Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cerro Chato and La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Cerro Chato
Dormant volcano near the district of La Fortuna (Costa Rica, South America)
Terrain: 3,742 ft steeply uphill with scrambling required
Duration: 4-6 hours (depending on torrential downpour)
Price: $10 (pay at the Green Lagoon)

Hiking Cerro Chato is not for the faint of heart nor the easily winded. It is an exhausting uphill climb often involving hands and feet (think a literal jungle gym). If you start in the nearby district of La Fortuna and your budget excludes unnecessary taxis you tack on an additional uphill climb to get to the ranger station before even beginning the hike. Bring lots of water and some trail bars. I guarantee you will get hungry, thirsty, and very tired before making it back downhill. Trail maps are available at the ranger station at the entrance to the park, but they sell tickets to the waterfalls alone. For the Cerro Chato trail entrance walk up the steep driveway that you first passed on your right on the way to the ranger station. The Green Lagoon Lodge is at the top of the driveway which is where you will sign-in and pay the entrance fee. Most hotels and tour companies will convince you that you need a tour package or guide, but honestly there is only one way up the mountain and the path is rather obvious thanks to frequently dispersed signs.

Though this strenuous hike is rewarded with the potential view of crater (1,600 ft wide and filled with a lagoon) you can only see said-lagoon on clear days which are few and far between around La Fortuna (thanks to the nearby cloud forest, Monteverde). But hey, if it weren't for the rain it wouldn't be a rainforest, so quit complaining! For best views get started as early in the day as possible and visit during dry season (December-April). It rained steadily for the entire 6 hour hike when we visited in November and the lagoon was hidden under a dense blanket of fog. Once at the top of the dormant volcano there seem to be several trails leading down to the lagoon which are incredibly steep. Just remember, when hiking in a crater what goes down must come up - don't go descending any hill that is too difficult to climb back up. For some more info here is another helpful article about the Cerro Chato hike with some great photos.

Though we reached the trailhead to Cerro Chato via La Fortuna, you can access another trail up the dormant volcano through Arenal Volcano National Park near the Arenal Observatory Lodge. Check these reviews for details about the other trail.

Terrain: 1/4 mile steep downhill (with stairs)
Duration: 35-50 minutes
Price: $10 (pay at the ranger station)

The smaller waterfall in La Fortuna

The La Fortuna Waterfall
Height: 150 feet

More information from

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