Hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park

Hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park is one of the main draws to the small town of La Fortuna.  Up until the past few years, Arenal Volcano was one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanos, but it has now entered a resting period.  None the less, it is still amazing! 

Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano National Park

Finding A Tour Group

You’ll find that on arrival to La Fortuna, there are plenty of tour groups offering hiking treks in Arenal Volcano National Park.  Plenty of the tours are very similar.  Most groups offer a bagged lunch, a t-shirt, a guide and transportation to and from Arenal Volcano National Park.  You’re best to talk to a few different tours to decide which one is best for you.  Alternatively, you could attempt the trek on your own, although a guide is very handy as the trail isn’t always visibly marked.

Entrance leading into the jungle

Start of the Jungle

Hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park

Chato Volcano

To get the best view of Arenal, you will be climbing a smaller inactive volcano, Chato Volcano.  Chato is also in the park and is located right beside Arenal.  Once you start climbing, you’ll quickly realize, Chato isn’t that small…Be pre-warned, this can be a tough climb, with a steady incline and extremely hot temperatures.  This hike can be intimidating to some and it’s not unlikely that you’ll see people turn back, but if you stick to it, its truly an incredible experience.  I climbed this volcano without any prior fitness routine and regretted in for a week later.  Sore muscles are no fun.  Its always a good idea to prepare your muscles prior to climbing.  Chato is the volcano that has made me do hill training before any climb, and I’ve never been happier.

Brittany standing before the jungle

The Hike

The first part of your trek will be through an open space with little shade covering.  This can be a very hot stretch, so bring lots of water.  Once you hit the jungle, the temperatures become a little more reasonable but can be a little slippery if you’re hiking during raining season, as we were. 

The hike to the top of Chato is only a couple kilometres, but will take a 1-2 hours (depending on your fitness level) to reach the top.  If you’re like me, you’ll probably be miserable the whole way up, but feel so accomplished when you reach the top.  Once at the top, you can see into Chato’s crater and will notice that its filled with emerald green water.

Chato's crater, Costa Rica

Chato’s Crater

The Crater

The tour that we chose (in 2015) took us down into the crater for a swim and a lunch break.  Our journey into the crater was an interesting one as a lot of trails were completely mud ridden from the rain during the previous days.  By the time we reached the crater lake, I was totally covered in mud and embracing everything the jungle had to offer.  Keep in mind that you might want to wear something thats okay to get muddy, if visiting during the rainy season.

Brittany Climbing vertical mud wall

Vertical Mud Wall

After lunch we continued our hiking around Arenal Volcano National Park.  Remember, we climbed down into the crater, which means, more up hill climbs.  There are a few tricky spots on our way up, but our guide was there to give a hand and help with foot placement.  There were a few times that I needed to use a branch or tree roots to help me along the way.  Some spots were very slippery and steep.  Once out of the crater and back on higher levels, you’re normally able to get a look at Arenal.  Unfortunately for us, it was a really overcast day and we didn’t get a great look at Arenal from Chato.

Arenal Volcano Hiding Behind the Clouds

Arenal Volcano Hiding Behind the Clouds

After the hike

Following the descent, which is much quicker than the climb, we were rewarded with a partial view of Arenal Volcano.  Our tour also took us on a walk around the ark grounds to see a few waterfalls and trails.  Overall, hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park was a highlight of our visit to La Fortuna and two weeks in Costa Rica.  I would recommend a visit to this park and La Fortuna.  If you’re visiting Costa Rica, a visit to a volcano is essential!

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