Long before Manila-dwellers began a long-distance affair with the highlands of Baguio, Sagada and Kalinga, they have been in a long-standing romance with Tagaytay. It’s not a high-maintenance relationship. The physical connection is there. It is geographically close, easily accessible, and it doesn’t demand too much time or money. It’s the kind that will last over more decades.
Tagaytay is no stranger to me. I live in a Batangas town not too far away from Tagaytay. For the longest time, every time I would come back home, the van that I was riding would drive through the city. And since I started earning on my own, it would be my go-to place for clarity or peace of mind. And I’m not alone in this.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
Located just around 60km from Manila, Tagaytay City has always been the go-to destination for those wishing to escape the searing heat of the capital, especially in the summer season. They come here for two reasons: a cooler climate and a breathtaking view of Taal Lake and Volcano.
Most people think that Taal Volcano is the small cratered hill on one end of the island in the middle of the lake often depicted in postcards and photographs. The truth is, that is Binintiang Malaki, one of the volcano’s many cones and craters. Taal Lake itself was actually the caldera of an enormous ancient volcano formed after cataclysmic eruptions in the prehistoric times. The only active part now is that island in the middle of the lake called Volcano Island.
Like a giant balcony with a fantastic view, Tagaytay is perched on the northern ridges of Taal Lake, attracting thousands of vacationers and supporting its massive tourism industry. Its highways and inner alleys are lined with a wide array of accommodations, from luxury villas to budget hotels, and restaurants, ranging from fine dining to its homegrown fast food places.
Tagaytay is also a great base for travelers who wish to explore neighboring municipalities like Alfonso and Amadeo, and even parts of Batangas like the volcano itself, Nasugbu, and Lemery.
Tagaytay takes a rectangular shape on the map, so it’s easy to navigate. At the very center of it is the Tagaytay Rotonda, from which stems out four main roads:
- Emilio Aguinaldo Highway, which connects Tagaytay to Imus, Dasmarinas, and Manila.
- Tagaytay-Calamba Road, which links the city to the towns of Laguna. If you’re coming from South Luzon Express Way (SLEX), you’ll eventually hit this road going to Tagaytay.
- Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, which can take you to Alfonso (Cavite) and Nasugbu and Lemery (Batangas).
- Tagaytay-Talisay Road, which cuts across a forested slope to Talisay (Batangas), where Taal Volcano is located.
Being familiar with these roads will make your travel planning a lot easier, especially when picking a hotel and places to visit.
Here are more useful bits about Tagaytay.
- Language: Tagalog is used by most. But English is widely understood and spoken.
- Currency: Philippine peso (PHP, ₱). PHP100 is around USD 1.90, EUR 1.69, SGD 2.57 (as of April 2019).
- Modes of payment: Credit cards are accepted by many establishments but CASH is still king (and queen) in Tagaytay.
- Electricity Info: 220V, 60Hz. Plug and socket Type A.
WHERE TO STAY IN TAGAYTAY
In places like El Nido or Batanes, I usually don’t mind staying in a guest house with no view and no frills because I would be spending much of my time outside anyway. But Tagaytay is one of those destinations where accommodations can make or break a trip. It’s all about the ambience and the experience. Whether you’re visiting Tagaytay to unwind, attend a conference, or have a romantic weekend, it is important to consider the location.
For tourists, there are three main areas that are great bases when exploring Tagaytay and nearby towns:
- Tagaytay Rotonda Area. Often casually referred to as simply Olivarez. It is the center of the city. As explained above, the major roads running across the city start or end here. It is surrounded by countless lodging and dining options. It is also the main transportation hub.
- Along Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway. This is a little bit farther than the Rotonda area, but this has the best view of the lake and the volcano, provided that you book a hotel on the lakeside. This is also where SkyRanch and Ayala Malls Serin are located.
- Along Tagaytay-Calamba Road. This area is closest to tourist spots like Tagaytay Picnic Grove and People’s Park in the Sky. Lots of restaurant and hotel options too, with some also offering a good view of the lake.
Personally, I like staying along Tagaytay-Nasugbu Road because it’s a lot quieter and has the best view of the lake. If you don’t trust my word, here are the top budget hotels in Tagaytay as scored by Agoda users.
Top Budget Hotels and BnBs in Tagaytay
The best hotels in Tagaytay are expensive, but there are some exceptions. Bed-and-breakfast places also offer a great alternative. Here’s a list compiled using Agoda reviews.
- Containers by Eco Hotel. Check Rates & Availability!
- F8 Bed and Breakfast. Check Rates & Availability!
- The Carmelence Lodge. Check Rates & Availability!
- Joaquin’s Bed and Breakfast. Check Rates & Availability!
- ZEN Rooms Hotel Georgina Tagaytay. Check Rates & Availability!
Top Apartments and Condo for Rent in Tagaytay
If budget is an issue, then ditch the hotel and consider staying at a BnB, guesthouse, or apartment for rent, which are significantly cheaper. There’s been a considerable number of condo units for rent at Wind Residences (SMDC) along Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway and Tagaytay Prime Residences near Rotonda. Here are the top rated apartments/condo units on Agoda.
- An Oasis in Tagaytay. Check Rates & Availability!
- Sky’s at Prime Residences -Tagaytay. Check Rates & Availability!
- CatherinePlace Tagaytay – Wind Residences Tower 3. Check Rates & Availability!
- Wind Residences by Missionarte. Check Rates & Availability!
- Mary’s Crib Tagaytay. Check Rates & Availability!
Photos above were provided by the resorts via Agoda.
Search for more Tagaytay Hotels!
HOW TO GET TO TAGAYTAY
Manila to Tagaytay by Bus
You can catch a bus to Tagaytay at the following terminals.
- Uniwide Coastal Mall in Paranaque. Make your way to the Paranaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX), also called South West Integrated Provincial Terminal. Board a bus bound for Tagaytay, Mendez (neighboring town), or Nasugbu. This bus will be taking Emilio Aguinaldo Highway.
- DLTB Terminal at LRT Buendia area (near LRT Gil Puyat Station), Pasay City. Board the bus bound for either Nasugbu or Calatagan. This will be taking South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and Carmona Exit and will pass through Tagaytay.
Fare: Around P87. Travel time is 2-3 hours, depending on traffic conditions. Might be much longer during rush hour.
Some important reminders.
- DO NOT TAKE THE BUS TO LEMERY. Lemery-bound buses take the SLEX + STAR Toll. It doesn’t pass through Tagaytay. Buses are not allowed to take Diokno Highway, which connects Tagaytay and Lemery. I know this because I’m from Lemery and our house is very close to Diokno Highway.
- If your hotel is located along Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway and you’re on a Nasugbu or Calatagan bus, you don’t need to get off at Olivarez or Rotonda. You can stay in the bus and tell the conductor to drop you off at the hotel.
- If you’re going to SkyRanch or Wind Residences, there’s a big chance the bus will not really pass by either even if the driver or conductor says so. Most buses take Mahogany Avenue, which bypasses a section of Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway approaching Mendez. Instead, they will drop you off at the Petron Gas Station. That’s okay, though, because it’s within walking distance. (SkyRanch is a longer walk but very manageable.) SEE MAP BELOW.
Manila to Tagaytay by Van
You can also ride a shared van to Tagaytay. Vans bound for Nasugbu, Calatagan or Lemery pass through Tagaytay. You can find one at the following places.
- Starmall EDSA-Shaw. You’ll find vans bound for Lemery at the terminal in front of the mall, along EDSA.
- Alabang. There are vans bound for Tagaytay at Festival Mall Alabang, near the Goldilocks exit. (I haven’t tried it, though.) In addition, there used to be vans bound for Lemery dispatched from the parking area of Starmall Alabang. But they already moved to the area behind the mall, near the ukay-ukay area and PNR Train counter. The number of available vans and passengers has been dwindling so you might be in for quite the wait.
- Metropoint Mall. I’m not sure if there are still vans here going to Calatagan. There used to be, but I haven’t checked in a long time. If there still is, you can take the van going to Calatagan. If vans no longer operate here, you can cross to the other side of EDSA and catch a bus to Calatagan instead.
Whatever you take, tell the driver to drop you off in Tagaytay.
Fare is P180-P200, depending on which part of Manila you’re originating. It’s pricier because vans behave like point-to-point shuttles. Even though you’re alighting in Tagaytay, you’re still paying for the full journey. A passenger getting off in Tagaytay pays the same as another getting off in Batangas.
- If you’re taking a van to Lemery, tell the driver to drop you off in Tagaytay. Unlike their bus counterparts, Lemery-bound vans usually pass through Tagaytay. However, there are instances when the driver chooses to take the SLEX-STAR Tollway route. It usually happens when there is heavy traffic in Tagaytay/Santa Rosa areas. To be sure, let the driver know that your destination is Tagaytay so he won’t take any detour.
- Vans don’t follow any fixed schedule. The vehicle will NOT leave the terminal unless it is full. If you’re in a hurry and there’s only one vacant seat, you can pay for it and the driver will gladly start the journey. If time is of the essence and there are a lot of empty seats, take the bus instead.
HOW TO GET AROUND TAGAYTAY
There are no taxis in Tagaytay, and Grab doesn’t have any presence either. There are only three modes of transportation available:
- Jeepney. When traveling within the city, the most usual way is by jeepney. From Olivarez/Rotonda, you can take a jeepney to any direction. You can also ride one from any point along the highway back to the city center. Minimum fare is P9, which increases as you go father.
- Bus. You can also take the bus if you’re coming from Rotonda area and going to Mendez, Alfonso, Nasugbu or any destination along Nasugbu-Tagaytay Highway.
- Tricycle. This is the closest thing to a taxi that you can get. You can charter a tricycle to take you straight to your destination. When I asked, “special trips” within the city cost P100. Special, meaning you won’t be sharing the tricycle with anyone else. But if you’re going to the city center, you can pay the per-person charge, which should be around P20. Maybe higher or lower, depending on distance.
THINGS TO DO IN TAGAYTAY & NEARBY TOWNS
Tagaytay offers the best views of Taal Volcano. But you know what’s better than admiring it from afar? Being on the volcano itself. From Tagaytay, you can travel to the Batangan town of Talisay, where you can charter a boat that can take you to the volcano island. Once there, you’ll start your trek to the breathtaking caldera. Good if you’re a group so you could split the expenses.
How to get there: From Tagaytay, you can charter a tricycle to take you to Talisay for P150-200. Then, find a boat, which costs P2000 (maximum of 6 pax). It’s also possible to reach Talisay by jeepney, but I don’t have the details.
I’m not fully familiar with this route, to be honest. I’ve been to Taal Volcano and hiked to its main caldera before, but I didn’t come from Tagaytay. I went straight to Talisay via Tanauan.
SkyRanch is a relatively new attraction in Tagaytay. Perched on a cliff, overlooking the lake, this is an amusement park built for the enjoyment of the whole family. There are rides for kids and activities for the kids-at-heart. The most arresting structure is the SkyEye, a 63-meter ferris wheel with 32 gondolas. It’s also lined with restaurants and food kiosks!
Here are the attractions at SkyRanch and the corresponding admission fees.
Super Viking: P100
Flying Bus: P100
Sky Cruiser: P100
Log Coaster: P100
Safari Splash: P120
Bumper Boat: P100
Bumper Race: P100
Drop Tower: P100
Express Train: P80
City Rail: P80
Mini Viking: P50
Racing Car: P50
Nessie Coaster: P50
Wonder Flight: P50
Red Baron: P50
Boat Parade: P50
Toy Swing: P50
How to get there: From Olivarez, ride a jeepney bound for Mendez or Nasugbu. Get off at Sky Ranch. Fare is around P15.
Tagaytay Picnic Grove
Another family-friendly park in Tagaytay. For the longest time, this was the go-to place for relaxation, but a lot has changed (or have not changed) over the years. More attractions like the zipline and cable car ride were introduced, which are great for families. I personally think the park itself has lost its main appeal. But check it out regardless.
Entrance fee: P50
Parking Fee: P35, cars; P50, vans or jeepneys.
Zipline & Cable Car Rates:
Weekdays: 1-way ride, P200; 2-way ride, P300.
Weekend/Holidays: 1-way ride, P300; 2-way ride, P400.
Hut/Cottage Rental: P100, P150, P300, P500
Operating hours: 7am-7pm
People’s Park in the Sky
It used to be known as Palace in the Sky. Built under Marcos in 1979, it was supposed to be a guest house for visiting US President Ronald Reagan. But due to turning political tides back then, the “palace” was not finished and the visit cancelled. After the EDSA revolution, the name changed to People’s Park in the Sky.
Today, it hasn’t been well-maintained but remains a top attraction in Tagaytay because of the fantastic vista. After all, it stands at the highest point of Tagaytay, allowing a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape.
Entrance fee: P50
How to get there: From Olivarez, charter a tricycle for P150 for special trip or P50 per person.
Puzzle-lovers unite! The Puzzle Mansion in Tagaytay’s Barangay Asisan houses the world’s largest collection of jigsaw puzzles — all 1028 pieces of them — as certified by the Guiness Book of World Records. This was owned by Georgina Gil-Lacuna who collected these puzzles from her travels.
Entrance fee: P100
Hours open: 8am-5pm
How to get there: From Olivarez/Rotonda, ride a jeepney bound for Alfonso or Nasugbu. Get off at Brgy. Asisan. You can tell the driver to drop you off at the corner going to Puzzle Mansion. Fare: P15. Then hail a tricycle to take you to Puzzle House. Fare: P100.
Caleruega is located in Nasugbu, Batangas, but it is easily accessible from Tagaytay. The place got its name from the municipality of Caleruega in Spain, the birthplace of the father of the Order of the Preachers, Saint Dominic de Guzman. It was built to serve as a venue for contemplation, but has made a name for itself over the years as one of the most well-known wedding venues in the country. It also harbors well-maintained retreat houses and well-manicured gardens.
How to get there: At Olivarez/Rotonda, take the jeepney bound for Nasugbu and tell the driver to drop you off at Hillcrest/Evercrest. Fare: P25. From KC Hillcrest entrance, hail a tricycle to Caleruega Chapel. Fare: P50.
More info: CALERUEGA TRAVEL GUIDE
Fantasy World is an unfinished theme park project in the middle of the rolling hills of Lemery, Batangas. (Yep, it’s in Lemery!) Although the construction was halted, they were able to build the castle, which was the park’s centerpiece.
Over the past years, it has become a filming location for movies like Got 2 Believe (starring Claudine Barretto and Rico Yan) and Fantastica (Vice Ganda) and TV shows like GMA 7’s Majika (Angel Locsin, Dennis Trillo).
The rides are not operational, but the park and the castle remains Instagram-worthy. It’s a favorite prenup spot too.
Entrance fee: P1000, good for up to 10 people. If you’re alone or a small group, best to find other travelers to form a bigger group and split the cost. Otherwise, you’ll still be paying P1000.
How to get there: From Olivarez, ride a jeepney or bus to Boundary (Cavite-Batangas boundary). Fare: P25 for jeepney, P39 for bus. At the boundary, ride a jeepney bound for Lemery and ask to be dropped off in front of Fantasy World. Fare: P18. If there are no jeepneys, you can take a tricycle but it’s pricey. Fare is P200 per ride (not per person).
Tip: There is a cafe nearby called “Brewed For You.” If you’re visiting around lunch time or you just get hungry, you can stop by and have a bowl of Batangas lomi (P100) and a cup of kapeng barako (P40).
More info: FANTASY WORLD TRAVEL GUIDE
Tagaytay Food Trip
One of the things my cousins and I used to do when we were kids was count the number of restaurants when we were passing through Tagaytay. Many of them are standing strong to this day. From local bulaluhan to western restaurants to food parks to fast food chains, there’s no shortage of dining places in Tagaytay.
Leslie’s and Josephine Restaurant are two local favorites for families. Don’t forget to order a bowl of sinful bulalo! If you’re celebrating something special or you’re simply after ambiance and elegance, there’s Antonio’s Restaurant and Sonya’s Garden (farther in Alfonso).
Bag of Beans has also made a name for themselves for their generous servings of scrumptious dishes. Aside from their main branch along Mendez Crossing, they have five other branches now including one at Summit Ridge (near Robinson’s Supermarket and SM Wind Residences) and one near Silang Crossing (Athena). Try their roast beef!
There budget-friendly places too. Mushroom Burger is the first that comes to mind. It’s a fast-food-style resto featuring mushrooms as their main ingredients. If you’re staying along Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, you can easily get here. If you’re coming from SkyRanch, it’s just a 10-minute walk away.
SAMPLE TAGAYTAY ITINERARY
Below is a sample overnight Tagaytay itinerary, good for a weekend. It assumes you’re a party of two, splitting some of the costs and taking public transportation from Manila.
DAY 1: CALERUEGA & FANTASY WORLD
05:00 am – Bus to KC Hillcrest (Nasugbu), P130
08:00 am – Tricycle to Caleruega, P25 (P50/2pax)
08:15 am – Caleruega Entrance Fee, P30
10:30 am – Tricycle to Boundary, P50
11:30 am – Jeepney to Fantasy World, P18
12:00 pm – Lunch at Brewed For You Coffee Shop, P300
01:00 pm – Fantasy World, P500 (P1000/2pax)
03:00 pm – Jeepney back to Boundary, P18
03:30 pm – Bus to Tagaytay, P39
04:30 pm – Hotel check in, rest
06:30 pm – Dinner, P200
DAY 2: SKYRANCH & PEOPLE’S PARK IN THE SKY
07:30 am – Early check out
08:00 am – Jeepney to Picnic Grove
08:30 am – Picnic Grove, P50
09:00 am – Zipline, P300
10:30 am – Jeepney to Olivarez
10:45 am – Jeepney to Mushroom Burger
11:00 am – Lunch at Mushroom Burger, P150
12:00 pm – Walk to SkyRanch
12:15 pm – SkyRanch, Budget: P500
03:00 pm – Jeepney to Olivarez
04:00 pm – Bus back to Manila, P87
If you spend P2400 on accommodations (P1200 per person), the itinerary above will set you back around P3800 (USD 73, SGD 99, EUR 65) per person, with some allowance for incidental expenses.
Note that the bulk of the cost is spent on the Fantasy World leg. The entrance fee to Fantasy World is P1000 even if there are only 2 guests as the itinerary assumes. You can reduce the cost if you’re part of a bigger group. If you’re on a really tight budget, you can skip Fantasy World and stay longer at Caleruega. The other big expense is the zipline, which costs P300 on weekdays and P400 on weekends. If you’re not interested in this, you can skip this too.
If you decide to skip Fantasy World and Zipline, the total cost will be pushed down to only around P2800 (USD 54, SGD 73, EUR 48) per person.