There is something very magical about Costa Rica waterfalls! How can something roaring and powerful also be serene and calming? Costa Rica is blessed with hundreds of these natural wonders and Guanacaste has some of the nicest.
Some waterfalls surprise you by jumping into view as you round a bend in the road. Others require more effort to get to, but the anticipation that builds as the roar increases is as rewarding as the destination itself. Who can deny the appeal of diving into a pool at the bottom of a waterfall after a long, hot hike? Or standing under the falling water as a million drops massage your head and shoulders?
There are several beautiful waterfalls that can be visited as day-trips from Playa Hermosa. Just enter the name in your GPS or favorite travel app for exact locations. I prefer to use Waze, it seams to work the best here and is a free download.
Catarata Llanos de Cortes–This waterfall is quite the surprise if you are visiting Costa Rica during the dry season. After traveling through the tropical dry landscape you would swear any water in the area would be long-evaporated. But after parking and a short walk downhill, you are shocked to find a tropical oasis with a 40-foot high, 50-foot wide curtain of water as its centerpiece! There is a small beach and a clear pool for swimming in as well as trails along the river that lead to other smaller waterfalls and deep blue swimming holes. The lushness of the forest and the cool water of the pond are a perfect escape for any time of the year. Of all the Costa Rica waterfalls, it’s one of the closest to Playa Hermosa–only about 45 minutes drive.
Catarata La Congreja—Once more Guanacaste offers the proverbial ‘pot of gold at the end of a rainbow’ in the form of a refreshing waterfall at the end of a long 3.5-mile hike. You will find this magical 130-foot high waterfall, Catarata La Congreja in Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The churning white water river shoots out of the green forest and plummets to a transparent pool of blue water far below. It is about a 1 hour drive to the entrance of the park from Playa Hermosa on all paved roads.
Rio Celeste Waterfall—Rio Celeste is one of the most striking of all Costa Rica waterfalls. A sky blue river runs through the lush Tenorio Volcano National Park. The almost unnatural color of the water, it turns out, isn’t unnatural at all! The water is tinted by very naturally-occurring chemicals in the water in this mineral-rich region. Because the waterfall is picture-perfect, it has been featured in almost every postcard and travel video of Costa Rica. It can get pretty crowded January through April, but those are the months the water is at its bluest, since the rains can muddy the waters during that time of the year. So try to beat the crowds by getting there as soon as the entrance opens at 8 a.m. The 2-hour trip from Playa Hermosa takes you to Liberia, and then south down the Pan American Highway to a turn-off near Canas.
Montezuma Waterfall—Farther afield is the waterfall at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula near the town of Montezuma, made famous by quarterback Tom Brady posting a video of himself jumping from the top. The 60-dive is not for the faint of heart (Tom looks really scared), so maybe those of us who do not face 300-pound linemen trying to sack us shouldn’t try it. The waterfall is actually a series of 3 waterfalls that can be hiked to, the first one you come to being the last in the series. It takes 4 hours to travel to the tip of the peninsula, but the waterfall is only one of many attractions in the area.
The Costa Rica waterfalls I have mentioned in this article are either on private property or in a national park, so entrance fees are collected. You will need to search online for current pricing, since fees tend to fluctuate. Thanks to social media and increased tourism, there are very few natural hidden gems in Costa Rica anymore, and landowners have figured out they can take financial advantage of what used to be a secret. That said, this is a country full of rain-soaked mountains and cascading rivers—the raw material for the creation of perfect waterfalls. So anywhere you go, hike down- or upstream a bit and you may just stumble across your own private waterfall. Like so many before you, you will find yourself ‘water-falling’ in love with Costa Rica!