Last Updated: August 5, 2022
If you’re visiting Poas Volcano or the northern lowlands around Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, be sure to take a day trip to the stunning Catarata del Toro. We happened upon this (then) little-known waterfall several years ago and recently made another visit. It impressed us once again. This waterfall is one of the largest in Costa Rica and definitely one of the most interesting, as it flows into an extinct volcanic crater. Below is everything you need to know to plan your visit to the stunning Catarata del Toro.
Catarata del Toro is located near the small town of Bajos del Toro in the remote mountains north of Costa Rica’s Central Valley. The waterfall is on the other side of Poas Volcano, but due to road conditions, is best accessed from the north.
The town of Bajos del Toro may be small, but well worth a visit. In addition to Catarata del Toro, this area boasts several other amazing waterfalls and is covered in thick, lush jungle. Check out our full guide to Bajos del Toro for more information.
Day Trip Option
If you don’t have time to stay in Bajos del Toro, you could make a day trip out of visiting the waterfall.
Catarata del Toro is a good stop if you’re traveling to La Fortuna/Arenal from Tortuguero. You also could visit on the drive from San Jose to La Fortuna, by taking the scenic route (Route 126 north from San Jose). Catarata del Toro is also a nice day trip from Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, at about one hour away.
Arriving at the Waterfall
Over the years, Catarata del Toro has grown in popularity and now there are large signs marking the entrance.
Like a lot of waterfalls in Costa Rica, access is through private property so you have to pay to visit. The upside is that someone is maintaining the access trail and there are facilities/bathrooms and parking available. You can leave your car safely in their lot, hit the trail, and even grab some food or a drink at the on-site restaurant afterwards.
Cataratas Las Gemelas/The Blue Falls
The people who own the Catarata del Toro property also own land that provides access to other waterfalls.
The Blue Falls of Costa Rica (also known as Cataratas Las Gemelas) is a set of two waterfalls with an intense bright blue color. You can purchase admission to both Catarata del Toro and the Blue Falls, and easily hike them all the same day.
For more information on Cataratas Las Gemelas, read our separate post.
The Hike to Catarata del Toro
The waterfall is part of a huge 250-acre (100 hectare) reserve of primary rainforest.
The main trail meanders through the jungle, taking you to a few viewpoints. These will let you snap some shots of the waterfall at different angles.
The forested part of the trail is flat and easy to navigate.
After you go through the forest (about 15 minutes), you start to go down—and fast.
There are about 260 steps to the base of the waterfall.
Over the years, the owners have improved these steps. What was once irregular and unsteady are now sturdy concrete for the most part. Handrails help make the hike a bit easier.
As you get closer to the waterfall, the trail flattens out in places, then goes down some more steps.
This part of the hike is moderate in difficulty. The climb back up is tough if you’re not in good shape. There are a lot of steps and they’re not all even. When we have been, it has taken us about an hour to get up and down but would take longer if you need to take a lot of breaks.
Not sure about the hike? Don’t fret. The view of the falls from right outside the restaurant is great too so you can just as easily enjoy it while kicking back with an iced tea.
At the bottom, you’ll be rewarded with a close view of the 90-meter (300 foot) waterfall plummeting into an extinct volcanic crater.
The unique rock formations and streaks of color caused by old lava flows and the strange chemical composition of the water are even more remarkable from this vantage point.
At the base of the stairs is a grassy area with some benches. This spot offers a really nice view.
If you continue down another short set of stairs, you’ll come to a closer vantage point of the base. This area has a lot of boulders and rocks, which get misty from all the spray. You can walk to the back of this area along the rocks to get some nice pictures. They have it fenced off for safety reasons, but it’s see-through so doesn’t interfere too much.
The waterfall is reason enough to visit Catarata del Toro, but another awesome feature is the wildlife.
On our short visits, we have seen an armadillo, blue morpho butterfly, and lots of birds. On our most recent trip, we even saw a snake!
It was hiding on a tree near the top of the stairs to the waterfall. The black mussurana was not aggressive at all and quickly slithered away under the tree and out of sight.
The owners of the property have set up hummingbird feeders along the edge of the restaurant that attract dozens of these tiny birds. This area has beautiful gardens with tropical plants like heliconia, beehive ginger, and huge Queen of the Night (Angel’s Trumpet) trees.
We have been amazed at the number hummingbirds we’ve seen in this spot, all zipping around within a few feet of our heads. If you’re into bird photography, you will be in heaven!
Tips for Visiting Catarata del Toro
Catarata del Toro is open Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays.
Hours are 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $14. Children, $7. Seniors ages 65+, $7.
Combo with Catarata del Toro and Blue Falls of Costa Rica: Adults, $25. Children, $12.50. Seniors 65+: $12.50.
Advance reservations are not required.
What to Wear
We recommend closed toe shoes for the hike. Since this area is cooler, you will want to have some layers handy. Lightweight pants and a T-shirt is usually enough, but also bring along a raincoat.
Swimming is not permitted in the waterfall. If you are looking for a place to swim in the area, we recommend the Blue Pools.
The turnoff to the falls is located between the towns of San Miguel to the east and Venecia to the west.
Coming from Route 140, take Route 708 south towards Bajos del Toro. The 14-kilometer (8.5 mile) drive on Route 708 is along a beautiful, mountainous road (duration: about 25 minutes).
This area of Costa Rica gets a lot of rain. Although the road is paved, it is steep in places and can have large potholes. Many people do this drive with a regular sedan, but an SUV would be more comfortable with the bumps.
Catarata del Toro claims to be Costa Rica’s best kept secret and it delivers. We’ve seen a lot of waterfalls in Costa Rica, and while the Nauyaca are still probably our favorite, this one is a very close second. So if you’re looking to get off-the-beaten path in Costa Rica and have a couple of hours to spare, be sure to take a detour to Catarata del Toro. You won’t regret it.
Last Updated: August 5, 2022
What’s the most spectacular waterfalls you’ve ever seen?
Looking for more information to plan your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
A Starbucks Coffee Tour in Costa Rica: Visiting Hacienda Alsacia – Costa Rica has a lot of authentic coffee tours, but the Starbucks tour near Poas Volcano is interesting too. Learn about visiting with this post.
Dino Land Costa Rica: Not far from Catarata del Toro is a dinosaur-themed park that is super fun with the kids.
Hanging Bridges in Costa Rica: Where to Go for the Best Experience – Want to check out some hanging bridges but aren’t sure which ones to visit? This post is a good place to start.