OverviewCerro Chato is a dormant stratovolcano located southeast of very active Volcan Arenal. It stands roughly 3742 feet or 1140m tall. Cerro Chato is actually the older brother of Volcan Arenal. It erupted about 38000 years ago but had no activity in the last 3500 years, which is right around the time Arenal was born. Cerro Chato is located in the rainforest in the northwestern part of Costa Rica. It is part of the Guanacaste Cordillera range, which belongs to the southern Continental Divide. Hiking Cerro Chato takes roughly 4 hours round-trip and the larger part of it is through steep jungle terrain.
Getting ThereFrom the small town of Tabacon, head west for maybe 1 or 2 km until you reach a police station on the right hand side. It’s a really small building in blue and white. Turn left (south) onto the dirt road across from the police station. This is a rough dirt road that is best done in a vehicle with some clearance (it is not impossible in a regular car but I wouldn’t recommend it). 4wd might be required in the rain season when things are really muddy.
After a few km, you will come to a T stop. Turn left here. After a couple more kilometers you will go over a bridge and will get to an intersection. You just go straight until you reach a gate where you have to pay the fee for the Volcan Arenal observatory. Continue and park near the Observatory. Close to the parking lot you will see a sign for “Cerro Chato and farm”; it starts out on a road and eventually you will reach the trail.
Red TapeOther than paying an entrance fee ($8 orso), there are no hiking restrictions. Interesting side note is that they always recommend parking backwards in case nearby Volcan Arenal would errupt. At first I thought they were kidding but they are not. Also do not try to traverse over to Voclan Arenal. It is both illegal and extremely dangerous since Arenal constantly erupts.
When to climbYou should be able to hike the volcano year round. The rainy season might be really muddy though. The dry season is from December through March. Also note that Cerro Chato is located in the rainforest, so clouds and rain are very common year round. Bring bug spray and prepare to get soaked since the humidity is really high.
CampingNo camping is allowed in Arenal National Park.
PICS of my hike up Cerro Chato