Costa Rica / Travel

Costa Rica Volcano! Hike and Swim inside “Cerro Chato”

Arenal volcano is the top tourist attraction in Costa Rica, but did you know there’s another lesser-known volcano just minutes away from Arenal?! Not only can you hike to the top of Cerro Chato volcano (unlike Arenal), but you can also swim inside of it! If you’re up for a challenging hike, this Costa Rica volcano is not to be missed.

costa rica volcano

Getting to Cerro Chato – Costa Rica volcano

Head to the La Fortuna waterfall. Park at the Green Lagoon Lodge just above the waterfall parking lot. At the front desk, ask for directions to the Cerro Chato hiking trail. This is private land, so you’ll need to pay a small fee ($12 per person).

Guillaume and I began our hike at this location, but you can also access the hike from the Arenal Observatory ($8 per person fee).

costa rica volcano map

Photo of map taken at Green Lagoon Lodge

Hiking Cerro Chato

The hike to the top of this inactive Costa Rica volcano is challenging! It’s steep, muddy and technical. It took us about 1.5 – 2 hours each way (3.5 hours total) to reach the lake which fills in the volcano’s hollow crater. The hike is very rewarding, but you must be in physically good shape.

Cerro Chato Costa Rica Volcano Hike

The Cerro Chato hike begins on an open, floral trail and steadily climbs to more rugged terrain. Half of the hike is under thick tree canopy. Avoid roots and slippery mud. The jungle views on this hike are spectacular, even on a foggy day. If you’re lucky enough to hike Cerro Chato on a clear day, you can even see Arenal!

Cerro Chato Costa Rica Volcano Hike

Guillaume and I had the trail mostly to ourselves when we hiked Cerro Chato in May 2015. The hike was exhausting, but worth it to escape the crowds and experience the jungle atmosphere.

Hiking to this Costa Rica volcano is a real adventure!

Cerro Chato Costa Rica Volcano Hike

The descent down to the crater lake

The hike peaks at 4,724 feet of elevation, and then you’ll need to descend a steep trail to get to the crater lake. This descent is the most technical part of the hike. I wasn’t really hiking, per say, more like scrambling down the hillside covered in mud! Expect to use all four appendages to get down safely. Once at the bottom, you’ll be greeted by a crater lake – which is green in color on a sunny day. Take a dip!

Cerro Chato Costa Rica Volcano Hike

Cerro chato crater lake 2” by Lars0001 – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

This is your chance to swim in a Costa Rica volcano!

Guillaume and I hiked Cerro Chato on a foggy day, so the brilliant green color was not noticeable. In fact, we couldn’t really tell we were swimming in a crater. Still, the thought of swimming inside a Costa Rica volcano was pretty neat!

Cerro Chato Costa Rica Volcano Hike

I am now inside a volcano!

After your swim, you can either go back the same route, or try the hike down to the Observatory. We went the same route to reach our car. The Green Lagoon Lodge had bathrooms and an outdoor shower for hikers. It was nice to rinse off before jumping into our car covered in mud!

What to bring / wear:

Cerro Chato Costa Rica Volcano Hike

If you’re an avid hiker, this Costa Rica volcano trek should be at the top of your list!

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