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.
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).
We began our hike at this location, but you can also access the hike from the Arenal Observatory ($8 per person fee).
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.
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!
We 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!
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!
This is your chance to swim in a Costa Rica volcano!
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!
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:
- Hiking boots
- Good pair of socks
- Rain gear. Coat or poncho. Water resistant shorts and shirt.
- Bug spray (this goes for all of Costa Rica)
- Water bottle
- Swimsuit / towel if you want to swim (or go in your underwear)
- Change of clothes (for after the hike.. you will be dirty)
- Binoculars. There are many beautiful birds to see on this hike!
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