Mt. Pinatubo Travel Guide: A Journey to a Beautiful Disaster

Mt. Pinatubo

Mount Pinatubo, a dormant volcano north of Manila, discharged millions of tons of sulfur dioxide in the air on June 1991, when it was awaken after more than 600 years of dormancy, on what is considered as the largest and most catastrophic volcanic eruption in the recent years.

Ashes covered the entire Luzon landmass and even reached Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and other neighboring Asian countries.

Close to a thousand perished, more than a hundred thousand lost their homes, and billion worth of crops were damaged. The eruption also brought down the world temperature by a few centigrade.

Pinatubo
Beautiful turquoise-colored crater lake of Mount Pinatubo.

Today, it holds a beauty that covers it tragic past. The blue-green lake on a gray-brown  crater is a sight to behold. The irony is that, it is now attracting more and more people after its sudden eruption that fend off people from the area more than a decade ago.

Experience Mt. Pinatubo. A day trek to the crater will reveal the beauty that it drew. You will even forget its disastrous history.

Pinatubo
The 4×4 ride to trailhead.

How to Get to Mount Pinatubo

Trekking to the crater lake of Mount Pinatubo can be done in a day. It involves a 4×4 ride on a lahar field surrounded with panoramic sand walls, and at least three hours of trekking back and forth.

Packaged tour from Manila to Pinatubo Crater Lake via Capas usually costs around P2,000 to P3,000 and P2,500 via Botolan, food not included. A DIY tour via Capas will cost you at least P2,500 and cheaper via Botolan. If you opt to DIY via Capas, here’s how:

  1. Bus from Manila, Cubao or Pasay to Capas, Tarlac (Mc Donalds Capas Junction)
  2. Trike to Sta. Juliana Tourism (cheaper alternative is to take a jeep at P30 per pax or trike for at least P150 per trike to Patling and transfer to a trike at P60 per trike to Sta. Juliana Tourism)
  3. Register at Sta. Juliana Tourism who well then arrange the 4×4 ride, be five in a group to maximize the sharing cost for the 4×4 ride.
  4. The ride will take about an hour which will be followed by at least two hours of trekking

If you are alone and on a DIY tour, you may join a group at Sta. Juliana Tourism to share the 4×4 ride and guide cost. Remember that 10AM is the cutoff at Sta. Juliana Tourism, no one is allowed to go to the crater lake beyond that time.

The newly opened Botolan route is a bit cheaper because they use bigger truck to transport trekkers to the trailhead instead 4×4 jeep.

Going to Capas, Tarlac from Manila, you can book your bus ticket here:

BOOK YOUR BUS FROM MANILA TO TARLAC

Pinatubo
Sand walls along the trail.

Where to Stay in the Area

Trekking to Mt. Pinatubo’s crater can be done in a day, so if you are on a budget, you can save expenses for accommodation if you choose to head back home after the trek. Alternatively, you can set up a camp in the assigned camping site in the area. There are restrooms, nipa hut and source of fresh water near the crater.

But if you plan on staying in the area, before or after the trek,  you can stay at the following hotels/inns nearby:

Alvin and Angie Bognot Mount Pinatubo Guesthouse (Bognot Lodge)
Santa Juliana, Capas, Tarlac
Contact No: +639198614102

Casa Hermogina
Santa Juliana, Capas, Tarlac
Contact No: +639199349474

The Farmhouse by EDL
Barangay Dolores, Capas, Tarlac
Contact No: +639177096908

Pinatubo
The iconic crater lake.

Activities in the Area

  • Try the volcanic ash massage and mud pack at Pinatubo Spa Town
  • Drop by at Capas Shrine and have a glimpse of Philippine History. It is a memorial shrine for those Filipino and American soldiers who died during the Bataan Death March during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines of World War II. See the 70-meter obelisk towers above the grounds of the former interment camp and imagine yourself  seeing The Needle of Washington DC
  • Witness the man-shaped rock formation in Sta Juliana, popularly called as Telatau – a massive totem-shaped rock
  • Go to Museo de Tarlac in Capas
  • Take a walk at Campo Santo Municipio of O’Donnell Capas with its still Spanish colonial period identity still preserved
  • Attend a mass at O’Donnell Catholic Church and see its Spanish façade decorated with lining of centuries old acacia trees
  • Feel the heat of Dolores and Bueno Hot Springs
  • See the still existing Japanese Tunnels and Caves
  • Visit the different ancestral houses scattered in the province
  • Go to Bamban Hills, Sacobia River, Crow Valley, Kalaw Forest/Falls, Lake Canarem, Anao Quina Buntok Creek and Kamikaze Memorial Shrine
Pinatubo
A Beautiful Disaster!

Mount Pinatubo Itinerary

Mount Pinatubo Day Trek via Capas
Budget: Approximately P2,500

0200H: Depart Manila
0430H: Arrive in Capas (Mc Donald’s Junction), breakfast
0530H: Proceed to Santa Juliana Tourism
0600H: Register
0630H: 4×4 to trailhead
0730H: Arrive in trailhead, start trek
1000H: Arrive in crater lake
1130H: Start trek back
1330H: Back in jumpoff
1430H: Back in Santa Juliana

Tips

There are a lot of travel groups based in Manila that organize a Mt. Pinatubo Trek, Travel Factor and TriPinas are among those. The good thing about these organized trek is that you don’t need to worry about most of the stuff, since they take care of almost everything, designed actually for busy people. The package rate ranges from P2,000 – P3,000 from Manila, in exchange you get to trek Mt. Pinatubo less the hassle of organizing it and you gain travel friends from fellow joiners.

Mt. Pinatubo Town Spa on the other hand offers a local rate of P1500 from Sta. Juliana for the package, it includes 4×4 rental via Skyway, toll fee, conservation fee, a local guide and a meal. Contact No: +63928 3410402/(63-45) 493-0031.

Meanwhile, Capas Pinatubo Four-Wheelers Club has P6,250 Pinatubo package from Sta. Juliana that is good for five person and inclusive of 4×4 rental via Skyway, toll fee, conservation fee, a local guide and a packed lunch. You may contact the President of Capas Pinatubo Four-Wheelers Club, Wendell Mercado at 0919-6084313.

Pinatubo
Joyride!

But if you are keen on organizing your own Mt. Pinatubo tour,  a Do-It-Yourself is of course cheaper. Aside from the expenses for foods and transportation cost to and from the jump off point, other expenses are:

  • Conservation/Environmental fee – P300 per person
  • Guide fee – P500 (for one to five trekkers)
  • 4×4 rental – P2500 via Skyway (good for five)
  • Skyway toll fee – P500

Optional Expenses:

  • Shower fee – P20 at Baranggay Hall/P100 at Mt. Pinatubo Town Spa
  • Tent rental – P100
  • If you bring your own 4×4, a P500 fee is required

*Originally Published: 16-Jul-2015 | Updates:  30-Sep-2017; 13-Jan-2018; 30-Apr-2020

Comments

  1. How long does it take to go up Mt. Pinatubo and back? I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t suggest bringing a 2-year-old with you there, no?

  2. […] For more information on Mt. Pinatubo check out Lakwatsero’s Travel Guide to Mt. Pinatubo. […]

  3. Joey

    Hi. we are planning to go there in the 1st week of June 2013, anyone who know a contact of 4×4?

    Sa mga gusto sumama please contact me 09477096157 wngzro_heero@yahoo.com

  4. Hi, we are planning to go to Pinatubo on May 25 (Sat). Anyone who knows contact details of guides for the trekking? And if you may want to join us, kindly send a PM to me, 09329133299. Thanks!

    -Vino

  5. niKs

    Hi there,
    Any idea if it’s open on April as I heard it’s closed for the time being?

    1. Brian

      Hi! I’m planning to go there within the 7th, apwant to be a travel buddy or any group here i can tag with? Thanks! My mobile: 09273487052

      1. Anne

        was planning to go there too this april with my bf pero d2 lng kmi manggagaling ng nueva ecija…marami ba local guide pgdating ng Capas that can help us on trekking?

  6. Hi Lakwatsero,

    I’m just wondering on your last note:

    ” A change in color of the crater lake from blue-green to dark (almost black) is observed on March 2011 ”

    Its 2012, what’s the status of the crater lake? Is it still safe for swimming?? Parang nakakatakot naman magswimming if dark green na… Especially there has been no announcement what has caused it. And the swimming would make the trek worth it…Hay…sana safe pa din

  7. […] you have conquered  Mt. Pinatubo, trekked its ragged terrain, walked on its vast dessert-like ground and swam on its blue-green […]

  8. I am planning to go backpacking on October during my semestral break. I want to deal with the Aetas Lifestyle and trek Mt. Pinatubo as well in my itinerary. Are there guides who can accompany me in this kind of travel? And I am solo backpacking that is why 4×4 wheel is an option for me. Is it easily possible to trek from the town proper to Mt. Pinatubo? Thanks

  9. jenny

    hi! ‘ve been reading your blogs on the places you’ve been. it was specially helpful when we went to Pagudpod 2weeks ago, unplanned, since our initial destination is the crocodile island in pangasinan, which I also read about from your blog. surfed other websites but yours is much detailed. keep it up!!!

  10. julietpo

    Hi Lakwatsero,
    thanks for the info. this is really a great help. We are visiting family in Pangasinan. On our way back to Manila, we are thinking of doing the Pinatubo trek. What time do we need to be in Tarlac to arranged the trek?
    jp

    1. Thanks Juliet, much better kung early morning 🙂

  11. mcee

    HI! were planning to go there and have an overnyt camp on jan 15, 2011. nabasa q n nid get 1st permit frm dot and mayors permit. pd b km kuha ng permit the day n pupunta n km? matagal b kumuha nun? pls help me on this. d q kc lam pano gagawin since nx wk n un trek nmn..tnx

    1. Hi mcee, you have to make prior arrangement which cannot be done on the day of the climb. You need to go to Tourism Office of either Tarlac Provincial Capitol of Tarlac Town Hall, for the fees and waiver, which you will submit to the Airforce Camp at Sta Juliana. They will assign escort for the group for a fee. Better call the tourism office of Tarlac posted at DOT website for the details.

      1. aiLuv2travel

        hi lakwatsero,

        Can you help me? My group of friends are planning for an overnight camping on the 3rd week of feb. Do you have any contact there that can help us get those permits. Nasa budget lang po kz kami, so kami lang po ang gagawa ng itinerary.

        1. Hi aiLuv2travel, sorry, wala akong kilala dun pero i think no need naman na may kakilala. You just have to go there and pay the necessary fees and sign the waivers and presto, they will assign escort/s for you. Standard yung fees and yung procedure for application nung permits.

      2. blizzard08

        hello, clarify ko lang.. so aside from the environmental fee which you pay on the day itself, you need to get a DOT and mayor’s permit beforehand?

    2. liza manuzon

      hi natuloy ba kayo noong 15.naghahanap kasi ako makakasama..im alone .pls contact me at 09158674676.thanks. liza

    3. liza

      hi nakaakyat na ba kayo bak may gusto this jan 22nd kulang pa kami at least 3..1990/pax..09158674676

      1. Moks

        mam natuloy po ba kayo? 2 kami

  12. Stephen

    Did the trip yesterday — excellent
    Note, due to a landslide earlier in the year, the 4×4 doesn’t go as far any more at present, and have to do a 2-3 hour trek up (and down again)
    This actually adds to the adventure, starting on the wider river plain and climbing up as it gets narrower and more interesting, winding its way up through the mountain gorge, and finally up the original ’15 minute’ trail.

    The 4×4 part of the trip is a great adventure all it itself, so even for non-walkers its am amazing experience

    [driver and walking guide is included in the price]

    1. maria

      Does the 2 to 3 hours trek consider a difficult hike or an easy hike? Does water get as high up to your calves or knees when crossing the river?

      Salamat PO

  13. laura van't land

    Hey, I’m wondering about the weather. Is late October an okay time to go or will we get stuck in a typhoon? Also, does the 4×4 rental include a driver or do I have to drive it? And how many days can I camp up there/rent the 4×4? Salamat po!

  14. monmon

    Hi. pano po pag overnight camping? nabasa ko ok dun sa tambo lake. ano po masusuggest nyo sa pagrent ng 4×4 if mag o-overnight camping?
    thanks!

  15. Maseng

    Have plans of going there on May 2 with some friends. Do you have the contact for the 4×4 that charges for 2500? Please advise

    1. You can go directly to Capas Pinatubo Four-Wheelers Club or to the tourism office. They will gladly assign one for you. Standard rate naman sila 🙂

  16. koko

    pede ba magtrekking mag isa? would it be hard for me? most kasi ng accomodations from manila.. required ng groups, e alone lang ako.. wanna try sana trekking..

    1. jhun

      sama ko share tau gastos.. taga marikina me gus2 ko tlg maexperience yan pinatubo add me fb butcher_009@yahoo.com message me pinatubo ha para maadd kita….

  17. cynthia robles

    you’re a big help! thanks a lot for being a lakwatsero…definitley, i’ll always open your blog since i’m a lakwatsera myself!

    Thanks! I believe there’s lakwatsero in everyone of us. Hehe!

  18. […] Mt. Pinatubo by Lakwatsero (Great Travel Blog) […]

  19. i have never been to this part of pampanga/zambales but definitely a must-see place for travelers. kudos.

    well, pack you bag now and trek to Pinatubo 😀

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