Costa Rica has plenty of stunning waterfalls but probably the most spectacular, in our eyes, are the Nauyaca located in the mountains of the southern zone. With two sets of falls measuring a combined 61 meters (200 feet) tall and a large natural pool for swimming, the Nauyaca waterfalls are indeed a sight to see.
Although the Nauyaca waterfalls are a popular destination in Costa Rica, we were surprised to discover when planning our visit that there isn’t much information about how to access them on foot. This post will provide everything you need to plan your visit.
The Nauyaca waterfalls lie deep in the tropical rainforest in southern Costa Rica. Despite the remote location, the trailhead is located just 20 minutes from Dominical and is surprisingly easy to get to. If you’re visiting the popular destinations of Manuel Antonio or Uvita or Dominical in the Costa Ballena, you can definitely visit the Nauyaca on a day trip.
Many people choose to arrive via horseback tour but if you’re up for a little hiking, the falls also can be accessed on foot. Either way, the starting point is the office of Don Lulo, the company that owns the property and offers the horseback tour.
To get to Don Lulo’s office, take Route 243 off the Costanera highway towards San Isidro del General. In about 10 kilometers (6 miles) just before the town of Platanillo, the small Don Lulo office will be on the right. If you’re hiking, you’ll need to stop here to buy your ticket to the falls ($8). To get to the trailhead, take the first road on the right after Don Lulo. The road turns to dirt here and is very steep in places so you’ll need four-wheel drive. The trailhead is about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) from the main road and there is a parking area where the horseback tour starts.
The horseback tour and hike use the same well-maintained trail, first following beside the beautiful Baru River and then ascending a steep hill. If you keep an eye out, you might even see some wildlife, like monkeys or birds. We were fortunate on our visit to spot a Great Currasow, a large, turkey-like bird found only in the tropics, and tons of different hummingbird species.
From the trailhead, the hike is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) in each direction (about 1-1.5 hrs. each way). The trail is very easy in places, following a rough dirt road, and moderately difficult in others, with a few steep, rocky areas near the falls. It isn’t too difficult or long though and would be fine for children. Just be sure to pack plenty of water as the trail is directly in the sun in many places and temps can get quite hot.
The Reward: The Waterfalls
Once you reach the falls, you’ll be happy you made the trek. The Nauyaca sits in a wide canyon that is covered in lush greenery, made even greener from the constant mist of the cascading water. There are both upper and lower falls with steps leading to both but you’ll definitely want to check out the lower ones first. From below this 18 meter (60 foot) cascade you’ll have the best view of both the impressive waterfall in front of you and the lofty ones above. The lower falls are also where you can take a swim to cool off. There’s a huge pool of blue water with plenty of room for everyone to have their space and relax. If you need to change into a swimsuit, facilities are available right before the steps down to the falls. Tip: The rocks around the lower falls can be slippery so bring some good gripping water shoes if you have them.
After you visit the lower falls, be sure to check out the upper falls which have an impressive 43 meter (140 foot) cliff with several more cascades. Here there are some large, smooth rocks that make for a good spot for picnicking.
The Nauyaca waterfalls are definitely an impressive natural attraction that shouldn’t be missed. Their close proximity to popular tourist destinations along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast make them an easy-to-access activity for those looking for some off-the-beaten path adventure. For us, sitting in the cool pools after an invigorating hike really is the perfect meddling of adventure and relaxation. After all, isn’t that what Costa Rica is all about?
Post by: Jennifer Turnbull-Houde & Matthew Houde