Chato Volcano (called ‘Cerro Chato’ in Spanish), is an inactive volcano that sits in the southeast side of Costa Rica’s most popular and active volcano, Arenal. Chato has a truncated volcanic cone rising to some 1,140 meters, though it hasn’t had any registered volcanic activity for the past 3500 years – about the time when Arenal was just beginning to be born.
It is believed Chato first erupted 38,000 years ago. One of its lava flows is now the route to La Fortuna Waterfall. The hill has two peaks, named Chatito and Espina, and a gigantic water-filled crater, the Mount Chato Lagoon.
Flora and Fauna
Cerro Chato, along with the surrounding Arenal Volcano National Park, is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Some of the species that inhabit the area are howler and spider monkeys, white-nosed coati, sloth, deer, fer-de-lance, boa constrictors, parrots, parakeets, black vultures, resplendent quetzals, trogon, hummingbirds, motmots and toucans. Plant life includes ferns, heliconia, mountain guayabo, freijo, rosewood, and balsa trees.
Hiking Cerro Chato
The El Chato trail is an arduous yet rewarding five hour hike that passes through lush rainforest and astonishing steep hills. It is almost entirely uphill, and ends at the blue waters of the Mount Chato Lagoon.
Being a long and intense trail, we recommend hiring an experienced and knowledgeable guide. Guided tours can be arranged in the town of La Fortuna.
La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall (Spanish for ‘the fortune’) is right at the base of the dormant Chato Volcano and drops about 70 meters. It offers some of the most gorgeous scenery in all of Costa Rica. This amazing ribbon of water falls into a great swimming hole, surrounded by lush tropical forest, protected by the local conservation project.
Downstream from the waterfall, there are calmer waters for a more relaxing dip and a lookout point, which is perfect for admiring and taking pictures of the beautiful waterfall.
Chato Volcano Facilities
A ranger station and restrooms are located at the entrance to the park. Trail maps are available at the ranger station.
Fees and Schedule
Entrance Fee: $6
Open 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily.
If you’re driving to Cerro Chato from the international airport in Alajuela, drive east towards San Ramón, then north to Bajo Rodríguez and on to La Fortuna. Once you get to La Fortuna town, drive west and then follow the signs to the Arenal Volcano National Park.