I’ve had a few people ask me for specifics of my hike up Taraw Peak in El Nido so I figured I’d write a blog post with all of the details.
2 hours total. About an hour up and an hour back, depending on how quick you go.
Best time to go:
Sunrise (but also tough to see in the dark). Anytime of the year as long as the weather is good!
Strenuous. Very physically demanding with a lot of steep drop offs.
There is no official reading but this blogger calculated it to be 230 meters, or a little over 750 feet high!
I’ll start with how we found out about this almost hidden hike. When John and I decided we wanted to add El Nido onto our vacation to the Philippines, we started doing some research. It mostly consisted on clicking on different hashtags on Instagram and looking for the most epic photos. I have to give John the credit for finding this one, and he told me we absolutely HAD to do it. Immediately I was a little nervous because I read a little bit about getting up there and I knew it would be hard but I was willing to give it a try in order to get those awesome photos.
How did we find a guide to take us? The first day we made it to El Nido, we went on Tour A with Art Cafe. While on the tour we had three tour guides that took us around to the lagoons and gave us a lot of information about the islands. We asked those tour guides how we could find someone to take us to Taraw Peak and one of them named Jesse offered to take us. He told us he had done the hike hundreds of times so we decided to trust him. He suggested we start before the sun came up the next day so that we could see the sunrise and it wouldn’t be crowded at all. He charged us 1000 Philippine Peso (equivalent to about $20 USD) to take us up to the top and back. I’m not suggesting to take the chance and trust the locals in every scenario, but go with your gut! Most professional companies will not take you up there because it is dangerous so either way you are kind of taking a gamble. I did see some people coming up with helmets on while we were on our way down so that shows there at least are some guides out there that care about your safety!
What was the hardest part?
Hands down the hardest part was hiking through the dark. Our guide spoke pretty good English but he did mess up his “rights” and “lefts” often which confused me in the dark. Since it was so dark we were working with a little tiny flashlight and when you’re pretty much scaling a mountain it is a little tough to trust what you feel without being able to see. Honestly I’m not afraid of heights but when I got to a few spots and I looked down I got really nauseous. I kept thinking about if I were to fall off the cliff, it would probably take my guide forever to get down for help because the hike was so difficult. It was also just physically and mentally exhausting. I’ve never sweat that much before, which made my hands slippery and I honestly was so hyper-aware of all of the danger that I think I went into survival mode.
Was it dangerous? Yes. It really was. The rock is extremely sharp and hiking in the dark really felt very dangerous. I did trip and fall at one point- of course it was when I was just walking around the straight path and I just tripped on a rock. So I was lucky because there were plenty of places where tripping could have been really really REALLY bad. But when I fell, I hit a rock and it cut the back of my thigh because the limestone is so sharp. So be really careful when hiking. There are also a few spots where you have to cling to the rock and scale across it and it’s over a really far drop. It took me a few deep breaths to get up the courage because I knew I couldn’t mess it up. There were a few times where I considered turning back but I just kept my mind on the views at the top and I knew John really wanted to make it there. I’m glad I pushed myself past my comfort zone but I really suggest you decide what you are comfortable with. I know it’s really hard to make the decision to turn back because you feel like you cheated yourself out of an experience, but if you aren’t confident in making it to the top and back down, I wouldn’t push it.
Who shouldn’t take this hike? For months before going to the Philippines I went to the gym 5 or more times a week, sometimes twice a day. I was running, lifting, and doing a shit ton of cardio and I felt like I was in the best shape of my life up until this hike. I am generally able to do anything and don’t have any restrictions and I still found this hike to be the hardest physical thing I have ever done. So really anyone with any injuries or bad balance should think twice. Upper body strength will really help because there are some parts where you have to pull yourself up 6-8 feet vertical rock faces.
What should I bring? This is not the kind of hike you just wing it on! John and I literally brought nothing on the hike and I regretted it from the beginning. If you are hiking before sunrise, bring your own flashlight or even a headlamp! You absolutely need good sneakers at least or hiking boots would be good too. I saw people with sandals in pictures before I left and I literally believe I would have died in sandals haha! BRING WATER. I forgot water and I honestly probably sweat out about five gallons of water. The Philippines is hot- doesn’t matter what time of the day it is. I also had really bad sunburn which didn’t help so I should have been staying hydrated. I even started to feel light headed on the way down because I was so thirsty so if I could do it over again, I would bring lots of water!
In summary, when packing for this hike make sure you bring:
1.Flashlight or headlamp. If you only have a flashlight you should find a way to get a strap on it so you can hold it around your wrist.
2.Good camera. We brought the Go Pro on a selfie stick so that we could get the cool photos at the top, although that was the least of my worries. Having our GoPro was great because you can wear it and remember the whole experience but still be hands free. When climbing, you’re definitely going to want your hands to be free!
3. Water! Lots of water because you’re going to need it!
4. Insect repellent. I have never seen that many mosquitoes in my life so don’t try to attempt this hike without bug spray on!
5. A light backpack or bag. You definitely want something that won’t be in your way at all or cause you to sweat more than you already are so a really small backpack is a good idea to keep all of the above things.
6. Bandaids- lastly, bandaids is a good idea I wish I had when I went. It’s super easy to cut yourself on the rocks, in fact, every blog I read before going stated that someone in their group cut themselves on the trip. The cut I got wasn’t very deep or anything but having a bandaid would have been nice. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
What did I wear? I wore really breathable Adidas shorts, a light tank top, and Asics sneakers. I knew it was hot so I wore basically the lightest most comfortable clothing I had.
But let’s get to the good stuff: the top. In one word it was breathtaking, literally and figuratively. By the time I got to the top, I was the sweatiest person on the planet, thirsty, and felt like I was dying. I was expecting there to be a nice spot to sit and chill for a while but there really is no where to sit. If you want to sit down you literally have to sit on the jagged rock, which we already established is super sharp and in turn, not comfortable for you to sit on. I did it anyway because my desperation was on a whole new level. So the top isn’t a relaxing place to stop and have a picnic but it is a sight to be seen. You literally have a view of the whole little city of El Nido and you can see all of the boats docked in the water and also the other islands in the distance. It is an unforgettable view that makes for some of the best instagrammable photos 🙂
Have any other questions! Don’t be afraid to reach out!