After receiving several promotional emails for cheap flight bookings to Clark Pampanga, I finally decided to plan my next outdoor adventure. During that time, I was eager to do a lot of travels to accomplish some under my bucketlist which includes Mt. Pinatubo. The jump off site is in Capas, Tarlac — an hour from Clark International Airport.
Watching a tv documentary of Pinatubo’s volcanic eruption and lahar devastation back in high school triggered my curiosity and made me wish to visit the volcano someday. The 1991 eruption and lahar left a massive destruction in the country with its lethal mix of ash and rain. Its unfriendly sulfuric ashes and debris even reached the neighboring countries and dropped the global temperature by 0.4 °C in 1992-93. The historic eruption caused the formation of the crater lake.
Today, it is still an active volcano—a beautiful sleeping giant with a scenic summit crater.
Best Time to Trek Mt. Pinatubo
The best time to visit Mt. Pinatubo crater lake is during the dry season when the water is with stunning cyan color.
Dry season runs from the end of October to May. It is not recommended to trek during the rainy season between July to 2nd week of October as the area is prone to floods and landslides. Tours are not offered when there’s heavy rain.
After checking over the net, we contacted Sonia Bognot, owner and operator of Mt. Pinatubo Bognot Homestay which is accredited by the local tourism office. The reviews were all true–she’s very accommodating and their tour service was excellent.
How to travel to Mt. Pinatubo from Clark
To get to Mount Pinatubo from Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, ride a jeepney/van and stop at SM Clark. You may also go directly to Dau Bus Terminal to get a ride going to Capas, Tarlac. Or there is actually a nearby terminal for non-aircon buses to Tarlac.
Stop at McDonald’s at the junction in Capas and take a tricycle ride to the homestay located near the foot of Mt. Pinatubo.
The base camp is located in Brgy. Sta. Juliana in Capas.
We arrived late afternoon and stayed for the night at Bognot’s Homestay for ~P500++ each per night. Too tired without proper sleep the previous day, I decided to take a nap but didn’t get out from bed when my friend tried to wake me up. I continued to sleep, skipping dinner.
The next morning, I was re-energized with a hearty breakfast. A little past 7am, we started the tour bringing a light packed lunch.
Before starting the hike, you will be riding a 4×4 jeep from the jump-off point for about an hour. A couple from Manila joined us in the jeepney ride.
You will enjoy the lahar trail with its ash-colored sand and rocky rivers and creeks. Usually, there is a stopover so you can take some photos of the beautiful landscape.
Trek to Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake
The trek to Pinatubo crater lake is a short and easy hike following O’Donnell river bed and is about two hours going to the crater (with photo breaks).
Along the way, you can meet some local Aetas. They were among the greatly affected during the 1991 volcanic eruption that most fled to other places after having nowhere to stay near Mt. Pinatubo. It is believed that Mt. Pinatubo is the abode of Apo Namalyari, the pagan deity of events so the mountain is sacred to them.
Boating and Swimming in Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake
Swimming in the crater lake is actually not allowed because it gets deep really fast from the lakeshore but some did just very near where the bancas park.
It is the deepest lake in the Philippines with 800m/2,600ft and because the lake is acidic with a pH level of 2 to 5.5, there is no fish or aquatic life.
To see more of the crater, take a boat ride and get to the other side of the 2.5km diameter crater lake for ~P300/person for about 30min. You will be provided with a life vest as a safety measure. On this side, the gray-colored sand and near-shore waters are hot to touch. There are some parts with boiling water.
**Update: Boating no longer offered due to recent drowning incidents. As per the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, the lake contains toxic chemicals such as sulfur and arsenic.
You might also want to try the mud spa to pamper yourself after the trek near the jump off point. You can cover yourself with volcanic gray mud which is said to be good for your skin for P500++. If you also want a massage and mud bath along with the spa, it will cost P1,000++.
We stayed another night at the homestay and left the next morning for Alaminos, Pangasinan to visit the Hundred Islands National Park and then proceeded to Olongapo City in the evening and the next morning, we headed to Zambales where we had an awesome time learning how to surf at Crystal Beach.