In case you are trying to hike a volcano in Costa Rica, La Fortuna is the place to go. The small, quaint village sits within the shadow of Arenal and is world-famous for the recent springs and all-inclusive resorts that dot the winding street round it’s base.
However, for those who have been to take a look at an aerial photograph or drone view of La Fortuna, Costa Rica, you’d see that there are literally two volcanoes there: Arenal Volcano and Chato Volcano.
Arenal is an lively volcano that final erupted in 2010 which explains for therefore many scorching springs within the space. There are loads of excursions and volcano hikes close to its base, however, it might be means too harmful to attempt to hike as much as the highest.
Chato – or Cerro Chato in Spanish – however is a dormant volcano that hasn’t erupted in years. The truth is, all the rain from the jungle local weather in Costa Rica has shaped a lake within the crater of Cerro Chato.
Referred to as the Inexperienced Lagoon, the lake could be brilliant blue or murky inexperienced, relying on the climate and skies.
Whereas I used to be in Costa Rica, I acquired utterly fixated on the concept I wanted to do a volcano hike. However not some canned group tour across the base of Arenal. Whereas an ideal vacation spot in itself, I used to be on the lookout for a REAL jungle journey. I had spent the final two months dwelling and dealing in Tamarindo, a vacationer city on the Pacific coast and hadn’t gotten the prospect to do a single secluded hike, bike journey or tenting journey in months.
Once I acquired to La Fortuna, I used to be pleasantly stunned on the small-town vibe that was equally filled with native Costa Ricans because it was vacationers – and I received a heat welcome from each.
Within the morning, I used to be capable of seize a $three breakfast of gallo pinto – that is the basic dish of beans, rice and different veggies – full with recent papaya and a robust native espresso. Within the afternoon, I wandered into the bar throughout from a tour information operator’s store the place I used to be capable of get the low-down on La Fortana’s lesser recognized and extra intriguing (a minimum of to me) volcano.
An area informed me that it was formally closed by the federal government however that there have been nonetheless navigable routes and a number of other locals who would take individuals on this volcano hike, in the event that they needed.
I instantly knew this was the journey I used to be in search of.
I began wanting on the maps of the world and didn’t really feel assured in my very own capacity to do the hike with out assist, so I swapped numbers with the native, received a name from a information later that day and was all set for a hike the subsequent morning.
If, like me, you don’t think about your self a follow-the-guidebook sort traveler, right here’s what you should do to hike Chato Volcano in Costa Rica:
Attending to La Fortuna and Cerro Chato
La Fortuna is among the hottest points of interest in Costa Rica due to all the recent springs and resorts within the space.
When it comes to transportation, it’s on par with the remainder of the nation, being very accessible. Most choices value between $5 and $150.
The most cost effective is public transportation, in case you really feel able to tackle the Central American bus itinerary. There are common native buses that may get to you the small city from virtually each a part of the nation, together with forwards and backwards from Tamarindo to La Fortuna and La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio (and vice versa), if these are stops alongside your route. These can take a very long time and would require a bit extra logistical planning, cash exchanges, and a few Spanish. However it may be achieved and will certainly be part of the journey of getting there.
If that’s not for you and hey, I don’t blame you if it isn’t, there are common vacationer transports that may take you from the San Jose airport, Liberia airport, Tamarindo, Manuel Antonio and different well-liked vacationer hubs to La Fortuna. You’ll be able to go for one of many common busses for round $25, or you will get a personal van with A/C for round $100.
The final and, for my part, best choice for seeing all of the websites and volcanoes in Costa Rica, is to only lease a automotive.
You possibly can simply e-book one prematurely on the automotive rental corporations in Liberia or San Jose airport and have it ready for you the second your aircraft lands.
I went to La Fortuna twice whereas dwelling and dealing at a surf camp in Tamarindo, which is a small vacationer city sitting alongside the Pacific Ocean on the Guanacaste Peninsula. Since I had a backpack, all my work gear and a bicycle, I made a decision to lease a automotive each occasions. The primary time I carpooled with individuals on the surf camp in Tamarindo to our hostel in La Fortuna. The second time, I threw my bike on prime of one of many buses and street to the Liberia airport the place I rented a automotive and drove to my Airbnb.
Belief me once I say that the transportation state of affairs is exponentially more durable with a bicycle. And it took some persuading to persuade the bus driver that it was, in truth, potential to strap a motorcycle to the highest of the bus.
As soon as you’re in La Fortuna, although, the city itself is sufficiently small to discover by foot and there are common native taxis that commute between all the resorts all through the day. The bottom of Cerro Chato was a brief, 10 minute drive from the middle of city to the parking zone of the park.
A couple of issues about Chato Volcano in Costa Rica
Don’t let the accessibly of La Fortuna and it’s volcanoes dupe you into considering it’s a easy factor you are able to do in an hour or two whereas in your drive by means of city.
Firstly, the Cerro Chato path was formally closed by Costa Rican authorities some time again.
A couple of on-line evaluations might point out that it’s nonetheless closed, however the occasional tour firm and lots of native tour guides will nonetheless take you there. When you have your coronary heart set on swimming within the crater lake of a dormant volcano in Costa Rica (like I did), it’s nonetheless very attainable.
Secondly, this Costa Rican hike is NOT a simple one.
I’ve over 5 years of expertise backpacking, mountaineering and lengthy distance biking and needed to cease and catch my breath far more typically than I’d wish to admit.
It’s a really steep incline that may take you thru three jungle layers as you scramble over twisted tree roots, muddy washes and thick vegetation. As you retain gaining in elevation, you’ll additionally undergo the clouds earlier than you possibly can ultimately see over them on the prime.
I used to be advised that is attainable on a transparent day, however it was all wet skies and eery clouds whereas I used to be mountaineering as much as the Inexperienced Lagoon.
Being that the Cerro Chato hike is just not formally open to vacationers, there are not any clearly marked trails, water stops, rest room amenities or perhaps a clear trailhead.
Like I stated: this can be a true jungle journey!
I extremely – HIGHLY – advocate towards this hike should you don’t get an skilled native information or don’t really feel assured in your capacity to path discover or use cairns to mark your route. The Costa Rican authorities has declared this hike as harmful and have closed the official route as a result of they need to hold vacationers as protected as potential. Additionally they don’t need to use native cash to fund a rescue search, if somebody loses their method.
Nevertheless, it’s a largely unmonitored and unenforced rule.
The native who advised me concerning the Cerro Chato hike stated there’s an unstated “go at your personal danger” mentality should you determine to comply with the jungle path as much as the lake. Which means you probably gained’t get in hassle (although throughout notably harmful occasions it’s potential to get a fantastic), however nobody is holding your hand telling you the way to get there.
Should you’re nonetheless with me right here and are able to have the last word climbing expertise that will get you deep into the jungle and ends with a dip in a volcanic lake that’s hundreds of years previous, then I promise you gained’t be disenchanted.
The Hike to the Inexperienced Lagoon
The morning of my volcano hike, I used to be actually dissatisfied to get up to the sound of rain on the home windows of my Airbnb. One, I actually don’t like rain – even after dwelling in Central America for a number of months and getting used to the afternoon rains that occur every day. Two, I used to be frightened that the information wouldn’t need to take me to the Inexperienced Lagoon if there was a danger of water on the path, or worse, mudslides.
Simply as I used to be lamenting my dangerous luck, I obtained a message from him that stated:
“It’s raining – typical Costa Rica. Be sure to deliver a change of garments and have a option to maintain your meals dry. Until you aren’t able to get muddy?”
I crammed up two water bottles, packed a bunch of granola bars and lunch in my daypack, stuffed my digital camera in my dry sack and went to satisfy up with my tour information. We took a paved winding street previous all of the five-star resorts and spas, and parked the automotive on the Arenal Observatory.
With it raining so exhausting, we had the parking zone, and nearly all of the path, to ourselves.
We set off by means of the well-kept trails close to the Observatory for about ¾ of a mile. Being beneath the jungle cover, we stayed principally dry. I discovered the repetitive sound of rain hitting the enormous leaves and a distant waterfall equal elements invigorating and enjoyable. There have been loads of aspect trails to discover – some resulting in waterfalls, others to thick jungle glades, however I needed to save lots of my power for the three,740′ elevation achieve that was up forward.
My information was extraordinarily educated about all of the crops and animals within the jungle. We even stopped to examine some bugs and check the power of a leaf-cutter ant earlier than dipping off the primary path onto what appeared like a wash with a number of footprints minimize into the mud.
I truthfully can’t converse to the precise location of the trailhead as a result of I relied closely on my information to remain targeted on the path-finding in order that I might take pleasure in gawking on the surroundings.
The Cerro Chato path didn’t waste any time with the elevation achieve.
Inside a couple of minutes, I used to be utilizing each palms, knees, and ft to scramble up ledges and steps whereas making an attempt to select which root or department would help me as I pulled my weight up. With all the mud, there have been occasions once I felt like I used to be making an attempt to climb backwards up a slide within the rain.
Whereas I examined my lungs and leg power, my information shared his expertise rising up close to La Fortuna, Costa Rica, his ardour for learning snakes and wildlife, jungle conservation, the sustainable power practices of the nation and his stance on whether or not tourism was tarnishing the nation or serving to it (he was in favor).
We tried to seek out a number of snakes, spiders, and birds, however the rain had scared them into hiding for the day.
So, we simply stored climbing – onward and upward for nearly three hours. Resting the place we would have liked to. Sharing jokes and working towards my Spanish within the security of the jungle the place solely the timber might hear my horrible accent.
After some time, I might see the Inexperienced Lagoon peeking by means of a clearing on the prime of Cerro Chato.
Taking a Dip in a Volcano
There’s a very quick and really steep decline to get from the highest of the volcano to the lake itself.
However, when you begin mountaineering down, you’re formally inside a volcano in Costa Rica!
We arrange a picnic to have the lunch and snacks I had packed earlier than deciding whether or not or not we have been truly going to swim. I used to be stunned by how creepy it was to see the inexperienced water, know that I used to be in a volcano, do not know how deep the water was and never even have the ability to see throughout to the opposite aspect.
I used to be much more stunned once I heard somebody swimming towards us by way of the fog!
Apparently, one other backpacker had the identical concept to do the Cerro Chato hike that morning. All of us frolicked for a bit and swung off a log that was jutting out into the water earlier than the rain began once more and it received solely too chilly to face in a single place.
As we have been packing up our lunch to return down the best way we got here up, we heard one other tour group throughout the water that was simply reaching the lake and wrestling with the identical ideas I had when deciding whether or not or not I used to be going to dip my toes within the Inexperienced Lagoon.
The hike again to our automotive took a few third of the period of time that the hike up did. We made ok time to cease at a waterfall, hunt for frogs at small pond and have a drink on the Arenal Observatory, the most effective views of Arenal Volcano that I acquired throughout my time in Costa Rica.
General, the Cerro Chato path was the last word journey that I used to be in search of.
To this present day, I nonetheless take pleasure in telling individuals about standing on the log within the Inexperienced Lagoon, sitting in the midst of a dormant volcano.
Like several journey off the crushed street, it took a bit extra planning and energy, however that made it all of the extra worthwhile. And sinking my sore muscle mass into one of many scorching springs on the finish of the day was the last word reward.
I’m Averi Melcher, a former trend scholar who ditched my designer bag for a backpack about 7 years in the past. Every week after studying concerning the artwork of sluggish journey and bicycle touring, I purchased my first bike and haven’t appeared again since. I’ve traveled (principally solo) to 24 totally different nations, in search of out experiences that take me outdoors and off the well-trodden vacationer trails each time potential. Most of my tenting, climbing, and biking adventures have sprung from conversations with locals and are additionally shared on The Pedal Venture and @thepedalproject.