Costa Rica is famous for beaches, rainforests, and those adorable little smiling sloths. But have you thought about Costa Rica’s waterfalls?
As a tropical country, Costa Rica sees a lot of rain–about 100 inches per year. In the mountainous regions (hint: where the rivers start) that can jump to 25 feet a year in some places! All that water makes for plenty of crystal clear rivers and some pretty impressive waterfalls.
Let’s take a look at a few!
Nuayaca Waterfalls is an impressive spot that has been making a name for itself recently. It is located about 10 kilometers inland from the little coastal town of Dominical in the Central Pacific.
A local Costa Rican family own the property surrounding the falls and charge a modest admission to access the property. The most inexpensive way to get to the falls is to walk.
It’s a nice hike, but not for the faint of heart. It’s about 4 kilometers one way and much of the route is rather hilly. Add to that the hot and humid conditions. If you’re not in at least decent physical shape, this may not be the most enjoyable experience for you.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t get to visit the falls! The family also offers two fun modes of transportation. You can opt for a guided horseback ride, or hop in the back of a 4X4 truck for an easy trip to the falls.
However you get there, once you arrive you will be in awe. Nauyaca waterfalls consist of two gigantic falls, one above the other. The topmost waterfall is a stunning 45 meters and the bottom one a more modest 20 meters. There is an ample swimming area at the bottom where you can enjoy a dip in the cool, crystalline mountain water.
The photos are lovely, but nothing compares to standing at the base of this magnificence and experiencing it firsthand.
If you plan to do the hike to Nauyaca, these tips are good to keep in mind. Even if you’re an avid hiker you may find this hike stressful as the climate is probably different from what you’re used to. It’s hot and humid so bring LOTS of water. You will need it.
You’ll sweat a lot and the humidity doesn’t allow you to dry out very quickly. Moisture-wicking athletic clothing is a big help. If you plan to swim at the falls, bring along another pair of shorts. You will not enjoy the hike back in wet shorts.
Good shoes are also a must but don’t go for traditional hiking boots. They may provide good support, but your feet will be roasting and soaked with sweat in no time. Here are some good recommendations for footwear in Costa Rica.
If you are going during the rainy season, be prepared for rain–it is the rainforest, after all. At the very least bring a Ziploc big enough for your phone, wallet, and other essentials. A big black garbage bag also works in a pinch to envelop your backpack. If you want to get fancy you can bring along one of those waterproof covers for your bag.
Chontales Falls is less known than Nauyaca, but it’s getting its name out there. The turnoff for Chontales is located on the same road as Nauyaca, but further inland at about 14 kilometers from Dominical.
From there, it’s another 12 kilometers on a dirt/gravel road. Keep an eye out for the signs showing you which way to go. You also have to cross a couple rivers on some sketchy-looking suspension bridges that your car will barely fit on. Only attempt this drive with a driver who knows what they’re doing. A 4 x 4 is not strictly necessary but would be a good idea.
The trip is worth it, however, as you can see.
The property is owned by a lovely Costa Rican family. They live right there at the entrance and have a parking area by their house. Admission is inexpensive. From the parking area you take a short, but extremely steep hike, down to the base of the waterfall.
There is a lovely pool where you can go for a swim. The family also has a rancho set up down there where you can enjoy a delicious Costa Rican casado for lunch.
Los Campesinos is another gorgeous waterfall that you can visit. It requires even less walking than Chontales and is a great spot to take the kids. The pool at the base of the waterfall is smaller than the other two we’ve mentioned but still big enough to enjoy a refreshing dip.
The cool thing about this waterfall is that you can hike up (very short) to where they have hung a 127-meter long suspension bridge. It’s high (40 meters up), so definitely not for the faint of heart, but the view of the waterfall and the rainforest from up there is unique and breathtaking.
You don’t need a guide to wander around the grounds, which is peppered with the bright flora of Costa Rica. The owners have placed handy placards and signs giving interesting facts and tidbits about the plants.
La Paz Waterfall
La Paz, or Peace, Waterfall north of the capital city San Jose is one of the more famous Costa Rica waterfalls. There is one point along the road where you can stop to take pictures and enjoy the waterfall for free.
For the full experience, you can pay to enter La Paz Waterfall Gardens or even stay overnight at the luxurious Peace Lodge. Unlike the other more rustic spots we’ve mentioned, admission here is a little on the expensive side. But you’ll get a lot for your money.
Here you can see 5 different waterfalls while wandering the grounds. There is also an animal sanctuary where you can see everything from frogs, snakes, butterflies and tropical birds, to pumas and jaguars!
There is so much to see and do here that it kind of requires it’s own blog post, which you can check out here!
The luxurious Peace Lodge is also located on the property. The award-winning attraction is well-sought after for weddings, honeymoons, and other special occasions. (That’s something to keep in mind if you’re planning to tie the knot soon!)
Costa Rica is full of even more waterfalls than mentioned here. Why not explore on your own? For example, you could check out the waterfalls near Montezuma on the Nicoya peninsula. Plenty of other waterfalls are also found near Liberia, Arenal, La Fortuna, and other northern areas.
Visit the Costa Rica Waterfalls
Ready to visit? This is only a sampling of the myriad of beautiful Costa Rica waterfalls. This diverse little country has so many things to see and do that you could fill a lifetime of vacations with all the adventures!
If Costa Rica wasn’t on your bucket list already, you should add it!