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La Leona Waterfall Costa Rica (With Kids!)

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La Leona waterfall in Guanacaste Costa Rica boasts turquoise river water and lots of adventure- making it one of the most popular waterfall hikes in Costa Rica!

image courtesy @laleonacatarata

One of the most popular waterfalls to visit in Costa Rica has recently sprung up in the Curubande region near the Rincon de la Vieja volcano and just outside the national park in northern Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Just minutes from downtown Liberia and the Liberia airport, this blue river ends at a fabulous hidden waterfall inside an open-air cave.

You’ll love this tour because it’s just so quintessentially Costa Rica- walking through the forest, spotting different species of plants and animals, and eating fresh fruit and traditional casado lunches at the end.

It’s a good tour to do with kids- my kids adore fording rivers and swimming in Costa Rica, and walking through the rainforest builds so much character.

That said, because you are walking across rivers with currents and swimming in moving water, it is a good idea to know exactly what you are getting into so that you can make the best decision about this adventure tour with your kids.

This post should help you make that decision- we will do this without hesitation with our girls, who are 7 and 9 at the time of writing.

Location (Getting There and Away)

The easiest way to get to these beautiful waterfalls and the tour operators that guide you there is to go in your own car. Some operators also include transportation to and from area Guanacaste hotels.

We went by on our way to Hacienda Guachepelin, which is an awesome hotel with natural hot springs just about 15 minutes north of the La Leona area, and I highly recommend it. We also drove through when staying at Planet Hollywood.

This would not be a bad trip from Playa Del Coco, Playa Ocotal, Playa Hermosa, Playa Tamarindo, or many other northern Guanacaste beaches, as this tour is close to the Liberia Aiport (only about 20 minutes away.) That makes it even easy to do right off the plane!

Bonus- there are two hidden beaches we love right near here- Playa Cabuyal and Playa Nacazcolo – so you can cool off after a hot hike at either of those less traveled beaches just 45 minutes away.

image courtesy @laleonacatarata

What To Expect

Arrival/Check In

When you arrive at your tour operator, you can expect to find a welcome area/check-in station. You’ll meet your guide and get the rundown on what to expect.

Available Gear

Not every tour operator offers the same gear, but most will offer you a waterproof bag for your stuff as you need to plan to be completely submerged in water during the tour.

Operators should also offer you a life jacket if you are not a strong swimmer or do not feel comfortable swimming in a current.

image courtesy @laleonacatarata

La Leona Waterfall Hike

The tour starts on dry land and then goes across some shallow riverbeds of the Blanco River. The blue water is crystalline and gorgeous- you’ll never get enough. on this part of the trail, you’ll get your feet wet but not your body.

You’ll go up a hill and then descend in a section of the trail where you go through tons of caves, incredible rock formations, and across rivers. Expect to see some fun fruit bats, and any other wildlife your tour guide might spot along the way.

The total hike is 2 kilometers or about 1 mile each way. You can expect to spend 2-3 hours on the whole tour including swimming at the actual waterfall.

image courtesy @laleonacatarata

Arriving At The Waterfall

This gorgeous waterfall plummets into a pool of crystal blue water. You’ll be in water about 4-5 feet deep demanding on the time of year and how much rain Costa Rica has had recently.

You’ll be able to swim through the waterfall mist, and even jump from the top of the waterfall into the pool below.

Ending the Tour

After hiking back you’ll need a good meal, and many of the tours offer Costa Rican casados at a very reasonable price. There are also adorable restaurants in the tiny town that has sprung up around the La Leona area, so you can even do a gallo pinto breakfast before the tour and a casado lunch after.

image courtesy @laleonacatarata

What To Pack

You can read more about our Costa Rica packing guide for families here, but for this particular excursion, this is what I would pack:

  • Lightweight clothing with synthetic fabric (cotton takes a long time to dry after the tour)
  • Bathing suit
  • Sturdy water shoes– you’ll be climbing up slippery rocks and walking through the river, so make sure they are really sturdy. The Target water shoes for kids are not going to cut it here
  • Waterproof bag– if your operator is not providing this and you want to take your phone or any snacks you’ll need this
  • A sense of adventure– this is a unique opportunity you’ll just love! Be prepared to stretch your thinking and for your kids to love this tour!

La Leona Costa Rica Tour Operators

There are three main tour operators that are most highly respected in the area, and all will take prior reservations. When traveling with kids, just make sure you let them know in advance what your expectations and concerns are, and am positive the tour operators and guides will make sure you have a great experience. The tour operators are:

Finca Don Rafa’s Tours

This is one of the most local tours in that the owner has been in the area for generations, and is partly responsible for the discovery and growth of the La Leona waterfall in the area. I believe this is the first tour operator to start in the area, and it’s 100% Costa Rican-owned. There is also a restaurant on site where you can get traditional Costa Rican food which we know I always love.

Offi Tours

This is the tour operator most recommended in Facebook groups of travelers to Costa Rica. Offi offers several tours in the area, and can combine La Leona with other tours, making it a great choice if you want to do other things like hot springs or ziplines too.

La Leona Waterfall Tours

These are the Trip Advisor kings, and can combine your tour with river tubing and other offerings.

Independent Guides (Private Tours)

You can also just show up to the area and find local guides willing to do the hike with you on their own. My only precaution here is finding out if they have insurance, and trying to determine how much experience they have. We do not generally contract individual guides when we are going with our girls because it’s just too hard to verify if they are legit or not.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe?

Yes! This is a safe tour. However, if your kids are not strong swimmers you will want to have a life jacket for them and also a guide that is looking out for them at all times.

Is this a good tour to do in the rain or rainy season?

Unlike the Rio Celeste in the Bijagua area, the water at La Leona and its feeder rivers are gorgeously blue no matter what time of year you go.
You will note stronger currents in the rainy season, (May-November) so make sure to take that into consideration when making your decisions about whether or not to go.

What shoes should I wear?

Sturdy bottom and ok for getting completely wet. You will do some climbing on slippery rocks and you will have your feet completely submerged in the water. Keen water shoes would be good, or an old pair of tennis shoes you just throw away at the end of the trip.

Do I need a life jacket?

It’s not required, it just comes down to personal comfort.

What is the youngest age I should take my child?

Good question for your guide when you book in advance, but I would say 5 and up.

Is the river really that blue?

YES! It’s so cool.

Best time to go?

The best time to go on the tour is early in the morning. I’d grab the first available tour. This gives you less of a chance of rain and also gives you more time at the waterfall. You won’t be in a hurry to leave!

Have more questions about traveling to Costa Rica with kids? You can ask me anything! Click here for more information on how to talk to me one on one about your next Costa Rica trip.

About the Author

Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa! I fell in love with Latin America in my 20s, and I’m still head over heels! Here at Pura Vida Moms I celebrate what it means to be bicultural- Costa Rican recipes, bilingual parenting and family travel.

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Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa, and I’m on a mission to help the world fall in love with Costa Rica through food, travel and language. I’m a mom of two Latinas, bicultural, bilingual (English/Spanish), and 100% in love with celebrating parenthood in all its forms, (even the sucky parts). I’m so happy you found the site- WELCOME! Find out more about me here

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