I am a waterfall lover!! Nothing gets me more excited than coming upon a waterfall while hiking. I love watching the water cascade down and splash, crystal clean, into a pool below. I love even more when I am able to swim and refresh in the waterfalls. There is nothing better than closing your eyes, feeling the mist on your body, and getting lost in the sounds of nature…
While living in Costa Rica, I often joked, “Another weekend, another waterfall.” In this land of eternal summer there are hundreds upon hundreds of magnificent waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. Being a freshwater and forest gal, I set out to see as many as possible during my two years living the Pura Vida in Costa Rica.
In this post, I will highlight my top ten favorite waterfalls where you can also swim… The list is in no particular order, because they are all incredible…
You can ride in via horseback, but I would recommend to instead take the 4km hike, so you can stay by the falls for as long as you like. This two layer waterfall offers rocky exploration at the top (we spotted quite a few “blue jeans” dart frogs) and a swimming hole at the bottom. Beware of the time of the year. During the rainy season (especially September and October) the river will be strong and flowing fast, so swimming and crossing can be dangerous down below.
Llanos de Cortez, Bagaces
It took me over a year to have the right timing to stop at these massive falls, but when I finally did, it was completely worth the effort. It’s a steep, yet short, hike down to these waterfalls. Once there, you can swim at the base, relax along the water’s edge, walk and sit beneath the falls, or even hike a trail off to the left and look down from the top! On weekends, this is a popular destination for locals, so get there early to enjoy the falls with less people.
Montezuma Falls, Montezuma
I went to these falls with my family when I was about 11 years old, and returned here with my friends when I was 25. It was incredible to have memories flash back as I was taking the hike the second time around. Not much had changed, which is awesome! It’s a short 20 minute hike up the river to the first falls, where you can lay on sun-warmed rocks, swim in the deep pool, climb up underneath the cascading waterfalls, and even watch locals jump into the depths. If you’re in shape and extra adventurous, there is another trail to the right where you can hike up to the higher falls. There, you can again swim, use rope swings, and even jump yourself…if you dare. I did it once, and it was exhilarating, but I don’t have the need to do it again…
Bijagua Falls, on the way to Jaco
As you drive south towards Jaco, you will start to pass signs that say “WATERFALLS 8KM” written in blue on a white piece of board. You will turn to the left towards Villa Lapas (coolest place ever) and after 15 minutes driving up and down steep hills on a dirt road you will come to an entrance, on the right, to the Bijagua waterfalls. Foreigners pay $20, locals $10, and then you set off on a steep 2km hike down to the river below. This waterfall is incredibly tall- I’ve been told it’s the tallest on Costa Rica’s Pacific side. What I really like about this area is that it is remote. I always see green and black dart frogs, and oftentimes have other wildlife sitings like toucans, pizotes, snakes and lizards.
Bridal Veil Falls in the Karen Mogensen Reserve
It is quite an adventure to get to the Karen Mogensen Reserve, but this magnificent place in the wilderness holds a special place in my memories. The falls are especially spectacular because there is a layer of water cascading down the wide cliffside, creating a white water “veil” effect when the season is right. There is not much of a swimming hole at the base, but the river has many places to hop in and refresh during the hour-long walk to the falls. Do yourself a favor and stay at the Cerro Escondido Lodge.
Los Chorros, Grecia
This waterfall location is fantastic! I remember when I first visited, I couldn’t believe that there was a waterfall paradise like this only 45 minutes from San Jose! In Los Chorros, there are 2 massive waterfalls, and in between these two falls there is a whole row of small waterfalls shooting out of the walls of the canyon. It is phenomenal. The rocks over which the water flows reminds me of the cool column-like rocks you find at Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. These falls are on private land, but the owner welcomes visitors in for $5-10 entrance fee. The hike is easy and takes less than 20 minutes to get down to the falls. At the base there is even a designated picnic area for people gather and grill.
Natural water slide
Oropendola Waterfall, Rincon de la Vieja, Guanacaste
I discovered this waterfall when my friends came to visit and stayed at Hacienda Guachipelin in Rincon de la Vieja. The hotel has several waterfalls on its property, but this one was my favorite. It has one strong and steady fall, which plummets heavily into the swimming area below. To get to the waterfall, you must climb over all sorts of boulders, and once there you can jump off into the crisp and cool turquoise water below, or you can wade in at a lower level. There are also many bats in the cave behind the waterfall which is cool because you can see them hanging in clusters.
La Fortuna Falls, La Fortuna
This waterfall is probably the strongest and most popular on my list. It is located in La Fortuna, near the famous Arenal Volcano, which makes it an easy stop for tourists. The entrance fee is $15 and there are probably a good 200 steep steps down to the waterfall, but it definitely is impressive.
The Secret Waterfall near Lake Arenal
I actually found directions to this waterfall at a pitstop at the old Volcano Brewing beer brewery (which has since moved to the beach town of Tamarindo). I visited this waterfall twice, and both times it was free from other visitors. There is wildlife galore and while there I spotted howler monkeys, toucans, toads and even an armadillo!
Viento Fresco Waterfalls, Tilaran
This privately owned land was a fantastic reprieve after hours of being in the car driving from La Fortuna to Monteverde. Gringo entrance price was around $15-20 a person, but it was worth it. There are 5 waterfalls on this property, some with swimming holes, and others which are only a delight for the eyes. To get to the falls you hike down trails with gorgeous green mountains all around you. There are cows climbing up and down the steep hillsides, and while on the property I even came across more than one hummingbird nest, some with eggs and others with babies!
As you can see, Costa Rica has no shortage of spectacular waterfalls. These ten simply stand out in my memory as some of the coolest I encountered during my time there.
The waterfall lover in me would like to hear from you… Where are some of the most spectacular places where you have been able to swim with the waterfalls?? Leave me a comment through the link by the title, or send me a message!