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A complete guide to some of the best family-friendly waterfalls in Costa Rica, including some of the most famous waterfalls and the best way to see them.
As I talk to hundreds of clients about where to go in Costa Rica, invariably everyone wants to know how to see spectacular waterfalls while in Costa Rica. This makes sense- waterfall chasing is a popular pastime with Costa Ricans and tourists alike.
If you know where to go, there are some great waterfalls just a short walk from parking lots, making waterfall chasing a great activity to do with kids in Costa Rica. Just make sure not to trespass on private property when waterfall chasing, and take the right gear with you.
Something to especially note is about waterfall chasing in the rainy season– it is important to know that some of the pools at the base of the waterfalls will become murky, and the waterfalls can flow very hard making it impossible to swim at the lower falls. Ask a local guide when you are looking to visit waterfalls in the rainy season.
Things to Pack When Visiting Costa Rica Waterfalls
Before you head toward any of the waterfalls, you need to pack some things to make your trip smoother.
While some of the items mentioned below aren’t absolutely essential, they do come in handy and improve your overall experience during the visit. So, do your due diligence before going in!
- Swimwear — especially if you plan to go swimming (which you absolutely should!)
- Waterproof bag — to carry all your stuff without getting it wet
- Water shoes
- Mosquito repellant
- iPhone — or any other waterproof smartphone to take all the beautiful photos and videos (a GoPro is even better!)
- Drinking water & snacks
Related post: Costa Rica Packing List (For Families)
The Best Waterfalls in Costa Rica
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the best waterfalls you absolutely need to visit in Costa Rica.
La Fortuna Waterfall
If you’re staying in the town of La Fortuna or in anywhere in the Arenal area, it’s easily accessible with your rental car or a local taxi. Once you’ve reached there, take the stairs down — around 500 of them — and you’d find yourself at the heart of La Fortuna Waterfall.
As it’s a famous waterfall here, expect a lot of company- maybe even those on a horseback tour.
Be sure to take your swimming gear, as it’s one of the best waterfalls for swimming in Costa Rica.
You can enter La Fortuna Waterfall from 8 AM to 4 PM for a fee of $18 at the park entrance. The fee may sound hefty, but you’d be surprised to see how well everything has been maintained. It’s absolutely worth it, and a favorite of the local day tours around La Fortuna.
Related post: 15 Top Arenal Costa Rica Activities (For Families) and our most popular post on the blog: A Foodie’s Restaurant Guide To La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Notice the name: Nauyaca Waterfalls. See it? “Waterfalls”, and not “Waterfall”. That’s because it’s a set of two giant cascading waterfalls that offer a unique spectacle you won’t find anywhere else in Costa Rica.
You can find these waterfalls in Southern Costa Rica, just east of Dominical beach.
If you get to the Nauyaca waterfalls by taxi, you’d have to walk 6km after paying the entrance fee. If you’re in your own car, you can drive it a further 2kms and park it in the parking lot. Then, it’s only the remaining 4kms of the hike between you and the waterfall. You can see both the upper falls and the pools below.
If you don’t want to walk and don’t have your car either, you have the option to book a 4×4 or do horseback riding.
If you’re wondering whether you can swim here, yes, you can.
The entrance fee is $10 if you don’t want any extras. If you want to book a 4×4, it costs $32 — and if you’re up for a complete horseback riding tour, the price is $80.
Rio Celeste Waterfall
To get here, head towards the Tenorio Volcano National Park, take the entrance, then it’s a small and easy hike to the waterfall.
The water looks so mesmerizing that you’d want to take a dip instantly — but it’s not allowed. So, enjoy the views from afar.
If you’re up for a challenge, follow the Celeste river further into the jungle to explore the origin of this blue water. However, this hike is not for the faint of heart — so only go this route if you know you’re ready for it.
The entrance fee to the park is $5, plus $12 for the entrance into the waterfall.
Note that this waterfall is only about 90 minutes away from La Fortuna, making it a fun day trip from the area if you are up for the drive. If you want to stay in the area we love both La Carolina Lodge and Casitas Tenorio Bed and Breakfast.
Another unique waterfall you don’t want to miss! It’s a set of 3 cascading waterfalls, the lowest one, however, is the biggest one — and that’s where most people go.
From the towns of Santa Teresa or Montezuma, you can either take the canopy route or take the Riverbed Trail to get here.
Even though the trail may look intimidating, it’s fairly easy to cross. Lots of people visit this beauty every day.
There’s no entrance fee to Montezuma waterfall — just a parking fee of $2 outside the town if you have your own car.
Related post: Costa Rica’s National Parks Guide
If you’re residing in San Jose, La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a must-visit. It’s only a 45-minute drive from the San Jose Airport, and near the cloud forest area.
There are 5 waterfalls in these gardens — and each one of them offers a spectacle you just can’t keep your eyes away from. I’ve written a full review of the park here– but alongside the falls is a hummingbird garden, animal sanctuary and more.
The entrance fee to the gardens is $48 — but considering what you’re getting for this amount, it’s more than worth it. I highly suggest adding the buffet lunch to your entrance fee.
This is the perfect place to see incredible waterfalls, wildlife and get a taste of traditional Costa Rican culture. The waterfall walk is fun too because you start at the top of the first waterfall and end at the base of the waterfall before getting on the shuttle back to the main entrance.
Llanos de Cortez Waterfall
If you’re looking for another unique, unforgettable memory to capture, Llanos de Cortez Waterfall is where you need to go. It’s a curtain-like waterfall that you’d want to stay in forever!
To get here, get on the Panamericana Highway near Bagaces — and be ready for a sudden jump out of the highway as there’s no specific exit lane.
The waterfall stays open from 8 AM to 4 PM — and all it takes is a small fee of $7 to get in.
This is a great place to stop for a picnic lunch on your way from La Fortuna to the Pacific coast. The walk over is short, and you can enjoy views from the base of the falls as you eat.
This is also super close to the Las Pumas animal sanctuary where you can see lots of different big cats endemic to Costa Rica.
This waterfall is an adventure in itself as the hike to get there goes through rivers before opening up to a blue water hole in the middle of an open-air cave. You’ve gotta see it to believe it!
If you would like to talk to me about a customized itinerary or specific Costa Rica travel advice for your family, (zero sales- just advice!) check out my “Ask Christa” page for more information on custom Costa Rica trip planning geared towards families.
Welcome! I’m Christa, a Spanish teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. We’ve spent over 25 years living in and traveling to Costa Rica with our daughters, and this website is my love letter to all things Costa Rica- and to bilingual parenting too. You can read my full story here. Thanks for stopping by!