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       cerro chato crater lake
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Cerro Chato

Cerro Chato

Quick Facts

  • Location : Arenal Volcano National Park
  • Altitude : 3,609 feet above sea level
  • Hours : 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily
  • Telephone : 2461-8499
  • Entrance Fee : $10.00

Cerro Chato's the dormant cousin of Arenal Volcano. Smaller, greener and less prone to violent outbursts (the last eruption was 3,500 years); Cerro Chato offers rigorous yet rewarding hikes to the crater lake at its summit.

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You'll appreciate its emerald green waters and crisp, fresh air after the long vertical ascent to the top. Along the way you'll hike through an ancient forest sated with sturdy tree trunks wrapped in vines and carpeted in moss. Above you, the canopy filters the light in little patches that dot the forest floor where the trail weaves up and over stairs of gnarled roots.


There are two ways to access Cerro Chato. The first trailhead departs near the entrance to La Fortuna Waterfall where hikers must pay the $10 entrance fee at the visitor center before beginning the hike. The trail is more than a mile long and takes between two and three hours round-trip. It's steep and relatively challenging, but worth it for the incredible views of the rainforest and the lagoon. The trail is clearly marked so a guide isn't necessary. We advise starting early in the morning, as clouds roll in quickly making the descent somewhat challenging.

A second trail to Chato leaves from the Arenal Observatory Lodge. It is the more extreme of the two hikes and takes about four to five hours round-trip. It is almost entirely uphill, but it too ends at the greenish-blue reflective waters of Chato Lagoon.

Flora and Fauna:

Keep an eye out for wildlife at Chato and the surrounding Arenal Volcano National Park. Howler and spider monkeys, white-nosed coati, sloths, deer, boa constrictors, parrots, trogons, hummingbirds, motmots and toucans are all known to inhabit the park. Plant life includes ferns, heliconia, mountain guayabo, freijo, rosewood, and chicle and balsa trees.


Other than a visitor center near the La Fortuna Waterfall trailhead, neither entrance to Chato has facilities. A ranger station and restrooms are located at the entrance to Arenal Volcano National Park. Trail maps are available at the ranger station.

Getting There:

Car: Drive east from the international airport toward San Ramon, then north to Bajo Rodriguez. Continue through La Tigra all the way to La Fortuna. From La Fortuna, drive south on Route 702. Take a right toward the La Fortuna Waterfall and look for the signs to Cerro Chato about a mile up on the right. 

Bus: From San Jose, the bus takes about four hours to reach La Fortuna. Buses cost $5.50; 6:15 a.m., 8:40 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. depart from the intersection of Calle 12 and Avenida 7. 2255-0567.


Scientists believe that Chato first erupted during the Pleistocene period 38,000 years ago. Today, the dormant volcano is camouflaged in a thick layer of secondary rainforest brimming with moss covered trees, hanging vines and bromeliads. Its two peaks, Chatito and Espina, reach more than 3,600 feet and conceal the Chato lagoon; a mammoth water-filled crater, stretching 1,640 feet in diameter.

Cerro Chato in Pictures

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