Cerro Chato is a dormant volcano that lies on the southeast side of Arenal Volcano. The unique volcano now has a beautiful turquoise lake occupying the crater that is surrounded by dense forest. It's a challenging and steep hike with very rewarding views at the top - on a nice day.
How to get there?
From La Fortuna waterfall, take the road on the right side of the entrance until you reach the visitor centre. Head inside, sign-in and pay $10 for the entrance fee. They'll also give you a map of the volcano so you know where to head. There's only one way to the top, so it's quite easy to stay on the trail. The hike takes about two hours to get to the top and about 1-1.5 hours to get back down.
What was our experience?
We had limited time in Costa Rica, so we had to hike in the rain which made it more challenging. The beginning of the uphill hike isn't that bad. There aren't many obstacles to go through, so you can just enjoy the view. Once you get about 30-45 minutes in, you'll reach an area of big dirt moguls that are a bit difficult to go around. It'll come up a few times before you reach the entrance of the rainforest.
As you might have guessed, in a rainforest, it rains. So make sure you bring a rain cover for your backpack. If you look through our pictures, you'll see our makeshift one made from a garbage bag - it wasn't very effective.
The rainforest is definitely the most interesting part of the hike. You're surrounded by tropical sounds and a lush green jungle. You might even catch a view of colourful birds, monkeys or leaf-cutter ants. However, this section can be very difficult due to the mud, the humidity and the never-ending stairs. When you reach the top, you're supposed to see a view of Arenal volcano - we only saw clouds.
Now you have the option of heading back down or checking out the crater lake. If you choose to see the crater, head down the trail on your left. It's steeper and more challenging than the stairs you took to get to the top. But don't let that phase you, it's still very doable. I found the hardest part was when we had to climb a wall with the rope. I definitely wasn't expecting that.
When you get to the bottom, you'll get a view of the crater lake. Go for a swim, wash off the mud and sweat and take a nice break. In the water, there are fish that eat your dead skin, so your hike is like a muddy spa day.
Once you get back to the bottom, you can wash yourself off in the showers!