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       cerro chato crater lake
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Cerro Chato Hike

Cerro Chato Hike

Destination: Arenal


  • Challenging hike
  • Amazing lagoon at the top
  • Visit the La Fortuna Waterfall
  • Lunch and transportation included


  • Location : Arenal
  • Hours : 7:30 a.m. daily
  • Time Length : Half-day
  • Price : $93 per person, with lunch

On a clear day hikers can relax on the banks of Cerro Chato's emerald green lagoon. Wooden benches offer seats in the shade under the rainforest canopy looking out 1,600 feet across the dormant volcano's main crater. The air is crisp and refreshing. Good for catching your breath after a challenging 3,700-foot hike up the slopes of Cerro Chato.

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After an intense climb to the pinnacle of Cerro Chato, descend 500 steps to the swirling cerulean pool of the La Fortuna Waterfall and cool off in the nearby stream – so don't forget your swimsuit.

The Ascent

The hike starts at the base of Cerro Chato; an ancient volcano that last erupted about 38,000 years ago and sits beside the towering Arenal Volcano. With more forest and less volcanic rocks than Arenal, the trail to the volcano's main crater takes hikers through verdant green pastures and misty cloud forest.

Curtains of fog often shroud the trail's edges. Ghostly, leafless trees overgrown with moss and bromeliads creep out of the haze as a grassy ridge extends upward into the rainforest.  Sturdy tree trunks layered with thick, green foliage emerge from the fog like some ancient, magical forest in a children's fantasy. All those days spent playing in the mud as a child come back as you climb the stairs carved from exposed roots.

It's a mile from the forest to the lagoon. Winding upward, the trail's natural staircase makes the hiking an exciting challenge. Soon enough though, you reach the view point looking out onto the green lagoon. On a clear day, it’s a look into a land before time and technology filled with lush green ferns, towering rainforest trees and a pristine green pool, but on foggy days it's like staring into a dreamscape of your own imagination.

Hike down into the central crater and it's just a little farther to the lagoon. Water calmly laps against the shore as you set down your things on the nearby benches. Guides take out a bag of fruit and pass it around. Standing inside the main crater of Cerro Chato everything is so vibrant, so brilliant and vivid; it's easy to forget that the world around you is more than a childhood daydream.

The Descent

The hike down the mountain passes in a blur of steps, leaps and maybe a little bit of frolicking as you reach the trail's entrance. From the base of the extinct volcano, you'll take a short drive to the La Fortuna Waterfall. Enjoy a lunch of sandwiches and drinks outside the waterfall's entrance and prepare for another challenging staircase.

This time you'll hike down first. Descend a series of 500 steps winding down a cliff face past the buttresses of massive trees.  Mist fills the air as you reach the bottom while the roar of the falls echoes off the walls of the surrounding gorge. The waterfall is a powerful 230-foot cascade showering thousands of gallons per minute down from the precipice above.  At its base, a tumultuous pool rages and froths pouring out sterling blue water into the calm stream below.

Take the trail to your left and you'll find the perfect place to hang your belongings while you enjoy wading through the shallow stream. After cooling off, it's time for the final ascent where transportation awaits to take you back to your hotel.

Departure & Return

  • Departure point : Tour departs from all major hotels in San Jose and La Fortuna
  • Departure time : Hotel pickup is between 20 and 50 minutes before tour start time depending on hotel location. In San Jose pick up is three hours before tour start time.
  • Return details : Tour returns to original departure point between three and four hours after tour start time. For San Jose, the return is expected to be at 9 p.m.

Cerro Chato Hike in Pictures

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