Costa Rica (Republic of Costa Rica)

Languages: Spanish

Currencies: CRC · Costa Rican colón (₡)

Capitol: San José

Continents: North America

Borders: Nicaragua, Panama

More useful information

Area: 51,100km2

Population: 5,094,114

Traffic/driving side: right

Landlocked country: No

Independent country: Yes

United Nations member: Yes

IDD Prefix: +506

Timezones: UTC-06:00

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Last updated on November 7, 2023

Hiking Cerro Chato is a fabulous adventure and quite challenging experience. The trail leads through a magnificent jungle scenery where you can spot different forms of wildlife. Chato Volcano is one of the world’s most amazing green crater lakes I’ve seen and also guess what? – you can swim in its emerald waters!

Cerro Chato is an inactive volcano in Alajuela district located near famous La Fortuna town, which is a great gateaway for many magnificent hiking trails. Hiking Cerro Chato is one of the best adventures in the area and here is everything you need to know before this adventurous trip 🐍.

Hiking Cerro Chato without a tour guide

How difficult is hiking Cerro Chato?

You will find some reviews describing Cerro Chato as a negative experience due to bad weather conditions. Hiking Cerro Chato is considered to be challenging by many hikers. The trail is known to be steep, slippery, and muddy, requiring careful navigation through sections with rocks, roots, and clay. Some hikers have described it as the hardest hike of their lives, but also as a rewarding and memorable experience. It’s important to have proper hiking shoes with good grip to navigate the tricky terrain.

It’s worth noting that the difficulty of the hike can vary depending on factors such as individual fitness levels and weather conditions. It’s advisable to assess your own physical abilities and take appropriate precautions. Be prepared with sufficient water, snacks, and other essentials for a challenging hike. Here is step-by-step guide on everything you need to know while planning this incredible adventure. 

Starting point for hiking Cerro Chato.

Hiking Cerro Chato without a tour guide

View of Arenal Volcano on the way to Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa – the starting point for hiking Cerro Chato. 

To hike Cerro Chato without a tour, you have the option to explore the trail independently. However, it’s important to note that Cerro Chato is located on private property, so it’s crucial to respect the rules and regulations set by the owners.

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.

How much is a guide for hiking Cerro Chato?

After surfing the internet and discovering some horror stories on hiking Cerro Chato, we decided to take a tourist guide. The cost was $100 for 2 people. Majority of my hikes and clims I do alone but we didn’t know what to expect after the reviews, so to be on a safe side we booked a leader – Lion. The trail is actually quite well visible and there are other people hiking the same route. The whole adventure takes about 5 hours.

Arenal Valcano trek toward Cerro Chato hike.

Arenal Observatory is only a 15 minute drive from La Fortuna by car. You may want to trek like we did to admire magnificent Arenal Volcano views. 

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.

Before attempting the hike, it’s recommended to gather as much information as possible about the trail, including the difficulty level and any necessary precautions. The hike to the summit of Cerro Chato can take approximately 2-2.5h hours each way, depending on your fitness level. The trail is known to be strenuous, with narrow and steep sections, slippery spots, and tree roots to navigate.

It’s advisable to have a good understanding of hiking safety and be prepared with proper equipment, such as sturdy shoes, plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and insect repellent. Additionally, it’s recommended to hike with a partner or in a group.

If you are accessing Cerro Chato from the Arenal Observatory, which offers amenities such as wifi, restaurants, and indoor sitting areas, it is essential to check with the property owners or local authorities to ensure that hiking without a tour is allowed and to obtain any necessary permits. 

Full day Hanging Bridges, Arenal Volcano, Fortuna Waterfall and Hotsprings!

At Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa.

If you are hiking alone you need to reach 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 – it is 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!

Hiking Cerro Chato from Arenal Observatory.

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.

One of the top attractions is Poas Volcano – check full guide on how to get there HERE. 

My next direction was Leon and the queen – the greatest Telica Volcano Hike – Only for adventurous hikers!

White-nosed coatis

What to bring for hiking Cerro Chato?

Make sure you have proper hiking shoes with good grip, bring sufficient water and snacks, and hike with a partner or in a group for added safety.

Additionally, check weather conditions and follow any guidelines or regulations set by the property owners can contribute to a safer hiking experience.

You will be going through suspended bridges and don’t be surprised with snakes crossing your way. 

Hiking Cerro Chato without a tour guide
Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!

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