I got a lot of promotional emails for cheap flight bookings to Clark, Pampanga and during those days I was very 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. 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.
When to Visit Pinatubo
The best time to visit the Pinatubo crater is during the dry season when the water is with stunning cyan color.
The 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, my travel buddy Dorothy contacted Sonia Bognot, owner and operator for Mt. Pinatubo Bognot Homestay accredited by the local tourism office and the reviews were all true–she’s very accommodating.
How to go to Mt. Pinatubo
To get to Mount Pinatubo from Diosdado Macapagal International Airport: Ride a jeepney/van for P60 and stop at SM Clark.
After SM Clark, you may also go directly to the Dau bus terminal to ride the bus going to Capas, Tarlac or there is actually a nearby terminal for non-aircon buses to Tarlac. The bus fare is about P40.
Then stop at McDonald’s at the junction in Capas and take a tricycle ride to the homestay located near the foot of the Mt. Pinatubo with a fare of P200 for two.
The base camp is located in Brgy. Sta. Juliana in Capas and we slept at the Bognot’s Homestay for P500 each/night because we arrived late in the afternoon.
The next morning we had a hearty breakfast and started the tour around 7am bringing a light packed lunch.
Before the hike, you will be riding a 4×4 jeep from the jump off point for about an hour. 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.
The trek to Pinatubo crater lake was a short and easy hike following the O’donnell river bed and is about two hours going to the crater (with photo breaks).
boat ride for P300/person
Check my photo gallery of the trail and summit crater.
Along the way, you will also meet Aetas who were among the greatly affected during the 1991 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
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 2, 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 a lifevest for safety. On this side, the water is too hot, especially when touching the gray-colored sand in the lakeshore.
**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 arsenic.
You might also want to try the mud spa to pamper yourself after the trek at the jump off point. You can cover yourself with volcanic ash 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.