From Disaster, Now a Beautiful Destination: 8 Reasons to Visit Mount Pinatubo via Botolan, Zambales

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What became famous for its destructive eruption 26 years ago is gradually becoming one of the country’s top tourist destinations. Aside from its stunning crater lake formed after the eruption, there are, in fact, so much more sights to see and things to do in Mount Pinatubo.

There are several ways to get to Mt. Pinatubo. The easiest route is said to be via Capas, Tarlac that would require a 2-hour 4x4 ride and a 45-minute hike. While the most difficult one is via Barangay Sapang Uwak in Porac, Pampanga where you would either hike for 16 hours straight or do it overnight.

In our case, we took the third option - via Botolan, Zambales with a little over an hour of 4x4 ride and more than 2 hours of hiking. Botolan is like a secret paradise waiting to be discovered! It might not ring a bell as much as the other towns or municipalities in Zambales, but it’s definitely worth exploring! As its tourism slogan states, Botolan is ‘Yours To Discover!

Here are 8 things we loved the most about our trip:

1. Camping at Camp Kainomayan

Who’s game for camping? Great news, adventure seekers! You may camp at Camp Kainomayan and choose to stay the night in a container van inspired room, rent a tent, or bring your own! You’ll love Camp Kainomayan’s gorgeous pine trees! It is also the jump off point for tourists going to Mt. Pinatubo.

Photo courtesy of Architect Iska Cruz of Botolan Tourism Office

Camping Rates:

  • Room: P300 per person
  • Tent Rental: P200 per person; or bring-your-own-tent and pitch it for P50 per person
  • Add P500 for lunch and dinner per person

2. ATV Adventures

Riding ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles) is a fun and adventurous way to explore Botolan! You may opt to do this in the lahar area or inside Camp Kainomayan!

The lahar area is lovely! It’s amazingly serene in its own way. Being in awe of the spectacular views of the mountains while the wind gush in your face and you occasionally chase or follow birds will make you want to just keep driving and not go back to the city.

Camp Kainomayan’s ATV trails will make your inner adrenaline junkie jump for joy! While it is enjoyable wandering the flat lahar area, you should brace yourselves for a more fun and exciting ride inside the camp. Their trail system passes through rocky rivers and include a lot of uphill and downhill slopes. And again, the view of the pine trees.

ATV Rental Rates:

  • Lahar area: P1,500/person for 1 hour
  • Camp Kainomayan: P300/person for 15 minutes, P500 for 30 minutes, and P800 for 1 hour

3. Off-road Adventures

A little over an hour ride with a breathtaking view of the mountain range, sand boulders, vast lahar area, clear blue skies, and locals and carabaos occasionally crossing the river.

Pinatubo Tour Rates:

  • P1,400 per pax for group of 5
  • P1,625 per pax for group of 4
  • P2,020 per pax for group of 3
  • P2,750 per pax for goup of 2

4. A Challenging but Rewarding Climb

Being a little harder than the hike via Capas but a lot easier than the one via Porac, it’s safe to say Mt. Pinatubo is the one with just the right amount of challenge. This hike is doable for beginners yet still challenging for pros. What’s great about this hike is that aside from climbing actual mountains, we were climbing sand boulders, too. Another noteworthy experience for the books!

Aside from Mt. Pinatubo, you might also want to try hiking Mt. Calib-ungan and Mt. Katung-uhan when in Botolan.

5. Cliff Diving at Tukal-tukal Falls

Tukal-tukal is unique because it has multiple tiers of equally eye-catching falls! They named it after a Sambal term meaning hagdan-hagdan (stairs). Been wanting to tick off ‘cliff diving’ on your bucket list? We say do it in Tukal-tukal!

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Lingat

Tukal-tukal Falls was launched as one of the tourism sites in Botolan just last April. Not many tourists have been here yet. Be one of the first few to see this beauty!

Tip: You may also want to check out Maraunot Falls while in the area.

Fees:

  • Trip to Tukal-tukal falls costs P500 inclusive of tour guide, environmental fee, and 4x4 ride to Mt. Kahapatan

6. Kayaking and Pedal Boating at Bancal River

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Lingat

I highly recommend you do this at the golden hour. Watching the sun set while kayaking or pedal boating is such delight especially after a tiring hike. Plus, the sight of kids playing at the old bridge will make you appreciate the simplest and littlest things.

Rental Fees:

  • Kayak - P150 per unit (good for 2 persons) for 30 minutes
  • Pedal Boat – P600 per unit (good for 6 persons) for 1 hour

7. Exploring the Mangrove Forest

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Lingat

Apart from kayaking and pedal boating, Bancal River is also home to a mangrove forest. It is one of the latest projects of the Local Government Unit of Botolan that’s why most of the mangoves are newly planted. I saw hundreds or even thousands of baby groots!

8. Food!

Botolan is known not just for its touristy sites but also for good food! They take pride in their mangoes of different kinds and sizes – kinalabaw, piko, Indian, and a foot-long mango called tainelas! They also have really good suman, cashew, and pork.

Indeed, Botolan is a paradise waiting to be discovered!

Our heartfelt thanks to Mayor Bing Maniquiz and Botolan Tourism Officers, specially Sir Quintin and Architect Iska, for your warmth and hospitality during our visit! For more information about touring Botolan, visit the Botolan Tourism Facebook Page ('BOTOLAN Zambales – Yours To Discover') and their official website www.pinatubobotolan.com.ph.

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