It is said that “Taal has an island within a lake, that is also on an island within a lake, that is on an island” which basically means that: on the Philippine Island of Luzon is Taal which has the Volcano Island within the crater lake called as Taal Lake — and within this Volcano Island is yet another lake called as the Main Crater Lake. That doesn’t stop there because this latter lake even has an island within it named Vulcan Point Island. (That’s some lake-ception and island-ception thing going on, for sure).
Hiking Taal Volcano
Once you reach the island which is Taal Volcano Island, you will see houses all around you, which means there are people living on this volcano island. And. That. Is. Crazy. Because Taal Volcano is still regarded as a ‘permanent danger zone’ by PHILVOCS (the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology).
Taal Volcano is also the 2nd most active volcano in the Philippines with 33 historical eruptions. The most recent one happened last 1977, and sure, it’s ages ago, BUT it has been showing lots of signs of unrest ever since 1991.
So… going up the crater lake is easy. The path is straight and you’ll see a lot of people walking to and fro anyways, so you really won’t get lost. No need to get a guide, but you do have to pay Php100 per person for hiking. You have two (2) options on how you can go up:
- Go by foot
- Go by horse
The horse will cost you Php500 per pax that comes along with a guide. Since we were such ‘first-time tourists’ there and since it was also really hot, we thought, why not try a horse?
But you know what? It is NOT a good idea to take a horse.
Apart from the fact that it can get quite uncomfortable and that the route isn’t that long, I mostly felt pity for these horses that look like they haven’t been fed for days. They were quite small and scrawny! In fact, at times, I would envision my horse breaking his bones from my weight, so I decided to get off.
NOTE: There have even been rumors online that these horses are being maltreated by their owners.
To add, if you have issues with ‘personal space’, be aware that the horse guides would often hop on to the horse too while you’re riding it: sometimes they will tell you when they’re about to do it, but sometimes (or most of the time) they don’t — at least, this was what I had experienced.
With that said, I advise that you don’t take the horse nor the guide, and go on your own. It’s an easy walk after all! Some more helpful reminders:
- Be aware that the trail can get really stinky. Not only because of the horses’ dung spread out on the route, but also because of the steam escaping out of the cracks on the ground (they smelled like rotten eggs and they’re called as fumeroles).
- The trail can get really dusty too. This is due to loose volcanic ash, so it’s best that you bring something that covers your mouth and nose; like surgical masks or those labeled as N95.
- It can get really hot too, so bring water. Heat not only from the sun but also from the fact that it’s still an active volcano, so the ground is ‘warm’ and steam vents from rocks (here and there) can be seen. So with the weather in the Philippines, it certainly adds to the very humid atmosphere — as such, if you can, try to do an early morning hike. (Don’t forget to apply sunblock, bring snacks, and bring a cap!)
» How long to reach the top?
At 4km, it will take you around 40 minutes to reach the top via the easy and touristic Talisay trail. If you rather want a challenge or a hardcore mountaineer, there are hikes via Alitagtag (18km) and Balete (8km).
Once you’re at the top, take note that the vendors might harass you to buy from their stall and they even sell at an expensive price point (this is why I recommended bringing your own water and snacks). To add, there will even be a vendor there who will ask you if you want to take a swing of a golf club in order to throw a golf ball into the lake… Like seriously, what are you doing to the environment?
Please don’t do this. It is claimed that the balls are eco-friendly, but come on.
Anyhow, once you manage to evade them, you will finally see the ‘vulcan point’ that has a lake in it. (Imagine, much like what I said previously, this is like lakeception given that Taal Volcano has a lake in its crater and is within a lake wherein it is an island that is a volcano. Aaaah, that should have hurt your brain a little bit.)
You also have the choice of paying for access to ‘Red Lava’ (Php50 per person) which is not so far and brings you to a different angled view — which is actually quite good especially if you want to take more photos.
It’s not as clear in the photo above, but the edges of the lake below are a bit reddish and this is mainly because the rocks have been affected by the hot water, and then the more yellowish ones are mostly made up of iron salts. If you are one of those hikers that could manage to get really close to this lake crater through the longer or secret trail, then you are lucky (and crazy!) Occasionally, small geysers will also form on the ground near there.
Anyhow, we took our swell time at this peak — apart from the nice view, we really needed to rest and cool ourselves off from the heat.
• • •
Now about my experience, despite the hagglers, the heat, the dirt, and the smell, it was a worthy trip to see the crater lake; besides, it would be a shame to say that you’ve been to Tagaytay (for numerous times) without really witnessing Taal Volcano up close and actually landing there to see the volcano island yourself.
But of course, be aware that Taal is still an active volcano, so stay informed, keep safe, and enjoy!