Last Updated: June 8, 2023
Just a few minutes from Uvita’s bustling town center is one of the area’s must-do activities. The Uvita Waterfall (Catarata Uvita) is the perfect mix of peacefulness and adventure. Here, you can relax the day away next to the river or get your adrenaline pumping by jumping off rocks and waterfalls. Some do both! In this post, we’ll share everything you need to plan a visit.
Uvita is a fast-growing town on the southern Pacific coast. It is about four hours from Costa Rica’s SJO International Airport. The popular tourist town of Manuel Antonio is about one hour and 15 minutes north.
When you arrive in Uvita, you will notice that the town is split by a two-lane highway (Route 34). Some things are located on the inland side, and some are on the coastal side.
The Uvita Waterfall is just five minutes inland from the main intersection where Banco de Costa Rica (a bank) is located. Directions are below.
Accessing the Uvita Waterfall – Two Entrances
Important: Previously, there were two entrances on two separate properties with access to the Uvita Waterfall. However, as of February 2023, a property agreement has changed things.
At the time of this writing (March 2023), only the original entrance has access to the waterfall trails.
According to the owners, this situation may change, so please leave a comment below if you have recently visited and have new information.
Catarata Uvita – The Original Entrance
The original and primary entrance for the Uvita Waterfall is next to a small restaurant called Restaurante La Catarata. This is just up the hill from the alternative entrance (see below). There are a few parking spots in front, but most people park along the road or in the dirt lot just below. There is no guard, so don’t leave anything in your car.
To visit the waterfall, you will pay admission of 1,500 colones per person (around $3) to the staff inside the restaurant. There are also simple bathrooms and changing rooms.
From the restaurant, a steep set of dirt steps goes down the hillside and through the jungle. Although just a short 5-7 minute hike down, the stairs and dirt trail are not in the best condition. It can be slippery and uneven. We recommend the hike only for people in good physical condition.
At the bottom of the steps, you will continue left over some rocks that go over a small stream. There is a rope you can hold onto. Be careful as the rocks can be slippery.
After the stream, you’ll have to climb on some boulders. It’s just a quick walk, though, and you will arrive at the beautiful pool below the Uvita Waterfall.
Catarata Esmeralda Uvita – Alternative Entrance
On our last visit (January 2023), there was a new entrance called Catarata Esmeralda Uvita towards the bottom of the hill. This is the first entrance you come to on the road. It had a big sign for the waterfall.
The trail here avoided the tricky steps of the first entrance. It was much flatter and followed the boardwalk along the river.
As of March 1, 2023, however, the Catarata Esmeralda Uvita property no longer has permission to use the waterfall trails.
Now, to access the waterfall from their property, you have to climb through the riverbed and along the rocks. This makes it much more challenging than the primary entrance.
The situation may change in the future, as the property owners work out the details. We will update here as needed.
Besides the waterfall, the Catarata Esmeralda Uvita property does have access to the river and a nice swimming hole.
They also have a large butterfly garden with many species of beautiful butterflies. If you are visiting the waterfall through the first entrance, the butterfly garden is a nice second stop.
Admission to Catarata Esmeralda Uvita is 2,000 colones per person (around $3.75).
Visiting the Uvita Waterfall
When you arrive at the Uvita Waterfall, you’ll understand why it is a must-do activity. This beautiful cascade drops about 25 feet (7.5 meters) into a deep natural pool. You are surrounded by thick green jungle.
Most people visiting the waterfall sit around the edge of the pool, claiming a spot on the rocks. When conditions are right (not too much rain and current), you also can enjoy a swim in the cool mountain water.
For adventure seekers, there is a metal ladder built onto the rock face where you can climb up to the top. Some people jump off the top of the waterfall and others slide down, since the rocks are smooth.
The depth of the pool is around 10 feet (3 meters) according to a sign nearby.
If you attempt a jump or slide from the top, make sure to watch someone else do it first. This way, you know where to go to be safe. If someone gets hurt, it’s not easy to get them out using the trail.
At times, the immediate area around the waterfall can get crowded. Especially during the afternoon and on weekends. If that happens, you can always make your way downstream to some of the nice swimming holes.
River and Swimming Holes
Near the bottom of the steps at the original entrance, you can go right (instead of to the waterfall) and follow the river.
This trail has been improved over the years and now has a nice boardwalk with railings. The boardwalk follows the edge of the river, bringing you to some beautiful spots.
Because of the natural features of the river, there are large rocks to sit on as well as some shallow and deeper pools to dip in.
Another fun spot is a jumping platform on the boardwalk. From here, you can jump about 20 feet (6 meters) into a deep pool.
When we arrived at this spot, some young kids were taking turns jumping off. This inspired Matt and Sam (age 7) to try it too. They each jumped about a half-dozen times.
This pool was much less busy than the waterfall area and there were only a couple of people relaxing on the rocks nearby.
During our last visit, we continued down the river along the boardwalk and ended up at the Catarata Esmeralda Uvita property. As we explained above, that is currently not possible but may open up again in the future.
Planning Your Visit
The Uvita Waterfall is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Catarata Uvita Entrance: 2,000 colones per person. Children under 5 are free.
Catarata Esmeralda Uvita Entrance: 2,000 colones per person.
From the Costanera Highway in Uvita (Route 34), turn onto the road for Banco de Costa Rica (BCR). Continue inland on this road (Calle Uvita) for approximately 1 km (0.6 miles) then take a left onto Calle Bejuco. There should be signs for Oxygen Jungle Villas. Continue up the dirt road for about 600 meters (0.4 miles) and the waterfall entrances will be on the right. Esmeralda is first and the original entrance, Catarata Uvita, is just a little farther up the hill.
What to Bring
We recommend sneakers or strap-on sandals for the trail, though many people wear flip-flops. If you plan to swim, water shoes are nice to have. Some of the rocks can be sharp or slimy. We also stepped on a small piece of glass.
For those spending more time at the waterfall, you can bring a picnic or eat at the restaurant at the entrance. The Uvita Beer Garden is nearby as well.
The area by the river and waterfall is shady, so sunscreen probably isn’t necessary. Insect repellent may be helpful during the rainier months. Don’t forget your towel.
Check out our daypack essentials post for some tips on what to keep in your backpack. A simple medical kit, for example, is handy if you get a scrape on the rocks.
The Uvita Waterfall (Cascada Uvita) is not ideal for those with limited mobility. Because the trail has uneven steps, slippery rocks, and challenging parts, we recommend it for only those who are in good physical condition.
If you are visiting Uvita, Dominical, or Ojochal, the Uvita Waterfall is a fun and quick activity you shouldn’t miss. Whether you spend your time swimming or jumping into the water or want to relax to the jungle and river sounds, there is something for everyone. We have always enjoyed it and hope you will too.
Last Updated: June 8, 2023
Have a question about visiting the Uvita Waterfall or want to share your experience? Leave a comment below.
Looking for more information to help you plan your trip? Check out these posts:
Whale Watching in Costa Rica – The Uvita area is one of the best places in Costa Rica to see humpback whales. Learn what months to visit and when the annual whale festival takes place.
Playa Ventanas, Puntarenas: A Beach with Caves – Just 20 minutes south of the Uvita Waterfall, this small beach has cool caves that you can walk through at low tide.
Surf Lessons in Uvita: Consistent Waves for Learning – Read about our experience taking surf lessons with our seven-year old in Uvita.