Hiking Cerro Chato is definitely not easy! But it’s one of the world’s most amazing volcanoes because it’s filled with green crater lake which you can swim in.
Everyone wants to climb Cerro Chato when traveling in Costs Rica. This volcano has a stunning emerald green crater lake with a possibility to swim in it. The trek up to the lagoon is one of the more challenging hikes in that country. It depends which trail you pick for hiking but it’s doable alone. You just need to be aware that this is a steep and sometimes muddy hike, and is only recommended for hikers in good physical condition.
Unfortunately we took a tourist guide for 100$ for two. It was only because of the blogs, which said it was one of the terrible hikes in their lives. It’s not true the trail is not maintained. The route that we took begins near the Observatory Lodge, which is located within the National Park, this route is 2.5 kilometers one way. The trail goes through the waterfall. The other waterfall is accessible from la Fortuna (15$ entrance). I would recommend choosing Arenal Observatory Logde & Spa as starting point for Cerro Chato because of the fantastic views of Arenal Volcano and quite easy trail.
Hiking Cerro Chato without a tour guide.
If you want to do it alone you need to get to Arenal Lodge Observatory. There is a beautiful hotel and you need to pay entrance to the national park 10$ per person (included in the trekking price if you have a guide). In the hotel you can ask for a hiking map. And there’s a beautiful view of Arenal Volcano from the hotel’s balcony. Arenal Volcano is an active, smoking volcano near la Fortuna city. But it’s not possible to climb it. We were staying few days in la Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano was almost invisible because of the clouds. The day we hiked Cerro Chato the visibility was incredible and we could clearly see the smoking crater of Arenal Volcano!
It generally takes about 2 hours of steep climbing to get to the top and another hour to get back down. Last 200 meters you need to go down to reach the crater lake and swim in it. Actually it was cold and muddy but still it’s a unique chance to swim in an active crater green colored lake. Hiking Cerro Chato we met many groups of people going down alone! W just did not make enough effort to check whether it’s doable alone. Remember it makes a huge difference when you climb the volcano. I wouldn’t recommend doing it alone in rainy season. Some people said it was deadly scary! Much of the trail is narrow and full of slippery roots. The scenery is gorgeous but you should be prepared that you are entering higher altitude cloud forest.
My next direction was Leon and the greatest Telica Volcano: http://freestyletraveling.com/telica-volcano-without-tour-guide/