Adventure No. 02


Cerro Chato is a dormant volcano located southeast of very active Volcan Arenal. It stands roughly 3,742 feet tall. Cerro Chato is actually the older brother of Volcan Arenal. It erupted about 38,000 years ago but has had no activity in the last 3,500 years, which is right around the time Arenal was born. Cerro Chato is located in the rainforest in the northwestern part of Costa Rica. Hiking Cerro Chato takes roughly 4 hours round-trip and the larger part of it is through steep jungle terrain. Your reward for literally crawling to the summit is a swim in the gorgeous emerald lake which fills the volcano’s crater.

Other than paying an entrance fee, there are no hiking restrictions. Interesting side note is that they always recommend parking backwards in case nearby Volcan Arenal would erupt. 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 is still considered “active.”

We started our hike at one of two boutique hotels located at the base of Cerro Chato. For about $20 bucks you can park your car in the hotel lot and they even give you a map. On good advice, we started our hike around 7:30 am and we literally had the mountain to ourselves. We planned for a half-day of hiking, so we each carried 2-3 liters of water in our packs with some light snacks. Brought bug spray but didn’t need it. The trail starts off on a well-marked two-track passing over a suspension bridge while surrounded by beautiful tropical foliage. After what seems 1-2 miles of moderate incline giving-way to spectacular hillside views, we came face-to-face with a solid wall jungle. It literally seemed impenetrable. After no more than five steps inside, the sun was gone, replaced by tropical canopy.

There are no switchbacks or erosion diversions on this trail. Years of near daily rainfall have dug muddy cut-outs that run six feet deep in some places. Along with the massive root systems from the giant trees, these all make for some adventurous climbing for the next two miles or so – one giant obstacle!

After about an hour of literally bear-crawling up the mountain, we reached the summit. The trails are well-marked and we saw our first fellow hikers who had chosen to take the only other trail which starts at the observatory on the other side (this could make for a fun through-hike with a little planning). Somewhere below us, and inside the massive crater, was the lake. We couldn’t see it due to the morning fog that had rolled-in. It ended-up being about a 100m decent down some of the steepest terrain we’d ever attempted. Very treacherous due to the incline, roots and mud so we found it effective- and fun, to simply slide down on our butts.

At the waters’ edge awaits a natural volcanic black sand beach. It felt rejuvenating taking a dip in the cool mountain water. And right on cue, Mother Nature chose to lift the fog revealing perhaps the most beautiful site of the entire journey. The sunlight gave the lake water an emerald-looking glow. It was simply beautiful!

After finishing our swim followed by our snacks, we donned our muddy clothes & shoes and returned the way we came. The return journey is obviously much faster since you are descending, but it’s very treacherous and requires maximal concentration. If you get tripped-up by a root, slip on the mud or lose your footing, it will not go well for you. Be very careful!

The hotel where we parked the car lets you use their outdoor showers and even their swimming pool. We loved the poolside bar that by now had opened-up. While we were swimming and kicking-back with a cocktail, scores of people were now showing-up by the bus load. We high-fived of ourselves for getting an early start.

What to Bring:

  • Camelback 2L
  • Electrolytes
  • Hiking or OCR shoes
  • Long hiking pants
  • Bathing Suit
  • Moderate calories for fuel
  • iPhone for pictures

Pura Vida!

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At Comal Active, we endeavor to live a fit lifestyle. We understand that personal fitness is a daily practice- and not a quick fix. We realize the usual suspects of fad diets, treadmills and weight machines don’t work. So, we’ve replaced them with functional movements, modern day nutrition practices and group accountability. People come to Comal Active to reshape their body image and sharpen their mental fortitude so they can seek-out new challenges, enjoy new adventures and be free to explore new boundaries. We show our athletes how to move effectively inside the gym so they can have enjoyable life experiences while outside. We teach exercises that are used in everyday life, and the tools we use are just as common: weights, kettlebells, ropes, sandbags, bikes, rowers and gymnastics mats to name a few.