Best Waterfalls in Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Over the last 21 months, we’ve been fortunate to see some incredible waterfalls in Costa Rica. At times, it seems there’s one around every corner. Even just a simple day trip can turn into a full-day affair when you randomly discover a hidden waterfall. We’ve encountered waterfalls with multiple tiers, waterfalls that flow into dormant volcanoes, remote waterfalls that require hours of jungle trekking to reach, and even falls with water so blue they don’t seem real. Deciding which were our favorites was difficult but here are our picks for the best waterfalls in Costa Rica.

Be sure to refer to the map at the end of the post, which pinpoints the location of each waterfall.

Rio Celeste Waterfall

 

Rio Celeste Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Location: Tenorio Volcano National Park, near Bijagua and Guatuso (Northern Zone)

Visit from La Fortuna or Nuevo Arenal

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

 

The Rio Celeste Waterfall is Costa Rica’s most magical cascade. The strikingly blue color looks almost out of this world but it’s real. The Rio Celeste gets its baby blue hue from a natural chemical reaction that occurs between minerals in this volcano-rich region. Access to the Rio Celeste River and Waterfall is via the jungle trails at Tenorio Volcano National Park. It is a moderately difficult hike along an often muddy, shaded path to reach the staircase that leads to the waterfall. A short climb down 250 stairs gets you to a viewing platform. Swimming is no longer permitted so don’t worry about packing a suit.

Admission: $12.

For more information on visiting the Rio Celeste Waterfall, including the best times of year to go, read our separate post.

La Fortuna Waterfall

 

La Fortuna Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Location: La Fortuna (Northern Zone)

Visit from La Fortuna or Nuevo Arenal

Level of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

 

La Fortuna Waterfall is probably Costa Rica’s most well-known waterfall. It is located just outside the popular destination of La Fortuna and is a great place to bring the whole family. You access it from a visitors center, which has bathroom facilities and changing rooms. To reach the falls, you have to walk down 500 steep (but well maintained) stairs, which make for a challenging hike back up. The waterfall is a gorgeous white ribbon that flows from a lush green backdrop into an azul pool. While you can swim, the stream of water is very powerful so the pool can sometimes be rough. Luckily there’s also a calmer river for wading right next to the falls.

Admission: $10.

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

 

Llanos de Cortez | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Location: Between Liberia and Bagaces (Guanacaste Province)

Visit from Tamarindo, Flamingo, Playas del Coco, or any of the beach towns in northern Guanacaste

Level of Difficulty: Easy

 

Conveniently located right off the busy Interamericana Highway is the stunning Llanos de Cortez. This wide waterfall is an oasis in the middle of the arid forests of Guanacaste Province. Guanacaste receives the least rain in Costa Rica so waterfalls are less plentiful in this region and the ones that do exist sometimes run dry. This is not the case at Llanos de Cortez, which was flowing with wispy streams of water even on our visit at the end of the dry season. Llanos de Cortez is a nice place to stop for a couple of hours en route to the beaches of Guanacaste and is also a good place to pack a lunch and spend the day at the small sandy beach. Swimming in the calm pool is highly recommended.

Admission: By donation (proceeds go to the local school). Parking: $4.

For more details on visiting Llanos de Cortez Waterfall, read our separate post.

Catarata del Toro

 

Catarata del Toro | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Location: Bajos del Toro, near Poas Volcano (Central Volcanic Mountain Range)

Visit from Puerto Viejo de Saraiqui, La Virgen, or Poas Volcano Area

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

 

One of Costa Rica’s most unique waterfalls, Catarata del Toro flows into a dormant volcanic crater. Vivid greens, reds, and oranges line the walls of the pool, remnants from the extremely acidic crater lake. This little known waterfall is said to be one of Costa Rica’s largest at 90 meters (300 feet). To reach the base, you have to hike down 375 steep steps. At the time of our visit, the steps were irregular and some were muddy and slippery, and the hike up was challenging. It’s not a trek for everyone, but fortunately you can see the falls from the top near the visitors center as well. There are also several hummingbird feeders outside the on-site restaurant and some nice trails that traverse the cloud-forest habitat.

Admission: $10.

For more details on visiting Catarata del Toro, read our separate post.

Nauyaca Waterfalls

 

Nauyaca Waterfalls | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Location: Between Baru and Platanillo, near Dominical (Southern Zone)

Visit from Manuel Antonio or Uvita, Dominical, or Ojochal in the Costa Ballena

Level of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. Also can access the waterfall on horseback.

 

The Nauyaca were the first big waterfalls we saw in Costa Rica and will probably always be our favorite. Set in the jungle in Costa Rica’s lush Southern Zone, the Nauyaca Waterfalls have two gorgeous tiers with a lovely natural pool for swimming. To access the waterfalls on foot, you have to hike along a well-maintained trail for about an hour. There are a few steep spots, but it is appropriate for most fitness levels. Right before you begin the final descent, there’s a rustic bathroom and changing room so that you can put on your bathing suit. If you’d rather not hike it, a local company offers horseback tours as well.

Cost to Hike: $8. Cost for Horseback Tour: $70.

For more details on visiting Nauyaca Waterfalls, including trail conditions, read our separate post.

Diamante Waterfall and Cave

 

Diamante Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Location: Las Tumbas, near Dominical and San Isidro del General (Southern Zone)

Visit from Manuel Antonio or Uvita, Dominical, or Ojochal in the Costa Ballena

Level of Difficulty: Difficult

 

Tucked away in the middle of the jungle is the remote Diamante Waterfall and Caves. While many people believe that the Diamante are the largest falls in Costa Rica at 183 meters (600 feet), the caves are what make the Diamante so special. After a rigorous 2-3 hour hike up the mountain, you’ll arrive at a set of two waterfalls rushing over an enormous cave. If you’re up for some adventure, we highly recommend staying the night. Local tour operators have set up raised beds in the cave, a makeshift kitchen, and even bath houses with flushing toilets and pedestal sinks. The falls are on private property and you can only visit on a tour.

Cost: $89 for day tour. Visit Tree of Life Tours’ website for more information on tours.

For more information about the hike to Diamante Waterfall, check out our separate post.

Montezuma Waterfalls

 

Montezuma Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Photo Credit: Casey Atchley

 

Location: Montezuma (Southern Nicoya Peninsula)

Visit from Montezuma, Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, or Tambor

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

 

Just outside the chill beach town of Montezuma is a set of three spectacular waterfalls. The Montezuma falls are hidden in the jungle but can be accessed by following a trail south of town for about 20 minutes. The hike is moderately difficult, as you have to cross a riverbed and use a rope at some points. Wear water shoes if you have them. Most visitors stop at the first falls, which you can jump from if you’re careful, but it’s worth continuing on higher to the other two if you can. Beware that the hike becomes more difficult after the first waterfall. If you’re looking to make the trip a little easier, a local tour operator has built sturdy stairs at the top, which you can use for a small fee.

Admission via the lower falls: Free. Parking: $2.

Admission via the upper falls through tour operator: $4.

For more information about the two ways to access these falls, read our post:  Montezuma Waterfalls: Best Ways to Access.

Los Chorros Waterfalls

 

Los Chorros Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Location: Grecia (Central Valley)

Visit from San Jose, Alajuela, Grecia, Atenas, or other locations in the Central Valley

Level of Difficulty: Easy

 

Los Chorros are the only waterfalls on our list in the Central Valley. We discovered these falls while on a short trip to Grecia and were so glad we did. We were the only foreigners around and it really felt like we had discovered a secret locals spot. Los Chorros are located a few miles south of the main square in Grecia. Access to the waterfalls is via an easy, ten minute hike from a main parking area through the woods. There are a few picnic tables if you want to pack a lunch and spend the day in this peaceful, rustic spot.

Admission: $6. Parking: $4.

For more information about Los Chorros Waterfalls, including detailed directions, check out our post.

Map of the Best Waterfalls in Costa Rica

Did we miss one of your favorites? What’s your favorite waterfall in Costa Rica? Let us know in the comments below.

Planning a visit to Costa Rica? Don’t miss these posts:

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  • Packing for Costa Rica – The Essentials: Detailed packing list for what to bring. Dry and rainy season and destination-specific tips.
  • Cost of Travel in Costa Rica: Info on average cost of hotels, restaurants, and activities to help you budget for your trip. Tips on how to save on lodging.