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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21 Comments

  1. Thank you so much!! We had a great morning with our kids exploring and enjoying the falls. You instructions were perfect!

        1. Yes, you could take a cab. It is about a 25-30 min ride each way. It would probably be cheapest to have the driver just wait for you while you’re at the waterfall. Work out the price round-trip in advance.

  2. We went today. The directions were perfect. Rocks were slippery as expected. The water was very brown from recent rains but was comfortable to swim in.

    HEADS UP though. I think the water is a bit high now in June. In the main pool, across from the largest fall, it looks like the current it running right into a big rock. But if you look carefully, it’s not splashing up like it should — it’s pushing down under the rock.

    The result is that my good-swimmer 7-year-old got sucked under and couldn’t get back up. I dove in to get him and could barely pull the two of us out (I’m strong and a good swimmer). I wasn’t sure that both of us would escape.

    I should have been more cautious. Do go to the falls. Do be ready to slip and fall on your butt. Do watch out for currents, especially if something doesn’t look right.

    1. Hi Jeff, Yikes, that sounds really scary. We have only visited in the dry season. Glad you are both okay. Thanks so much for the heads up. We’ll add a note to the post to let others visiting in the rainy season know about that spot in the main pool. Thanks again for taking the time to write.

    2. Sounds like the place is more dangerous than people are led to believe:

      A Casper couple has reportedly drowned in an incident while on vacation in Costa Rica. Few official details are available yet, but according to the website La Teja, and the Costa Rica Star, 48-year-old Darren Mizokami and his wife, 41-year-old Kimberly Mizokami, were visiting a popular waterfall in Belén de Nosarita Wednesday with a friend when Darren began to drown in a waterfall pool.

    3. A couple just drowned there at that rock you explained. It would have been a really compassionate thing to do if someone made a warning sign at least. It would have save a husband and wife’s lives.

      1. I agree with a warning sign. Looking at the falls, nothing jumps out and screams “danger”. It was my brother and my sister-in law who lost their lives there on September 19, 2018. He had been there before. Our whole family had been. We still can’t believe this has happened. Something needs to be done so that more lives are tragically lost.

    4. If you are there in the rainy season don’t jump in that water. My Brother and his wife both drowned there this September. Young, athletic, and both great swimmers.

  3. Please be very careful during the raining season. We just lost two great friends to that swimming hole. It needs to be better marked to warn the dangers of this particular spot.

    1. Hi Jen, Yes, sadly, this is the same waterfall where the couple died recently. Very tragic.

      Conditions at waterfalls can change quickly during the rainy season so everyone should use a lot of caution when visiting this and any waterfall in Costa Rica during the rainy months (May to end of November approximately).

  4. I appreciate all your assistance. Since the waterfall is not in a park per se, does that mean this is a freebie? Thanks.

  5. We just went there (mid-December), the main pool as you say looks tempting, but that part where the water would pin you to the far side wall and push you under would make drowning a very real possibility for anyone, as after jumping you would not be able to get out of the pool. We saw some young European males who thought about it but didn’t, and ended up just jumping in below the main pool where it was really calm and clear, and not as high of a jump. The charge to park was 1000 colones or $2 dollars per person, and the road to get there does not require 4WD. The man charging for parking warned us in Spanish of the pool and not to jump in it, but for someone that doesn’t speak Spanish it’s not of much help. Signage would definitely help; I am sorry for those who have lost their lives due to this.

    1. Hi Paul, Thanks for your comment on conditions in mid-December. Yes, whoever owns the property should put up a sign in English warning of the danger. A simple sign would do a lot of good towards keeping people safe.

  6. Oh, and being at the end of the rainy season it did NOT look like the pictures above…it was fast flowing and violent whitewater in the pool beneath the falls. Beautiful to look at though!

  7. PSA Do not go to the waterfall during the rainy season. It’s VERY dangerous. My mother drowned there just last year and she was a great swimmer. Honestly would avoid it all together, but if not, then be extremely cautious.

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