In case you are wanting to hike a volcano in Costa Rica, La Fortuna is the place to go. The small, quaint village sits in 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, in case you 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 in the world. There are a lot of excursions and volcano hikes close to its base, however, it will be means too harmful to attempt to hike up to the highest.
Chato – or Cerro Chato in Spanish – however is a dormant volcano that hasn’t erupted in years. In truth, all the rain from the jungle local weather in Costa Rica has shaped a lake in the crater of Cerro Chato.
Generally known as the Inexperienced Lagoon, the lake could be vibrant 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 a nice vacation spot in itself, I used to be in search of 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 received 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 obtained a heat welcome from each.
Within the morning, I used to be in a position to 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 in a position to get the low-down on La Fortana’s lesser recognized and extra intriguing (at the very least 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, obtained a name from a information later that day and was all set for a hike the subsequent morning.
If, like me, you don’t contemplate your self a follow-the-guidebook sort traveler, right here’s what you want to do to hike Chato Volcano in Costa Rica:
Getting 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 in the world.
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 the event you really feel prepared 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 a a 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 possibly can 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, in my opinion, best choice for seeing all of the websites and volcanoes in Costa Rica, is to simply lease a automotive.
You possibly can simply ebook one in advance 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 reality, potential to strap a bike 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 travel 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 way of city.
Firstly, the Cerro Chato path was formally closed by Costa Rican authorities a whereas again.
A couple of on-line critiques 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’ve got your coronary heart set on swimming in the crater lake of a dormant volcano in Costa Rica (like I did), it’s nonetheless very potential.
Secondly, this Costa Rican hike is NOT a simple one.
I’ve over 5 years of expertise backpacking, mountaineering and lengthy distance biking and had to cease and catch my breath far more typically than I’d like to admit.
It’s a very 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’ll be able to ultimately see over them on the prime.
I used to be informed that is attainable on a clear day, nevertheless it was all wet skies and eery clouds whereas I used to be climbing up to the Inexperienced Lagoon.
Being that the Cerro Chato hike just isn’t formally open to vacationers, there are not any clearly marked trails, water stops, toilet amenities and even a clear trailhead.
Like I stated: that is a true jungle journey!
I extremely – HIGHLY – advocate towards this hike when you don’t get an skilled native information or don’t really feel assured in your capability 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 attainable. Additionally they don’t need to use native cash to fund a rescue search, if somebody loses their means.
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 own risk” mentality in case you determine to comply with the jungle path up to the lake. Which means you probably gained’t get in hassle (although throughout notably harmful occasions it’s potential to get a superb), however nobody is holding your hand telling you ways to get there.
Should you’re nonetheless with me right here and are prepared 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 disillusioned.
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 received a message from him that stated:
“It’s raining – typical Costa Rica. Make sure you bring a change of clothes and have a way to keep your food dry. Unless you are not ready 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 meet 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 onerous, we had the parking zone, and nearly all of the path, to ourselves.
We set off via the well-kept trails close to the Observatory for about ¾ of a mile. Being underneath 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 main to waterfalls, others to thick jungle glades, however I needed to save my power for the three,740′ elevation achieve that was up forward.
My information was extraordinarily educated about all of the crops and animals in 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 few 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 keep 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 jiffy, I used to be utilizing each palms, knees, and ft to scramble up ledges and steps whereas making an attempt to decide 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 in 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 discover a few snakes, spiders, and birds, however the rain had scared them into hiding for the day.
So, we simply stored mountaineering – onward and upward for nearly three hours. Resting the place we would have liked to. Sharing jokes and working towards my Spanish in the security of the jungle the place solely the timber might hear my horrible accent.
After a whereas, I might see the Inexperienced Lagoon peeking by way 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 climbing 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 give you the option to see throughout to the opposite aspect.
I used to be much more stunned once I heard somebody swimming towards us by means 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 stand in one 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 in the Inexperienced Lagoon.
The hike again to our automotive took about a 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 received 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 today, I nonetheless take pleasure in telling individuals about standing on the log in the Inexperienced Lagoon, sitting in the center of a dormant volcano.
Like all 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 tissues into one of many scorching springs on the finish of the day was the last word reward.
I’m Averi Melcher, a former style 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 seemed again since. I’ve traveled (principally solo) to 24 totally different nations, looking for out experiences that take me outdoors and off the well-trodden vacationer trails each time attainable. Most of my tenting, climbing, and biking adventures have sprung from conversations with locals and are additionally shared on The Pedal Challenge and @thepedalproject.