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.