Hiking Cerro Chato at Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica - HRG Costa Rica Vacations
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Hiking Cerro Chato at Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica


Cerro Chato is a well-kept Costa Rican secret, boasting emerald green waters and a lovely lagoon. The trail features a constant incline, through an old-growth forest filled with vines, moss, and twisted roots. The hike culminates in a rewarding view of the rainforest, as well as La Fortuna Waterfall and Lake Cerro Chato. Make time for this challenging hike through some of the most beautiful scenery Costa Rica has to offer.

map-cerroA trip to the top of the now dormant volcano involves a challenging adventure through a beautiful rainforest. Paths wind through Arenal Volcano National Park, and you can select one of two paths to get to the summit. Be prepared for weather changes, damp trails, and mud. Make sure to bring along waterproof gear and a poncho, as the weather can change quickly and you may find yourself traipsing through mud or a light rain shower. The breathtaking view from the peak makes getting a little damp well worth it, as you can clearly see beautiful rainforest views, La Fortuna Waterfall, and the lagoon.

You’ll likely see a wide variety of wildlife during your trek, as well, including spider monkeys, howler monkeys, sloths, boa constrictors, and toucans.  Take your time climbing to the peak and look carefully — you may spot unique wildlife lurking in tree branches or hiding in plain sight. A camera is essential for this hiking adventure, so you can capture memories that will last a lifetime. Spend some time examining the unique landscape as well — the area features attractive ferns, freijo, rosewood, and balsa trees.

It is believed that Cerro Chato originally erupted during the Pleistocene period. Today the dormant volcano is covered by a luxurious rainforest full of vines, trees, and unique flora and fauna. The two peaks of the volcano, Espina and Chatito, rise to over 3,600 feet and hide the Chato Lagoon. This giant crater is filled with bluish green water and stretches across more than 1,640 feet across. Enjoy the enchanting view from the summit, or take the time to descend down into the volcano to get a closer view of the lagoon.

Hikers can choose one of two available trails to reach the summit. The first hike begins at the entrance to the La Fortuna Waterfall visitor center, with a $10 entrance fee. This trail is over a mile long, geared for hikers who are moderately experienced, and may take 2-4 hours. The trail is steep and somewhat challenging, but provides visitors with wonderful views of the rainforest and the lagoon. Hikers won’t need a guide for this Costa Rican adventure, as the trail is clearly marked.

The second hike departs from the Arenal Observatory Lodge. It is more challenging, and recommended for experienced hikers in good physical shape. You’ll be climbing uphill almost the entire time, ending at Chato Lagoon’s beautiful blue-green waters. Stop at least once on the way up to admire the scenery, look for unique Costa Rican wildlife, and enjoy the crisp, fresh air.

It is best to arrive at the park early in the day, so that you can enjoy both the hike and the descent without worrying about how much daylight you have left. Clouds can move into the area quite quickly as well, making the descent more challenging than is immediately obvious.

After reaching the peak, consider visiting one of the luxurious lodges situated inside the crater of the volcano. Guests may decide to rinse off in an outdoor shower, or settle in for a delicious meal beside the water. Be sure to spend some time capturing photographs of the amazing scenery; these views are too beautiful not to share on Facebook!

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