Visiting the Chato Volcano
When planning your trip to one of the many volcanoes in Costa Rica, consider Cerro Chato! The Chato Volcano is actually right next to the magnificent Arenal Volcano. Most people tend to overlook it because Arenal is so popular, but if you’re an avid hiker it’s definitely worth a visit. The Chato Volcano stands at 1140 meters or (3740 feet) tall and its lagoon is roughly 500 meters wide full of the turquoise volcanic waters. The Chato Volcano is located close to La Fortuna. Before, hiking was accessible from the Arenal Observatory, however hiking access was recently closed. You can still hike the volcano from the Green Lagoon Lodge entrance. After your hike up Cerro Chato, check out the Arenal Observatory for a tour of the Arenal Volcano trails or hanging bridges!
A Brief History
According to the history books, the Chato Volcano erupted for the first time 38000 years ago, and then again 3500 years ago. This was the most significant eruption of the little volcano because it formed the now well-known La Fortuna Waterfall. The waterfall is absolutely stunning and definitely worth a visit while you’re in the area.
Hiking up to the Chato Volcano isn’t recommended for everyone. The trails are steep and although they are well-marked, there aren’t ropes or handrails to help you along the way. You will have to hike over roots and rocks at a steep incline and decline. In fact, during the descent you’ll likely have to get creative, sliding down on your butt and grabbing on to roots and rocks for support. Leaving from the Green Lagoon Lodge, the hike takes about 1.5-2 hours, depending on your fitness level. Make sure you wear shoes with good grip and clothes that can get dirty. The path is covered in clay and you’re guaranteed to leave the hike a little muddier than when you started.
The beautiful flora and fauna and view of the green lake make the hike incredibly rewarding, however, and you’ll be happy you took on the challenge. The hike starts in a lowland rainforest and transitions into a gorgeous cloud forest near the top. It’s best to hike during the dry season (December-April). During the rainy season the hike will be much more challenging and potentially dangerous. Don’t forget plenty of water, snacks and maybe a sack lunch!
The Chato Volcano is located right next to the Arenal Volcano and close to La Fortuna. There are dozens of amazing adventure tours and relaxing activities nearby that you don’t want to miss.
Go hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park and learn about lava from previous eruptions. Take a zip line tour and soar above the rain forest canopy. Navigate the trails on a horseback riding tour and learn about the surrounding flora and fauna. Kayak on the biggest lake in Costa Rica, Lake Arenal.
Don’t miss the Arenal hot springs either! One of the most relaxing and refreshing experiences in all of Central America is visiting the Arenal Volcano hot springs.You can enjoy the hot springs at places like The Springs, Tabacon, and Baldi Resort. The hot water is packed with healthy minerals and only a short walk away from your room. If you’re looking for a luxury vacation in the jungle, the hot spring resorts are the perfect place to start.
Visit during the dry season:
The dry season at the Chato Volcano is from December-April. The trails will be much easier to navigate. During the rainy months the paths become much more difficult to walk through.
Wear great hiking shoes and clothes:
Hiking the Chato Volcano is rewarding, but tough! You need great shoes and clothes that can get dirty to have a good time.
Bring lots of snacks and water:
The challenging climb is hot and long. Make sure to bring plenty of water and something to keep your energy up.
Bring hiking poles and bug spray:
It will be much easier to reach the the green lake if you have hiking polls to assist. Bug spray is also a must. You’re hiking in the jungle after all!
Take advantage of nearby tours in Arenal:
The adventure tours around the Arenal Volcano are some of the best in Costa Rica. You’ll find top-of-the-line tour operators and activities for the whole family. Don’t miss out!
Closest International Airport: Juan Santamaria (SJO)
Not only is the Chato Volcano absolutely amazing, it is also one of the most convenient places to visit in Costa Rica. The Volcano is only 2-3 hours from the airport. Many other popular destinations can be up to a five or even seven-hour drive away.
Getting to the Chato Volcano is pretty straightforward. You’ll take the Inter-American highway to La Fortuna and then make your way to the Green Lagoon Lodge from there. Some of the roads in the area are gravel, so 4-wheel drive is recommended.
Where To Stay
The Chato Volcano is located in a popular area, meaning there are plenty of lodging options for every taste. If you want to stay in a luxurious hotel, try the Baldi Hot Springs Spa & Resort. If you’re more interested in an eco-lodge, stay at the Arenal Observatory Lodge. The Observatory Lodge has several great tours available right from the hotel. The Green Lagoon Lodge is also a great option for honeymooners and eco-tourists!