Cerro Chato (Chato Volcano)

Cerro Chato (Chato Volcano), Arenal Volcano National Park: Address, Cerro Chato (Chato Volcano) Reviews: 4.5/5

Cerro Chato (Chato Volcano)

Cerro Chato (Chato Volcano)
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678 reviews
Very good

New York City, NY4 contributions
Feb 2011
My wife and I just returned from Costa Rica. We spent 4 days in the La Fortuna/Arenal area. We hiked to the top of Cerro Chato Volcano and also down into the lake that formed within the crater. (Laguna Cerro Chato). It was a very challenging hike and we were exhausted afterward. (A rough comparison in terms of the difficulty for us was the The Devil's Path Hiking Trail to the summit of Indian Head Mt; Catskill Mountains in New York State). We enjoyed the variety of things to see along the way: A waterfall, hanging bridge, primary rain forest, a ranch/farm, the lake and also the great views of the Arenal Volcano and surrounding hills. It was also very peaceful, we briefly passed three other couples during the hike. For us, this was a nice break from the other more heavily visited tourist activities in the area.

We started the hike from the Observatory Lodge. We hired a taxi to take us there from our hotel. Our hotel was nearer to the town of La Fortuna. If you rented a car it would be an easy drive. There is a gate near the lodge were we paid 2,000 colones/person to enter the observatory lodge property. We asked this person for a map of the trails and he gladly gave us a map. It was a simple paper map, but it was enough for us to navigate the trails. The reception staff at the Observatory Lodge were very helpful and showed us on our map which trails to take to get to the top of Cerro Chato.

The first part of the trail is very well maintained. There is a water fall on the Danta River that you can stop and see - it was beautiful - if you get close enough a mist will cool you down (see photo). There was also a short hanging bridge that takes you across the same river and opens into to the farm/ranch area. Signage along the trail was also good, especially at fork points.

Eventually you get to the base of Cerro Chato. There is a small shelter and a sign that says "Laguna". (If you decided at this point not to hike up the top, you could veer left and take a trail back to the lodge and this would be a reasonably nice hike to do). It will be obvious to you that the terrain of the trail is changing and the ascent is starting. The ascent trail here was tough and long. - we each drank 1 liter of water by the time we got to the top. I think a picture will do more justice than describing this part of the trail. (see photo). As another reviewer mentioned, if it rains this part of the trail would turn to mud.

At the top there is a view of the laguna and a sign pointing towards the trail head to get there. You could also hike over Cerro Chato to the other side and end up at the La Fortuna Water Fall. The sign said 4 hours. The hike down to the Laguna and back up was very difficult. The trail was mostly vertical, slippery, some rocky areas and you had to use all four limbs to move safely. We moved slowly and carefully trying to make sure we had good grips and footing at each movement forward. Getting to The laguna mentally "completed" the hike for us, but otherwise was just ok in terms of a natural site to see. For us it was more rewarding to see the Laguna from the view point a top of Cerro Chato (see photo).

We descending Cerro Chato on the same trail we came up. At this point you can take a farm access road back to the lodge or simply retrace your steps back through the hanging bridge, past the Danta river waterfall to end up back at the lodge. We went back on the access road. There were great views of the surrounding hills, Cerro Chato and Arenal Volcanos. We also saw some beautiful Eucalyptus Trees along the way. Our legs were tired at this point and this was an easy walk. Overall for us it was 4 hours of hiking time.

When we got back to the Observatory Lodge we asked the receptionist to call a taxi cab for us. It took about 30 minutes for them to get there. This offered a great opportunity to sit in the Observatory Lodge Restaurant for a drink. There is an outside deck attached to the restaurant with spectacular views of the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal.

Overall, it was one of the best activities that we did in the Arenal area. We enjoyed experience a primary forest, a challenging hike, a variety of natural wonders (including a waterfall and lagoon), all in the relative peace of a less visited area.

New York
Written February 28, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Houston, TX14 contributions
May 2014 • Friends
Who: Three trim 25-year old guys; relatively athletic

We started this hike from the Arenal Observatory rather than La Fortuna Waterfall. At the observatory, there is a reception area with wifi, restaurant with an amazing views of the volcano (maybe even better than the view of the volcano from the typical national park hike), clean bathrooms, and indoor sitting areas. It's a good 45 min to an hour walk before you even get to the trail. This is a picturesque walk through farmland and offers truly amazing views. This was one of our favorite parts of the hike and we took our own sweet time on this walk.

The actual cerro chato trail is a whole different beast. It's a very strenuous ascent which lasts about 1.5 hours if you keep a good pace. It was a struggle to say the least, and 2/3 of the way up, we were pausing every 5-7 minutes for a breather. We were lucky that the ground was relatively dry otherwise it would have been pretty slippery and much more difficult. When we finally reached the top, the view of the lake in the crater was awesome. If you want to go down to the lake, you can go left for a while and then start your descent. We did this by accident and found the descent to be even steeper than the hike up. HOWEVER, If you want to go up from the observatory like we did and come down on the La Fortuna waterfall side, LOOK RIGHT when you get to the brim. When you reach the brim and look to your right, this will offer you your first view of the lake. This will be marked by a tree stump and a nice flat area to take in the view. At this point, you will see a sign that says "La Fortuna Catarata 4 hrs". (First of all, this means La Fortuna Waterfall. Second of all, 4 hrs is false. It will take 1.5-2 hours tops if you maintain a good pace.) The sign points to the right. This trail barely even looks like a trail, and we completely missed it the first time. However, if you squeeze through it for a while, it will eventually widen into a normal size trail, at which point, when you reach the fork, you will go right and start descending back down the side of the mountain toward La Fortuna. The descent will start off through the forest like the ascent, but will eventually become a very wide open trail that cuts through mountainside farmland. It's kind of steep and has gravel, so it's actually the slipperiest part of the whole journey. Be careful. We all slipped and fell down at some point. At one point you will come to a crevasse. Don't worry, just walk down into the crevasse and back up the other side to continue on your way down the open trail. At the very end of your descent you will pass by a place on your left side called the Green Lagoon Lodge. It will seem counter intuitive because you will start ascending again, but in a few hundred feet, the trail will turn left and then descend right down into the La Fortuna Waterfall parking lot. Either at the lodge or at the national park building adjacent to the waterfall parking lot, you can call for a taxi. Keep in mind that the national park building closes at 5 pm. We got there at 5:45 pm and were able to call a cab because I found a janitor with a cell phone.

Mistakes we made:
-did not bring enough water
-left too late (We left at 1:30 pm and were told on the way up by two guides that we needed to pick up the pace or turn around otherwise we weren't going to make it back before dark. They were right. Fortunately, we sped it up and make the round trip in 4.25 hours without going down to the lake, but also by getting lost once and had to go back to a retrieve a lost item once. If you don't go down to the lake and don't get lost, it shouldnt take longer than 4. If I did this again in the future, I would not leave later than noon.)

Something to note: If you leave from one national park and return via the opposite route, you will have to pay the entrance fees for both parks (even if you are just exiting from one of them). We avoided this by getting back after the park closed.

Entrance fee for Arenal observatory is $8 per person. Entrance fee for La Fortuna Waterfall is $10 per person.

Hope this was helpful. I wish I would have known all this when I started.
Written May 28, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Los Angeles, CA43 contributions
Aug 2011 • Friends
Ok....so here is the skinny on the Cerro Chato hike....

This hike is no joke! I am 30 years old, in good shape, and have hiking experience. I made it to the top in 1.5hrs and this hike is STEEP! Good news is that you can take your time and take numerous breaks if you wish. I would recommend bringing 2 liters of water and snacks along with you. The views along the way to the forest portion of the hike are breathtaking. Once your are in the forest portion of the hike....the terrain becomes VERY steep with lots of big steps. You literally treck straight through the jungle to the top, AMAZING. Within 30mins, I was COMPLETELY drenched in sweat from head to toe! Once you get to the top, you are not finished. You then have to descend 120 meters to the lagoon in order to visually see the lagoon as the forest obstructs your vision. The 120 meter decent is...yes you guessed it....STEEP! Once you arrive, it is breath-taking and most likely no one else will be there! Feel free to swim out into the teal/emerald lagoon. How many people get the chance to swim in a freaking volcano! And don't worry, there aren't any crocs, alligators, or any other loch-ness type creature in the lagoon, it is completely safe!

You also do not need a guide to do this hike. What you should do is take a taxi to the La Fortuna waterfall and then walk north from the waterfall to a building that sells hike tickets. Simply buy a ticket and you can follow the clearly marked hiking signs all the way to the top. There is only one trail and NO WAY to get confused or lost. We had a guide only because we did not know this before hand and we wished we would have known so that we could have saved considerable money! Good luck and enjoy!!!
Written August 25, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Boštjan P
Diemen, The Netherlands12 contributions
Aug 2017 • Couples
My girlfriend and myself did the Cerro Chato from Arenal Observatory Lodge, including the descent to and swim in the lagoon 2 weeks ago (August 2017). The information is correct, the path of the trail, which is on the territory of the national park (beyond the AOL's private property) is indeed closed, however many people squeeze through the barbwire or walk around it and continue the hike. The AOL boundary is at about 1/4 of the climb up. We met around 15 people that day.

To be completely honest, this hike is slightly overrated from all perspectives. First of all, it is indeed tough due to steepness and erosion of the path, however not very long and far from being impossible or life threatening. Everyone who hiked some serious mountains in the Alps for example will be able to tackle Cerro Chato easily. My girlfriend for example never did a technically very demanding hike and she didn't have any problem doing Cerro Chato. We are 30 years old. The descent to the lagoon is slightly tricky, however it is not super exposed, so if you somehow manage to slip, you will not fall too far. However, for people out of shape and unused to hiking steep, rocky mountains, it can be challenging. We strongly advise hiking boots due to slipery and rugged terrain as well as hiking poles but leave poles aside before the steepest descent to the lagoon and pick them up on the way back so you can use your hands for climbing the rocks. Our moving time was 2,5 hours, together with stops around 4 hours.

Secondly, the view of the lagoon from the edge of the crater is beautiful, with valley views opened further down, if you have a clear sunny day. In case you don't have a clear day, such views are impaired and the hike less rewarding. That being said, for example Volcan Barva also has a lagoon with a view point and you can also descend down to the lagoon. It is not as big as Cerro Chato, and you cannot swim in it, however it is very similar and access is much more friendly. If you came for views of Volcan Arenal, then it is probably better to do some other trails around AOL for great views of the volcano, since the main part of Cerro Chato hike is in the rain forrest with no view. The first and the last, flat part of the hike does offer nice views of Arenal, however you can do these trails without tackling Cerro Chato. If you're there also, as we were, for a tickmark to do Cerro Chato, then of course you can climb it in any weather condition, hoping for the best that the sky clears up at the top. We were lucky though to be rewarded with a view of the lagoon after heavy rain during our ascend.

Last but not least, with respect to wildlife, we haven't seen much on the trail. There are many national parks in costa rica where we saw many more animals.

Do I regret doing it? No. Would I do it again? Not really.
Written August 31, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

London, UK157 contributions
Jan 2016 • Couples
We started from the observatory and finished on the other side, intending to finish at the waterfall. This is undoubtedly the more pleasurable walk.

I was terrified of going after reading so many fearful reviews. But we are moderately fit so we mentally and strategically prepared ourselves and in the end, was surprised how short and easy the trail was.

In total, walking over the crater took us 5 hrs, and that was at a leisurely pace and stopping at the crater top.

We had no guide or map as we started just before 6am. We tried to look for sticks to help us but couldn't find any.

What to expect:
Cab ride from near la fortuna hotel will cost 35$ one way and takes 45 min. Make sure the driver takes you to the very beginning of the trail. See pic.

Follow the red trail which will become a blue trail. You will walk through a farm and turn left, which will become a forest. See pic. There are other trails alog the way if you change your mind.

The uphill is at least 1.5hrs. Continuous. It does get steeper and steeper.

At the top, the ground will suddenly flatten out and you'll have a fork. The sign reads Laguna to the left and la fortuna to the right. Do NOT go left. There is a better way to go to the lake. We went this way believing the sign, but regretted and had to turn back.

The first view of the lake is to your immediate RIGHT at the fork. If it looks all white, you came on a cloudy day.

For the lake AND the decent towards the waterfall, follow the sign to La fortuna. This trail is narrow for a while but will widen. This is muddy.

After a few meters, you can turn left to go down the lake. We didn't go as there would have been no view and the breeze kept us cool through the entire ascent so no need to swim to cool down.

Downhill takes a little longer as most people hike up from the waterfall. We felt sorry for them as the hike here is steeper for longer than the arenal side.

A meandering path then you'll hit the green laguna lodge where there is a small restaurant. Call a cab here. The waterfall is presumably to the right, past the restaurant but we didn't go as we had enough walking and would rather swim in our hotel pool.

The cab cost only $12 back to our hotel near la fortuna and took merely 10min.

Take a pair of waterproof hiking gloves. I used my winter gloves. Why does no one recommend this? This is the rainforest so it constantly dripped and you will be grabbing onto trees and roots. There is nowhere to wash your hands.

No need for a guide, costing $50-60pp. You cannot get lost. In fact, I would find it irritating if someone kept stopping to point out wildlife. Whichever way you climb, it's very steep, you must concentrate and you'll have no time to be looking around.

Start at daybreak. By 10am, the weather got hot and humid. Also, crowded. Crowd is dangerous as people slip and slide into you. We had the whole forest and the peak to ourselves. Lovely and enchanting!

If you are unlucky, you will pay 3x entry fees - arenal side, green lodge side, then the waterfall. Because we left early and didn't fancy the waterfall, we didn't pay anything.

Get your initial cab driver's biz card. We thought there might be a taxi stand or could carpool back to town w some ppl on the other side but no chance. No need to have a cabbie waiting on the other side, you never know how long the trail will take you. And you don't want to rush this, it's too dangerous to rush. We walked across the crater in 5 hrs but some people do only one side and take 8 hrs return.

Water. Take some and also gatorade. You'll need that sugar to focus on the roots that if you fall, will break your leg. Take snacks.

Asthmatics. I encountered no problem despite the steepness. As the vegetation is so lush, I found it even easier to breathe. But take your inhalers.

Whatever the forecast, it will rain in the forest. We saw no need for ponchos as it was cooling. But if you see a small waterfall as you enter the forest and start climbing, you may want to postpone this trail. Even on a dry day like today, the trail was very muddy and slippery.

Waterproof hiking shoes ideal. But trainers/sneakers would do. No open toe shoes.

Long trousers recommended. You will often be on your bum. Also, there are some patches where one wrong step and the mud is up to your mid-thigh.

Wear proper hiking socks even if in trainers. It makes a big difference if you fall in the mud and you will.

Enjoy and try to take many pictures!
Written January 2, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Philadelphia389 contributions
As you can't hike up the active Arenal Volcano, I recommend hiking up the inactive Cerro Chato volcano. It's not conical like Arenal. It's actually covered with lush rainforest and looks like a regular mountain but it has a crater with the green lagoon on the top.

We hiked there from the Observatory lodge to which we got by 4-wheel vehicle (a must if you drive) and we paid 6 bucks to enter their premises. However, the hike from there was great. It started with 30 min walk on the relatively flat dirt road with picturesque landscape all around. Farms, horses... You pretty much pass Arenal volcano and see the steam from its lava. Once you get to the bottom of the Cerro Chatto, a strenuous 90 min hike starts. It's a steep dirt trail that turns into mud when it rains. But the hike is well worth the view once you get to the top.

You can't see what's around the Cerro Chato as you climb up nor when you get to the top as the view is blocked by the rain forest. However, you'll get a wonderful view of the green lagoon that is inside of the crater on the top. You can also take additional 20 min to hike down to it and take a swim or camp. The hike down the volcano takes almost as long as the hike up. We took only few short breaks for sip of water and it took us 80 min to get to the bottom of the crater. You won't get exposed to direct sun while hiking in the rainforest but it's still very hot and humid.

1) Don't go if it rains heavily. The trail becomes muddy and slippery.
2) Bring at least 2 liters of water per person. Seriously!
3) Bring mosquito repellent and camera.

If you hike in the afternoon, you might want to end it sipping at the drink at the Observatory Lodge. It currently has the best view of the lava flow at sunset.
Written July 28, 2010
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

San Diego, CA5 contributions
Jul 2012 • Couples
It's a wonderful, beautiful hike and well worth the agony going up. We started from the waterfall side (after going up and down the steep staircase of the waterfall). We didn't take the strenous hike warning very seriously as we are avid hikers and find that ratings are usually overestimated. Not in this case. It was very steep. If there is a stairmaster in Hell....this must be what it feels like. Still, it is worth it all. It's beautiful once you reach the top and down to the lake. We felt a great sense of accomplishemnt once finished. Pause along the way to enjoy the monkeys, variouse birds and frogs (thankfully no snake sightings).
Written July 5, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

San Francisco, CA20 contributions
May 2015 • Solo
I went from the Waterfall side - from the Green Lagoon Lodge - just did the hike today. They sell their own tickets and are open at the earliest of times (Waterfall visitor center opens at 8 AM). I came at 7 AM, got my ticket for $12 and went on. Took me 1 hour to get to the top of the Cerro Chato crater (two short water breaks, but I was alone, rushed for time, and an experienced hiker). It rained the night before, and was rainy when I was going up. The hike is basically just going up a 1000-step stairway. Up, up, up. First 20% is mild degree, open views. Next 10% is in the woods and a moderate degree. The rest is all a steep climb.

If it's cloudy, you won't see the lagoon once you get to the top. Take the path going right (when facing the lake) to go 1/4 way around the crater and the trail finally goes down to the water. Again, mist covered everything - I could only see the water about 10 meters in front of me. The "beach" was like an old lake - no nice sandy entrance; instead, a mush of old leaves and mud, and as I took my first step, I sunk to my knees into it. Also deadwood in the water. I took a swim, it was very pleasant. Slight smell of sulphur. The spot is a 15-20-minute walk from the top of the crater. There may be a better beach if you keep going right along the water - I didn't have time to be picky. Just a forest lake swim to cool off. My legs weren't muddy or dirty, only one smudge and dirty shoe soles.

Took me 15 minutes to get back up to the top of the crater. Another 50 minutes to get back down to the Lodge. Overall it took me 2 hours 40 minutes roundtrip with a short swim (GPS clocked 6.7 km with a 690 m vertical gain). The views were hidden unfortunately because of the fog, but the challenge and the reward (swim in a volcano crater) were pretty awesome. I'm attaching pictures I took today.
Written May 11, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

New York City, NY19 contributions
Feb 2021 • Solo
I’m 33 and regrettably I’m quite out of shape. I’m tall (6’3”) which helped.

The trail is basically four parts: 1) Green Lagoon to the trailhead - basically a road uphill - gets the heart beating but nothing too crazy, 2) the trailhead entrance to the “trail ends here” sign - more brutal then part 1 but minimal scrambling...this section is an appetizer for what’s next, 3) the closed leg of the trail to the volcano rim - this crushed me because I’m out of shape, probably took me the longest despite not being a huge distance...slippery scramble, 4) the descent to the lake...looks scary but if I made it to the top there was no way I was turning back now. The decline to the lake is worse than climbing back up it, and isn’t much different than the other jungle descent. Just do it.

For the ascent, it took me about 2:30 from green lagoon, although if I were in shape I could probably do it in 1:45-2 hours. I descended slowly because this big fella didn’t want to wipe out and roll an ankle, probably 1:45 descent.

I saw exactly 14 other hikers, including myself. I embarked at 8am and enjoyed the lake with just 3 other hikers.

If you’re a bit out of shape, but are willing to embrace the suck, it’s totally possible just take it slow and hit the agua early and often.

I brought 4 liters of water and almost drank it all!

As I write this my legs are jello, but it’s worth it!! Such a magical place.
Written February 15, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Montreal, Canada235 contributions
Sep 2018 • Couples
First of all, you can absolutely do it, the so-called government fences never has anything on it that say you cannot enter. And the guy in the Green Lagoon hotel told us exactly the same thing - yes you can go.

I started the hike from Green Lagoon. The taxi fare I got from the center of Fortuna is 3000 Colones, which I believe is very fair. The green Lagoon is also a neat hotel to hang around and see some birds. Upon arrival, if you go inside the hotel lobby, they charge you 10$ for entrance fee to the National park. 10$ is fair until you figure out they do nothing on the trail. The trail is doable but in very bad shape, so apparently the 10$ disappears from your wallet for no obvious reason other than they demand it.
The trail is about 2 to 2.5km long, maybe 500-600 meters elevation gain, which is not that bad. But the trail itself requires a lot of scrambling and had bad footing so you are prone to hit something or hurt yourself if you are not careful.
When I reached the top, there is no obvious viewpoint. I simply had to descend on the more ridiculous "trail" to get to the lake. The lake is nice but like I said you only get to see it when you are by it, not from the top of the trail, which leaves you only half the fun.

All in all, I left from Green Lagoon feeling the half day is not spent well.
Written September 17, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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