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View of Mt. Pinatubo's crater lake at the summit

Guide to Mt. Pinatubo: Crater Lake Hike, Tours, Nearby Attractions, Travel Tips

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View of trek to Mt. Pinatubo's crater lake

Barely three hours away from Manila, the Philippines capital, you’ll find Mt. Pinatubo, one of the most powerful active volcanoes from the 20th century and a top Philippines hiking destination.

It was a dormant giant for about 500 years until it erupted in June 1991 a few days following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The devastating catastrophe buried the surrounding towns with ash and lava flows, leaving behind unimaginable loss of agriculture, infrastructure, and life. 

Over a decade later, Mt. Pinatubo and its surrounding area is now a beautiful sight to behold. Its once tragic and ashen gray backdrop has now become a picturesque mix of blues and greens that can be witnessed in Mount Pinatubo tours.

Its majestic caldera or crater with massive alpine-like rock formations surrounds a luminous turquoise lake that can only be described as magical. Mt. Pinatubo quickly became one of the most sought-after tourist spots near Manila, frequently flocked by hiking aficionados. 

If you’re looking for day tours near Manila, a place with lots of side activities, and just an overall good time, hiking Mt. Pinatubo is for you! Read on for a complete guide on this incredible place—pack your bags, lace up, and let’s go! 

Best Time to Go to Mt. Pinatubo

Woman hiking up Mt. Pinatubo

It is best to marvel at and experience the beauty of Mt. Pinatubo on dry and summer season from December to May. While hiking is allowed any time of the year, it’s not recommended to go during the typhoon months from June to September since heavy rains can cause lahar floods in the area.

Be sure to pay attention to weather reports, especially if there are warnings of typhoons near or in Manila and adjacent provinces of Zambales and Tarlac. 

Avoid getting stranded and maximize the fun in your trip by visiting the area when the sun is up! 

How to Go to Mt. Pinatubo from Manila 

Hikers ride 4x4 cars across Mt. Pinatubo's fields

Photo by Department of Tourism

The scenic Mt. Pinatubo, all 4,757 feet of it, is nestled between Zambales and Pampanga, making this destination ideal for weekend adventures like hiking near Manila. Below are several ways to reach its jumpoff point in Capas, Tarlac, which is only a few hours away from the Philippine capital. 

Public Transportation

Hop on a bus going to Capas, Tarlac via any major bus terminal in Manila, Cubao, or Pasay. It just depends on which is closest to where you are staying. You also have the option to ride buses with routes going to Baguio, Ilocos, or Pangasinan and tell the conductor you’re getting off at Sta. Juliana in Capas.

Once there, you can choose to ride a tricycle or a jeepney as long as it’s going to Sta. Juliana Tourism. There you will have to pay necessary environmental fees, and then they will assist you in booking your 4x4 tours in the Philippines that will take you closer to the mountain.

Private Vehicle

Driving to Capas, Tarlac will take a little over two hours from Manila. Make your way to NLEX, take the exit to SCTEX/Clark Airport. Exit toward Dolores, merge onto MacArthur Highway, and follow the road to Sta. Juliana Capas. 

Tours with Transfers

Since Mt. Pinatubo has become one of the prime hiking destinations close to the Metro, there are several van services you can book to get there. Eliminate the hassle and opt for booking a service that will bring you from Manila to Tarlac and back! You can even book all-in Mt. Pinatubo tour packages so you wouldn’t have to worry about what to do once you get there. 

What to Expect in Mt. Pinatubo Tours

Signpost in Mt. Pinatubo for hikers

Photo by Department of Tourism

Despite its magnificent rock formations, Mt. Pinatubo is considered a minor climb with a 2/9 difficulty and a class 1 trail type. This means the Pinatubo crater hike is as enjoyable and rewarding for pros and newbies alike.

Experience minimal steep ascends and long, picturesque views throughout. Note that there’s a 10 am daily cut-off time for those who’d want to take the Pinatubo day-hike to ensure safety. 

Before hopping on the 4x4, it’s a must to settle environmental fees, which are used to keep the destination in pristine condition. Open-back type 4x4s are subject to availability, so best to be early to get a chance for an exhilarating ride on an open-back. The ride will last a little over an hour through sandy terrains, river crossings, and amazing views. 

Once you’ve reached the foot of the mountain, the trek by foot begins! You will be greeted by volcanic formations throughout the hike. You’ll pass through streams, all varying in colors such as red, yellow, and green. Cliffs are a sight to behold, as they are remnants that tell how tall it was before the eruption.

The mountain offers a different beauty than nearby mountains. Stretches of sand are in place of lush forestry, and instead of the usual green hues of a mountainscape, what you’ll see are whites, grays, and browns. Here, the glass-like turquoise lake sits peacefully.

Upon reaching the crater, you’re in for a sight like no other. Swimming and boating in the lake is not allowed so take this time to enjoy the view and take pictures. Also, get ready to be advised to stay clear of the center due to strong currents.

You can experience the Pinatubo crater hike all within a day. The trek itself is just a little over two hours, depending on your pace. Alternatively, you can arrange for an overnight stay and pitch a tent in designated camping areas along the trail. 

Mt. Pinatubo Travel Tips 

Tourists trek across a stream in Mt. Pinatubo

Photo by Department of Tourism

Mt. Pinatubo crater hike is considered an easy trek, but it will be hot especially during the dry and summer months! Since there’s little to no cover, one can only hope for an overcast on a super dry day. Here are some tips you should consider when heading to this wonderfully hot spot:

  • Wear light (and light-colored) clothes. Best to bring extra sets of clothing too, but remember to pack light.

  • Protect yourself from the sun. A cap can do wonders, but be sure to use ample sunscreen lotion with high UV protection, too.

  • Wear light, breathable, and quick-dry hiking shoes since you will be trekking on varied terrains.

  • Bring lots of water in an insulated bottle for a longer-lasting cold drink along the trail.

  • Bring trail food too like sweet snacks. 

  • Be protected from the occasional rain by bringing an umbrella or a poncho. 

  • Arrive early to avoid the sun! 

  • The 4x4 jeep rental can be costly, so maximize the ride with 5 persons and split the cost among yourselves.

  • Check the weather when planning your hiking tour. 

  • When you schedule your trip within the months of October-May, you’d only need to cover 1km of the trail to the crater because the 4x4s can drive up all the way to the 6km mark.  

  • Take your trash with you and help keep Mt. Pinatubo clean. 

Nearby Attractions and Activities 

Tourists enjoying volcanic ash spa treatment

Photo by Department of Tourism

After an exhilarating time on your Mt. Pinatubo crater hike, take the chance to reward your body with a relaxing side-trip to the following nearby destinations.

Pinatubo Spa Town

A must-visit after a long tiring day of trekking and braving the elements, this site lets you freshen up and relieve yourself of the ash you accumulated along the trail. Revitalize your aching muscles at the Pinatubo Spa, a stone's throw away from your drop-off point from the 4x4 jeep tours. 

Avail of its many soothing massages, especially of the volcanic spa services. Bury your tired body in warm volcanic ash and savor its healing qualities or try covering your skin with volcanic mud and feel the difference in your skin afterward. Just be sure to rehydrate and drink lots of water after the treatment. Pinatubo Spa Town also offers Filipino and Korean food options for you to enjoy. 

Bueno and Dolores Hot Springs

Take a quick side trip to the nearby Bueno and Dolores Hot Springs and feel those tense muscles relax as you take a dip in the hot, therapeutic waters of the natural hot spring. With water temperatures reaching almost 50°C, melt those aches and pains away. Two large pools nestle the naturally occurring hot spring. 

Capas National Shrine

Mt. Pinatubo also has other “hot spots” in the area. Take a visit to the rich history of the town through the Capas National Shrine. This memorial is a tribute to Filipino and American soldiers, men, and women who suffered and perished in the Bataan Death March. 

The shrine covers 54 hectares of parkland, most of which are lined with thousands upon thousands of trees to symbolize the heroism of fallen soldiers in the concentration camp that is now Capas National Shrine. A minimal fee of P20 is required. 

Museo de Tarlac

Memories of World War II are very much alive in Museo de Tarlac, which you’ll find at the Provincial Tourism of Tarlac building. The museum’s gallery will take you back to the fateful event in Philippine history with its collection of paintings, memorabilia, and other records documenting the war. Museo de Tarlac is home to a beautiful collection of masterful art and craft pieces from homegrown talents.

Monasterio de Tarlac

Do a complete 180-degree-turn after your Mt. Pinatubo hike and take a mellow leisurely uphill stroll to Monasterio de Tarlac. Continue your spiritual experience and climb up the Mountain of Resurrection where the monastery is built on. Unlike the other stops that showed the beauty of the olden days, the Monasterio de Tarlac was completed in 2000.

On top of the hill is a monolith replica of the Risen Christ in Rio. The monastery also houses what it claims to be a relic of the true cross. On the other side of the religiousness of the place is nature’s wonder. See the panoramic view of Tarlac that awaits you, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the calmness of the abundantly green view. 

O'Donnell Catholic Church

Going on a Sunday? Catch a mass at the O’Donnell Catholic Church and be transported back in time during the Spanish era with its old architecture and towering acacia trees that line the premises. The O’Donnell Catholic Church’s enchanting facade holds the town’s colorful history. 

Plan Your Hiking Tour to Mt. Pinatubo

View of Mt. Pinatubo's crater lake at the summit

Book Mt. Pinatubo tours or Pinatubo tour packages today and experience the beauty that came from a world-record-holding disaster. Don't miss out on an exhilarating adventure and go on a bumpy ride on a 4x4 on sandy terrains. Eliminate the hassle by booking well-organized tours to guide you through Mt. Pinatubo sights and activities. 

Be sure to bookmark this article for when you’re ready for adventure tours in the Philippines.