Hiking Cerro Chato is a quite challenging experience, but it’s one of the world’s most amazing green lake volcanoes where you can swim.
Almost everyone visiting Costa Rica is aiming to climb Cerro Chato to swim in a stunning emerald green crater. The trek up to the lagoon is one of the most challenging hikes in the region. A lot depends on a season and a trail you are picking up for your hike and but I wouls say – if you are a good hiker 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.
Cost of a guide
After surfing the internet we found some hooror stories around hiking Cerro Chato and unfortunately we took a tourist guide for 100$ for two. It was only because majority posts and reviews online claimed it was one of the most terrible hikes in peoples lives. It is what was said online that the trail is not maintained. The path is well visible and it’s not possible to loose it. Besides there’s a lot of people hiking the same route. The route that we took begins near the Observatory Lodge, which is located within the National Park, and it is 2.5 kilometres 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 your starting point for Cerro Chato because of the fantastic views of Arenal Volcano on the way to Cero Chato. Secondly, it is quite easy route.
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 incredibly good and we could clearly see the smoking crater of Arenal Volcano!
It generally takes about 2 hours to get to the top of Cerro Chato and an hour back. The climb is quite steep and the last 200 meters you need to go down to reach the crater lake. It was cold and muddy but still it was a unique chance to swim in an active green crater lake. Amazing adventure. While hiking Cerro Chato we met many groups of people going down alone but I wouldn’t recommend doing it alone in a rainy season. Some people said it was deadly scary! Some sections of the trail are narrow and full of slippery roots. The scenery is gorgeous but you should know you are entering higher altitude cloud forest.