The Rincon de la Vieja area in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province has plenty of gorgeous waterfalls. Many of these tropical cascades, though, are harder to access. Some are located deep in a rocky gorge and may even require you to wade through a river. Others, like the waterfalls in the national park, are a full day of hiking away. The Oropendola Waterfall, on the other hand, is easy to get to. Just about anyone can visit. In this post, we’ll tell what you need to know to plan your visit to the stunning Oropendola Waterfall.
The Oropendola Waterfall is located in Guanacaste Province in northwestern Costa Rica.
If you want to see a waterfall during your time in Guanacaste, it’s a very good option. You could easily visit on day trip from the beach (from Tamarindo, Flamingo, Potrero, Playa Hermosa, etc.). The drive is about 1.5 hours or so depending on your location. Or, you could plan on a couple of nights right in Rincon de la Vieja to be nearby and explore the region’s other sights.
The waterfall abuts Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The parking area is just before the national park entrance.
The property where the waterfall is located is owned by a hotel called Hacienda Guachipelin. Because of this, access is only through that hotel.
Accessing the Oropendola Waterfall
To access the Oropendola Waterfall, you will first need to buy your tickets. You can get them at the front desk of Hacienda Guachipelin or through the hotel’s website.
Note that even if you get tickets online, you will still need to check in at the hotel front desk. Here, they will give you a wristband to show the guard at the trail entrance.
Tip: Be sure to get tickets in advance. The waterfall entrance is several kilometers after Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin, and the guard at the waterfall cannot sell tickets. So, if you don’t get them beforehand, you will need to drive all the way back to the hotel. Also, if you’re traveling during Covid, entry is limited so we recommend getting your tickets well in advance, especially during busy times, so they don’t sell out.
The Short Hike
Once you have your tickets, you can continue to the parking area. The guard will make sure you have a wristband, then you can begin the hike.
The dirt trail to the waterfall is nicely maintained, but still wild feeling. It starts wide and mostly flat. Along the sides of the trail is brushy tropical forest. In the rainy season (May through November), the trail feels very lush. However, since this is one of the driest regions of Costa Rica, in the dry season, the foliage becomes more barren.
About five minutes into the walk, the jungle will get thicker, and the trail, a little more rugged.
As you begin the descent to the waterfall, the trail gets much narrower. There are some rocks and steep steps to navigate, but handrails make it a little easier. We did the hike without any problems with our five-year old and toddler in a baby carrier.
Tip: If you are traveling during Covid-19, we highly recommend wearing a mask if you are trying to keep your distance. The trail gets very narrow in places. Passing people coming the other way can be make for some close encounters.
The best part of the hike is right before the waterfall.
Just as you begin to feel the cool damp air from the falls, you’ll come to an impressive hanging bridge over the river gorge. This is one of the most unique hanging bridges we’ve seen in Costa Rica. It slopes downward, to get you down that last bit of elevation, and has steps built into it.
The hanging bridge is a little wobbly, but all closed in and secure. You can hold onto the railing to help balance.
If you’re visiting with young kids that can go in a carrier, you may want to carry them. Our five-year old did it, but he was definitely nervous!
The hike is about 15-20 minutes total each way. Overall, it is easy-to-moderate in difficulty.
The Oropendola Waterfall
Right after the bridge, you’ll come to the landing area. This small platform looks out onto the cascade and is a great spot to get some pictures. It can hold around 10-15 people comfortably.
The waterfall itself is stunning. It flows 82 feet (25 meters) over a rocky, moss-covered canyon. The water is a rich turquoise color. It gets this unique hue from minerals in the soil that are abundant in this volcanic region.
Those wanting a closer look can walk down the metal stairs to the riverbed. This area is nice because it lets you explore the base of the waterfall and get a sense of the grandeur of the canyon. In the rainy season (May through November), you may not be able to get too close since the water can be very powerful, depending on recent rainfall. But in dry season when it is tamer, you can swim around easily and get an up-close view.
Even during rainy season, the river usually has calmer sections. When we visited in late November, there was a nice sandy area at the bottom of the stairs where you could stand up and enjoy the cool water. Other people were venturing closer to the waterfall, dunking under and getting plenty of photos.
Rainy Season: If you’re visiting during the rainiest months like September through early November, use caution as there is a flash flood risk.
No one was jumping into the waterfall when we were there. However, we noticed some climbing hooks on the rocks in a few places. So, jumping in is possible during certain times of year when conditions are safe.
Details on Planning Your Visit to the Oropendola Waterfall
Self-Guided Visit: Waterfall + Lunch
Hacienda Guachipelin now only sells tickets to the waterfall as part of a combo package, which includes lunch. The lunch is a traditional-style casado (chicken, beef, or fish along with rice and beans and side salads). It comes with fresh fruit juice, soup or salad, and dessert. The meal was big and delicious.
The price for this combo is $32 per person adults, $21 per person children ages 4-12. Children under 4 are free.
Tickets need to be purchased in advance online or at the front desk of Hacienda Guachipelin. If you buy online, you still need to check in at the front desk to get a wristband. If you are traveling during Covid, they will also do a temperature check for everyone in your group.
Again, be sure to get your tickets in advance since occupancy is limited due to Covid.
If you like horseback riding, this is another way to arrive at the waterfall. Tours can be arranged through Hacienda Guachipelin.
Hacienda Guachipelin also has other packages with different activities that include a visit to the Oropendola Waterfall. We did the package that included the waterfall, hot springs, and lunch. Details of the options available are on their website.
The waterfall is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
What to Bring
We recommend bringing a hat for the sun, water bottle, your bathing suit, and a towel. There is no changing station so be sure to wear your bathing suit under your clothes.
Wear good-gripping sandals like Keens or sneakers for the hike. Water shoes would be handy if you plan to spend a lot of time in the riverbed and natural pool, as the bottom is rocky.
A waterproof case for your phone or a waterproof camera is nice to have to take pictures from in the pool.
No food is permitted at the waterfall but there are a couple of picnic tables in the parking area.
No restrooms are available. Of course, there are facilities a few miles down the road at Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin.
Directions to the Oropendola Waterfall
From Liberia, head north on the Interamericana, Highway 1. In a few minutes, take a right towards the town of Curubande/Rincon de la Vieja National Park (Las Pailas sector).
Follow the narrow, curvy, paved road, continuing through the small center of Curubande. A few miles after Curubande, the road will turn to rough dirt with occasional large ruts. Eventually you will come to a gate blocking the road. This is the entrance to the Hacienda Guachipelin property.
At the gate, a guard will check to make sure you have a reservation. If not, he will charge a small fee per person to enter the property (around 800 colones or $1.50). After the gate, continue on for about 3 km (1.86 miles) until you reach Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin to get your wristband. The main lobby is off the main road to the right.
After you have your wristband, keep going on the road. You’ll pass some huge geothermal pipes owned by the local electric company. In about 10 minutes, you’ll see a large sign on the left for the Oropedola Waterfall. If you get to the national park, you’ve gone too far.
The entrance to the Oropendola Waterfall is about 40 minutes from downtown Liberia.
If you’re looking to see a waterfall during your time in Guanacaste or the Rincon de la Vieja area, we highly recommend the Oropendola Waterfall. This gorgeous waterfall is easy to access, making it a great option for older people, kids, and anyone who wants to experience one of Costa Rica’s amazing waterfalls.
Have a question about visiting the Oropendola Waterfall? Ask us below.
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Looking for more information to plan your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
Guanacaste Province: Are you still figuring out where to visit? Check out our overview of Guanacaste to learn about its beautiful beaches, popular destinations, and abundant amenities.
Llanos de Cortez Waterfall: Llanos de Cortez is another stunning waterfall near Liberia. This one is closer to Highway 1. It’s just a five or so minute hike down, and you can swim in the calm water of the natural pool.
Rental Car Discount: Having a rental car makes it easy to get around and explore the Rincon de la Vieja area. Check out our discount to save at least 10% and get other free extras.