Trekking in Mt. Pinatubo Crater

Mt. Pinatubo is a good day tour destination because it is very near Manila, includes an off-road 4×4 all-terrain ride, a beginner-friendly trek, river crossing, and scenic views.

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Mt. Pinatubo crater

The best time to go there is during Philippine’s colder months, September to February.  The rest of the year is either hot or rainy/stormy.

I chanced to go to Mt. Pinatubo on December 29, 2012 when a friend based in Australia, Marylove, invited me to join her and her Lithuanian husband, Pranas.  We thought of doing a DIY trip but with a few additional bucks, we can get a tour package with less hassle.

group
With friends at the trekking point

Funny that our tour guide was a French guy who spoke Filipino fluently.  He shared that he used to be a tourist is the Philippines, married a Filipina tour guide, and established their own tour company. 🙂

Story of Mt. Pinatubo

While hiking, I could not help but imagine how such beauty came from the 1991 volcanic eruption.  The path created by the lava flow, the rock fragments, and miles of ashes that separated mountains is now the trek route.   

Mt. Pinatubo is the world’s largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.  The eruption climaxed with nine hours discharge of millions of tons of sulfur dioxide to the atmosphere, resulting in a decrease in the temperature worldwide for years.

leigh saunders
Photo credit: Leigh Saunders

No volcanic activity was recorded after that. 🙂

How to go There

There are a lot of tour groups offering complete package ranging from P1,500 to P2,000 which includes van pick up and drop off from Manila, Zambales environmental fee, 4×4 all-terrain ride, and guide.

There are organizers that offer tour without minimum number of joiners. They will fill the slots of around 10-12 persons.

Pros and cons:

  • You can tour alone or with a number of friends without the pressure of having to form a group with X number of joiners
  • Cheaper
  • You’ll get to meet new people
  • If you come the latest, you get the smallest seat. So better get inside the van as early as possible.

There are also those that will charge you fixed rate for a private tour.

Pros and cons:

  • You get a private van
  • No need to worry about having strangers with you during the entire trip
  • You have to pay the fixed rate unless you have a lot of friends to divide expenses with, hence, more expensive

Travel time from Manila:

  1. By private car or group tour
  • Two and a half hours from Manila to Sta. Juliana, Capas Tarlac
  • One hour 4×4 all terrain ride to jump off point
  • Two hours (seven kilometers) trekking to Mt. Pinatubo crater
  1. By public transport
  • Two to three hours bus ride from Manila to Capas Tarlac or via Dau Terminal. Buses include Five Star, Victory, Solid North.  Drop off at Capas Tarlac.
  • 20 – 30 minutes tricycle ride to Sta. Juliana where the tourism office is located
  • One hour 4×4 all terrain ride to jump off point
  • Two hours (seven kilometers) trekking to Mt. Pinatubo crater
4x4
One hour 4×4 all-terrain ride from base camp to trekking point
river
River crossing
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Picture-picture 🙂

Friendly reminders:

  • Pack light. A sweater (for cold season), food, drinking water, and of course a camera are enough to enjoy the trip. It’s just a day tour anyway.
  • Slippers or strappy outdoor sandals is better than close rubber shoes or trekking shoes which become heavy after river crossings.
  • Pole will help you balance while trekking through gravel, rocks, and rivers. They sell wooden poles at the base camp but if you are okay with balancing, you can go without it.  This is a beginner-friendly trek.
  • Sari-sari stores are available at the tourism office where you can buy small items like toiletries, and water.
  • You may take a shower at the tourism office for P100.
  • Swimming in the crater was allowed during our trip but is now prohibited.

crater
Beautiful scene right at the crater

picnic
Enjoyed my KFC Double Decker and Pik-Nik

Our Itinerary

Tour date: Dec. 29, Sat.
Tour cost: Php1990/person

Tour inclusions:
– round trip a/c van transfer (Manila-Pinatubo base camp-Manila)
– round trip 4×4 vehicle
– local guide
– conservation fee
– certificate of conquest
– service of a tour coordinator

0230 Assembly time. (McDonalds Panay, EDSA corner Quezon Ave. close to the MRT Quezon Ave. station), Breakfast and buy lunch                                                                                                                                                                             0530 ETA Brgy. Sta. Juliana (base camp)
0530 to 0630 Board 4×4 vehicles.
0730 Start trekking (around 2 hours walking)
0930 ETA at the crater of Mt. Pinatubo.Swimming, picnic lunch (at clients’ account), siesta, taking photos, boat ride (at client’s account)
1200 Start return trek (around 2 hours walk)
1430 Back to the 4×4 ride
1530 Back at base camp. Freshen up.
1600 Departure from the base camp to Manila.
1900 ETA Manila, McDonalds Panay

Optional add-ons :
Boat ride on the crater lake : Php350/person
Shower at the base camp : Php100/person

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