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Whether you are staring spellbound at a titanic plume of water plunging majestically into an abyss or watching a set of rushing cascades scurrying down an idyllic stream, Costa Rica's waterfalls will leave you with enduring memories. From lush green tropical forest-clad slopes to mist-shrouded cloud forests, surely no other country plays host to such idyllic waterfalls. Aside from the mesmerizing falls themselves, you’ll encounter bejeweled butterflies, rainbow-hued hummingbirds and jungles bursting with wildlife.
Here are 10 of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica. Don’t miss out on visiting these waterfalls while you are in the country!
The 90 meters Rio Celeste Waterfall is undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful waterfalls to visit on a trip to Costa Rica. It is famous for its luminous blue water, the product of a chemical reaction between minerals from the nearby volcano and the enveloping rainforest. A two-hour hike delivers you to the waterfall’s doorstep. Along the way, you may occasionally glimpse inquisitive monkeys, iridescent blue morpho butterflies, and the occasional hard to spot poison dart frogs through the vibrant jungle. Upon your arrival you are greeted by a thunderous mist-shrouded waterfall and bubbling boulder-strewn cascades.
Location: The Rio Celeste Waterfall is in Tenorio Volcano National Park in the northwest. The Park is situated in the border between Guanacaste and Alajuela provinces of Costa Rica. A typical round trip to the waterfall is 8 to 9 hours, depending on the location of your hotel and local traffic conditions.
Surely one of the highlights of all Costa Rica waterfall tours, the La Fortuna Waterfall plunges 70 meters into a delightful pool of swirling blue-green water. Located at the foot of the dormant Chato volcano, near the Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna features a fifteen-minute hike down to the falls via a magical tropical forest staircase. As you descend, the surrounding jungle is bursting with Costa Rica’s famed wildlife, until you emerge at the foot of the waterfall, surely one of the highlights of any trip into Costa Rica’s Arenal Mountain range.
Location: The La Fortuna Waterfall lies at the base of the dormant Chato volcano, about 5.5 kilometers outside of the town of La Fortuna in Alajuela Province. Then, take a 15-minute hike from the carpark to the falls themselves.
This multi-day tour provides an opportunity to swim in the cool waters of La Fortuna Waterfall.
When you are tired of Montezuma’s gorgeous beach, head for one of the most delightful of all Costa Rica waterfalls, the Montezuma Waterfall. Immerse yourself in a lush green world, home to three delightful waterfalls ranging from 15 meters to 24 meters. Just a short 20 minute hike along a lush moss-covered forest trail brings you to the first waterfall. The second waterfall features a fabulous swimming hole at the bottom of its plunge into the river.
Location: The Montezuma Waterfall is on the tip of the South Nicoya Peninsula, a short 20-minute hike from the Montezuma town.
Set in a delightful cloud forest, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens is one of Costa Rica’s most visited ecological parks and is a popular destination to visit on a day trip from San Jose. Enjoy a delightful walk through the mist before the majestic 37-meter El Tempo waterfall (the first of five) reveals itself through the clouds thrown up by its spray. Along the way, you may encounter birds, marmosets, capuchin and spider monkeys, and languidly moving sloths. This fabulous private reserve is also home to a hummingbird garden with 26 dazzling species, a rare frog sanctuary, and a serpentarium.
Location: The La Paz Waterfall Gardens is in central Costa Rica, 31 km north of Alajuela. The Trail of Falls is a 15-minute walk from the reception area.
This day tour is a perfect pick to enjoy the refreshing waterfall and its surrounding lush landscapes.
La Catarata del Toro is your classic picture-postcard waterfall and surely one of Costa Rica’s most epic rainforest waterfalls. Plunging unbroken for nearly 92 meters, La Catarata is a spectacular sight. Set on the rim of a deep bowl, the waterfall drops from a cutting through the cloud forest before hurtling into a massive pit. The surrounding cloud forest is alive with Costa Rica’s amazingly diverse wildlife making an encounter with the forest’s inhabitants even more spellbinding.
Location: The Catarata del Toro waterfall is on a private reserve 6 km north of Bajos del Toro in the central mountains north of Costa Rica's Central Valley.
The Nauyaca Waterfall comprises two series of waterfalls. The top waterfall lunges 61 meters into the first pool, which then cascades over a second 18 meter waterfall filling the bottom pool. The pool’s clear blue water is a wonderful spot for a swim, particularly after a hike or horseback ride. Access is either via a one-hour hike on a well-maintained trail, a horseback ride accompanied by a guide or a 4WD transfer. The rainforest trek is spectacular with hummingbirds and monkeys making frequent appearances.
Location: The Nauyaca Waterfalls are located in the South Pacific region of Costa Ballena, just 20 minutes from Dominical.
Reputed to be Costa Rica’s most beautiful waterfall, Llanos de Cortez is a shimmering series of wide ledges with water delicately cascading down their faces, creating a shimmering curtain of water. Roughly 15 meters wide and a dainty 3.7 meters high, Llanos de Cortez feeds into a clear pool with its own white sandy beach, the perfect spot for a swim or a leisurely picnic. Just a ten-minute stroll from the car park, the dense forest trail is filled with exotic birds and Costa Rica’s ever-present monkeys.
Location: The Llanos de Cortez Waterfalls are located near the town of Bagaces, just a half hour south of Liberia.
This epic 180-meter waterfall is one of the highest in Central America. Accessible by either a 45-minute guided horseback ride or a 2.5-hour round trip hike through the lush rainforest, highlights include panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and quaint fishing villages. Toucans and scarlet macaws share the forest with monkeys, sloths, and frogs. Enjoy a cooling plunge in the natural spring fed by water from the Carara National Park’s high mountains.
Location: The Bijagual Waterfall is located in the Manantial Agua Viva private forest reserve near Jaco on the Central Pacific Coast. A round trip hike takes approximately 2.5 hours and includes steep slopes.
A leisurely one-hour hike through a mist-shrouded cloud forest leads you to the bridge marking the first of the gorgeous Savegre waterfalls. After crossing it, you reach the “cave”, a huge natural rock formation. Continuing on, you arrive at the second imposing 30-meter waterfall. Along the way, you’ll encounter the area’s diverse bird and plant life, which calls the crystal clear Savegre River ecosystem home.
Location: The Savegre Waterfalls is 13.6 km north of San Isidro.
Visiting the Tocori Waterfalls is an adventure. Only accessible by horseback, the trail winds through working fields and tropical rainforest for around an hour. A short forest nature walk follows your ride as you arrive at the first of four delightful waterfalls. Another short walk brings you to the remaining three waterfalls. A horseback tour lasts for four to five hours including lunch and transfer times. A highlight is a refreshing swim in the pool at the foot of the waterfall.
Location: The Tocori Waterfalls are set on Rancho Don Gilberto, a private ecological reserve at Tocori on the Pacific Coast.
Few sights in nature rival the thundering roar of a majestic waterfall in full flow. The very air seems to quiver with primal energy as its cool tendrils of mist caress your face. Add in ethereal cloud forests, invigorating hikes through living jungles and you have Costa Rican waterfall tours at their very best.