Belen Waterfall: A Hidden Swimming Hole Near Samara

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.

The Belen Waterfall - A Hidden Swimming Hole near Samara

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.

Trail to the Belen Waterfall near Samara Costa Rica
The trail to the river and waterfall

The Waterfall

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. 

Natural Swimming Pools near Samara Costa Rica
Some of the different natural pools created by the rocks

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. 

Swimming at the Belen Waterfall near Samara Costa Rica
Looking down from the top of the waterfall

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.

Swimming at the Belen Waterfall near Samara Costa Rica
Another look at the waterfall and some of the pools

Directions to the Belen Waterfall

From the bus stop in Samara (across from Luv Burger), drive on Route 150 for approximately 18 km (11 miles) towards the city of Nicoya. Immediately before you get to Bar La Cascada (a restaurant on the left with a big Pilsen sign and blue fence), you will take a left-hand turn onto a dirt road. The road will go sharply downhill.

Bar La Cascada near Samara Costa Rica
Turn left immediately before this bar

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.

Directions to the Belen Waterfall near Samara Costa Rica
Parking area

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.

Have you been to the Belen Waterfall or have questions about visiting? Leave us a comment below.

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