This hike is so satisfying to complete because of how uniquely challenging it is. There should be a “I climbed into a crater of a volcano and swam in the lagoon” badge because that’s how rewarding this experience is. It also makes for a pretty epic story.
Cerro Chato is in the small town of La Fortuna, Costa Rica – home of volcanoes and breathtaking waterfalls in the thick of rainforests. The town of La Fortuna is 4 hours away from San Juan, where most of the international flights land. Cerro Chato is positioned next to the Arenal volcano, the most active volcano on the island, but Cerro Chato is dormant and ready to hike.
Entrance Fee: There’s an entrance fee of about $10 USD per hiker. The taxi ride from the town will cost about $20 each way.
How Much Time Will it Take: Make sure you give yourself at least 4 hours to make the hike. Although the hike is only around 4km, it is very steep and strenuous.
Tips: Arrive early in the morning to avoid the people and the heat! It gets really humid midday, so avoid the heat wave and come prepared with a lot of water. The trail is pretty muddy and slippery on a dry day, so it could be particularly dangerous on a rainy day – use your best judgement, but I would advise against climbing the trail if it’s raining all day.
You should be in good to very good physical shape to attempt this hike. Once at the top, you have the choice of descending into the lagoon-filled crater. This section is almost a vertical descent, so take your time and focus on your footing and hand placement. When you get to the crater, take a swim and look around – there are lots of unique wildlife and vegetation. Also, pack snacks and lots of water!
Companies will offer you tour guides, but it’s impossible to get lost on the trail and the guides are expensive, so guides aren’t necessary for a good time.
Our Experience: We started our trek mid-morning and my muscles were already crying ¼ of the way into the hike. We strategized, pulled ourselves up by tree roots, and did a lot of bum scooching to get to the crater lagoon. It was a cloudy day, but the wind would blow our view clear every for a little bit and we could see the vastness of the crater. After a dip in the emerald green waters, we headed back to the starting point and visited La Fortuna Waterfall right next door to wash off the mud we were caked in.