by Julia Escaño
Sometimes, the best adventures are found right outside your door – or at least kind of close to it. Take Tarlac, for instance. It is only 2.5 hours from Manila and is a downright mecca of exciting activities. Sure, there is the famous Pinatubo trek, which tourists flock to, year in and year out. But not many are aware that there is so much more to see. Rappelling? Canoeing? Whitewater rafting? There is no shortage of outdoor pursuits in this province north of Manila. If Mother Nature calls out to you on a weekly basis, check out these fun activities in Tarlac that will surely quench your thirst for thrills.
Fly high on a helicopter ride
Few things truly capture the phrase “experience of a lifetime,” but a private helicopter ride over the lahar canyons of Tarlac and the turquoise crater of Mt. Pinatubo is one of them. PhilJets, a renowned aeronautics company, offers private charters over the famous volcano. Guests can experience views few have seen, and appreciate one of the country’s most iconic destinations from a breathtaking perspective. PhilJets offers tours ranging from 1 hour and 25 minutes to up to 3 hour flights including a tour of Taal Volcano.
Climb peaks and down waterfalls
Get your hands dirty and bones achy in a good way at San Clemente, Tarlac. Between a 2-day traverse to the peak of Mt. Damas and a 160-feet rappel down Ubod Falls, there’s plenty here to pump you up and cool you down. Mt. Damas is said to be one of, if not the most scenic spot in Tarlac with panoramic views of Mt. Pinatubo, Sawtooth Mountains, the Zambales-Tarlac and Tarlac-Pangasinan mountain ranges, and the plains of Tarlac. Outfits like the Mansibang Outdoor Institute organize regular climbs to these destinations.
Mansibang Outdoor Institute
Contact: (+63) 927-1377533
Conquer trails on an ATV
Looking for a more hardcore way to navigate the lahar? How about going on an ATV or a dune buggy through the various trails in Capas? Capas ATV Adventure offers 3 rides and 4 trails so you can choose your adventure. Beginners can get a feel for the ride on a 45-minute drive along easy lahar trails. More experienced (or daring) riders can choose between Maruglo Falls or Tambo Lake. And the truly hardcore can go on the 7-hour long journey to the Pinatubo crater. The deep rivers, jutting boulders, and rough terrain may wreak havoc on your booty, but the adrenaline rush and stunning views of lahar canyons would more than makeup for any discomfort. We promise.
Quench your need for speed on go-karts
If you’re less about the dust in your hair and more about the wind in your face, check out Kart City Tarlac (KCT). It’s a great spot for families with kids or barkadas who are kids at heart. The long track was newly re-asphalted in 2015, making it a smoother and faster surface. After basking in the adrenaline rush of racing at top speed, visitors can replenish their energy at Kart City’s al fresco dining hall. And if after all that you still have wind, private karaoke rooms are also for rent where you and the gang can sing your hearts out.
Kart City Tarlac
Contact: (+6345) 491-4053
Navigate whitewater on a kayak
No need to drive far to the mountains of Kalinga or fly all the way to Mindanao to get your share of raging rapids. Just a few hours from Manila are Tarlac’s Camiling and Bulsa Rivers: the new hotspot for whitewater adventures. Unlike rafting, Tarlac’s version makes use of kayaks good for 2-3 people. All guests are paired with one guide each to help them steer their kayaks through the Class I and II rapids. It’s perfect for beginners, and even families since the youngest age accepted is 8 years old. Outfits like Rapid Stream, one of the original tour providers in the area, offer yummy, home-cooked comfort food to reenergize you after the feat. It’s P1800 per person inclusive of lunch, merienda, guide, kayak, and safety gears. The whole ride lasts for 2-3 hours and a total distance of 7.2km. This is a seasonal activity, usually July- October, so make sure to call and check if you can go rafting on your dates.
Contact: (+63) 921-5824789
Experience nature in every way
Whether you want to get in the water (kayak in the lagoon, swim in the Olympic-sized pool), go up in the air (zipline), get on two wheels (bike), or stretch your legs (stroll, airsoft), Tarlac Recreational Park has something for you. True to its name, this expansive park is designed for a day of chilling and taking it easy. You have the option to jump from one activity to the other, or not participate in any activity at all and instead just enjoy the peaceful grounds. It’s perfect for family picnics, barkada activities, and even corporate events.
The Pinatubo experience
No list of outdoor adventures in Tarlac is complete without mentioning Mt. Pinatubo. What was responsible for one of the country’s biggest natural disasters is now also one of the biggest tourist draws. Drive through magnificent lahar canyons, giant boulders, cool streams, and a seemingly alien landscape before reaching the deep turquoise waters of the mountain’s crater. At the top, you can rest in the cabana or have a beach-side picnic if the weather permits. Just be careful, though, since swimming is no longer permitted in the crater due to drastic changes in depth and temperature. There are now tens of companies organizing trips to Pinatubo every day. One of the best regarded is Trail Adventours, which also hold other outdoor expeditions around the country.