Five Best Waterfalls
Last Updated: Apr 30, 2012
Flowing streams, fresh water springs, and roaring rivers carve paths through Costa Rica’s wilderness – cascading down jutted rock before heading out to sea. Hundreds of waterfalls dot the countryside, accompanied by several giant cascades perfect for day trips full of adventure and relaxation. Hikes, horseback rides, and even waterfall rappelling tours are great ways to visit Costa Rica’s most popular falls, where you’ll enjoy poolside picnics and afternoon swims.
The Celeste River, located in Tenorio Volcano National Park, is a freshwater ribbon dyed teal and baby blue by a chemical combination of sulfur and calcium carbonate. Within the park, the colorful river spills over a cliff and down into a waiting pool, forming the famed Celeste Waterfall. The thunderous water usually appears white in color, but once or twice a year, the waterfall glows blue – one of the world’s most amazing sights. Hikes through the national park offer incredible views of the river, waterfall and several other highlights, including volcano-fed natural hot springs.
El Chorro Waterfall
Set against a backdrop of Playa Cocolito’s white sand beach and tumbling headlong into the Pacific Ocean, El Chorro Waterfall is a national treasure. Located just a few miles from Montezuma, dramatic rocks separate two swimming areas, where the ocean displays the entire spectrum of blue and green. Take a dip in the inviting freshwater lagoon and enjoy the spectacular view. The hike takes between three and four hours so most people arrive on horseback – just a one-hour journey. Wildlife is especially abundant early in the morning, so plan ahead and leave by sunrise to make the most of your day.
La Fortuna Waterfall
A popular tourist attraction, La Fortuna Waterfall tumbles almost 230 feet down giant boulders and moss-covered rocks. Just three miles from downtown Arenal, the waterfall is accessed via a very steep but well-marked path. Take a dip in the chilly pools at the waterfall’s base, but don’t swim beneath the waterfall itself. Numerous tour operators offer trips to the waterfall, usually on horseback or on mountain bikes. There is a small souvenir shop at the top of the falls where drinks and snacks can be purchased.
Gorgeous and pristine, the Nauyaca Waterfalls are tucked away in a secluded canyon near the southern Pacific town of Dominical. The falls cascade down the rock face in two tiers, one measuring 150 feet and the other 65 feet. Nauyaca spills into a large crystalline pool, the perfect place to swim and frolic away the afternoon. The falls are on private property, and the owner, Don Lulu, runs regular horseback tours to the area. If you're looking for extreme thrills you can dive from key ledges near the top of the falls.
Situated near San Gerardo de Dota and Los Quetzales National Park, the high-altitude Savegre Waterfall is an incredibly beautiful destination. You’ll cross suspension bridges and trek through breathtaking cloud forest before reaching the nearly 100-foot waterfall. The mile-long trail meanders under thickets of cypress and pine, interspersed with rolling hills draped in wildflowers. Hikes to Savegre waterfall are punctuated by incredible birding and common sightings include tanagers, hummingbirds and the resplendent quetzal.