La Fortuna and Monteverde are two of Costa Rica’s top destinations, and many people visiting one will often travel to the other. But those who have driven this beautiful but bumpy stretch before know that there is not much around besides the occasional farmhouse or herd of cows. Luckily, there is one place worth a visit, the Viento Fresco Waterfalls. In this post, we’ll give you all the details you need to plan a refreshing stop at this set of four peaceful waterfalls.
The Viento Fresco Waterfalls are located 11 km (7 miles) from the city of Tilaran. They are roughly halfway between the popular destinations of La Fortuna and Monteverde, or a little less than two hours from La Fortuna and 1-1.5 hours from Monteverde.
Tip: The section of road between Tilaran and Monteverde (Route 145) is mostly dirt and changes conditions at different times of year. Sometimes it can be fairly smooth, but other times, it can have large potholes, washouts, or muddy ruts. We recommend a vehicle with higher clearance and 4×4 so that you don’t have any problems. Four-wheel-drive cars are more expensive but the peace of mind and comfort (for the bumps) is worth the extra cost. Check out our rental car discount to help save.
Access to the Viento Fresco Waterfalls is easy. Right off the main road (Route 145), you will see signs for the office/restaurant and the falls. After you pay the admission fee ($15 foreigners, ₡3,000 nationals), you will be given a map and can drive your car to the nearby trailhead where there is another small parking lot and bathroom. Note that the dirt road to the trailhead can be bumpy and uneven, so again, a vehicle with higher clearance is best.
From that area, there are a series of rustic steps and paths that lead down through the forest and some fields to the different waterfalls. The hike is easy to moderate, but be warned that there are at least 400 steps by our count. So if you are stopping here to stretch your legs, you will definitely get some exercise. Plan for about one to two hours total to enjoy the property.
See below for a map of the area. To see a map of the trail and waterfalls, click here.
Note: With a little advanced planning, you can also arrange to visit the waterfalls by horseback tour ($55), but you will still have to traverse the steps to see some of the falls. Horseback tours take about three hours. Viento Fresco also has an onsite restaurant and some camping areas. See their website for more info.
Walking down the steps from the parking area, it doesn’t take long to reach the first waterfall, the Serena River Waterfall. This cascade drops 102 feet (31 meters) into a nice pool. There is a small bathroom here where you can change into your swimsuit. Since it was a little chilly in the shade of the forest, we decided to keep hiking to find the other falls.
Tip: Viento fresco translates to “cool wind” and you will notice that the breeze coming across the mountains is definitely refreshing. Depending on the weather, it might feel a little cold for swimming.
Continuing down the path and steps through the forest, there is a nice open spot called the lookout, which gives you a great view of the mountains and one of the waterfalls in the distance.
From the lookout, a short separate trail leads to the Hidden Waterfall. Although not as tall as the Serena at only 66 feet (20 meters), the Hidden Waterfall has a lot of character. At the top is a big boulder that looks like it is about to get pushed off the edge by the water pressure, and below are shallow caves on each side that make it look like a spooky face or set of eyes.
After getting back up to the lookout, it is another good climb down to the next waterfall. At the base of the hill, the trees give way to a flatter more open area. This is where you’ll see the Rainbow Waterfall, the tallest single drop on the property at 247 feet (75 meters). This waterfall was our favorite because the water just cascades through mid-air in wispy sheets before landing on the rocks below. The mist coming off can sometimes create a rainbow (although we didn’t see one) and helps grow the colorful moss on the surrounding rocks. Since it is more open and sunny at the Rainbow Waterfall, some people like to wade in the pool and shower under the falls. There is a changing room here where we got into our swimsuits, but we decided we’d wait for the last waterfall to actually get wet.
Although the trail is more open and a lot flatter, the last waterfall is a good ten minute walk downhill of the Rainbow Waterfall. The effort is worth it, though, because the Slide Waterfall is 312 feet tall (95 meters), and as the name implies, it literally slides down the side of the mountain. The rugged rocks on the slope make the water go in all different directions and create several shallow pools at the base. This is where we decided to get wet, especially since we had just hiked through the sunniest part of the trail. The great thing about the Slide Waterfall was that the rocky areas were fairly mud free, unlike some of the pools at the previous falls. This way we could get right under the streams of water without wading through any murky pools.
After showering off at the Slide and taking in the spectacular views, we headed back up the hill to the parking area. The hike up was a little rough with all the steps, and by the time we made it, we were ready to get back in the car and continue down the road. We definitely recommend Viento Fresco Waterfalls as a pit stop to break up the long ride between Monteverde and La Fortuna. Just make sure whoever is behind the wheel gets a coffee or smoothie to recharge before they drive the rest of the way.
Have you visited the Viento Fresco Waterfalls? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Looking for more info to plan your trip? You might like these posts:
- Driving in Costa Rica: What to Know Before You Go – Packed with info that you might need before getting behind the wheel.
- 6 Great Eats Around Lake Arenal – If you’re making the drive between La Fortuna and Monteverde, don’t miss these great restaurants and brewery.
- La Fortuna: What to Expect from Costa Rica’s Most Popular Destination – Everything you need to know about La Fortuna, the closest town to Arenal Volcano. Includes activities, hotels, restaurants, and more.