Costa Rica is well known for it’s natural wonders and breathtaking scenery, and its waterfalls are no exception. From hidden cascades with crystal clear water to towering falls which thunder down to large pools below, the country is home to some of the most stunning waterfalls this planet has to offer. Despite this, there are many waterfalls that are often missed by travellers on their first visit. In this blog, we thought it might be worth highlighting some of these incredible falls and explore the 10 best waterfalls in Costa Rica that are a must-visit for any traveler to this beautiful country.
The Top Ten Waterfalls of Costa Rica
Here we provide details of the top ten waterfalls of Costa Rica including information about their unique characteristics and location.
La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall towers at 75 meters high, nestled in the lush tropical rainforest at the base of the dormant Chato Volcano close to the more famous and iconic Arenal Volcano. The waterfall is a popular attraction amongst tourists and can be accessed via a well-maintained trail that leads down to the bottom of the falls. The trail is a little steep and can be challenging for some people, but the views of the falls are certainly well worth the effort. There is also a small natural swimming pool at the base of the waterfall where visitors can enjoy a refreshing swim at their leisure.
La Fortuna Waterfall is located about 15 minutes from the town of La Fortuna in the Alajuela province, which is about a 3 hours drive north from San Jose and a two and a half hour drive South West of Liberia. If you’re looking to do a day tour to Arenal Volcano & La Fortuna from San Jose, then be sure to check out our Arenal Full Day tour with hot springs.
The Oropendola Waterfall is nestled in the midst of lush rainforest as apart of the Rincón de la Vieja National Park. It cascades down from a height of 25 meters into the stunning crystal-clear pool below. The water is cool and refreshing, making it the perfect spot for a swim on a warm day. To reach the waterfall, visitors must hike through the jungle, crossing streams and traversing rocky terrain. The journey is well worth the effort, however, as the views along the way are simply breathtaking. The lush greenery and the sounds of the forest create a serene atmosphere, making it a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
To get to Oropendola Waterfall, you will need to hike through the Rincón de la Vieja National Park, which is about 15 minutes from the park entrance at Hacienda Guachipelin (be sure to pay the ticket before entering the park). There is a well maintained trail that can be a little rugged but shouldn’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes to arrive at the base of the waterfall. If you’re travelling from one of the beaches in Guanacaste (Tamarindo, Playas del Coco, Playa Conchal, etc), then you may want to consider doing a guided day tour of Rincón de la Vieja National Park which includes a swim at Oropendola Waterfall.
Rio Celeste Waterfall
The Rio Celeste Waterfall is located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park in north-west Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The waterfall is part of the Rio Celeste, a river known for its striking turquoise color that is caused by a natural chemical reaction due in large to the unique minerals from the Tenorio Volcano. The waterfall itself is a stunning 100-foot (30 meter) high cascade that drops into a deep pool of striking blue water, making for the perfect photo opportunity. There are also designated areas close by where you can enjoy a refreshing dip in the turquoise, mineral rich waters.
The hike to the waterfall is approximately 4.5 miles (7 kilometers) round trip from the entrance of the Tenorio Volcano National Park and takes visitors through the lush rainforest and past bubbling hot springs. The hike itself is of moderate difficulty due to it’s location and relatively long hiking distance. If are travelling from one of the beaches of Guanacaste and would like to be apart of a group with a trained guide, then be sure to book our Rio Celeste Hiking tour which includes both the waterfall and a visit to an organic farm and animal shelter.
Llanos de Cortezs Waterfall
The Llanos de Cortezs Waterfall is a stunning, hidden gem located a short distance from Liberia in the Guanacaste province. The waterfall is accessed via a short, easy-to-hike jungle and is a popular spot for swimming and picnicking by locals and tourists alike. The large waterfall cascades into a large pool of crystal-clear water that is perfect for swimming and cooling off on a hot day. The area around the waterfall is also home to a variety of wildlife, including monkeys, sloths and numerous species of birds.
The Llanos de Cortez Waterfall can be found near the small town of Bagaces, about 30 minutes south from Liberia and the Liberia International Airport. The hike itself is very short and the waterfall is relatively easy to find. You can read this excellent blog with detailed instructions on how to get to the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall. If you are coming from one of the beaches in Guanacaste and/or Liberia and would like to visit this waterfall, then you may want to consider our Rio Celeste Hike, Sloth & Waterfall Tour which includes transport for both the Río Celeste Waterfall and the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall.
The Nauyaca Waterfalls are some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the country. It is made up of a series of two cascading waterfalls that are located near Dominical on the Pacific coast of the Puntarenas Province. The falls are situated in a gorgeous tropical setting and can be accessed via a hiking trail that winds through the jungle. The trail is well-marked and passes through streams and over bridges before reaching the falls. The first waterfall is a 150 foot (45 meters) high cascade that drops into a large natural pool. The second waterfall, situated above the first, is smaller but equally stunning, and visitors can swim in both pools and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
This waterfall is ideal if you’re staying in either Dominical, Manuel Antonio or Uvita as it can easily be visited within a day. To get there, you will need to turn onto route 243 as if heading towards the town of San Isidro de General. You will find the main offices for the Nauyaca Waterfalls in about 6 miles (10 kilometers). It’s easy enough to find as it’s well signed posted and can simply be found using Google Maps. You can then choose to either hike or take a horse trail if you prefer to the base of the falls, which is roughly 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) in each direction.
The Montezuma Waterfall is located close to the town of Montezuma on the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula. The waterfall is a series of unique cascades that drop into a large pool of water that is perfect for a good swim. The walk to the waterfall is short but steep and passes through a beautiful jungle setting. What’s particularly unique about this waterfall is that visitors can also climb up to the top of the waterfall and enjoy the views of the surrounding jungle and stunning coastline.
To get to the Montezuma Waterfall, you can take either the Riverbed Trail and the Canopy Tour Trail depending on whether you want to visit the lower waterfall or upper waterfall, respectively. The lower waterfall is the most popular and easy to access, especially if you plan to walk there from Montezuma’s township. It can be a little tricky to access because the trail includes a rocky river bed that can be a little challenging for some hikers during the wet season. To reach the upper waterfall, there are a set of stairs just before reaching the lower waterfalls on the left but keep in mind this can be a challenging hike. For the upper waterfalls, it is recommended to take a car to the Canopy Tour Trail.
La Paz Waterfalls
The La Paz Waterfalls is one of a series of exhilarating waterfalls which can be found in the Alajuela province, a relatively short distance from San Jose. It is apart of the greater La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park, which features animal and cultural exhibits, restaurants, and a botanical gardens. The park covers over 70 acres and is home to over 100 species of animals, including jaguars, toucans, monkeys, and snakes. The main waterfall itself is approximately 120 feet high (36.5 metres) and splits into several smaller cascades as it falls through the valley below. The waterfall is surrounded by dense cloud forest and is situated in a deep canyon. Visitors can get a close-up view of the waterfall by following a trail that leads down to the base of the falls.
If driving, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park is about one hour to an hour and a half (depending on traffic) from downtown San Jose. It’s easy enough to find on Google Maps and the trail is well sign posted with lots of opportunities for some excellent photos. Unlike the other waterfalls mentioned here, these particular waterfalls is apart of a much larger tourist attraction where visitors can enjoy some lunch and get up close to a variety of native animals. If you would like to visit the La Paz Waterfall Gardens as apart of a tour, then be sure to join our Poás Volcano, La Paz Waterfall & Coffee Tour which leaves daily from San Jose.
Catarata Del Toro Waterfall
The Catarata Del Toro Waterfall is approximately 300 feet (90 meters) high and is one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls to visit on this list. Located in the Alajuela province, the waterfall is situated in a deep canyon that can be viewed from several vantage points, offering stunning views of the cascading water which falls into an extinct volcanic crater. Visitors can also take a trail that leads down to the base of the falls, where they can see and feel the power of the water. The hike down to the base of the waterfall is a bit steep, but it’s worth the effort to experience the beauty of the falls up close. If you’re looking for a towering waterfall within fairly close driving distance of San Jose, this waterfall is your best bet!
The Catarata Del Toro Waterfall is situated a short distance from the township of Bajos del Toro and is roughly two to two and a half hours from downtown San Jose. If driving from San Jose to La Fortuna, then you can take the scenic route via Route 126 and add this stop on the way. Due to its popularity, the entrance to the waterfall is easy enough to find. Please note that this is a waterfall not suitable for swimming.
Also located in the south pacific side of Costa Rica, Diamante Falls stands at a whooping 600 feet (200 meters) tall – making it the largest waterfall in Costa Rica by far! The falls plunge into a natural pool, where visitors can take a refreshing swim in the cool, clear water. The pool is surrounded by rocks and foliage, creating a serene and peaceful atmosphere. The waterfalls are situated in a dense rainforest, surrounded by tropical flora and wildlife. Visitors can hike through the rainforest to reach the falls, and enjoy the breathtaking views of the cascading water – especially from above the waterfall. What makes this particular waterfall even more special is that there are special caves behind a set of stunning falls where you can enjoy lunch and even stay the night, as the cave is complete with beds, kitchen, tables, and even a bathroom. Another unique feature about these falls is that there are options where visitors can rappel down parallel to the cascading water. This thrilling activity is a great way to experience the waterfall up close and personal. Experienced guides lead visitors on the rappelling adventure, ensuring their safety and providing an unforgettable experience.
Despite the size of the falls, it can be a little tricky to find and it’s highly recommended you organize a tour with the owners of the property where Diamante Falls can be found. There are several tour companies which will take you to Diamante Falls which includes options for an overnight trip and/or a rappelling adventure. Diamante Falls itself is located close to the small village of Las Tumbas near Tinamaste, about a 35 minute drive from the aforementioned town of Dominical. Though previously you could explore the waterfalls and caves without a guide, it’s now recommended that you only do this activity with a tour guide. We highly recommend contacting Pacific Journeys who offer different options for both day and overnight tours for this waterfall.
Less than an hour and half west from downtown San Jose, Verde Malakita is a perfect hidden waterfall that few tourists know about. The water is crystal clear and perfect for a swim, with a gorgeous waterfall cascading down to the refreshing pool below. There is even a Tarzan swing for those who want something a little more daring and exciting, as well as another smaller nearby waterfall with it’s own pool to bathe in. There are a number of activities and hikes you can enjoy in the area along with a variety of native Costa Rican animals including monkeys, iguanas, raccoons, hummingbirds, and more. This truly is one of the best hidden gems that Costa Rica has to offer!
Verde Malakita is located close to the small township of San Pablo, about an hour and fifteen minutes west of downtown San Jose. Upon arrival at the entrance, the owner will greet you where you can pay the small fee and be given instructions on how to get to the waterfalls. The walk is a relatively short distance and not too challenging, minus a couple of small sections. Be sure to bring some water, a hat, sunscreen and insect repellent.
Want To See More Of Costa Rica?
Apart from waterfalls, Costa Rica is filled with many natural wonders for all ages to enjoy. Whether you want to see some of these waterfalls as part of a tour or perhaps enjoy some many other exciting activities, then be sure to to visit our website and learn more about some truly excellent day tours and packages!