Cerro Chato, Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
While travelling in Costa Rica with G Adventures, there wasn’t much opportunity for hiking as our itinerary was pretty well set in stone. So I was excited when Mel, our guide, asked the group if any of us were interested in going on a hike up the Cerro Chato volcano. I was also very surprised when our entire group wanted to go. Mel explained that it was a very challenging hike that was not for the faint of heart. Everyone was still going to give it a try. I was impressed.
Cerro Chato is a challenging hike indeed. You are climbing over tree roots and rocks, while going straight up hill on a muddy clay surface. Be prepared to get dirty. It isn’t a terribly long hike, at only 1.5-2 hours one way, but my legs were burning by the time I reached the top. As challenging as the hike is, it is very rewarding due to the absolutely beautiful environment. Starting the hike in lowland rainforest and ascending into higher altitude cloud forest. Once the summit is reached, you are blessed with a spectacular view of the neighbouring Arenal Volcano as well as a gorgeous emerald mineral lake located in the crater of Cerro Chato. The lake is accessible by hiking down a very step and extremely challenging slope to the waters edge. My entire group made it to the top of Cerro Chato, and down to the lake. I was proud of all of us. It was an amazing day.
Cerro Chato is located on the west side of La Fortuna. My group had a transport van that took us up to the Arenal Observatory where the trail head was located. I have since been informed that the local bus system does not take you all the way to the observatory, and the walk from the closest bus stop is too far. So a taxi would be your best bet if you do not have a car.
I have also recently learned that the Cerro Chato hike is closed due to dangerous conditions caused by extensive rainfall. People are still doing the hike from the observatory, at their own risk, but officially, it is no longer maintained and is considered closed.
Mel told the group that the crater lake on Cerro Chato is extremely mineral rich due to the activity before the volcano became dormant, and she did not recommend we swim in it as it is unknown if there can be any adverse health effects from swimming in such waters. Despite this, one of our braver group mates went for a swim with a few other random hikers, and she seemed fine after. So if you want to swim when you get there, I don’t think it will kill you.
There are many view points from the top of the hike that give spectacular views of the town of La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano. The hike is very challenging but surprisingly short. I say this because as soon as I was starting to feel drained and found myself wondering how much longer until we reach the top, we were there. The decent back from the top was much faster as a few of us jumped and ran a lot of the way down. Not recommended as it would be very easy to roll and ankle or worse, but we had a lot of fun doing it. With all the tree roots and rocks, it is probably best to take your time.
G Adventures gave me the opportunity to do a lot of awesome adventures and visit so much of Costa Rica without having to do so much of the planning, and hiking up Cerro Chato was one of the best parts of my trip. I hope that I have provided enough information for you to be able to see it as well. Happy hiking!