San Pablo, Laguna: This City Has Seven Lakes That Are Actually Volcanic Craters.

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Are you a nature lover looking for a weekend trip that’s only a 2-hour drive away from Manila?

Then you should consider visiting San Pablo City, one of the oldest cities in the Philippines.

Located in the southern part of Laguna, it’s also known as the “City of Seven Lakes.”

One thing most people don’t know about these lakes is that they’re actually “maar lakes” or crater lakes. A maar lake is formed when hot magma from underneath comes into contact with groundwater and then forms a vertical steam explosion! After the eruption, it forms a crater that’s then filled with either groundwater or rainwater, turning it into a shallow lake.

For these seven lakes, it was Mt. San Cristobal’s lava that came into contact with groundwater. This means that these lakes are of volcanic nature!

Here’s an image to help visualize how that happened:

Maar Formation

Maar Formation | Photo from from pietsmulders.nl

San Pablo may be a small city but with its seven maar lakes, there’s more than enough things to do to last a weekend.

What To Do In San Pablo City, Laguna

1. Explore the seven lakes of San Pablo.

This one is pretty obvious. What’s a visit to San Pablo City without checking out its seven lakes! Get your checklist ready and try to see all of them: Sampaloc, Mohicap, Palakpakin, Calibato, Bunot and the twin lakes of Pandin and Yambo.

Seven Lakes of San Pablo City, Laguna

Sampaloc Lake is the largest and the most accessible from the city proper. A popular tourist spot, it is also home to an abundance of freshwater fish like tilapia and big head carp.

Sampaloc Lake, San Pablo, Laguna, Philippines

Sampaloc Lake, San Pablo, Laguna | Photo by Stephen Craton

Lakes Mohicap and Palakpakin are located near each other while the twin lakes of Pandin and Yambo are reachable by doing a little bit of trekking.

Pandin Lake, San Pablo, Laguna, Philippines

Pandin Lake, San Pablo, Laguna | Photo by Stephen Craton

Calibato Lake, on the other hand, is secluded and is by far the most serene, while Bunot Lake stands beside a residential area.

Tip: It is best to explore the seven lakes as a group since you can hire a tricycle when you visit. Rates can start from ₱500 depending on your haggling skills. The tour can take half a day or a whole day, depending on your pace.

2. Bike around Sampaloc Lake.

Not only is Sampaloc Lake most popular among all seven lakes, it is also just a five-minute walk from the main avenue. The lake’s circumference is about 3.7 km (2.3 miles) and is best appreciated by riding a bike. Bikes are available for rent at only ₱20 for every thirty minutes.

Bikes in San Pablo, Laguna, Philippines

Bikes in San Pablo, Laguna

Tip: You can bring your own bike! If renting, please make sure to test the bike you have chosen as some may not have working brakes.

3. Admire the San Pablo Cathedral and the surrounding old structures.

San Pablo Cathedral, Laguna, Philippines

San Pablo Cathedral, San Pablo, Laguna | Photo by Stephen Craton

Just like in many old towns, the 200-year-old cathedral is a town landmark. Originally built by the Augustinians, the San Pablo Cathedral is easily seen from Colago Avenue and is surrounded by several old structures such as old houses and the town library.

4. Go on a food trip!

While it’s not known to many, San Pablo City offers a number of dining places. You can choose from street foods to the usual Filipino food fare.

If you’re budget conscious, food stalls from isaw to hotdog-on-stick to gulaman to the usual junk food, are located just along the lakeshore of Sampaloc Lake.

Sari-Sari Stores in San Pablo City, Laguna, Philippines

Sari-Sari Stores in San Pablo City, Laguna | Photo by Stephen Craton

If you want to sit down and enjoy your meal after biking around Sampaloc Lake, have your snack or merienda at Cafe Lago. Cafe Lago is a small restaurant serving breakfast,

Located just past the food stalls, Cafe Lago is a small restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The place is almost deserted in the morning and is more beautiful and cozier at night.

Cafe Lago, San Pablo, Laguna, Philippines

Cafe Lago, San Pablo, Laguna | Photo by Stephen Craton

Another cafe you can check out is Si Christina. Located along Colago Avenue near the church, Si Christina is the perfect stop for those who have a sweet tooth.

This small cafe offers a variety of dishes but their specialties are cakes and pastries.

Ribs and Java Rice from Si Christina in San Pablo

Ribs and Java Rice from Si Christina in San Pablo | Photo by Stephen Craton

5. Discover the nearby towns of Nagcarlan and Liliw.

Pay the historical Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery a visit. A beautiful example of Spanish colonial architecture, it is the only underground cemetery you’ll find in the Philippines. The graveyard is located 4.5m (15 feet) beneath the church.

Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, Laguna, Philippines

Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, Laguna | Photo by Stephen Craton

While there are no famous people buried here (it became the burial ground for some wealthy Catholic families), what makes it truly historical is the fact that it used to be the secret meeting place of the Katipuneros during the Filipino-American war in 1896!

Then, during the Second World War, it served as a shelter for Filipino guerillas.

After seeing the Underground Cemetery, visit Bunga Falls and then go shoe-shopping at the quaint town of Liliw. Both Nagcarlan and Liliw are accessible from San Pablo City with just one jeepney ride.

Where to Stay in San Pablo City, Laguna

San Pablo City can be explored in a day but if you’d like to stay overnight, there are a variety of nice places to choose from.

Sulyap Bed & Breakfast

Located in Cocoland Compound in Brgy. Del Remedios, this quaint inn has an outdoor pool, in-house restaurant, and an antique museum. A hearty breakfast is served complimentary. The hotel rooms are reconstructed homes salvaged from total destruction from the provinces of Quezon, Batangas and Bulacan.

Sulyap Gallery Cafe, Laguna, Philippines

Sulyap Gallery Cafe, Laguna | Photo by Stephen Craton

Sulyap Bed & Breakfast

Brgy. Del Remedio, Cocoland Compound, San Pablo City, Laguna

+63 49 573 2907
sulyap.net

Agoda

Tahanan ni Aling Meding

Fronting the Sampaloc Lake with the perfect view of Mt. Cristobal, this hotel is the former vacation home of the Borja family of San Pablo. The hotel is elevated, has a pool and a spacious roof deck. Breakfast is inclusive of the room rate.

Tahanan ni Aling Meding, Laguna, Philippines

Tahanan ni Aling Meding, San Pablo, Laguna

Tahanan ni Aling Meding

Dagatan Blvd (Sampaloc Lake), San Pablo City, Laguna

+63 49 562 5855 / +63 49 562 5851

tahananhotel.com

Agoda

Casa San Pablo

More known for being an events place, Casa San Pablo is a lovely place to spend the night. Each uniquely designed, stand-alone room cater to couples, single travelers and big groups alike.

Casa San Pablo, San Pablo, Laguna, Philippines

Casa San Pablo, San Pablo, Laguna | Photo from Casa San Pablo’s Facebook Page

Casa San Pablo

Barrio San Roque, San Pablo City, Laguna

+63 917 812 6687 / +63 920 967 5277

casasanpablo.com

Sanctuario de San Pablo

One of the most expensive resorts in the area, Sanctuario de San Pablo is a Bali-inspired hotel tucked along the national highway in Brgy. San Francisco, Calihan. Spacious and serene, this lovely resort has a big parking space, spa amenities, large outdoor pool and a restaurant which is open to both hotel guests and visitors alike.

Sanctuario de San Pablo, Laguna, Philippines

Sanctuario de San Pablo, Laguna | Photo from Sanctuario de San Pablo’s Facebook Page

Spacious and serene, this lovely resort has a big parking space, spa amenities, large outdoor pool and a restaurant which is open to both hotel guests and visitors alike.

A & P Suites and Inn

Perfect for budget travelers, a double fan room starts at about ₱500 with a shared bathroom. This nice inn is found at the intersection near Puregold market.

A & P Suites & Inn

34 Colago Avenue, San Pablo City, Laguna

+63 49 562 7475

A & P Suites & Inn’s Facebook Page

How to Get to San Pablo City, Laguna

Ride Lucena-bound buses from Manila. Alight at the San Pablo Medical Center and ride a jeepney towards San Pablo City proper (₱8). Tricycles are not hard to find and are the main mode of transportation.

You can also drive or rent a private car to take you to San Pablo City. Travel time ranges between 2-3 hours, depending on traffic.

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About Author

Paula O

Paula O has the world’s shortest last name and is a lover of cats, books, history, culture & the arts. A self-proclaimed nature-lover, she is also a certified beach babe. She regularly chronicles her wanderings through her travel site Pondering Paodaolei and enjoys mermaiding in her free time.

6 Comments

  1. You Are Fooled on

    What will happen to the City when any of these lake-volcanoes erupt? Is there any prediction if this will happen in the near future?

  2. I was in San Pablo City last Saturday because of what I read here. Everything you wrote about this place was spot-on! Beautiful, lovely city and the locals were charming.

    …except I really wouldn’t know because I spent most of the day biking and taking pictures around Sampaloc Lake, then having lunch and basically hanging out at Cafe Lago, then foraging the city proper for sweets. Didn’t get the chance to try out Si Christina. A shame because the rest of my teeth that haven’t been pulled are all sweet.

    I actually walked to the city proper from where the bus dropped me off, in front of the 7-11 along the highway. Before I got off I saw this huge white thing well within the city that had onion domes on it and shiny silver bling on top of it. I thought it was a mosque, and for it to be of that size I’d assumed the Muslim population there would have been way off the scale. Well, the huge white thing turned out to be a Sikh temple, and what an amazing-looking temple too. It looks like a mosque but it had more detail in it that looks actually carved instead of glued. A pity the gates were closed when I walked past it. It’s along Colado Street.

    Great article about a great place. I’m going back next week 🙂

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