Hike Costa Rica's Cerro Chato

Sendero Cerro Chato, San Carlos, Costa Rica

  • Activities:

    Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    4.5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2750 Feet

Family Friendly
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildlife

Hike with picturesque views of neighboring Arenal Volcano through a dense rainforest to a waterfall and lagoon.

Hiking the Chato Volcano, or Cerro Chato, is the perfect way to get an incredible view of neighboring big brother, Arenal Volcano. Arenal has the typical, conical shape that you think of when you hear volcano and is one of the areas most active volcanoes. You'll be perfectly safe hiking Cerro Chato, though, as it hasn't erupted for some 3,500 years.

The trailhead begins at the La Fortuna Waterfall and leads up the eastern slope up to Laguna Cerro Chato, a lake that has formed in the crater at the summit. Although it is a short hike, it is rather steep and can be muddy if it has rained recently (very common), so be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes and hike with care. Follow this trail to the lagoon and take a break while enjoying the view. Unfortunately, swimming in the lagoon is not advised, as there are some harmful minerals in the water. When you're ready, follow the trail back the way you came, finishing at the waterfall.

To get to the trailhead, drive east from Daniel Odubar Airport on Hwy 1 until you reach San Ramon, where you'll take Highway 702 north towards the town of La Fortuna. Just before you reach town, turn left on Diagonal 301. Follow this to the end of the road where you'll see signs for the La Fortuna Waterfall and the Cerro Chato Trail (Sendero Cerro Chato).

Photos: Boris G, Compass Points Media

Pack List

  • Good hiking boots
  • Lots of water
  • Light clothing
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Reviews

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It's a lot harder than the closed La Fortuna trail. It took 2.5 hours one way but it wasn't as difficult as some have made it out to be. For more info check my video: https://youtu.be/CD2Wj2bazOo

about 1 month ago
about 1 month ago

This trail has been permanently closed. Some travelers considered going anyway but the police are not joking around. There’s 3 layers of barbed wire and rangers stationed to prevent people from sneaking in. One of the locals also told me that if anything happens to a tourist the country gets less funding from the Red Cross.

about 2 months ago
about 2 months ago

Give yourself at least 4 hours to do the hike no matter what your fitness level, especially if you decide to add the side hike to the lagoon (which you totally should). Bring a lot of water, there is no where to refill along the way. Stop at the Observatory restaurant for lunch, dinner or a sunset drink – this spot offers one of the best and closest views of Arenal. See more from our experience at http://mrandmrsadventure.com/2014/05/29/surviving-montezumas-revenge-and-hiking-cerro-chato-from-the-arenal-observatory-lodge/

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

I would also strongly suggest setting aside some time to soak in the various hot springs found in the area-- a great way to sooth sore feet after a day of hiking!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

I have done this hike several times, and I recommend everyone to take lots of water and snacks since it is normally more humid than the average person is used to. You are inclining a lot, but all types of people are able to complete the hike as long as they are prepared and take their time. I recommend starting early, like at 6am since the sun can be super strong as the first hour you are exposed to the elements. The trail is not very well maintained and descending into the crater to see the lagoon is in horrible condition. Be prepared for mud and the need to use your hands.

almost 3 years ago
almost 3 years ago

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