Situated just 50 kilometers South of the massive urban sprawl of Manila in the Philippines, Taal Lake is a haven of calm and greenery. Depending on the horrendous traffic conditions, it can take anywhere from 1 - 3 hours to get from central Manila to the sleepy town of Tagaytay where the adventure begins!
Escaping the congestion of Manila for a quick trip to Taal is a refreshing experience and a thrilling volcanic adventure! We created this post to help you visit Mount Taal from either Tagaytay or Manila.
Climbing Mount Taal: Table of Contents
Need to Know Travel Information: Where to Stay, How to Get There, and What it Will Cost
Mark’s Experience Visiting Mount Taal
Where To Stay in Tagaytay: 6 Hostel & Hotel Options For Every Budget
Where To Stay in Manila: Top-Rated Hostels in Manila
Additional Information & Tips
Need to Know Highlights: Mount Taal Travel Information
Stay: The village of Tagaytay is the closest place with a range of accommodation options, and therefore is a good place to stay to visit Mount Taal. Tagaytay has several well-rated hostels, and a wider range of hotels and holiday apartments, many of which offer great value if you feel like splurging! We’ve listed hotels here on Booking.com, because we found it to offer the best deals, compared to Agoda, which is also very popular in Asia.
Alternatively, you can stay in Manila and visit independently or part of a full day trip from Manila to Mount Taal. It takes 1 to 3 hours to get from Manila to Mount Taal, depending on time of day and traffic.
Go: If you choose to visit from Manila, you’ll need to take a bus to Tagaytay, preferably starting out quite early to avoid traffic and heat. It’s not hard to do, once you have the correct instructions. From Tagaytay, get a tricycle or jeepney to Talisay Bay, and then hire a boat to take you to the island itself.
Alternatively, you can take a highly-rated, 8-hour round-trip tour from Manila for just under $100 US. Depending on your energy levels or amount of time you have, this could be a good option, and includes several other sights are well.
Spend: All prices are subject to change, but the following should give you a general idea of what it will cost you to visit Mount Taal.
Buses from Manila to Tagaytay: 80 to 120 pesos
Jeepney/Tricycle from Tagaytay to Talisay Bay: 100 to 1000 pesos, depending on your haggling skills
Boat from Talisay to Taal Island: 700 to 3000 pesos, depending on your haggling skills
Tourist Entry Fee: 50 pesos
Optional Pony/Donkey Ride to the Top: 700 to 2000 pesos, depending on your haggling skills
Total Cost: 930 to 6170 (US $18 to $121 based on current exchange rates)
(So...if you’re a good negotiator, or can share the costs with others, it’s obviously way cheaper to DIY the trip. If you don’t like negotiating, it might be worth splurging on the round-trip organized tour from Manila!)
Where Is Mount Taal?
It's a little bit of a complex situation, so let me do my best to explain it. Luzon is an island in the Pacific Ocean, the most populous island in the Philippines archipelago. Located on Luzon is the town of Tagaytay, nestled on a ridge of Taal Volcano and overlooking the large Taal Lake. Within Taal Lake is the Volcano Island. Within Volcano Island is yet another Crater Lake. Finally, within Crater Lake is Vulcan Point which is a volcano outcropping.
If that didn't make sense, here is the simplified version starting from the outside layer and proceeding to the inside: Pacific Ocean, Luzon Island, Taal Volcano, Taal Lake, Volcano Island, Crater Lake, and lastly the interior Vulcan Island. They don't call it a complex volcano for nothing!
Mark’s Experience Visiting Mount Taal
For the climbing of Mount Taal, most people take on the task to climb the Volcano Island portion of this volcanic system. It is necessary to take a boat across Taal Lake to reach the island and be in grasping distance from the world's smallest active volcano. The enjoyable boat ride took approximately 30 minutes and provided spectacular views of the lake and the rough cut ridges that surround.
The boat dropped us off at the base of Volcano Island, a foundation of muddy ash and volcanic sand. As soon as the light breeze from the ride was over, the hot humid air immediately penetrated; it's the type of thick drenching mugginess that you can feel before your body even starts to sweat.
The small village on the island seemed like a throwback in time. There were a series of wooden stilt houses hovering over the water, an old weather worn basketball court, and an ancient horse pen. It was a quiet place, an absence of motorized vehicles, and the local residents rested under the trees to escape the heat of the day.
There was a small park entrance fee and a choice to either hike or hire a horse to navigate the well defined trail up to the summit of the volcano. I chose to exercise, though the horse looked like an enjoyable option. The trail to the top was a muddy mess, stirred up by the hooves of the horses and the manure they defecated whenever they pleased. I was glad that for the first time in the Philippines, I had traded in my flip-flops for my tennis shoes!
The scenery was gorgeous, a true tropical mixture of bright green shrubs and the occasional palm or papaya tree that sprouted out of nowhere. With every step the view became more and more impressive, a panorama of the surrounding Taal Lake and outer volcanic rim.
The hike to the top took about 45 minutes. As the trail gained in elevation, the wind started to pick up, offering a blessed relief to the soaking sweat. The trail became quite steep at the final section of ascent, but overall it was a very easy climb.
Do you see the tiny green island in the middle of that lake? That is an island in a lake, on an island in a lake, on an island in the Pacific Ocean!
The view was a magical panorama of the entire volcanic region. The edge of the interior crater lake was smoldering with sulfur and one of the interior sides was leaking with a murky fluid. Though it's highly active, it's different from the fire and ice eruptions on Iceland.
A guard at the top, allowed me to sign a Filipino style consent and release form (a crumpled piece of blank paper), in order to hike down to the shore of the interior Crater Lake. Pressed for time, I didn't make it all the way to the bottom.
Layers of complexity and depths of the surrounding beauty more than justify the Taal Volcano as the smallest active volcano in the world. Escaping the congestion of Manila for a quick trip to Taal is a refreshing experience and a thrilling volcanic adventure!
Our Melting Pot Tagaytay
7.7/10 on Hostelworld
Falling under the ‘cheap and cheerful’ category, past guests seem to appreciate the friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere at this hostel, combined with a great location for exploring Mount Taal. Room options include 6-bed mixed dorms, 3-bed family rooms/shared bathrooms, doubles with shared or private bathrooms, and twin privates with shared bathrooms. Some reviews mention more attention to the shared bathrooms would be appreciated, but overall this place offers good value for money!
Mountain Breeze Hostel - Tagaytay Centre
7.6/10 on Hostelworld
First, the positives: this place gets top marks from past guests for helpful staff, location, and a nice backyard garden to relax in. Most recent guests, however, rate it as a place to stay the night while visiting Mount Tall, but not somewhere to stay and chill for awhile. Thin walls means a bit of noise, and bed linens seem a bit old and tired. As with many places, be sure to bring your own padlock. Your cheapest option is a bed in a 6-bed mixed dorm, but they also offer a few privates and family-style rooms as well.
Budget Hotel with Pool
8.3/10 on Booking.com
ZEN Rooms Buho Amadeo - If you’re willing to up the budget a bit, Zen Rooms offers some well-rated rooms in town, with ZEN Rooms Buho Amadeo topping the list. This property has an on-site restaurant, TVs in the room, and …. wait for it … an outdoor pool! At the time of writing, rooms could be had for $27...around what you’d pay in either of the hostels in town.
Funky & Affordable Hotel
7.7/10 on Booking.com
Tagaytay Garden Budgetel - City Center -- Cheerful, bright, nicely decorated, and right in the centre...this looks like a lovely option if you don’t mind shelling out $36 for a room. Travelling as friends who don’t mind sharing a bed, or as a couple, this is probably the best of the listed options. Past guests mention the beautiful views, lovely garden, nice staff, and comfortable beds as highlights.
9.0 on Hostelworld
A large hostel with a rooftop bar that provides awesome views of the city. The facility has a cool ‘designer boutique’ feel to it. Clean and well located with a cafe next door, a 24-hour mini market nearby, as well as lots of bars and restaurants, and the uber modern Century City Mall is just down the street. Beds are large and comfortable with reading lights and power outlets, even the lockers have power outlets in them so you can charge your camera or phone while safely locked up. 4, 6 & 8 Bed mixed dorms, 6 bed female only dorms, all with ensuites. Private twin rooms with private bath available also.
Hostelworld / Trip Advisor
8.9 on Hostelworld
Tropical themed hostel located in a mid 20th century heritage home. Charming but basic accommodation with a good vibe and easy to meet people. A past guest commented that the wifi wasn’t the best but the wifi at a cafe close by was amazing. Basic but nice beds and pillows, a/c & lockers. Doesn’t look like there are reading lights or power outlets in the bunks, but reviews seemed to really like the overall vibe and the very friendly owner. It’s a place to just chill and hang out with fellow travelers. Short walk to a huge shopping mall, a metro stop and loads of cafes, bars and restaurants. 6, 10 and 14 bed dorm rooms, all mixed, and a twin and double room with shared bathrooms are available as well.
Hostelworld / Trip Advisor
8.8 on Hostelworld
A nice little hostel located above a Korean grocery store on a quiet-isa street. Past guests have commented on the very comfortable beds with privacy curtains, reading lights and electrical outlets. Lockers are available but be sure to bring your own lock. The hostel has a no shoe policy so it’s quite clean. Located near the modern Century City Mall, and lots of small bars and restaurants. 4, 6, 7 and 9 bed dorms, a double private room with shared bathroom and one double private with a private bathroom.
Hostelworld / Trip Advisor
Tambayan Capsule Hostel & Bar
7.9/10 on Hostelworld
File this one under ‘boutique hostel.’ Channeling a Japanese capsule hotel vibe, combined with a funky bar/lounge/hang out space, this place looks like a nice option for those who want to be social and have some fun. Each dorm bunk is a ‘capsule’ and mattresses, linens, and privacy get high marks from past guests. The hostel also has a bar and café on-site. There’s a good mix of privates and dorms, making it good for any type of traveller...provided you’re cool with an on-site bar.
Where to Stay in Manila Near the Airport
8.7/10 on Hostelworld
Lion’s Den Backpacker’s Manila -- It’s worth noting that Manila has a well-rated hostel right by the airport, which is a great one-night option (or more...whatever floats your boat) if you’re arriving in the middle of the night, and are concerned about safety, or if you have an early flight out the next day. Friendly staff are known to greet guests with cold drinks, and there’s a pool! Downside is the bunks are pretty basic wooden constructions...fine for a night or two, but maybe not for any longer.
Additional Information & Tips
What Kind of Shoes Should You Wear to Climb Mount Taal?
If you’ve been travelling in SE Asia for any amount of time, chances are you’re a fan of wearing flip-flops/thong sandals. These are not the best choice for this trip! If you plan on visiting or climbing Mount Taal, wear trainers or hiking boots with good grip on the bottom, and accept the fact that they may get muddy.
What Should You Pack to Climb Mount Taal?
As noted above, expect hot and humid weather, and plan accordingly, especially if you plan to do the 45-minute hike up. Bring plenty of water, sunblock, and a hat to cover your head and eyes from direct sunlight. It’s probably smart to carry a basic first-aid kit, as well.
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