Tagaytay & Lake Taal

Tagaytay & Lake Taal

%Tagaytay 046, Talisay 043 / Pop 71,200

Strung out along a high ridge overlooking stunning Lake Taal and the multiple craters of active Taal volcano, Tagaytay is a thoroughly absorbing town where you could easily spend a couple of days admiring the views, hiking the volcano, sailing on the lake and dining out in style.

About 600m below Tagaytay, Lake Taal and Volcano Island lie within a massive prehistoric volcano crater measuring roughly 75km around. This ancient crater forms Tagaytay Ridge, upon which the town is haphazardly draped like a set of Russian matryoshka dolls. Taal Volcano in turn encircles its own little crater lake, itself containing a small island.

Lying just 60km south of Manila, Tagaytay is everything the capital is not: cool, clean, gorgeous and oxygenated. The nature of the town changes dramatically on weekends, though, when the Manila hordes arrive and traffic jams appear.

Sights & Activities

oTaal Volcano – HIKING

( GOOGLE MAP ; adult/child P50/100; h6am-6pm)

Once you’ve enjoyed the sight of mist tickling Taal Volcano from afar, it’s time to get up close and personal. Notoriously dusty and hot, this is neither a difficult climb nor a particularly rewarding one, but there are decent views back down to the lake and Tagaytay Ridge.

By far the most popular of several possible hikes is the well-worn, 35-minute trail from the village straight up to the main crater, with its dark green lake. Along the way are 14 Stations of the Cross and the inevitable drink stalls selling coconut water and even beer. If you’re not up for the walk, you can hire a tired-looking horse for P500. Pay your admission fee at the village where the boats dock and ask directions to the path.

The bulk of Volcano Island emerged from the lake during a savage eruption in 1911, which claimed hundreds of lives. Since then frequent eruptions have sculpted and resculpted the island’s appearance. With more than 47 craters and 35 volcanic cones, Taal Volcano remains one of the world’s deadliest volcanoes. The main Taal crater is in the middle of the island (the obvious cone visible from the ridge is Binitiang Malaki, which last erupted in 1715). The most active crater is Mt Tabaro, on the west side, which released dramatic lava flows in the late 1960s and mid-1970s.

The launch point for bangkas out to Volcano Island is the lakeside town of Talisay, where dozens of operators vie for the attention of arriving tourists. The official rate is P2000 for the whole boat (20 minutes; up to six people) but if you hire direct from a boat owner or lakeside resort (rather than a tout) you can expect to pay P1500. The best place to arrange this is at one of the ramshackle resorts or bangka depots that line the lakefront west of Talisay proper.

More adventurous hiking options on Volcano Island include rigorous all-day treks up Mt Tabaro or the south ridge of Taal’s main crater, from where there’s a trail leading down to the crater lake. Only a few guides make these trips; they charge around P500, plus a bit extra for a bangka ride around to the south side of the island (P3000 for up to six people).

For all the walks bring plenty of drinking water and a hat, as there’s little shelter from the relentless sun.

People’s Park in the Sky – VIEWPOINT

( GOOGLE MAP ; P30; h7.30am-6.30pm)

Improbably perched on a towering mound of earth at Tagaytay’s eastern end, this is Ferdinand Marcos’ unfinished summer home. It’s a derelict yet strangely intriguing ruin, with a decrepit Greek-style amphitheatre, viewpoints and souvenir stalls. A weather tower and telecommunications tower are newer additions. The 360-degree view of the area alone is worth the trip up. It’s 8.5km east of the Tagaytay Rotunda. Jeepneys (P8) go out here from Olivarez Plaza, or a tricycle charges P150.

Sky Ranch – AMUSEMENT PARK

( GOOGLE MAP ; %02-862 7704; www.skyranch.ph; weekday/weekend P80/100; h10am-10pm Mon-Fri, 8am-10pm Sat & Sun; c)

The centrepiece of this ridge-top amusement park is the 63m-high Sky Eye (P150) Ferris wheel, visible for miles when illuminated at night. There are another 20 or so rides of varying thrills and a dozen dining options.

Taal Lake Yacht Club – BOATING

( GOOGLE MAP ; %043-773 0192; www.tlyc.com; Barangay Santa Maria, Talisay; h8am-7pm)

The local sailing club in Talisay hires out Hobie 16 catamarans (per day P3800), single-sail Toppers (per day P1800) and tandem sea kayaks (per hour/day P400/1200) for a unique way of getting out onto the lake. It also arranges sailing lessons (per day P2500). It’s 1km west of the Tagaytay road junction.

4Sleeping

 

The widest choice of accommodation (and restaurants) is along the ridge in Tagaytay, overlooking the lake and volcano. If you want to stay on the lake in Talisay, choices are more limited and the lakeside resorts are relatively rundown, but you’re within easy reach of the volcano.

 Tagaytay

oTagaytay Garden Mountain Breeze – HOSTEL$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0977-816 0773; 730 Calamba Rd; dm/d/tr P450/1000/1400)

Tagaytay’s best budget option enjoys an excellent location just a few hundred metres from the rotunda. As well as clean dorms there are a few compact private rooms (the triples are more spacious), a small kitchen and a garden from where you can almost see Taal Lake. Rates for triples increase at weekends.

Our Melting Pot – HOSTEL$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %915-774 0864; www.ourmeltingpottagaytay.com; 75 Smokey Hill; dm P450, d with/without bath P1050/970, tr P1400; W)

Run by the team from the popular Makati hostel, OMP is one of Tagaytay’s best budget options, hidden down a quiet residential street just off the main ridge road. Rooms and dorms are spotless (most have shared bathroom so book ahead for the en-suite room), there’s a homely loungea nd a kitchen and breakfast is included. No air-con.

oKeni Po – HOTEL$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %046-483 0977; www.keniporooms.blogspot.com; 110 Calamba Rd; d P1200-1500; aWs)

Rooms at this valleyside place, 3.5km east of the rotunda, are a steal. The double-storey hotel with a bright-yellow, Thai–style facade is immaculately kept with a lovely pool in the back garden. Rooms feature minibars, cable TV and shared balconies.

Tagaytay Econo Hotel – HOTEL$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %046-483 4284; www.tagaytayeconohotel.com; Calamba Rd; r incl breakfast P2580-4500, ste P5500; aiW)

This well-maintained place, 2.7km east of the rotunda, is good value. It overlooks the lake but sits on a busy intersection, so noise is a potential problem. Pricier rooms are further from the road and have lake views.

oSonya’s GardenB&B$$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0917 533 5140; www.sonyasgarden.com; Barangay Buck Estate, Alfonso; cottages s/d incl breakfast & dinner P5000/6000, d weekends P6800; aW)

Alongside its lovely restaurant, Sonya’s runs an exquisite B&B set among a beautiful flower garden. In grand cottages, rooms are expansive and rustic with thick rugs, and no TV to detract from the tranquillity. Yoga, meditation and a full range of spa services are on offer. It’s a fair way out of town; look for the well-marked turn-off before MC Mountain Home Apartelle, 13km west of the rotunda.

Joaquin’s – B&B$$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0917-503 7122, 046-483 0463; www.joaquinsbedandbreakfast.com; Aquinaldo Hwy; d incl breakfast Sun-Thu P4800-6800, Fri & Sat P5800-7800; aW)

A lovely rustic-style B&B where the eight suites have sublime views of the lake and volcano from private balconies, rooms open up to high ceilings, and there are polished floorboards and arty touches throughout. There’s a large dining deck with requisite views and an intimate, family feel.

 Talisay

Talisay Green Lake Resort – RESORT$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %043-773 0247; www.taal-greenlakeresort.net; Barangay Santa Maria, Talisay; d/tr/villa P1500/2000/3500; aWs)

A solid choice on the lake, with a popular air-con restaurant and a murky swimming pool. Rooms could do with a refurb, as could the overgrown garden, but the thatched nipa huts on the waterfront are a nice touch.

San Roque Paradise Resort – RESORT$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %043-773 0271; Barangay Buco, Talisay; r P1500-3000; aiW)

In a well-kept compound in Talisay, this is a good option for a lakefront stay. The 10 rooms are clean and there’s a four-bed apartment. The friendly family management can organise meals and boat trips, and there’s a swimming area on the lake.

Club Balai Isabel – RESORT$$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0906-518 5491; www.balaiisabel.com; Talisay; r/villa from P5550/7000; aWs)

Talisay’s most upmarket resort sits on the waterfront near the junction of the main Banga–Tagaytay Rd. Stylish rooms and villas (up to four bedrooms) have all the usual mod cons as well as artworks and private verandahs. The resort boasts three pools, a day spa, kayaks and jet skis for hire, beach volleyball and a quality restaurant serving local lake fish.

            Eating

Tagaytay features some of the Philippines’ best restaurants, most of them strung out along (or just off) the ridge road. Tagaytay is renowned for bulalo (a rich beef and marrow soup) and tawili (tiny lake fish found only in Taal).

There’s relatively little of culinary interest in Talisay.

Java Jazz Cafe – CAFE$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0917-483 7399; 442 Calamba Rd; coffee P50-100, mains P99-199; h9am-9pm Mon-Fri, 9am-10.30pm Sat, 8am-10pm Sun; W)

This vibrant little cafe and gallery does good breakfasts, sandwiches, pizza, Filipino coffee and light lunches. There are three basic but good-value double rooms down below (fan/air-con P980/1400 including breakfast).

Mushroomburger – FAST FOOD$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %046-483 1330; www.mushroomburger.ph; Aguinaldo Hwy; burger meals P72-115; h7.30am-11pm; v)

This Tagaytay institution is fast food with a difference, renowned for its cheap and tasty vegie mushroom burgers (as well chicken and rice dishes). It’s 300m west of Taal Vista Hotel.

oRed Bus – DINER$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; Calamba Rd; burgers P180-210; hnoon-10pm)

The coolest place to dine in Tagaytay is on a stool outside the red Kombi van just east of the rotunda. The Red Bus diner specialises in burgers (try the wasabi burger), but also does burritos, quesadillas and nachos, and serves beer (P60).

oBag of Beans – BAKERY$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; www.bagofbeans.ph; 115 Aguinaldo Hwy; pies P135-155, mains P310-575; h6am-10pm; W)

Dine among hanging angel’s trumpets, begonias and other exotic flowering plants on the garden patio of this superb bakery-restaurant specialising in English-style pies, breakfasts, quality coffee and scrumptious desserts. It’s 6.5km west of the rotunda. There are two other equally inviting branches (Athena and Charito) on the highway closer to the rotunda.

oJosephineFILIPINO$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %046-413 1801; Km 58 Aguinaldo Hwy; mains P195-550; h8am-9pm Mon-Fri, 7am-10.30pm Sat & Sun; aW)

Views don’t come much better than those at Josephine, a long-running favourite with huge convex windows providing spectacular lake panoramas. It’s well known for its weekend buffet breakfast (P255) and lunch (P450) but also has a broad menu of Filipino classics and seafood dishes. The bar does excellent cocktails. It’s 3km west of the rotunda.

Mahogany Market – FILIPINO$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; Mahogany Ave; mains P200-700; h6am-midnight)

Mahogany Market, with its undercover produce market and whiffy meat market, is the place to sample inexpensive regional dishes. Upstairs from the meat market you’ll find a string of food stalls serving the local specialities bulalo and tawili. This is the best and cheapest place to try either, though they cater to groups – bulalo is P350 for three people.

Leslie’s – FILIPINO$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %046-438 7899; Aguinaldo Hwy; mains from P300; h6am-midnight; W)

Leslie’s is the most famous of several large Filipino inahaw (grill) restaurants along the central ridge where you can sample tawili and bulalo. The standard servings are intended for groups of three to 10, which doesn’t leave much choice for solo travellers or couples. The restaurant offers some outstanding lake views if you get a seat or hut at the back. It’s 1.8km west of the rotunda.

Dreamland Cafe – INTERNATIONAL$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0916 649 8271; mains P120-300; h24hr)

Part gallery, part cafe and part bar, Dreamland is a cruisy dining experience with world music playing, cushions on the floor and the menu on a mini surfboard. Filipino rice dishes are complemented by wings, pasta and burgers. Great spot for a smoothie, beer or ‘indie cocktail’.

oAntonio’s – INTERNATIONAL$$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0917 899 2866; www.antoniosrestaurant.ph; Barangay Neogan; mains P1500-2200; h11.30am-1pm & 5.30-8pm Tue-Sun; aW)

One of the finest restaurants in the country, this upscale French-Euro-Filipino eatery offers the chance to rub elbows with politicians and oligarchs over delightfully presented dishes from foie-gras raclette to roast suckling pig – if you can get a reservation. Seating areas include some lovely tables in elegant dining rooms overlooking lotus ponds and a lush tropical garden. Also has a superb garden cocktail bar, the Lanai Lounge.

oSonya’s Garden – BUFFET$$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0917 532 9097; www.sonyasgarden.com; buffet P683; h11am-7pm)S

One of Tagaytay’s most beloved restaurants serves up famous buffet lunches and dinners. It features homemade pasta, fresh bread, desserts and produce grown organically in a sprawling garden that practically envelops diners. Reservations are recommended.

Information

There are several internet cafes (P20 per hour) around Olivarez Plaza.

Talisay Tourism ( GOOGLE MAP ; %043-773 0238; www.talisaybatangas.gov.ph; 2nd fl, Municipal Office, Talisay-Tanauan Rd, Talisay; h8am-5pm Mon-Fri) Has a map and basic information on surrounding sights.

Getting There & Away

San Agustin buses from Pasay Rotunda in Manila rumble through Tagaytay (P78 to P120, two hours, every 30 minutes) on their way to Nasugbu or Calatagan. To return to Manila, hail a bus from the streetside shed at Olivarez Plaza or Mendez Crossing in town.

Those wanting to stay in Talisay can also catch a bus heading to Batangas City and jump off at Tanauan (P95, 1½ hours); get a jeepney/tricycle for the 15km from there.

Getting Around

Frequent jeepneys traverse the ridge road from one end of town to the other (P8). A short trip by tricycle costs around P50.

To get to Talisay from Tagaytay take a jeepney (P35, 25 minutes, hourly) or tricycle (P300, 30 minutes) straight downhill from the Talisay turn-off, 4km east of the rotunda.

 Taal

%043 / Pop 56,300

Often overlooked by travellers (and not to be confused with Lake Taal or Taal Volcano), this charming historic township is famous for its heritage-listed colonial buildings. Its relaxed streets are lined with ancestral houses, and it makes a lovely overnight escape from Manila. Having been awarded the status of a heritage-listed town ensures Taal’s magnificent 19th-century buildings remain intact and several have been converted into excellent museums, B&Bs and restaurants.

Numerous shops sell the town’s famous embroidery and balisong (butterfly knives), though be aware the latter are illegal in many countries.

Sights

oBasilica of St Martin de Tours – CHURCH

( GOOGLE MAP ; Agoncillo St; h6am-7pm)

Originally built in 1759, before being destroyed and rebuilt between 1849 and 1865, this truly massive baroque-style basilica is one of the largest and oldest Catholic churches in Asia. It dominates Taal Park at its base.

oMarcela Mariño & Felipe Agoncillo House – MUSEUM

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0917-656 4170; 14 Agoncillo St; admission by donation; h9am-5pm Tue-Sun)

One of Taal’s most engaging house museums, this was the home of Dona Marcela Mariño, who married local lawyer and independence activist Felipe Agoncillo. In 1898, at the request of General Emilio Aguinaldo, Marcela was the principal seamstress of the first Philippine national flag. A guide will take you through the various galleries, explaining the history of the families and the evolution of the flag.

Galleria Taal – ARCHITECTURE

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0918 912 4051; 60 Agoncillo St; adult/student P100/50; h8am-5pm)

Galleria Taal is a good example of a well-preserved ancestral house, but far more impressive is the museum containing a vast collection of vintage cameras collected by Manny Barrion Inumerable. There’s also a good gallery of family and antiquarian photographs.

Leon & Galicano Apacible Museum – MUSEUM

( GOOGLE MAP ; %043-408 2045; 59 Agoncillo St; admission by donation; h9am-5pm Tue-Sun)

This beautiful old 19th-century colonial home has been converted into a museum with six galleries tracing the lives of siblings Leon and Galicano Apacible. Leon was a lawyer, judge and military commander against the Spanish, while Galicano became a political activist and a senior Filipino diplomat.

Sleeping & Eating

Taal has some beautiful heritage B&Bs in old ancestral homes.

oParadores del Castillo – HERITAGE HOTEL$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %043-740 4060; www.paradoresdetaal.com; 28 Calle Dr H Del Castillo; d/tr incl breakfast from P2500/4000; aWs)

Fully restored and opened in 2015, this early-20th-century house is now Taal’s finest hotel. Rooms are quaint, individually decorated and well equipped (only the cheapest double has a shared bathroom). Outside is a lovely sprawling lawn and garden with views of Lemery, a terrace, a swimming pool and an excellent Italian restaurant and bar.

Villa Severina – B&B$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0917 501 8060; [email protected]; 55 Illustre St; r incl breakfast P2500; aW)

This charming 1870 ancestral house has four rooms decked out in period features, each of a different configuration and theme pertaining to French colonial cities (Pondicherry, Hanoi, Martinique) and to Paris itself (the two upstairs rooms share a bathroom). It has lovely common areas, hardwood floors, a well-equipped kitchen and breakfast included, served on its attractive outdoor terrace.

Conchita B&BB&B$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0927 722 8463, 043-722 8463; Calle Antonio de las Alas; r incl breakfast per person P850; aW)

This guesthouse, almost opposite the basilica, isn’t as historic as some but it has a homey feel and the two upstairs doubles (sharing a bathroom) are cosy and functional.

Don Juan Boodle House – FILIPINO$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %047-740 1828; www.donjuan.taal.ph; Calle Diokno St; mains P110-299, boodle for 2 from P499; h8am-9pm Mon-Fri, 7am-9pm Sat & Sun; aW)

Adjacent to the Taal Market, Don Juan specialises in boodle – a shared banquet served on a banana leaf and comprising variations on adobo and Taal regional specialities such as sinaing na tulingan (native mackerel) and tawili (freshwater lake fish). If you’re not in a boodle-fighting group, go for one of the rice dishes or inahaw (grill) plates.

oFeliza Taverna y Café – FILIPINO, SPANISH$$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %043-740 0113; 6 Agoncillo St; mains from P300; h11am-10pm Tue-Thu, 10am-10.30pm Fri-Sun; aW)

The former residence of Felisa Diokno – secretary to the first president of the Philippines, Emilio Aguinaldo – this superbly converted ancestral home is now a fine dining restaurant and B&B. The beautiful dining room has capiz windows and is full of antiques and memorabilia, and there’s a lovely rear courtyard garden. The food is top-notch Filipino Spanish, mixed with local specialities.

Information

Taal Tourist Office ( GOOGLE MAP ; %0917 501 8060; www.taal.gov.ph; Agoncillo St; h8am-5pm) is located beside the steps to the basilica for a map of the town’s heritage-listed colonial buildings.

The excellent website www.taal.ph has a comprehensive overview of things to see, and places to eat and shop.

Getting There & Away

The town is 2km off the main road between Batangas and Tagaytay. From Manila take the Jam bus from Cubao to Lemery (P180, three hours), from where you can take a tricycle.

Originally posted 2021-05-05 22:03:04.