TRIP GUIDE: Mt. Maculot Day Hike (Traverse)


Maculot's summit covered with cloud

Apart from the pristine beaches, weekend warriors frequent Batangas for its mountains that are ideal for both expert and newbie mountaineers, or even for just an occasional hiking enthusiast like yours truly.

At 930 MASL, Cuenca's share of these peaks is Batangas' second highest, next to Mt. Naguiling. Mt. Maculot has three distinguished parts: the Rockies, considered as the "sub-summit" that elevates at 706 MASL; the summit itself; and the Grotto that soars at the traverse side of the mountain. The famous Rockies — named as such because of the protruding boulders scattered all over that land mass — is the mountain's most appealing asset because of the captivating panorama that hikers can witness upon reaching its crest: the entirety of Taal Lake, the majestic Taal Volcano Island, a shrunken view of the Tagaytay highlands, and the shadowy appearance of islands and other peaks.
Taal Volcano Island, a view from Maculot Rockies
 Taal Volcano Island, as seen from Maculot Rockies

Mt. Maculot offers a "friendly" hike that's not far from Metro Manila. Up there is a stunning vista, a panacea for anyone's soul jaded by the hustle and bustle of city life. Hiking soon? This guide's intended for you, pare!


From Metro Manila to Mt. Maculot

Getting there:
  • Take a bus bound for Lemery at JAM Liner terminal (near LRT Buendia Station); those buses leave as early as 3:00 AM. Get off at Cuenca; landmark is a 7-Eleven store on the opposite side of the road. Travel time: 2-3 hours, may arrive faster if departs at dawn; Fare: PHP 147
  • Hail a tricycle going to the jump-off (Mountaineer's Store). It will stop at an outpost for hiker's registration. Travel time: 10-15 minutes including the stop over; Fare: PHP 20
Going back:
  • At the exit point of the traverse trail, take a tricycle going to downtown Cuenca. Travel time: 20-25 minutes; Fare: PHP 35
  • At the National Highway in downtown, hail a Lipa-bound jeepney and alight at SM Lipa where there are buses bound for Manila. Travel time: 1 hour; Fare: PHP 25
  • Hop on the bus for Metro Manila. Travel time (SM Lipa to EDSA Shaw): 2-4 hours depending on Manila's traffic; Fare (SM Lipa to EDSA Shaw): PHP 127


Fees

Hiking fees differ base on how you explore Maculot — overnight or day hike — and which among its points of interest you will go to. Hiking fees already include payment for the trail guide.

Hiking fee (day hike):
Campsite and Rockies (back trail): PHP 400 for 1-5 persons; additional PHP 50 per excess
Campsite and summit (back trail): Rockies rate, plus PHP 50 per head
Campsite, Rockies, summit and Grotto (traverse): PHP 800 for 1-5 persons; additional PHP 100 per excess

Hiking fee (overnight):
Campsite: PHP 800 for 1-5 persons; additional PHP 100 per excess
To summit (back trail): Campsite rate, plus PHP 100 per head
To summit (traverse): Campsite rate, plus PHP 100 per head

Registration/Environmental/Tourism fee: PHP 20

*Not sure if Rockies is included when overnight; the fees matrix is a bit vague to me.
View from Maculot Rockies' crest
 At Maculot Rockies' crest

Important Trip Notes!

  • Starting the trek at dawn, during off-season, is a good idea. From registration to prepping up at the jump-off, there's no queue; everything is smooth-sailing. Doing this may also make you one of the earliest to reach the Rockies, the summit, or the Grotto, and have them all to yourself for a satisfying amount of time. Not to mention witnessing the beautiful sunrise at the crest.
  • Peak season is during summer, especially Holy Week where Catholic pilgrims flock the Grotto.
  • Wear the sturdiest hiking footwear you have, especially if it rained just before the hike. The trail gets muddy for days.
  • There were parts of the trail that require carrying yourself through ropes, especially when traversing where there's a need to rappel down. You gotta be physically ready for that.
  • Watch out for those thorny bushes along the trail. Bring some disinfectant for when your skin got ripped.
  • Protect yourself from the sun, the area around the Grotto got few trees that would spare you from it.
  • Prepare for the knee-jerking trek down from the Grotto. You'll be descending through a lengthy concrete flight of stairs, passing by the 14 Stations of the Cross within about 45 minutes before your "I conquered Maculot" moment. Haha, yeah that hurts.
  • At the campsite, there's a store selling snacks and refreshments. Try that instant Pancit Canton with egg. I don't know if it's just me but that noodle tastes different up in the mountains; it's so much yummier and I couldn't explain why! LOL. It costs around PHP 50.
  • At the summit, there's this buko juice stand. It might seem overpriced at PHP 30 per cup but I would beg you to buy this drink. We met a guy who painstakingly hike up the Grotto's stairs, carrying a shitload of buko juice container at his back. They're working hard to earn money from this.
  • Remember: leave no trace and support the local economy. Alam mo na yan!


Itinerary: Mt. Maculot Day Hike (Traverse)

3:00 AM : Depart from JAM Liner terminal (Pasay City)
4:30 AM : Arrive at Cuenca, Batangas; take a tricycle, register
4:45 AM : Arrive at jump-off (Mountaineer's Store); prep up!
5:00 AM : Start the hike
6:30 AM : Arrive at campsite; start scrambling over the Rockies
6:45 AM : Arrive at the Rockies' crest
7:15 AM : Leave the Rockies, back to campsite
7:30 AM : Arrive at campsite; take breakfast there
8:00 AM : Start the trek to summit
9:15 AM : Arrive at the summit
9:30 AM : Start trekking down
10:45 AM : Arrive at the Grotto, take early lunch
11:30 AM : Continue the trek down
12:15 AM : Arrive at the exit point; rest and shower up
1:15 AM : Leave jump-off; take a tricycle back to downtown
1:30 AM: Arrive at downtown Cuenca, hail a jeepney for SM Lipa
2:30 AM : Arrive at SM Lipa, makakauwi ka na!

*Thanks to Mon Cebricus for taking note of our travel log.


Expected Expenses

  • Bus (Buendia to Cuenca): PHP 147
  • Tricycle (Cuenca downtown to Mountaineer's Store): PHP 20
  • Registration: PHP 20
  • Guide (day hike, traverse): PHP 160 (PHP 800 / 5 persons)
  • Tricycle (Grotto jump-off to Cuenca downtown): PHP 35
  • Jeepney (Cuenca to SM Lipa): PHP 25
  • Bus (SM Lipa to EDSA Shaw): PHP 127
Expect to shell out around PHP 500 for fares and hiking fees; foods and other personal needs not included.
View from the Grotto
 View from the Grotto

Note: Fees and prices indicated in this guide are as of January 2018.

More photos from this trip, here's my Maculot experience: Mt. Maculot and the Captivating Vista Up There


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