Sunsets and Volcanoes in Tagaytay : How to hike up Taal Volcano

After a long day and night of working onshore and offshore  hours, I decided that there should be an impromptu trip to Tagaytay and the Taal Volcano. In the grand scheme of things, this seemed like a good plan but because of a lack of preparation, this could have been a better trip.

Tagaytay is about 90 mins away from Manila and is a very popular day trip with the tourist aka. me and my people. It usually involves a nice lunch at one of the restaurants in “upper” Tagaytay. I didn’t take this option with my driver, instead he took us to a restaurant with the best view of the Volcano Lake and caldera – Leslie’s.

Now I wish I could give a review of the food there, but knowing that they had such a pristine lookout, I know that would attempt to rape any tourist coming to eat there. The view is really spectacular since you can see the Taal lake.

This would definitely be a great date place – so I will look into exercising that option, but looking at the menu the food looks kinda pricey. Evening view is good. You can see the different lights as you overlook from afar.

So after Leslie’s, we decided that we would be heading down the Volcano regardless of the late hour. We figured that someone would want to take our money and of  course on cue, as we headed on the turnoff, there was a tricycle with  “tour guides” and other touts willing to “assist” us with the trip. There is no shortage of people there willing to help tourists in parting with their money.

This is where the preparation would have help, since they first attempted to quote a price of 4500 pesos for the boat ride. This was met by ridicule and a prompt “BETTER PRICE” … then it went down to 3000 pesos … then it went to 2500 pesos, then it went to 2000 pesos for two people. At that point,  I relented and accepted the price, even though I knew that this was still not the best price I could have negotiated, but the late hour and the fact that 500 pesos wouldn’t affect me made me relent.

It is 30 minute drive down the mountain with many curves to the shore. At that point, we were greeted by the “crew” and off we went to the island.


Now this boat didn’t inspire me with confidence but then again there were tons of these boats and everyone seemed to be using them, so I figured why not. There’s Babu in the boat 😀

The start of the boat ride looks something like this

After about 15 mins of splish splashing, it was time to negotiate the horses up the mountain. Again, there is a little mafia over there and they know that they have you by the balls, since you have to use a horse unless you would like to walk up the mountain – btw which is very doable in a nice afternoon.

The horse negotiation irritated me, since they attempted to quote a price of 1750 pesos each, to which another “BETTER PRICE” was barked from me and I walked over to the tourist police office that they have on the island. This got the price down to 1000 pesos per person (50 peso park entrance fee, 450 pesos for the horse and 500 pesos for the guide”) and they wanted us to get a horse for the “tour guide”. Bullshit, I tell you … I paid for Babu and myself – the guides would walk up the mountain – end price of 2000 pesos. Not the best price, but am I going to quibble about another 10$ USD … after that it was on to the horsie

As I mentioned, that horse and I were not friends … maybe because this was the second time in my life that I was riding a horse.

The Taal Volcano is pretty fascinating.    It consists of an island in Lake Taal is situated within a caldera formed by an earlier, very powerful eruption.  Within the caldera is another lake with a small island in the middle.  Thus, it’s considered a complex volcano with a caldera within a caldera.  It’s still classified as an active volcano.   Although the volcano has been quiet since 1977, it has shown signs of unrest since 1991, with the formation of several small mud pots and geysers on the island.     There have been 33 recorded eruptions at Taal since 1572. One of the more devastating eruptions occurred in 1911, which claimed more than a thousand lives.

In the end, we left Makati at about 2.45pm and got back to the hotel at 9pm and we we’re exhausted, since the combination of the horse ride and the boat ride and drive was tough to do in a day. The final 2  hours were done in total darkness, as there are no lights on the volcano and the little village at the bottom is rudimentary.

In the end, here are the basics of this day trip

  • Total trip time = 70 – 90 mins each way
  • Stop off at Leslie’s = 30 mins
  • Drive down to the shore = 25 mins each way and 35 mins in the darkness
  • Boat ride = 15 mins each way
  • Horse ride = 15 mins each way
  • Time spent atop the volcano and looking = 30 mins

That being said, the journey is as interesting as getting to the top of the volcano. The ride to the caldera was pretty, with tropical birds in the trees and some great views of the lake below.    Once on top, you could look down into the caldera, but instead of the bubbling steaming lake I anticipated, it was a placid and really not any more remarkable than any other mountain lake.   There wasn’t really much you could do up there except snap a few photos and head back down.  

If I wanted to venture further, it was another fee.   No one is shy about asking for tips so I had to fight not feeling a bit like an ATM machine – everyone wanted a tip and truly it’s wasn’t my problem – I negotiated my price and that is what I paid- nothing more or less. 

In the grand scheme of things, the 4000 pesos or so it ended up costing Babu and I wasn’t that big a deal, but in retrospect it wasn’t worth the trouble.  What irritated me more, was the way that everyone thought I was an ATM and how much I had to fight to not get ripped off. A second time around, I would just hike the mountain by myself and avoid the horse, since I personally thought that they were not worth the money or the novelty and enjoy the landscape on my own 2 feet.

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About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at

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