If you are visiting Bajos del Toro, you’re no doubt in search of some beautiful waterfalls. One of our favorites in this area is the Rio Agrio. To see this tall cascade, you’ll hike through a beautiful canyon and lush jungle. It doesn’t get much more Costa Rica than that. In this post, we’ll share all about visiting the Rio Agrio Waterfall, some natural blue swimming pools nearby, and the dinosaur park they have onsite as well.
Location and Background
The Rio Agrio Waterfall is located in the small town of Bajos del Toro. This town, about two hours from Costa Rica’s capital of San Jose, is best known for its many waterfalls. The Rio Agrio is one of the area’s most visited because of its relatively easy access.
Rio Agrio translates to ”Sour River” because of its very low pH. The nearby Poas Volcano emits acidic ash and gases, which collect in the watershed and run downstream.
On a typical day, the pH of the Rio Agrio’s headwaters is somewhere between 1.4 and 2.5. That’s about the pH of a lemon! Luckily, it gets a bit diluted before reaching the waterfall.
The extremely acidic water of the Rio Agrio is what has over time carved out the beautiful canyon that you walk through to view the waterfall. You’ll even be able to see colorful yellowish mineral deposits along the canyon walls.
The Rio Agrio Waterfall is on a larger property that also has a dinosaur park, viewpoint, restaurant, and down the street, some blue swimming holes. We will talk about them all separately below.
The Rio Agrio Waterfall
After checking in at the reception, you’ll make a short walk up the hill toward the trail entrance (5-10 minutes). It is off to the right of the Dino Land entrance. You also can connect with this trail from the end of the Dino Land exhibit.
From the trail entrance, the hike/walk to the Rio Agrio Waterfall is a short 0.4 kilometers (0.25 miles) each way.
The trail to the waterfall is well maintained and mostly concrete but can be wet and slippery. There are some steeper inclines and steps. You’ll also cross a couple of small, sturdy metal bridges that bring you over the river.
Probably our favorite part of visiting this waterfall was the deep canyon that you walk through to get there. As you walk down the trail, the walls of the canyon surround you. They are coated with lush tropical plants and mosses.
As you approach the waterfall, you can’t really see around the giant canyon wall. You can hear water rushing but only a smaller trickling waterfall is visible to the left. This makes your approach a little dramatic and mysterious.
When you finally round the corner, you’ll then see the impressive Rio Agrio Waterfall in front of you.
The beautiful Rio Agrio Waterfall cascades about 50 meters (165 feet) to the bottom of the canyon. At the bottom, a small pool forms with boulders all around. The water then spills out into the river on the right.
The trail ends slightly before the waterfall, but you can walk along the rocks to get a better view. Just be careful because there is a constant mist which keeps everything wet and slippery.
Because the water is acidic and the currents are strong, there is no swimming allowed in the river or waterfall.
After visiting the waterfall, you’ll walk out on the same short trail you entered on. Near the end, the trail splits and continues left to a lookout.
To get up to this viewpoint, the hike is steeper. The trail zigzags up the hill. When we visited, it had some washouts from heavy rain, though they were quickly repairing them. The hike up to the lookout is about 0.6 kilometers (0.37 miles) each way.
At the top, there is a big platform with a pair of colorful wings. People take turns getting pictures in front of these. The view looks out over the valley, and at the right angle, makes you look like you are flying.
On the same property as the Rio Agrio Waterfall is Dino Land.
At this dinosaur park, you can see 25 life-size dinosaur replicas. Many of them are mechanical and make sounds. They are all set in a nice tropical garden. With the mountain backdrop, they look very realistic.
You do not need to visit this part of the property if you don’t want to. Packages are available without it. But if you have kids or like dinosaurs yourself, it’s definitely worth the small extra price of admission.
To learn more about Dino Land, see our post all about it, Dino Land in Bajos Del Toro.
Pozas Celestes (Blue Pools)
Another attraction that you can pair with the Rio Agrio Waterfall are some natural blue pools just down the street. If you add this onto your entrance ticket, they will provide transportation in an open truck. The truck drops you off at the main road where there is a small booth.
From there, you just have to go down a long set of concrete steps and along a short trail. Near the bottom, right before the pools, are some simple bathrooms and changing rooms.
How the Blue Pools Get Their Color
The blue pools are actually in a different river that is known as the Rio Desague (Discharge River). It gets that name because it is formed by the water that is discharged from Poas Volcano. The slow-moving water in this river collects mineral deposits, and when stirred up by the current, the minerals reflect the intense blue color.
A lifeguard at the pools explained to us that depending on rains and how stirred up the river is, it can reflect different colors like black or even red.
The pools are beautiful and fun to visit; however, when we went (April), the water was extremely cold. Not many people were swimming. One girl even became physically shocked and cramped up from the cold. A couple had to quickly help her get back to the rocks.
If you do go in for a quick dip, there are a few nice calm pools to relax in and one spot that makes a small natural slide. Of course, in places like this, water levels and conditions can quickly change, so be sure to follow the guidance of the onsite lifeguard.
Planning Your Visit to the Rio Agrio Waterfall
The Rio Agrio is open daily, 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The last entrance is at 3:00 p.m.
Option 1: Adults – 6,000 colones (about $10). Children (ages 4-10) – 3,000 colones (about $5.50). Children under 4 free.
Includes: Admission to Rio Agrio Waterfall, Mirador, and blue pools.
Option 2: Adults – 10,000 colones (about $15). Children (ages 4-10) – 8,000 colones (about $15). Children under 4 free.
Includes: Admission to Rio Agrio Waterfall, Mirador, Dino Land, and blue pools
There is a large parking lot at the Rio Agrio Waterfall. Parking is free.
Reservations are not usually needed during the week, but it is a good idea just in case. It can be much busier on weekends, holidays, and vacations, so be sure to make reservations ahead of time. This is a popular spot among locals.
The Rio Agrio park is available via WhatsApp at +506-8887-0310 or by email at cataratarioagrio(at)gmail(dot)com
The Rio Agrio and the other attractions on the property are, unfortunately, not suitable for those with limited mobility.
What to Wear/Bring
The weather can change quickly in Bajos del Toro so it’s important to pack an umbrella or light raincoat. A water bottle and snacks are recommended for the trail. There is an onsite restaurant that serves good typical Costa Rican cuisine.
For the blue pools, we would recommend water shoes (the rocks can be sharp), a bathing suit, towel, and change of clothes to keep warm after.
If you visit the dinosaur park, it is in full sun for most of the trail, so be sure to wear a hat or use sunscreen.
If you are looking for a beautiful waterfall in a lush tropical setting, we highly recommend a visit to the Rio Agrio Waterfall. With the short hike and other activities onsite, you can easily enjoy half a day here and have time to explore one of the town’s other great cascades.
Have a question about visiting the Rio Agrio Waterfall? Ask us below.
Looking for more waterfalls in Bajos del Toro? Check out these posts:
Catarata del Toro – This is the waterfall that put Bajos del Toro on the map. It’s a giant cascade that falls into an extinct volcanic crater!
Blue Falls Costa Rica – If you are looking for an intensely blue waterfall, the blue falls will show you several. The biggest, Las Gemelas, will fill up your photo reel.
Cascadas Pozo Azul: Bajos del Toro’s Biggest Waterfall – If you are looking for a harder hike, this one to the region’s tallest waterfall will give you a challenge.