Hiking the Taal Volcano

Tricycle recommended by Precious Boat Station
Tricycle recommended by Precious Boat Station

Preparations

Depending on where you stay, it’s recommended to start your tour between 6 AM and 7 AM. Set your alarms accordingly to get up in the morning and get a good breakfast to prepare for the tour. If you start the tour at 7 AM, you may be finished around 9 AM. It may take longer.

If you plan on walking to the top, make sure to wear good shoes. Definitely don’t do the hike on slippers. If the volcano erupts unexpectedly, you can still try to make a run for it to slightly improve your chances of survival.

You may also want to bring a lot of cash for the payment of the tour and to buy drinks and/or food on the island. The people living on the island are partially self-sustaining and require money from tourism to survive.

  • Shoes
  • Sunscreen
  • Cash: >3500 PHP
  • Backpack
Precious Boat Station: A trustworthy contact for your trip to the Taal Volcano.
Precious Boat Station: A trustworthy contact for your trip to the Taal Volcano.

As you may or may not already have found out, there are a lot of vendors in Tagaytay City selling boat tours to the lake. We can’t say whether they are trustworthy or not, but as a foreigner in The Philippines, I’ve learnt to ignore those that offer help or sell services. You can still try to haggle.

We highly recommend ‘Precious Boat Station‘. We found them online when we were looking for a boat station to take us to the Taal volcano island. They can also help you find a ride to get to the boat station.

They recommended us a tricycle driver. The driver offered to take us from McDonald’s on Calamba Road to the ‘Precious Boat Station’ for 500 PHP. For 52.4 km in total it was a very good deal. For some reason they can’t use Ligaya Drive and have to make a detour. We were not aware of any Jeepneys driving towards the lake.

We took a Jeepney from SMDC Wind Residences to a McDonald’s near Olivarez Plaza where our tricycle driver was waiting for us. Also, there is no Grab Car in Tagaytay City, so don’t count on it.

We’ve gotten countless pricey offers from tricycle drivers or other advertisers by the side of the road.

Having arrived on the boat station, we’re getting a walk-through of the tour. They gave each of us a sombrero and a mouth mask to protect you from the dust. It’s recommended to use it if you don’t want to cough for days.

We were also given 3 cooled bottles of water. Put them in the backpack you brought. You can buy more drinks at the island.

The real Taal Volcano crater is not the one that can be seen from the mainland.
The real Taal Volcano crater is not the one that can be seen from the mainland.

We’re given two forms, one of them is to write down our names, and then another is a liability waiver. After signing the waiver, you or your family members cannot sue them if you get injured or killed. You cannot start the tour if you don’t sign the waiver.

Having signed the waiver, we walked to the boats. We were not offered any life vests. It took us 10 minutes to reach the Taal volcano.

Tour

After getting of the boat, we were greeted by the locals living on the island. They walked us to the gathering area where we were introduced to our guides, a married couple. The girl was 5 months pregnant.

For our 5-year old and my wife, we got a horse. I knew they wouldn’t be able to finish the trek otherwise. After the trip, she mentioned it was not easier as you had to lean backward or forward on the steep hills.

In the beginning, we each took our separate ways. My path was a small valley, so plants were protecting me from the sun most of the time. This really helped, as the path was relatively steep and we were walking a bit faster to keep up with the horse. Even though she offered we could stop for a break if necessary.

The boat to the Taal Volcano from Precious Boat Station
The boat to the Taal Volcano from Precious Boat Station

I still didn’t make use of the mouth mask yet. It only seemed necessary when you were walking behind horses or passing them in the opposite direction.

On the trip, you may encounter some photographers in the first open field you see. They charge 300 PHP per picture as indicated by ‘Precious Boat Station’ in advance. Politely decline in advance and ask your guide to take a picture of you if necessary.

On your left side, you will see some banana trees and coconut trees. These are actual farms.

At the open field, I saw the first steam vent. You can also recognize it by the darker sand/mud/stones. Be aware, you can burn yourself if you get too close to the steam vent.

My guide mentioned that the last part before the reaching the viewing deck is really steep. Although it felt really similar to the part from the beginning. We reached the top in roughly 30 minutes with no breaks.

Taking a horse is only 1-2 minutes faster if you don’t take a break when walking. Honestly, I’d rather take my time, considered we paid a lot for the tour. There’s no need to rush.

The 1st of 12 stations.
The 1st of 12 stations.

Near the viewing deck, you can purchase drinks, as well as halo halo or drink from a buko coconut.

To make most of the trip, it’s recommended to pay 50 PHP extra per person to see the red rock formation. They will tell you it’s 10 minutes walk, but realistically it will take you 3 to 4 minutes.

At the red rock formation, you’ll see much bigger steam vents that are picture worthy. You also have a better view of the lake. Ask your guide to take pictures of you.

Also don’t forget to look behind you, as you can see the road you walked to the top. You can take a good picture of it from a different perspective.

Buy a couple of bottles of water before going down, as temperatures are increasing if you left early in the morning like us. The way down was relatively easy on foot.

Don’t forget to tip the guide, there are 33 guides, and they take a rotation.

A look back on the hike.
A look back on the hike.

Fees

Below you’ll find the fees we paid for 2 adults and a 5-year old.

  • Boat: 2000 PHP
  • Entrance: 300 PHP
  • Red rock formation entrance fee: 50 PHP x 2 = 100 PHP
  • Guide fee: 50 PHP
  • Docking fee: 50 PHP
  • Horse: 750 PHP
  • Tip: 200 PHP
The 'Red Rock Formation' view. You'll see a lot of smoke ('steam') at this location.
The ‘Red Rock Formation’ view. You’ll see a lot of smoke (‘steam’) at this location.

Taal Volcano in the media

The media may occasionally cover the Taal volcano. Two days before our tour, all outlets broadcasted that the alert level of the volcano was raised to level 1.

We made some local calls, and we were told that the Taal volcano is always on alert level 1.

  • Alert level 0:  No vulcanic activity
  • Alert level 1: Minor vulcanic activity
  • Alert level 2: Vulcanic activity (Taal volcano not accessible)
  • Alert level 3
  • Alert level 4
  • Alert level 5

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