As you may or may not know, my husband, Chris, and I moved to Costa Rica last year. Since then, not only have we been looking for the perfect place to raise our growing family, but we have taken the time to explore our new country and all it has to offer our adventurous sides!
Obviously, Costa Rica has numerous beautiful beaches and volcanos, but did you know that it has an abundance of beautiful waterfalls and natural swimming pools? How about boiling mud pools, horseback riding, and guided tours?
Costa Rica has so much to offer its residents and visitors. We want to make sure that we explore all of it and share it with the world.
And with no further ado, let’s talk about the best Costa Rica waterfalls that we have discovered and loved (so far)!
#1: Vieja National Park
Vieja National Park is considered a “must-visit” by locals and visitors. Vieja National Park is the perfect place to return to nature in Central America. It is one of the best places to visit because it has two volcanos, upwards of 30 rivers and thin streams of water, some of the most beautiful fauna, and so much more!
It could be considered to be in a remote location, being 15 miles northeast of the capital of the Province of Guanacaste. But it spans from the Caribbean Sea to the South Pacific coast! This allows visitors to visit during both the dry season (February through April) and the rainy season. During the rainy season, about 200 inches of rain can leave the tropical rainforest lush and full of beautiful bird species!
If you are more adventurous and are willing to go off the beaten path, the number of activities is nearly endless. This includes hiking a steep trail (5,000 feet vertically), camping, and even horseback riding!
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano is another reason to visit if you do not mind the day trip of a hike to get there. But it is totally worth it since you can see all of Costa Rica from the summit of the volcano.
And do not forget your bathing suit and water shoes because there are even natural hot springs for you to soak away any tension you may be holding. And if hot springs are not your thing, there are also spectacular waterfalls, freshwater lagoons, and mud pits!
You can stay at the beautiful Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin for only about $90 a night if you want to be close. It is located at the base of the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. This is the best way to see it if you do not want to do the not-so-easy hike to get to the top. You can also go for a refreshing swim in its outdoor pool in the garden.
#2: Llanos de Cortez Waterfall
Like the Vieja National Park, it is a bit of a drive to get to the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall (about half of an hour). The park entrance fee is very affordable, being $7 for adults, $4 for children over 7 years old, and free for children under the age of 6 years. Luckily, the parking is also free! And just know that your rental car will be safe since it is always guarded. Heads up: there is a private property that you can drive through, but it is better to just go to the official entrance.
One of the best things about this waterfall is that the parking lot is very close to the base of the waterfall (only a five-minute hike)! It is considered a great place for all ages because the hike is paved with concrete steps and a handrail!
The Llanos de Cortez Waterfall is one of the more popular destinations for more than just the easy hike. The waterfall is wide and is surrounded by beautiful fauna. Some even say you can hear howler monkeys!
The natural pools at the base are easy to swim in the cool water to beat the sun’s heat. Not to mention the small beachy area to sunbathe! The park is open from 8 am to 4 pm, but the last entrance is at 3:30 pm. To fully enjoy this refreshing swimming hole, the best time to visit should give you at least an hour before closing.
So, prepare to pack your beach bags and enjoy the closest waterfall to parking you can ever find!
#3: Tenorio Volcano National Park
Home to the breathtaking blue water of río Celeste and its Celeste waterfall, this is easily one of Costa Rica’s waterfalls that visitors will never forget. And with its multiple park entrances, there are many ways to explore this park every time you visit.
And since it has only been fully accessible by 2019, the Tenorio National Park is best seen on foot. If you suffer from vertigo, you might have a hard time making it through the numerous hanging bridges throughout the park.
There are limits to the number of people to visit the park every day (500 visitors at a time and a cap of 1,000 visitors a day), so make sure you have plenty of time to beat the masses!
The great news is that the park is open every day, including holidays and weekends. Its hours are from 8 am to 4 pm with the last entrance being allowed at 2 pm. The tickets for non-resident adults are $12, and children under the age of 12 years old are free to enter.
#4: Oropendola Waterfall
To see this picturesque waterfall, it is a short walk (less than a mile)! It is inside the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, but I wanted to make sure that this waterfall was mentioned on its own.
If you are a fan of short day tours, this could be for you and your family! There are great things to do while hiking, such as bird watching! But many people enjoy it to enjoy the peaceful quiet of nature.
While on the trail, you will traverse over a hanging bridge and walk towards a wooden deck that lets you into the beautiful blue water to swim.
I have seen many people complain about one major downside of this trial: the extra not-so-small fee. And it is pretty expensive, if I am being honest, at $32 per person. If you do decide to bite the bullet, you also receive a buffet lunch.
#5: El Salto Waterfall
If you want to enjoy a more local destination, El Salto Waterfall is a free swimming spot to hang out and enjoy the beautiful water with other fun-loving adventurers! And with it being a super easy hike (being only about a mile), it is a great place to enjoy the Costa Rican sun, water, and forest. And it is totally free to visit!
The “Tarzan Swing” is enjoyed by people of all ages, but you must be careful because you can get rope burns, and the rocks beneath can be treacherous. It is 15 feet above the surface of the water.
Always ask the locals, if you can, where the safest place to jump is. And, of course, Water shoes are recommended because of the slippery rocks.
However, if you are not that daring, you should probably skip this stop. The pool is only reachable through cliff diving or the “Tarzan Swing.” There is no sand to sit out and relax on, either.
Getting a ride to the area would be a good idea since there are not many parking spaces available. If you have to drive, parking is free, if you can find any. And depending on when you visit, it can get pretty crowded. Always remember to only leave footprints and take nothing but memories from the area.
Additional Waterfalls in Costa Rica
There are so many beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica that deserve to be explored. And while this list is of the best ones in Guanacaste, there are so many more famous waterfalls in Costa Rica. Here are some other amazing waterfalls in Costa Rica you just have to check out if you get the chance:
- La Fortuna Waterfall
- Located in a biological reserve
- Inside the Arenal Volcano National Park
- It is fed by the La Fortuna River
- 70 meters (about 230 feet) high
- Has a swimmable pool
- Montezuma Waterfalls
- Located on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula
- It is actually made up of 3 waterfalls
- The upper falls are 5 meters (15 feet)
- The second waterfall is 12 meters (40 feet)
- The lower falls are 25 meters (80 feet)
- Has swimming pools
- Has a $2 parking fee but no individual entrance fee
- Blue River Waterfall
- Located on the North side of Rincon de la Vieja
- Can be seen by a guided tour on horseback or by car
- Has a swimmable pool
- Nauyaca Waterfalls
- Located in the Southern Zone
- Made up of two sets of waterfalls
- Has a large swimmable pool
- Can take a horseback tour to get there
- About a 4 km hike (2.5 miles)
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens
- Located in the San Jose area between Poas Volcano National Park and Braulio Carrillo National Park
- Known for its five famous waterfalls
- Has the largest animal sanctuary in Costa Rica
- Easy hiking trails (paved and has steps and railings)
- Blue Falls of Costa Rica
- All seven waterfalls have been accessible since February 2022
- Cerulean blue waters
- Privately owned
- No reservations necessary
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
- Located within a Cloud Forest
- Run by the Tropical Science Center
- Costa Rica’s first non-government environmental organization
- Open every day from 7 am to 4 pm
- $25 for non-residential adults and $12 for non-residential children
- $5 parking fee
- Victoria Waterfall
- The best time to visit is the Green Season
- Near the Rincon de la Vieja hotel Hacienda Guachipelin
- Four waterfalls
- Swimmable waterfalls
- Can hike or horseback ride to get there
- 35 meters tall (115 feet)
- On the Rio Negro (which you can tube down)
- Guanacaste Province
- Located in the Northwestern region of Costa Rica
- The capital is Liberia
- The Cordillera de Guanacaste is on the East
- Made up of three volcanoes
- Rincón de la Vieja
- Miravalles and Tenorio Volcanoes
- Has tropical dry rainforests due to little rainfall and heat from November through April
- Daily showers and moderate temperatures from May to October
- Has its own airport
- Has the bulk of all of Costa Rica’s all-inclusive resorts
- Has seven national parks and a natural reserve
- Cabo Blanco Natural Reserve
- Palo Verde National Park
- Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja
- Las Baulas National Marine Park
- Barra Honda National Park
- Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park
- Parque Nacional Santa Rosa
- Diria National Park
Costa Rica has so many options to choose from when it comes to exploring nature. From volcanos to hot springs to waterfalls, Chris and I are extremely excited to share our list of the many different waterfalls we have seen and are looking forward to seeing even more!
I think we will be taking advantage of the guided tours available at almost every waterfall or park. Many of the tours offer horseback riding and even safari-style trucks! And don’t forget to watch the beautiful fauna, rare birds, and mischievous monkeys closely!
Comment below if you have ever been to any of the above Costa Rican waterfalls or if you would like to! And obviously, we are open to any places to visit if we did not mention them already! Happy adventuring!