Part of Costa Rica’s allure are the many off-the-beaten-path activities that can be found with a little bit of exploring. One such activity is the Belen Waterfall near Samara. This small cascade and series of swimming holes is a popular local’s hangout and an easy day trip from the beach. In this post, we’ll tell you more about the Belen Waterfall and how to access this little-known spot on your own.
IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE: This waterfall is best visited during the dry season (approx. January through April). During certain times of year when it is rainy (May through mid-December), the water can get very powerful and people have drowned in the past. If you are visiting during the rainy season, avoid the part of the main pool that can have a suction effect with a strong current, and always use caution when jumping in. There is no one around to help you. This post was written about a visit during dry season, when the pools were nice and calm.
Location and Access
The Belen Waterfall is located about 20 minutes from the town of Samara in Guanacaste Province. It is a bit hidden, but not far off the main road that connects Samara to the inland city of Nicoya.
To get there, you will take a short drive through a beautiful country setting. The road is dirt but fairly well maintained. A 4×4 vehicle is recommended but not necessarily required depending on recent rainfall and the condition of your tires.
Once you arrive at the parking area, it is a fairly easy, five-minute walk down to the river. The trail is a bit steep but nicely maintained. From the river, the pools and waterfall are a short climb through the forest and over some rocks.
For detailed driving directions to the Belen Waterfall, see the end of this post.
Once you reach the bottom of the trail, you’ll see why the Belen Waterfall is a popular local hangout. The smooth rocks of the riverbed create several different levels of swimming pools. There are also plenty of flat surfaces to spread out a towel and relax. The waterfall itself is about a 10-15 foot (3-4 meter) drop into a deeper pool.
When we visited, it was the end of the dry season (mid-April) and it hadn’t rained much for several months. While the water level was low and the falls not flowing too much, there was still plenty of water to take a refreshing swim or jump in from the top.
IMPORTANT: Always use your best judgment whenever jumping into waterfalls. If you’re visiting in the rainy season (approx. May to end of November), use caution if there is a lot of water flowing. A reader in June 2018 pointed out that at one of the pools, the water looks like it’s flowing down onto a big rock, but it is actually pushing down under the rock, creating a suction effect. See the comments below for more detail.
While there, it is also worth exploring the surrounding patch of secluded forest. You can walk along the rocks in either direction to see wildlife like lizards, frogs, and birds. While most of the trees had lost their leaves on our visit because of the dry season, we can imagine that it would be lush and green with a little rain.
Tip: Bring water shoes with good grips if you have them, as some of the rocks are slippery.
Directions to the Belen Waterfall
Continue on the dirt road for 2 km (1.2 miles), bearing right at the fork, until you see a small dirt parking lot on the right. This parking area is lower than the road so a little hard to see, especially if there aren’t any other cars there. Look for a metal gate to a property on the right (around the 2 km mark) and it is immediately before that. Parking was free when we were there and there was no attendant to watch the car. This seemed like a very safe area, but don’t leave any valuables behind, just in case.
If you’re looking for a fun day trip from Samara, check out the Belen Waterfall. This cascade may not be as spectacular as some of Costa Rica’s more famous waterfalls, but it is still worth a visit. Not only will you get to see a bit of rural Costa Rica, but the natural pools and rock formations are gorgeous and make for a refreshing place to explore.