There is nothing quite as refreshing as feeling the spray of a nearby waterfall. The sound of the rushing water, the ionized air…it’s like a shower for your soul! If you find yourself hitting the waves at Iguana Surf Camp, check out some waterfalls near Tamarindo to wash off some of that salt and sand and feel refreshed!
You may think you have to travel far south, deep into the wild jungle, but there are plenty of dreamy waterfalls in Guanacaste Costa Rica, right in the heart of the tropical dry forest, and not too far from Tamarindo.
There are four main waterfalls to explore along with the property of Hacienda Guachipelin, which is a hotel that abuts Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The largest of these is Oropendola Waterfall, which plunges an impressive 25 meters (82 feet) into a turquoise pool. Below the falls, the Rio Blanco (White River) makes for a tropical oasis that is perfect for a refreshing swim.
To access this waterfall you will need to purchase tickets at the hotel or on their website. You can do the easy to moderate hike to the Oropendola Falls, which includes a unique hanging bridge, plus a typical “casado” lunch for $32 USD per person. There is also extras you can add on such as horseback riding, canyoning, river tubing, or a dip in the volcanic hot springs at Rio Negro. These falls at the base of Rincon de la Vieja Volcano are only a two-hour drive from Tamarindo and definitely worth the trip!
Las Chorreras Waterfall
Two cascading waterfalls against a canyon of rock is what meets you at the end of the hike to Las Chorreras Waterfall. These falls are also located in Rincon de La Vieja Volcano National Park within the Hotel Guachipelin property. You can take either the short 20-minute trail from the hotel or the longer 40-minute trail to access these falls and their stunning blue pool. This tour will cost $27 for adults and $22 for kids.
This pristine grotto is the perfect spot for a soothing swim in the jungle. The waters are refreshing and full of volcanic minerals thought to have a rejuvenating effect.
La Cangreja Waterfall
La Cangreja (Crab) Waterfall is located inside the Rincon de la Vieja National Park. It’s a 5 kilometre (3 miles) hike to reach the waterfall through the forests with changing terrain, plenty of vegetation, and diverse species such as howler, whiteface, and spider monkeys, iguanas, coatis, and over 300 species of birds. The 40 meter (130 feet) high La Cangreja plunges into a turquoise pool. Although you can’t swim at the falls, the hike and surrounding flora and fauna make the long hike worthwhile. With fuming fumaroles and bubbling volcanic mud, the journey to the falls is the highlight of the trip.
The hike to the Cangreja Waterfall will also take you to the Escondido Waterfall within the national park, however, this will add another two and a half kilometres to your 10 kilometre trek. You can book a tour with Hacienda Guachipelin or simply enter the park and pay the entrance fees ($16.95 for adults and $5.65 for children).
Rio Celeste Waterfall
Known for its strikingly blue water, the Rio Celeste Waterfall has earned its designation as one of the best waterfalls in Guanacaste Costa Rica for shocking visitors with its ethereal hue. Located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park, Rio Celeste receives a lot of visitors every year, so the trail from the park entrance to the waterfall is well maintained and fairly easy to traverse. The last segment will take you down a long flight of stairs carved into the mountainside, with about 150 steps. It will take you about 30 minutes to hike down to the falls from the entrance, but the entire hike overall will take about two hours.
While you can’t swim in these falls, either, getting a glimpse (and photos) of the blue pool is well worth the three-hour drive from Tamarindo. There is, however, a free public entrance near the bridge about one kilometer (half a mile) past the park entrance where the Rio Celeste Free Pool can be found and swimming is allowed (but mucho frio!). It costs around $12 to enter the national park.
Llanos de Cortes Waterfall
Arguably one of the most beautiful and easily accessible waterfalls near Tamarindo, you will find the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall close to Liberia near the town of Bagaces, which is only a two-hour drive away. After paying the $7 entrance fee, visitors to the falls can park their car in the guarded parking lot and descend the stairs carved into the rock. The railing makes this easily accessible for most people, however, the stairs are large. Once you reach the bottom you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a tropical oasis, with the sound of marimba music and the sight of the falls surrounded by rocks and trees.
Cortes Waterfall is a perfect place to bring the whole family and a picnic basket to spend the day. You can even get a guided hike around the area to jump off the rocks into hidden pools and get a view from the top of the falls!
La Leona Waterfall
One of the most exciting waterfalls near Tamarindo has to be La Leona Waterfall. It is found within a cave and visitors must wade through waist-high water to get there at one point of the journey. You must take a guide to reach this waterfall but it is well worth the expense at only $25 per person.
This hike will take you through canyons and natural pools so wear your bathing suit and water shoes! The hike itself will take about three hours and there is even the opportunity to go river-tubing. Located on private property near the town of Curubande, it will take about two hours to drive here from Tamarindo.
Just over two hours’ drive from Tamarindo, and 20 minutes from Samara, the Belen Waterfall is kind of a hidden gem amongst the waterfalls in Guanacaste Costa Rica. You can park and walk the short but steep trail to the river in about five minutes and natural pools and falls are a short trek through the trees from there. Once you arrive, you will see the appeal of this place with its multi-level pools and smooth rocks for lounging.
The waterfall is about a four-meter (15 foot) drop into a deeper pool. Some people enjoy jumping into the deeper pool from the top of the falls but this is at your own risk as there are no lifeguards and not too many visitors ordinarily. Keep in mind the falls may have a very low cascade during the dry season (December-April) and the suction from the falls may be very strong during the rainy season (May-November). Beyond paying the parking attendant 1-2,000 colones to watch your vehicle, you won’t have to pay to visit this natural wonder.
Waterfalls, or cataratas in Spanish, have a way of making us feel like we are fully immersed in nature, filling all of our senses with refreshment and leaving our bodies and souls rejuvenated. You don’t have to travel far to find the best waterfalls in Guanacaste Costa Rica…the waterfalls near Tamarindo are some of the best in the country!
By Jennifer LaCharite