San Gerardo Waterfall

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.

 

San Gerardo Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Location

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.

 

Sign to San Gerardo Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

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.

 

Trout Fishing at Rio Savegre | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

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.

Path to San Gerardo Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Watch out for those steps

 

Bridge leading to San Gerardo Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Our guide, an adorable local dog, that followed us the whole way

 

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.

 

Access to San Gerardo Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Climbing down to San Gerardo Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Matt maneuvering down the steep rocky ledge

 

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.

 

San Gerardo de Dota Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
View from the half-way point

 

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)
  • Water

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.

 

San Gerardo Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

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?

 

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12 Comments

  1. Wow Matt and Jenn!

    This one’s for the bold. I know the slippery slope bit in many parts of the world during low season. AND the danger issues lol….different view of safety in that part of the world and throughout much of the world, of course. The views are stunning! We saw few waterfalls up close and personal in Costa Rica but so much wildlife. Thanks guys!

    1. Ryan, This particular waterfall doesn’t see a ton of foot traffic (the trail is used mostly by locals) so I think that’s part of the maintenance thing. There’s no admission fee or anyone to check in with when you visit so not sure who put up the bridges to begin with. It’s free though so it’s hard to complain!

  2. Thanks jenn and Matt for all the information on this fabulous walk! We did it this morning (dry season) and though the second part beyond the cave was a little tougher than the first part and you had to watch your footing, the view of the waterfall and the tranquil surroundings were well worth it. We too were accompanied by the little dog who joined us on the way back! Bird life was abundant with some fabulous coloured birds and lovely butterflies.

    1. Hi Jane, Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Glad to hear that the hike hasn’t changed much since our last visit, and even the little dog is there too. That’s great that you were able to see lots of birds and butterflies. That area of CR does have some amazing birds. It’s where we saw our first Resplendent Quetzal- what a spectacular bird.

  3. Looks interesting but is the rope the only way back up to the trail? How difficult is it to get back up? I’m assuming being rescued is not any option!

    1. Hi Justine, We haven’t done it for about a year, but last time we were there, the rope was the only way back up. It wasn’t too bad, though, at least to get down to the first lookout (You have a pretty good view of the waterfall from there). The rope helps and you can hold onto the rock to guide yourself down. Jenn had a hard time because she had a shoulder bag that she was trying to keep from hitting the rock (not recommended). Getting up is actually easier than getting down. If you’re not sure, you could always just see what you think when you get there. It’s still a really nice hike and you can see a smaller waterfall earlier on in the trail.

  4. Hello,

    We are driving from Sierpi to San gerardo de dota in a couple of weeks. Any ideas on best route to take and are there ATMS in the area. This is our last destination before we head back to San Jose. Thank you!

    Lucy

    1. Hi Lucena, You will take the coastal highway, Route 34, to Dominical. In Dominical, you’ll turn right onto Route 243 and then connect to Highway 2 in San Isidro to go up over the mountain. We have detailed road conditions in our Road Conditions post. Be sure to leave plenty early so you’re not driving in the dark as Highway 2 is curvy, mountainous, and gets fogged in. I don’t think there’s an ATM after San Isidro so stop for one there and fill up your gas tank too if you need to. If you need any provisions, this is the place to get them as well. San Gerardo only has a small store.

  5. My 14 year old daughter and I just finished the hike to the waterfall. I think we would have felt more safe with a guide but the handbook at the house where we are staying here in San Gerardo de Dota made it sound pretty easy so we headed out by ourselves. The stairs are more worn down than your pictures and the swaying bridge over the water made me a little uneasy. 🙂 Of course it started pouring on our way back so we sprinted where we could. The rope to climb down/back up to see the waterfall is no longer there. This waterfall was very impressive but the overcast skies and wet conditions made it seem more treacherous than it probably is in sunshine and with a guide. By the way, I love your website – it was so very helpful for us to know what to bring to Costa Rica for our 2 week stay. We love the cloud forest; it’s refreshingly cool after a week in Dominical. The Nauyaka Waterfalls were spectacular! We loved swimming there and they let us jump off the lower rocks.

    1. Hi Heather, That’s too bad that you got stuck in a big rainstorm. We haven’t been to this waterfall in a couple of years and need to go back soon. Thanks for the trip report about the stairs and the rope being gone. Hopefully someone or one of the hotels will start doing some trail maintenance. Glad that you and your daughter had a good time in Costa Rica. The Nauyaca is one of our favorites!

  6. My first destination after an airport stay is near Tinamaste but rather than take the coastal route to get there I’d really like to travel over The Cerro De la Muerte highway and make a 3 or 4 hour stop in San Gerardo De Dota, do the waterfall trail and eat lunch somewhere in town before continuing on to my destination. I expect I’ll use a combination of bus/private taxis. Does this seem reasonable based on your experience if I plan to leave my San Jose hotel by 8am and don’t need to arrive in Tinamaste before dark? Thanks for your time

    1. Hi Sarah, It will be hard to time everything with the buses and make it to Tinamaste before dark since buses don’t run that often. If you rented a car, it would be doable, but much harder to make the stop in San Gerardo via buses and taxies.

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