Cerro Chato Volcano Hike

Most people who visit La Fortuna, Costa Rica go to see Arenal Volcano, the famed cone-shaped giant that put this sleepy agricultural town on the map. But there’s another intriguing sight nearby that is worth a visit. Cerro Chato is a lesser-known volcano that sits unassumingly right next to Arenal. Although Cerro Chato is dormant, it has a stunning emerald green crater lake that looks almost out of this world. The trek up to the lagoon is one of the more challenging hikes in Costa Rica, so in this post, we’ll share our experience so that you know what to expect and give you some essential tips.

See the important update about Cerro Chato’s closure in the Access section, below.


Hike to Cerro Chato Volcano | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Accessing Cerro Chato

Cerro Chato is located to the west of the town of La Fortuna. Though quite a few miles away, its green forested outline is visible from the downtown alongside Arenal Volcano. In the past, the most common access points for Cerro Chato were the Green Lagoon Lodge and Arenal Observatory. When we visited a few years ago, we opted for the Observatory because at the beginning of the hike there are fantastic views of Arenal Volcano. We also wanted to check out the Observatory’s many other trails, its hanging bridge, and small waterfall.

IMPORTANT UPDATE (November 10, 2018): In July 2017, the government closed the trails to Cerro Chato from the Green Lagoon Lodge and Arenal Observatory. Up until around September 2018, people had been still using the trail at the Observatory at their own risk, even though it was officially closed. In the past few months, however, the Observatory closed access and now has a guard stationed there, turning people away. (See recent comments below for more information.) There is another access point right before the Arenal Observatory Lodge – this is not the same as the Observatory and is run by different people. We do not know much about this trail, but have heard from a few people that the hike is more difficult and much longer. If you have done this hike, let us know how it was in the comments below. There is also still the trail from the Green Lagoon Lodge, which people still seem to be using.

The Hike

From either entry point, the hike up to the top of Cerro Chato is about 1.5-2 hours each way, depending on your fitness level. It’s a strenuous trek that is rewarding if you’re into hiking (we loved it), but is definitely not for everyone. Much of the trail is narrow and steep, with bulging tree roots to avoid and some slippery spots due to clay. The scenery is gorgeous, however, beginning in the lowland rainforest typical of the area and ascending into sometimes misty, higher altitude cloud forest.


Hike to Cerro Chato | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
The trail to Cerro Chato


Tip: If you have very young children or suffer from knee or joint problems, you might have a hard time at Cerro Chato. Be sure to bring along trekking poles or a walking stick or opt for one of the many easier hikes in the area instead. Two great choices are Arenal Volcano National Park or the slightly more difficult Arenal 1968 trails, both of which explore the base of Arenal Volcano.

Once you reach the highest point of Cerro Chato (1,140 meters or 3,740 feet), you’ll have a bit more hiking to get to the crater lake. But this is the point where you’ll want to get out your camera as you’ll have the best views of the green lagoon (see cover photo above).

At this point, you’ll have seen the crater lake from above. To see it at ground level, it is only about 20 minutes more down, but this portion is very difficult. The extremely steep, haphazard path was more like a scramble than an ordinary hike. At times, it was difficult for us to get our footing as there was no place to step and no ropes to help guide us. This forced us to maneuver with our hands and cling onto roots and trees when necessary. We did make it down but saw lots of others turn around. If you don’t make it the whole way, don’t fret. Like we said before, the view from the top is really the best vantage point to see the whole crater anyway so you’re not missing out on a lot if you stop there.

Tip: Be sure to wear clothes and footwear that you don’t mind getting dirty. The entire trail is clay and the final portion can be very muddy, especially if it has rained recently.

If you do make it to the bottom, you’ll get to enjoy the lagoon from a new perspective. Along the shore of the small beach area, you can appreciate the breadth of the lake and see the moss-covered greenery along its edges close up. If you’re in need of a cool down, you can also swim in the emerald water, though it was a bit too green for our taste.


Hike to Cerro Chato in La Fortuna | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Best Times to Visit

The best time to hike Cerro Chato is during the dry season, December to April, because this is when rain is least likely. The trail shouldn’t be too muddy this time of year and the lagoon won’t be fogged in and invisible, as it sometimes is during the rainy season.

What to Wear/Bring

  • Hiking boots or good gripping sandals like Keens
  • Trekking poles or a walking stick
  • Insect repellent
  • Plenty of water as it can be extremely hot and humid
  • Snacks


$12 from Green Lagoon Lodge
$8 from Arenal Observatory

*     *     *

If you’re looking for a challenging hike in the La Fortuna area, you won’t want to miss Cerro Chato. We’ve done a ton of trekking in Costa Rica over the past several years and Cerro Chato still ranks among our favorites. Of course, it is not an easy one, but the most rewarding hikes seldom are.

What’s the most challenging hike you’ve ever done?

If you need more ideas for activities in the La Fortuna area or are still looking for that perfect hotel, be sure to check out our comprehensive Destination post, La Fortuna: What to Expect from Costa Rica’s Most Popular Destination.


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Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve: Uncrowded Nature
Cerro Tortuguero
Cerro Tortuguero: Hike and Viewpoint
Cafe Monteverde Tour
Café Monteverde Coffee Tour: A Lesson in Sustainability


  1. What’s the most challenging hike you’ve ever done? Mt. Timpanogas in Utah. Worth the effort, though. Looking forward to doing this one.

    1. Hi Trent, The most difficult hike we’ve ever done was Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. We started first thing in the morning and didn’t get back down to the base until it was almost dark. One of our friends hurt his leg, which didn’t help, but we all managed to make it down safely. Tough but rewarding!

  2. Would I need a guide for this hike? My wife and I are somewhat experienced hikers, but not experts. We are both relatively fit.

    1. Hi Matthew, It is a tough hike but you definitely don’t need a guide. The trail is well marked and if you access it from the Arenal Observatory, they will give you a trail map.

  3. Hey guys,

    Do you think it is feasible to do cerro chato and rio celeste in a single day?

    Otherwise which one is the best in your opinion? I love challenging hikes but rio celeste also looks very different from anything else!!

    1. Hi Carl, Unfortunately that wouldn’t be feasible because of drive time. Cerró Chato is a tougher hike, but in terms of wow factor, definitely Rio Celeste. Rio Celeste is a little challenging too so you would get some of that. Not sure when you’re coming but if it’s during the rainy season, don’t go to Rio Celeste if it has rained recently because the waterfall won’t be as blue . Hope that helps you decide. Both are great hikes so you can’t really go wrong!

  4. Hey guys,

    We are planning our trip to cerro chato now. We are staying in a hostel in la fortuna and we are not sure if we want to start at the observatory or at the green lagoon.
    Do you know if it is possible to get with public transport from la fortuna to the observatory? If we enter the park on observatory and leave at green lagoon do we have to pay both entrance?
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Franzi, You can take the bus from the station in downtown La Fortuna and get dropped off at the road that leads to the Observatory, but it is too long of a walk from there. A while back we did this and walked to the national park entrance. That was fine but the Observatory is a lot farther. Green Lagoon would be a much cheaper cab ride if you’re staying in downtown.

      I don’t think you’d have to pay at the Green Lagoon side if you entered one way and exited the other. Hope that helps. Enjoy the hike!

      1. We are here in CR right now. Just hiked Cerro Chato yesterday. We started at the Green Lagoon and they said that if you continue to the Observatory side that is another fee.

  5. Just curious… we’re planning on doing this hike in March…Can you still see La Fortuna waterfall at and take a dip in it at the end of the hike if you take the Arenal Observatory Lodge route? And how far is the waterfall from the top roughly when taking this route?

    Thanks in advance 🙂

    1. Hi Logan, La Fortuna Waterfall is a decent hike away from Cerro Chato, at least if you access it from the Observatory. I went back through our photos from the hike and we have a picture of a sign at the top where the crater lake is that says “La Fortuna Waterfall – 4 hours.” If you access the crater from Green Lagoon Lodge on the other side, the waterfall is closer, though. If you look at Google Maps (link here), it will make sense. Zoom in to see Green Lagoon Lodge and ignore the driving directions. You can see part of the trail that goes from the Observatory to Cerro Chato to the lodge and waterfall.

  6. We talked to people at the Observatory lodge.. We wanted to do the harder hike, and end at the waterfall as the reward, so we’re going to enter from the Observatory. I hope it isn’t actually 4 hours back down at a decent pace. Either way we would have to go back down that way even if we were to enter through the Green Lagoon Lodge…. wish us luck! Thanks for the reply 🙂

  7. I hiked Cerro Chato from the Green Lagoon Resort side yesterday. Challenging but rewarding indeed! I waffled about ascending into the caldera as the way there was about my maximum level effort. I’m glad I hiked down and took a dip. It took us about 15 minutes to the Green Lagoon and almost a half hour back up. Very steep but only a few places where I needed to physically haul my body up. Thank you for your description and insights!

  8. A travel agent recently told me that Cerro Chato was recently closed for tour guides & tour companies to enter; is that correct? They said the park was still open to hike in a private group, but no guides would go up the mountain with you. Any advice on what to do if it is in fact closed?

    1. Hi Kevin, That is basically true. Here’s a little more explanation. A few weeks ago the Environmental Ministry closed access to Cerro Chato because people were illegally using the trail to access the crater of Arenal Volcano, which is prohibited. We are actually staying at the Arenal Observatory right now (one of the access points for Cerro Chato), and they told us that they have a sign at the trail head saying that access is prohibited and if you go, it is at your own risk. But they did say that people are still going. So technically you are not supposed to, which is why a guide won’t take you, but people are still going by themselves. At least at this point, the trail is still in good enough condition to hike it yourself. Not sure if the trail stays closed, if they will continue maintaining it. This is all subject to change as the government could reopen access again. Hope that clears things up.

  9. Hi,

    Do you know if this trail has reopened? I’m going to be in Arenal at the end of august and am hoping to do this hike!

    1. Hi Michael, The trails to Cerro Chato are officially closed and we don’t think the government has any intention of reopening them anytime soon. We were told the reason they were closed is because people were using them to illegally hike to the summit of Arenal Volcano. But, people are still doing this hike (Cerro Chato) every day. You can see it on Trip Advisor. The Arenal Observatory has signs up saying it is closed, but we haven’t heard of anyone being there to stop you. There’s also another trail right before you get to the Observatory. We don’t know much about this one and if it is supposedly a legal access point, but it looked busy when we stayed at the Observatory last April. So your answer is, basically, if you ask someone (like a hotel) if it is closed, they will tell you yes, but people are still doing the hike.

        1. Price for the Cerro chato hike was $10 a person through the observatory lodge. Not closed and definitely worth it. It took us 7 hours to go there and back. Granted we stopped to look at some monkeys, rested and waddled in the lagoon, and took breaks throughout. Definitely worth it.

          1. Hi Abby, Thanks for sharing your experience. We’re curious about which entry point you used. Did you go to the place right before the Arenal Observatory Lodge maybe? They try to make themselves look like Observatory but it is a different trail. Just wondering because the hike is about 1.5-2 hrs each way from the Observatory, and even stopping a lot I don’t think it would take 7 hours. To get to Arenal Observatory Lodge, you have to stop at a guarded gate and then you drive a bit before you get to the parking area. The other place is right before that gate and the parking lot is right off the main road.

  10. Wow! Did not know that, wish we had known. We started from the trail right before the gate to the observatory lodge. However, it was still an awesome hike and a great experience. If the observatory lodge trail is closed I would recommend the trail that starts before entering the gate. But be prepared with food and water!

  11. Great article! I climbed Cerro Chato the first time I visited Costa Rica and it was no joke, lol. I’m so glad I finished the hike though because I was so tempted to turn around. Towards the end, I was basically crawling.

  12. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    We had used you site for months before our trip, but hadn’t seen the bit about Cerro Chato being closed. We did head out to the observatory and a man with signs that says “Cerro Chato Hike” flags you down. We didn’t realize that this was not a part of the observatory. The hike was VERY difficult and we are athletic people. It took us 5.5 hours; 3 hours up and 2.5 down. According to my fitness tracker it was a total of 7 miles, 1880 feet of elevation and 40% grade at times. We loved the challenge and how beautiful it was but it was not well marked at portions of the hike. The lagoon was beautiful, but freezing. The last hour of our hike was in the rain and we both had a substantial slip and fall. We were both so glad we pushed ourselves to do this, as it was the hardest hike we’ve ever done. It is NOT for people who are out of shape!

    1. Hi Danielle, Thanks so much for the detailed report of the hike from the new entrance to Cerro Chato. We haven’t tried this trail ourselves so it is very helpful and will benefit a lot of people. Definitely sounds like people shouldn’t try it unless they are in very good shape- yikes! It’s too bad that the people that run it try to make it seem like they are part of the Observatory; we have had more than one person tell us that.

  13. Today we went up starting from the Green Lagoon. It took us 5 hours to get up and down again. We needed to pass three barbed wire fences, one at the top and two at the bottom, which wasn’t too much of a problem. The trail is not well maintained and was rather difficult to pass, but definately doable if you take your time. We also encountered some other hikers there.

  14. We are going to the Observatory in mid dec and would like to do this hike with our children ages 13 and 9. We hike a lot but don’t want to do the 7 hour route. Any updates? 5 hours is fine.

    1. Hi Carolyn, We haven’t heard anything recently about conditions using the trail on the Observatory’s property. But, if you look at TripAdvisor, there have been a few reviews lately. See the ones from November 30, Sept. 15, and August 31, 2017. Seems that people are still using the trail and it continues to be a hard hard, but doable, hike. Please let us know how it is if your family tries it.

  15. Sorry Jen and Matt, but after reading all the posts, I’m a bit confused. Can you still do the hike from the East / La Fortuna Waterfall side? My hotel is on that side and just a short cab ride. I’m an avid, fit hiker – can you let me know about what you (or others) might know about if it’s permitted now (December 2017), and what you know about distance & challenge from both sides? I would appreciate any info you or others might provide. Thank you!

    1. Hi Joe, Based on what Mike said on November 8, 2017, above, the trail from the Green Lagoon Lodge near the waterfall is officially closed but people are still using it. The only trail that we know of that is officially open is the one before the Arenal Observatory Lodge that is very long and difficult (the one where the guy flags you down).

  16. Thanks very much for your reply. I will be in CR next week (Dec 20-27) and want to hike the more challenging/harder of the two routes. I thought that was from the east on the waterfall side, but I guess from what you’re telling me, the more difficult hike is from the west / observatory side – is this correct? Sorry, but I am just trying to clarify.

    I really appreciate your support and expertise.

    1. There are 3 options for trails to Cerro Chato: Green Lagoon Lodge and the Observatory are officially closed but people are still hiking them. These are fairly difficult. The only trail that is legally open right now is the new one before you get to the Observatory Lodge- this is the most difficult according to what people have told us.

  17. Hi Matt and Jenn. Good feedback on the Chato Trail. Have hiked several places in the world and in the area to hike Chato . However , sounds like things could be a bit risky given that it does not appear this trail is maintained anymore. Was looking forward to it but given the situation, I think I will pass on it. Terry from Calgary, Canada

  18. Hello! Just recently did this hike a few days ago and it was challenging, definitely a few spots where you have to physically pull yourself up. Still feeling sore lol. The mud was manageable but I did lose my sneaker to it. We were laughing and having a good time. Definitely not for the faint of heart! The view was amazing and the lake was cold but felt awesome after the hike. We went in through the observatory and they told us the trail was closed but said that we could still do it at our own risk. Took us about 5 hours. We hung out at the lake for quite awhile.

  19. My fiancé and I hiked Cero Chato yesterday from the point right near the observatory lodge. As some others mentioned there is a station there where they charge you $10, give you a map, some general direction, and a place to park. Overall we would consider it a fairly rigorous hike, but nothing that a frequent hiker couldn’t handle. We started early and on the way down passed many people doing the same thing, and when we got to the bottom there were plenty of cars in the lot so it definitely does not appear to be breaking any rules to do the hike. The only wildcard we faced was that it has been a bit on the rainy side here so it was muddy, in some parts very much so. Despite the conditions, it was our favorite hike in the area.

  20. I did this hike exactly one month ago, and it was so much fun! We went through the Observatory Lodge, and parked by the Green Gate, and then followed the trails that led to the one going up Cerro Chato. The hike up was tricky where the rain had washed away most of the soil, so we had to climb up roots, rocks, etc. but I would not say that it is unreasonably difficult. When we got to the top we were even greeted with a White Faced Coati! We did not go down to the lake due to time, but I heard that the path to the left is the worst of the two. Lastly, be wary of colonies of ants on the trail, they bite!

  21. I am flying from PJ to SJO – and very disappointed I won’t make a tour bus to Tabacon Hot Springs and Arenal Volcano – I miss it by 30 minutes 🙁
    This is my last day in Costa Rica and I really was hoping to go to those destinations. Would you recommend a solo trip – by public bus? Is that possible?

    1. Hi Heidi, Not sure how much time you have but it’s a half day trip from San Jose to La Fortuna by public bus so you would want to spend at least two nights there. Otherwise a solo trip would be fine- the public buses are safe. Just be sure to keep an eye on your belongings and don’t put valuables in your luggage or in the compartment above the seats. Taking a shared shuttle would speed things up a little but you would still want a couple of nights there.

  22. Is the trail closed because of the recent harsh rainy season? Or, is there and environmental issue. I will not do the hike if due to damage to the environment or ecosystem.

    1. Hi Gary, The government closed the trail because people were using it to access the crater of Arenal Volcano, which is illegal. It doesn’t have anything to do with trail conditions or environmental damage.

  23. My husband and I hiked up Cerro Chato and down into the lake in Dec of 2014. We are not certain which rout we took, as it was not our original plan. We went to see the wterfalls and hanging bridges, then on a whim decided to do the valcano. There was a trail head that said the Laguna lake was 1540 meters away… this was bef we ever headed into the trail. We encountered several people that turned around before getting to the peak… saying it was just too much. It was interesting as we used roots and branches, and foot and hand holds simply dug out of the mud. We were not true hikers prior to this hike. It was definitely a challenge, and i can see why people would turn back… you have no idea how much farther you have to go as there are no markers (in the route we took). The complete trek took several hours for us.
    When it became tough or we began to wonder if it was worth it, we would remind ourselves that this was a once in a lifetime experience. Im so glad we did that, and completed the hike, all the way did wn into the water. We were 44 and 52 years old at the time… and now that it has been closed, it truly was a one time opportunity.

  24. I am trying to decide between doing the Cerro Chato hike from the Green Lagoon Lodge or the Arenal Observatory. We are hoping to have some nice views of Arenal, as we haven’t planned any other activities near it, so it seems the observatory side might be better. Do you know if you can still have some nice views of Arenal if you go up at the Green Lagoon Lodge side? Time and difficulty is somewhat of a factor, but we are up for the challenge for sure! We are staying fairly close to the La Fortuna waterfall, and renting a car, so it’s hard to imagine hiking up one side and down the other in terms of transportation logistics (which would be ideal it seems). We also definitely want to swim in the Lagoon!

    1. Hi Lara, We have not done the hike from the Green Lagoon Lodge side so aren’t exactly sure about the views. That general area is close to Arenal though. The Observatory has really great views of it too on the walk from the parking area to the trailhead.

  25. My friend and I went on March 2017 before we read this. Before the entrance to the observatory, a sign son the left aid Cherro Chato tral to Adrenal Lake. We had to pay for parking and the guy gave us a map. I think the trail also called Toucans Trail. (I took a pic with that trail map board). It was a challenging hike but we love it. Rain and muddy, sunshine, birds, plants, view, and all the tropical jungle feeling.. We went into the lake to cool off. We hike out thru sunset and dark. The guy in the parking hike in with lanttern to look for hikers hasn’t return to their cars.

  26. I just went yesterday starting at Sendero los Tucanes (just before the observatory gate).

    Note that the reception will not let you start the trip late in the day as they will not be responsible for rescues even if you have a headlamp. Also, overcast skies and tree cover make things much darker.

    After convincing the guard I would be back in time I did the climb up to the rim and down to the lake. There was poor visibility of Arenal but you are noticeably closer. It had recent rained but the trails were in good shape.

    There is a path leading clockwise on the rim to the Observatory and I descended this route. This is not maintained and there are many trees down but the path is easy to follow if slow and poorly drained. On the south rim there are two paths down. The right goes to the lake, the left down.

    I would not descend this way again as the path really does show rampant erosion. I tried to go as gently as I could. There are two barbed fences to pass to exit both with signage saying the way is forbidden – but only facing those coming up.

    I then ran back through the observatory and through the guarded gate (I was a guest) to the start.

    Trip time running was about 2:20 with just 2 missed turns ?
    I would expect the average hike to take 5-6 hours.

  27. Hey guys,
    your blog has been really helpful. Thank you for all the great infos and details. We did the Cerro Chato hike yesterday from Green Lagoon Lodge. It was very sunny so we took 2L of water each with us and a little snack. Parked at the car park of said lodge and paid 10$ at the reception there (you officially pay to hike the “Fortuna Observatory Hike”). Ask for some directions there, but the path is quite easy to find, there are also some orange arrows at some point of the way. The hike up took us pretty much exactly 2 hours. The first half hour was an easy walk and more sunny, then you get into the jungle and it gets pretty steep and ditchy/muddy. You gotta climb all sorts of roots, clay mounds and go though little clay stone canyons, always trying to find the easiest way up and the least slippery. I recommend finding a walking stick for help. Prepare to get dirty anyway and sweat a lot. 🙂 Its a great, adventurous route though, jungle is beautiful, with many mossy green treas and funny sounding birds.
    At the top we took the path to the right and then took the left way down to the lagoon which looks absolutely fabulous from atop glistening through the jungle trees (its very thick jungle up there, I didn’t expect that). You can’t really call the path to the lagoon a path. Its a series of roots, mounds, trees and slippery slopes, VERY steep and even harder than the last half hour to the top. But its doable. And a little thrilling. The emerald lagoon gives you enough motivation though. Down to the lagoon took us about 20min. We spent about an hour at that little shore there, took a refreshing swim and had a snack (please don’t leave your rubbish there like some others, even if it’s only an orange/banana peel).
    The way back was about the same in time. We met a few people but it’s not crowded. You pass a few barbwire fences on your way up saying its forbidden to trespass. Obviously everyone ignores that and walks around them. But of course, as the path is closed now nobody maintains it.
    By the way, on a clear day you can see the Volcano Arenal a few times pretty well.

    1. Hi Carolin, Thanks for the detailed report. We haven’t heard anything about the trail from the Green Lagoon Lodge side in a while. Glad you enjoyed it and awesome that you had a clear day to see the crater and Arenal Volcano!

  28. Hi – Have you heard any updates just recently about access points? I will be in the area next Thursday (June 14) and plan to hike Cerro that weekend! Was thinking going to the Observatory to also check out the hanging bridges and waterfall, but want to access from the best point. Advice/feedback is so greatly appreciated!! -Sam

    1. Hi Sam, Sorry we are just getting to your comment. I hope you were able to access Cerro Chato. We haven’t heard anything about it lately. Please let us know how it went if you can. Thanks!

  29. I hiked Cerro Chato this past May. I accessed it through the Green Lagoon Lodge. It cost $10. They do not provide any maps and simply pointed and told me to walk that direction… I would highly recommend downloading the free maps.me app. It has the route from both the Observatory and Green Lagoon Lodge. The initial path from the Green Lagoon Lodge is not well marked. I definitely used the app to make sure I was going the right way. Once you enter the jungle there is only one path. You do have to climb past some fences that say that the path is closed. Once you are in the jungle, the path is pretty steep. I am in pretty good shape and made it from the Lodge to the top in about an hour. Thankfully, I hiked it on a clear day, but I could see that it would be pretty slippery and muddy if it was raining. Once at the top, the path down to the Lake was not well marked. There are two paths down to separate clearings. I did have to use the app to help me find the path down. I then spent about an hour swimming in the lake. It was absolutely beautiful! There are two paths from one side of the crater to the other. These paths connect the trail from the Green Lagoon Lodge and the trail to the Observatory. I hiked the path (only found this trail because it was on the app) along the water from the area I swam at to the other swimming area and swam there a bit more. I then hiked back out of the lake to the top of the crater. From there, I hiked down the other path back to the Observatory and met my friends who did not want to do the hike. Once out of the jungle, I did use the app to make sure I was walking in the correct direction back to the Observatory. There are some great views of Arenal from the Observatory trail. Once on Observatory property, the signs for the Cerro Chato trail are all blacked out. It took me about an hour to hike back to the Observatory from the top. If you are in good shape, I would highly recommend doing this hike. It was most definitely the absolute highlight of my trip to Costa Rica.

  30. We hicked the cerro chato few days ago. We were a bit stressed/nervous with all the signs and the 3 barb wire fences… but this is our first time in Costa Rica and who knows if we will ever come back, so we decided to give it a try. (the locals told us they still hike it regularly). You definitely need good hicking boots as it is quite slippery even when it’s not raining. The trails are obviously not maintained… and you need to use your hands frequently. The trail was blocked at one point (by a tree that fell & some foliage). We just cleared it a little, and managed to continue. The view at the top of the emeraude/green lake is very nice. We were pretty happy with our hike.

  31. My son and I hiked Cerro Chato on August 9th. We used the trail from the Observatory (USD $10 fee per hiker) and were given a map. The hike took us two hours up and two down (four hours total) due to slippery conditions (constant rain) and fog. Unfortunately, the fog prevented us from seeing Arenal and the lake from the top of the crater, but once we swam out into the lake and looked back toward shore, the green color of the water became apparent. We passed two other groups, one family and a group of friends, also hiking Cerro Chato that day. The hike was enjoyable and combined a cool ‘bosque primario’ experience with a decent workout. The only drawback was the rain and fog, but that’s the rainy season in Costa Rica. We would definitely recommend the hike – it was one of the best things we did in Costa Rica!

    1. Hi Rob,

      My girlfriend and I are hoping to do this hike in December. Can you confirm if you and your so did this from the ‘officially closed’ trail at the Observatory or the supposedly longer one that starts just before it?

  32. My girlfriend and I are in Costa Rica in December and are looking to do this hike. Has anyone any updates on the closures or current states of the trails? If they’re still officially ‘closed’ when we go, I think we’ll just take our chances and stick to the original and best trail from Arenal Observatory. Is there parking there?

    1. Hi Craig – We hiked from the Observatory without any issues. There is parking available and the guys in the booth can answer any questions you might have. Enjoy!

  33. Arenal Observatory Lodge is making visitors and guest sign a waiver where you have to acknowledge the illegality of hiking up Cerro Chato. A lot of people think that the little hut by the entrance is part of the observatory and it is not. The staff of Arenal Observatory Lodge will not give you any information about the trail. They now have a guard posted at their property line turning people back. Going up cerro chato or coming down. I would not recommend using the Arenal Observatory Lodge trails for this reason.

  34. I recently tried to go up Cerro Chato through Arenal Observatory Lodge at the gate we had to sign a waiver acknowledging Cerro Chato is illegal to hike. They have two barb wires at the base of Cerro Chato we named to get around then when we got further up they had another barb wire fence and a guard that made us turn around. It seems like there will be no more access through Arenal Observatory Lodge

  35. Hi!
    My boyfriend and I hiked cerro chato on Dec 3,2018. Started from Green Lagoon (as we were worried about recent comments of the guard turning people away at the observatory starting point). We paid at the reception and they gave us wrist bands and they pointed us in the right direction (which is definitely a rip off ). You start by following orange markers up a fairly steep service road for about 20-25 minutes ( you get a nice view of the volcano here if it’s a clear day). Then you enter the forest and begin the ascent up (very steep, lots of step ups, and you’re going over big tree roots). Shortly after you enter the forest, you’ll come to the barbed wire fence but it’s easy to walk around. It took us an hour and a half to to the top with minimal breaks (we are pretty avid hikers), but we found this hike to be a good challenge! If it had been raining I can see this hike taking much longer with all of the mud/being slippery. Once at the top go right, and then there’s a little shoot downwards to the left to take you to the lake. The climb down to the lake wasn’t a difficult as we’d thought it would be (took about 15 mins to get down) but just take your time! Quick swim in the lake then start your return back the same way! I would rate the hike as difficult, and it definitely requires some upper body strength to pull yourself up at points.
    Hydrate hydrate hydrate before going!!!

    1. Hello! Jack or Jenn and Matt any updates on Green Lagoon entrance? We will be there in the next few days and were hoping to do this hike. Thanks for any updates!

      1. Yes it is still possible to do if you’re persistent. I did it last week. If you really want to do it give yourself a couple days to try. The guards at the green lagoon parking lot will tell you the trail is closed and it’s illegal and blah blah. Just tell them you want to hike the observatory trail. One of the guys at the green lagoon reception knows what’s up and will tell you if there are rangers on the mountain and if you can climb cerro chato or not. we got turned back the first time we tried to hike it but the guy told us to come back the next day and we were able to go. I wrote more about it in blog if you want more info: https://whereintheworldiswelter.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/day-3-cerro-chato-hanging-bridges-and-monteverde/

  36. We returned yesterday from La Fortuna and spent two nights at Green Lagoon. You can access Cerro Chato from the property. We were given wristbands so had access, not sure if that would be the case if you didn’t have a room there. But we attempted to hike Cerro Chato at the beginning of the trip prior to checking into Green Lagoon so went from Arenal Volcana Park entrance (not via the Observatory Lounge but a different ranger just to the left of entrance to Observatory Lounge). We were told a ranger may stop us from getting to the top but we didn’t encounter anyone. We were also told to avoid the hike if you have joint or knee problems as there is a lot of climbing involved. We were surprised how hard the hike was and are relatively fit people. We got two hours up there and started to get a bit unsure of how much longer was to go and how much more we could handle. Parts of the trial were vertical ups and downs hanging onto tree roots and hoping for the best! We loved it but turned back and didn’t see the lake. Trouble for us was not knowing how much longer was to go or any signpost etc. It was an amazing hike, beautiful scenery and I think we were pretty close to the top, maybe another half an hour but fear got the better of me as we had already had a couple of slips/falls etc. There was yellow caution tape which had been torn down and was just hanging off a couple of tree branches so people had obviously ignored it/tore it and carried on.

    We have to go to back and get to the top next time we visit. A brilliant hike even though we didn’t see the lagoon.

    Thanks for all the suggestions on your website. We referred to it a lot while planning our trip.

  37. Hi! My sister and I just did el senderos de los toucanes 3 days ago (29 january 2019). So its the most difficult trail to go to the Cerro chato. Before the observatory lodge. It took us 5h good hours to do it. And it was really really difficult!!!!! Oh my god, it was unbelievable! Like its not the path im use to ?. Im proud to have done it. Not sure i would recommend it if you are not well prepared. We were prepared but not mentally.

  38. We spent Jan 21-24 at the Arenal Oservatory Lodge and tried to get up to Cerro Chato. First, you should know that all the signs are down, so we needed to figure out where the trailhead was. The double barbed-wire fences tipped us off and we made a try for it. Cleared the fences without any bloodshed and thought we were home-free. But as others have found, half-way up the mountain there’s another guard-shack that is surprisingly manned. We were shocked, but got turned around.

  39. Completed Cerro Chato on February 20th with no issues. Just asked the front desk to hike Cerro Chato and then paid $15/person. Left at 8 am, ran into about 12 other hikers. It was very muddy and lots of climbing and scrambling up. Probably the most fun hikes I have ever gone on and a very rewarding view. It was too cloudy to see Arenal but the clouds were just rolling over the lake and it was beautiful.

    The first 0.75 miles is an easy but a semi-steep hot/sunny road to the observatory. Then you start to get in the cooler/shaded jungle and hike/climb 1.4 miles up to the rim, and then the hardest part was descending the about 0.35 miles from the rim to the crater lake – very steep and slippery.

    It’s relatively short, about 2.47 miles from Green Lagoon lodge to the edge of the lake (per my apple watch) so about 5 miles total. It took us a total of 2 hours and 39 minutes to hike from Green Lagoon lodge and back not including time spent at the lake. 30 to 40 minutes at the lake swimming and hanging out should be enough. My girlfriend and I are very active and hike regularly. If you are pretty fit and are experienced hiking it should take you just under 3 hours of hiking. Just stating this since we were expecting to take about 5 hours to hike.

    – Make sure to have good tread on you hiking shoes. Majority of the hike is very muddy and slippery.
    – Bring about 2 liters of water per person if not more if you typically need it.
    – If you have knee problems I do not recommend you do this hike. The whole hike is steep and you need knee mobility/stabilization. This would be a terrible hike to get hurt on due to the limited accessibility.

    1. Hi I am in la fortuna now can I check when u say front desk do u mean of the observation lodge? And if so is the $15 on top of the $18 park entry fee? I have been looking at the option of hiking from la fortuna waterfall and was wondering if this is also possible as there are routes showing but areas look greyed out and i am not sure if this is because of private land or trail closures that would cause issues with guards or barbed wire as suggested in the post before yours, any further info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Cat

      1. The front desk at Green Lagoon Lodge. The road entrance to Green Lagoon Lodge is on the right when entering the La Fortuna waterfall parking lot up a hill, the road is a little rough with some potholes. The green lagoon lodge is about 200m back from the La Fortuna waterfall parking lot. The $15/person charge to hike Cerro Chato is separate than the other parks since you are hiking through green lagoon land.

  40. Patrick summarised the walk and I would agree this walk is one for more experienced hikers. An easier descent to the lake can be found by turning right at the top and following a distinct path along the rim. After approximately 15 mins, there is an obvious path on the left which descends relatively easily to the lake. The front desk reception was most helpful.

  41. Went have just done the Cerro Chato hike. We started from the Green Lagoon Lodge , which is on a bumpy road just before the La Fortuna waterfall entrance on the right.
    You go into reception and pay $10, get a wristband for the park and sign yourself into the book. You then follow orange arrows along a road until it ascends passed the Green Lagoon Observatory and into the forest.
    Easy trail to follow, lots of different routes around trees. Steep but good footholds in the clay and lots of roots to clamber on. Took us about an hour and 15 mins to get to the top of the rim. Another 15 down to crater lagoon which is quite steep and you need to watch your footing. We then swam and walked along the perimeter of the crater to another observation deck to the left as you first get to the top of the trail before you descend to the lake.
    Unlike many other out and back trails it was super fun to hike down, using your arms to bound and jump down the steep roots and footholds, only took an hour to race down.
    We are experienced hikers who live in British Columbia so used to hiking for long hours into Alpine.
    All you need to do for this hike is to take your time, go slow and watch your footing, but it’s not too steep, quite short, and really worth it!

  42. 11/21/19, my wife and I will be visiting Costa Rica for the first time in January. We are from upstate NY and love an adventure. Is the Cerra Chato hike open or closed. There seem to be mixed answers. If it is open where is the best starting location and if it’s closed is there an alternate hike you would recommend?

    1. Hi John, As far as we know, access is still closed from Arenal Observatory but you can go from Green Lagoon Lodge (see recent comment in late October) and the private trail that starts before the entrance to the Observatory is still open.

      1. Update, January 5, 2020. We checked into the Green Lagoon Lodge and inquired at the front desk about the Chato hike, his response yes and no there are no guarantees. This left us a bit confused but he explained that half the hike is on the Green Lagoon Property and the other half is on “state land”. There is the possibility that we would run into Forrest Rangers that would turn us around. As others on this thread have explained, the hike was as expected. It was challenging, muddy and slippery. It is easy to follow. We made it to the top, then hiked down into the crater. It was very cloudy, we hung out for about 15-20 minutes and the clouds were not lifting so we headed back up to the rim and down the volcano. It took us about 3hours round trip. We saw others on both the ascent as well as the descent that had successfully reached the crater. It was a great activity. There were outside showers at the Lodge that we were able to use, we also had lunch in their cafe. Thanks to Jenn and Matt and everyone that contributed to these posts for all the great information.

  43. For those of you, who were wondering if the trail was closed, it is not. If you park at green lagoon, you can start the trail normally. Later You will pass a sign which says it’s forbidden, but there are no rangers sending you back.
    We needed 1.5-2h up, another 15 min to get to the lake (which was the most challenging part) and another 1.5 hours down.
    We are no experienced hikers and we didn’t have any hiking boots or equipment. Since it’s more like a „climb“ up you don’t really need big boots. We loved it and totally recommend it, even though you’re not super experienced 🙂

  44. Is the Green Lagoon Trail Still an option? I am going to CR in late December 2021 and would love to do this hike.

      1. Hi zack,

        We did it today (18th of sept.2021) – its easily doable through green lagoon. Just drive there, tell the guy at the entrance gate, pay 12 usd per person and he will explain to you, how to get to the end of their property and that the official path is closed and they dont take responsibility of anything beyond their property. The hike up took us 2:15h (you can find the trail on the maps.me app btw,, average fitness level,both 30. It can be quite slippery, but its totally worth it! Hopethis helps and all the best!

    1. Hi zack,

      We did it today (18th of sept.2021) – its easily doable through green lagoon. Just drive there, tell the guy at the entrance gate, pay 12 usd per person and he will explain to you, how to get to the end of their property and that the official path is closed and they dont take responsibility of anything beyond their property. The hike up took us 2:15h (you can find the trail on the maps.me app btw,, average fitness level,both 30. It can be quite slippery, but its totally worth it! Hopethis helps and all the best!

  45. We just finished it today, December 22nd. Epic hike, entrance through green lagoon is open. Leave early, ideally before 10 am. We did the hike twice because the first day we left just before 1:00pm and had to turn back 3/4 up because we were afraid to descend in the dark. Once in a lifetime experience.

    1. Hi, do you recommend going to the left or right at the fork in the trail to go down to the lagoon? I’ve read one is more difficult than the other but not clear which one. Thanks!

  46. Green Lagoon still open. Did this solo December 22 2022, $15 entry.
    43 year old regular hiker / climber. Took 1h30m to get to the lake. Route down to the water edge is very steep, easier on the way back up – didn’t see an alternative way down.

    Was wet and slippery, came back caked in clay.

    Thanks to all for guidance.

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