The Best Waterfalls in Costa Rica

If you’re in Costa Rica just for the magnificent beaches and year-round warm weather you might want to consider a few excursions too so that you can experience the amazing nature that this country offers, and with it’s rainforest settings there is little that beats Costa Rica waterfalls.

Costa Rica only occupies 0.03% of the world’s land and yet has 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Add to that the fact that almost half of Costa Rica is covered in forest, some of them rainforested volcanoes, it’s worth leaving the Costa Rica beaches. And where there’s mountains there will inevitably be many waterfalls; here are a few of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica.

Rio Celeste Waterfall

Rio Celeste Waterfall is named after the sky blue river that feeds it, and like many of Costa Rica’s amazing waterfalls, it has a volcanic link. If you’re planning on visiting the Tenorio Volcano National Park, a rainforest area blessed with huge quantities of fauna (from butterflies to monkeys), you’ll want to stop by this heavenly beauty for a while to breathe in the sight of the turquoise pool that gathers beneath; swimming is not allowed though. Only an hour’s hike from the park entrance means this is a very accessible waterfall for anyone with good mobility. Best experienced during the dry season for peak blueness.

La Fortuna Waterfall

This 70m high beauty is more like a powerful jet of concentrated water than your usual cascade. If you’re fortunate to be in or passing the town of La Fortuna you really need to make this a priority, and it’s one of Costa Rica’s most visited waterfalls for a reason. Located at the base of the dormant Chato volcano there are a variety of things to do while visiting the La Fortuna waterfall, including nearby hot springs, hikes through the rain forests, and the vertigo-inducing hanging bridges. For real adrenaline junkies there are ziplines too. Be sure to bring swimming gear as you’re permitted to take a plunge into the cool waters that gather beneath La Fortuna Waterfall.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

For waterfalls near San Jose, Costa Rica, you really ought to head north to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a private nature reserve lovingly developed into a magnificent collection of nature trails, a wildlife preserve with over 100 species of animal (including snakes, frigs, butterflies, and hummingbirds), and, of course waterfalls! They might not be the behemoth waterfalls typical of Costa Rica but they are lovely and peaceful, and there are five of them to enjoy. Located in a cloud forest this reserve, located on the eastern edge of the Poás Volcano, if often shrouded in mists at canopy level, adding to the atmosphere while you walk through the rainforest. Keep an eye out for monkeys, sloths, jaguars and pumas, and ocelots. The paths can be steep so not recommended for people with mobility issues.

Uvita Waterfall

Located just outside the popular Costa Ballena tourist town of Uvita, this lovely little gem of a cascade may lack the imposing majesty of many Costa Rican waterfalls but it more than makes up for it in charm. Reached via some easy forest tracks from the park entrance (there’s a very small entry fee) the pool at the base of Uvita Waterfall makes for great bathing. But the pièce de résistance is the fact that you can slide down the waterfall! The river has worn the rock so smooth you can use it as a slide to plunge into the waters below. Go on, you know you want to!

Nauyaca Waterfalls

Not far from the surfers paradise town of Dominical, 45km south of Quepos, is the marvelous double feature that is Nauyaca Waterfalls. More falls for your buck, this is one waterfall immediately feeding a second one and it makes for an amazing photography opportunity. It’s a 4km walk each way, and after the first quarter it does become quite steep so this is one for the reasonably fit and best done in the morning before it gets too hot as there is not much shade. The walk is worth it though! The wide, multi-streamed lower waterfall, as opposed to the single flow of the upper fall, is where the real action is. The sight is a beauty to behold and the big pool at the bottom is ideal to cool off after your climb to Nauyaca Waterfalls. It is possible, with great care, to access a diving area halfway up the cliffs on the lower falls, if bombing it into the pool is your thing.

Manantial de Agua Viva Waterfall

You may not be looking for waterfalls near Jaco, what with the lovely Pacific coast to enjoy, but when you have the biggest waterfall in Costa Rica only 25 minutes drive away why would you not make an excursion? The roads there are good, or as good as they get in Costa Rica, and the attended parking is free. There is an entrance fee of 20$ for foreigners though (around 9$ for locals) but the paths are well maintained. The going is a little strenuous so it might not be suitable for the very young or the very old, but the 4-km track is mostly shaded from the sun so you’ll not bake too much. You will be rewarded for the effort with a 250m high cascade crashing over the rocky crags, and there are 3 pools in which to take a dip in. Best of all is that, unlike most of the waterfalls in Costa Rica, it’s not crowded at all. Definitely worth half a day break from the beach!

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