Costa Rica’s waterfalls are among the most photographed natural features in this beautiful country. They impress both novice and experienced travelers. There is something absolutely amazing about rushing water falling out of the rainforest canopy dramatically into a pool at the base of a cliff. Once you have hiked through the rainforest in hot tropical weather, taking a cool swim in these powerful natural forces will feel completely refreshing. The waterfalls below are perennial favorites for both tourists and locals.
La Fortuna Waterfall – Arenal Volcano
Simply put, La Fortuna Waterfall is absolutely stunning. People come from all over the world to visit this beautiful waterfall along with the hot springs that surround it. La Fortuna, which means “Fortune” in Spanish, is an attraction of various tours in the Arenal Volcano area. The Tenorio River feeds the waterfall. It is an awe-inspiring experience to see this waterfall. It spills from the cliff at the base of the now dormant Chato volcano and then plummets 230 feet before hitting a tropical pond. All while surrounded by green, rich rainforest across the Arenal Mountain range. Visitors come from all over the world to see this beautiful waterfall and the hot springs that surround it.
Two separate viewing areas provide different perspectives on the waterfall. You can walk directly onto the huge boulders and rocks located along the banks of the basin. Don’t forget to bring a swimsuit with you – the cool pool located at the waterfall’s base is an excellent place to swim on a hot summer day. The hike starts at the cliff and then goes down to the waterfall, and you can combine it with a tour of the hanging bridge’s canopy. It follows along a staircase that has been carved into the hillside. The entire hike takes around 15 minutes to complete. The pool’s calm blue-green water makes the hike well worth it and is one of the most beautiful hikes in Costa Rica.
Rio Celeste Waterfall – Guanacaste
This waterfall is located in the northwestern Guanacaste area in Tenorio Volcano National Park. Rio Celeste Waterfall is world-renowned for its tropical surroundings and hypnotic blue water. Local legend says that when the sky was painted by God, he washed his brushes in the river, which turned the water an enchanting shade of turquoise. The water flowing through the park is actually the result of a chemical reaction between the volcano’s minerals and the lush, green rainforest.
After hiking for two hours into the park, you will encounter the waterfall with its brilliant blue water along with several natural hot springs and lots of Costa Rican wildlife, including curious monkeys, blue morpho butterflies, and poison dart frogs – to give you the ultimate in tropical adventures. Swimming is not allowed because the effects of the volcanic minerals are unknown. However, the views provide beautiful memories for you to share with your family and friends. The best part of the year to experience this brilliant blue river is during the dry season in Costa Rica, which runs December through April. Despite all of the fantastic sights, the park system and Rio Celeste Waterfall are fairly well-kept secrets because of the remote location off of the beaten path. The Rio Celeste Waterfall is a hidden gem within a country that is full of treasures. You definitely do not want to miss it!
La Paz Waterfall Gardens – in the Cloud Forest
La Paz Waterfall Gardens is situated near San Jose in the Cloud Forest. It is Costa Rica’s most highly visited privately-owned ecological area – and for very good reason! This attraction includes a rescued wildlife preserve containing more than 100 different species of animals, five waterfalls, and a nature walk. There is a Hummingbird Garden, Frog Exhibit, Serpentarium, and Butterfly Observatory in the preserve. The following animals can be expected to be seen in the gardens – 26 species of hummingbirds and more than 40 species of birds, along with a frog exhibit, ocelots, pumas, jaguars, two-toed sloths, black-handed spider monkeys, white-headed capuchin monkeys, and marmosets.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens is open year-round to the public, and the grounds are mainly self-guided. This allows visitors to customize their experience to see precisely how much and what they want to see. There are so many tropical and wildlife sights of Costa Rica to see that you can easily spend a whole day at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.
Bajos del Toro Waterfall – in the Cloud Forest
This is an amazing sight to see! It is one of Costa Rica’s tallest and most impressive waterfalls – featuring a 300-foot drop. The waterfall is tucked away in the valley between Rincon de la Vieja Volcanoes and Poás, situated in Bajos del Toro Cloud Forest around 1-1/2hours from the city of San Jose.
You can hike down the winding trail to the base of Bajos del Toro Waterfall with a guide for about one hour to see the roaring mist of the waterfall up close. From the local lodge, a fairly flat fifteen-minute hike will take you to the 375 steps that lead you to the base of this waterfall. Although hiking back up is challenging, the views make it worth the effort! Make sure you wear a sturdy pair of hiking shoes. The surrounding pools and streams allow you to see the unique animal and plant species of Costa Rica. Since there are not many tourists in the area, you will be able to see plenty of wildlife, from armadillos to blue morpho butterflies. And don’t forget all the hummingbirds attracted to the feeders set up at the nearby restaurants and hiking facilities.
Nauyaca Waterfalls – South Pacific Coast
These impressive waterfalls are situated in Costa Ballena’s South Pacific region, 20 minutes away from Dominical. Although Nauyaca features less impressive drop-offs compared to the Bajos Del Toro or La Fortuna waterfalls, it does have a unique layout. It is divided into lower and upper cascades, with water pouring over the cliffs for 140 feet until the next 60-foot drop. The location is one of the most incredible things about the waterfall. It is tucked remotely deep inside the rainforest. It takes a bit of work to get there, but the views will make it worth your while.
A couple of different options are available to get to the falls: via 4×4, hiking, or horseback riding. And watch out for the area’s abundant wildlife, including birds and monkeys. Many hummingbird species make their home here. The trail over to the waterfall is around 2.5 miles. It is a relatively easy hike that even children can manage.
Once you get to the waterfall, the trail splits off into two sections, to take you to either the lower or upper falls. The upper falls are quite impressive and fall a longer distance. The mist blowing from the waterfall after the hike is very refreshing, and there are many smooth river rocks that are perfect for enjoying a picnic. The view is impressive and has a tendency to be more peaceful on the upper falls.
However, the fun really begins at the lower falls. Just before the steps taking you down to the falls, there are facilities available where you can change into your swimming suit. The cascade drops into a big pool of clear blue water – an ideal natural swimming spot. The best way to cool down after your hike is to take a dip. There’s lots of room for everyone to explore, relax, and swim, with entertainment occasionally coming from a local jumping off a cliff. You don’t want to miss Nauyaca Waterfall for an excellent combination of swimming and hiking along with incredible photo opportunities.
Llanos de Cortez Waterfall – Guanacaste
Some people say that the most beautiful waterfall in Costa Rica is Llanos de Cortez. It is in Bagaces, around 16 miles (30 minutes) south of Liberia. Llanos de Cortez is 12 feet tall and 50 feet wide, with streams of water that cascade over a rock wall. At the base of the falls is a pool that is clear, clean, and an ideal spot for a refreshing swim. Also, there is a small white sandy beach that is nice for enjoying a picnic or snack. The trail down to the waterfall starts at the parking lot. It is a steep but short 10-minute hike. The forest that leads to the falls is dense and lush with plenty of wildlife such as monkeys and birds. Although Llanos de Cortez does not charge an entrance fee, donations are welcomed for the local community school. You can arrange a guided waterfall tour.
Oropendola Waterfall – Guanacaste
Oropendola Waterfall is situated inside Rincon de la Vieja National Park. You have to hike 0.8 miles and then back on the trails. Most skill levels will find the trail accessible, and there is a suspension bridge. To take a refreshing swim in the waterfall, make sure to wear your swimming suit.
Bijagual Waterfall – Central Pacific
This waterfall is situated on the Central Pacific Coast close to Jaco in Bijagual. It is a 590-foot waterfall that can be accessed via a guided horseback ride through the forest. You can enjoy amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and seaside fishing villages. Watch out for tropical birds such as toucans and scarlet macaws in addition to other types of tropical wildlife like monkeys, frogs, and sloths. After you get to the walks, cool down in the refreshing natural spring or walk around. Upon request, you can arrange a horseback tour.