Hidden among the quiet forests of San Gerardo de Dota lies a little-known waterfall, the San Gerardo Waterfall. Sometimes called the Rio Savegre Waterfall, this beautiful cascade is just an hour’s walk from town. While most people visit San Gerardo de Dota for the chance to see the iridescent feathers of a famous bird, the Resplendent Quetzal, the San Gerardo Waterfall is another nice diversion in this quaint town. Below is everything you need to know about visiting the San Gerardo Waterfall.
The remote village of San Gerardo de Dota is located at the edge of Costa Rica’s Southern Zone in a valley high up in the cloud-covered mountains. It is between the surf town of Dominical to the south and the city of Cartago to the north. Because of its proximity to San Jose and the airport (about 3 hours away), those up for some adventure often take the mountain route to get to or from the capital and spend a couple of days in San Gerardo, either at the beginning or end of their trip.
Tip: Before heading out, be sure to inquire about road conditions on Highway 2 between San Isidro del General and San Jose. This stretch of the Interamericana Highway around Cerro de la Muerte where the mountain peaks is sometimes closed due to landslides and washouts. Check for road-closure notices on the Costa Rica Transit Police website (Spanish). Also, we do not advise driving this route after dark as cloud cover at such a high altitude makes visibility extremely limited.
Accessing the San Gerardo Waterfall
As you enter town along the one main road, you’ll notice the crystal-clear Savegre River. This is the river that flows alongside the road, through the forest, and leads to the San Gerardo Waterfall. To find the trail leading to the falls, keep driving through town until you see a gate and small sign on the left. The trailhead is towards the end of the road; if you pass Suria Lodge, you’ve gone too far.
Following the dirt trail, you’re likely to encounter some local fishermen heading to the river for the day. San Gerardo de Dota is on the cooler side due to its altitude, and trout fishing is one of the main industries. Lots of the fishing is done on a small scale, but there’s also a larger trout farm, which you’ll pass shortly after hitting the trail.
The easy-to-follow path meanders along the riverbank, leading through intensely green forest. As San Gerardo de Dota abuts the cloud forest, the trees are covered in thick ribbons of moss and lichen. Birds are everywhere too, and if you’re into bird-watching like us, be sure to bring your binoculars and charge your camera for some awesome shots.
While the trail is mostly flat, it isn’t all easy. We visited during the rainy season so there were some wet, slippery spots and lots of roots to watch out for. There is also a wobbly hanging bridge and a couple of other bridges that could use some repair. The bridges themselves seemed structurally safe, but some of the stairs leading to them had gaping holes. Luckily we had the best tour guide around to lead us safely across.
After walking for about an hour, you’ll come to a cave with a small waterfall rushing behind. In just a few minutes more, you’ll cross a bridge, walk down some steps (about 70), and arrive at the main attraction: the San Gerardo Waterfall. To get the best view, you have to climb down a boulder using nothing but a rope.
The hike down wasn’t easy—Jenn didn’t make it without slipping—but luckily you can still get a nice view even if you don’t make it the whole way.
What to Bring/Wear
- Hiking boots or sturdy sneakers
- Lightweight pants and clothes for layering. Temperatures get into the 60s (16° C) at night and reach 75° F (24° C) during the day. It’s nice to have a jacket for the early morning.
- Raincoat (it rains a lot in the cloud forest)
For directions to San Gerardo de Dota, hotel recommendations, and more tips for visiting, check out our post, San Gerardo de Dota: A Hideaway in the Cloud Forest.
Costa Rica’s rainforest-rich Southern Zone is full of amazing waterfalls. From the remote Diamante Cave and Waterfall to the Nauyaca near Dominical, there’s something for everyone. But for those visiting San Gerardo de Dota, its namesake waterfall is definitely worth a visit.
Have you been to a waterfall in Costa Rica? Which is your favorite?