Some describe the feeling of being on cloud 9 when their partner asks them for their hand in marriage. I too remember this feeling, however perhaps because Ricky and I may have actually been on cloud 9, given that we were more than 1,000 meters above the ground after a long and gruelling hike to the top of Cerro Chato mountain in beautiful Costa Rica.
In Marc Anthony’s song Vivir Lo Nuestro, he sings that from the highest mountain, as high as the stars, I want to shout that I love you so all the world will know. Ricky set out to do the same on the day he asked me to marry him. What transpired was a hike to the top of Cerro Chato – a dormant volcano that is now a popular hiking destination for visitors to the La Fortuna/Arenal region of Costa Rica. For those who make it to the top, a beautiful and cool lagoon awaits – the perfect spot to catch your breath, swim, and relax, before embarking on the second part of the hike back down.
The Cerro Chato hike is classified as an intermediate/difficult hike. It is challenging both physically and mentally, requiring body strength to propel yourself up the seemingly endless set of stairs leading you to the top of the mountain as well as determination as motivation to keep yourself going until you reach your final destination. The trail is well marked, and signs at the beginning of the hike lead the way. Although guided tours are widely available, entrance tickets can be purchased at the Green Lagoon Lodge (sign-in necessary) for those who prefer to conquer the feat on their own.
The first part of the hike is conducted in the open. Turn back frequently along the way to capture beautiful views of the La Fortuna area and beyond. On sunny days, this portion of the hike appears the most difficult as a result of the direct heat, however fortunately, once the hike leads you into the mountain’s forest, cooler temperatures are offered. Rain is a blessing in disguise with this activity, as a fresh and cool rain does wonders for the sweat you work up during the hike.
Once at the top (and on clear days), one has access to an incredible sight of the neighbouring Arenal Volcano. On the day that Ricky and I made the trip (with his hidden agenda to propose marriage), the volcano grumbled when we reached the top. To this day, Ricky and I joke that the eruption was Arenal’s way of saying “you can do it, Ricky!” – an encouraging gesture from our stratovolcanic friend who has lived in our front yard for so many years. Of course, like all never-ending hikes, just as you reach the top (the point at which you feel as if you cannot go any further), you meet another set of stairs. This time leading downwards, the set reaches Cerro Chato’s brilliant, emerald lagoon – a private and peaceful place calling you to capture the moment and appreciate the beauty of nature.
It is at this lagoon that the love of my life asked me to spend the rest of my days with his, to which I responded yes. Although that was years ago, the hike to Cerro Chato remains one of our favourite places to visit, recommend, and remember. Its significance to us is mountainous in more ways than one, and we can only hope that other visitors have similar rewarding experiences. While you might not get a husband or wife out of your trip, you will gain a number of once-in-a-lifetime photos (how often do you get an opportunity to swim in a volcano’s crater?), a ton of exercise, and a deeper understanding of the innate exquisiteness that is Costa Rica.
*Discounts for hiking tours including those to Cerro Chato are available through Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated at: http://www.puravidaeh.ca/
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you made the Cerro Chato hike? Did you find it challenging?