One of the determining factors to making Costa Rica our home-base was the country’s abundance of natural attractions and adventures.
Things like having beautiful beaches, hiking trails and lots of greenery nearby were important to us. Even better? Being just a hop, skip and a jump away from the spectacular Nauyaca Waterfalls.
The Nauyaca Waterfalls are a must-visit on any trip to Southern Costa Rica. In fact, they’re probably our favorite waterfalls in all of Costa Rica!
What To Know About The Stunning Nauyaca Waterfalls
A journey to the Nauyaca Waterfalls starts with purchasing an $8 ticket at a green and blue roadside house with black bars across the front. There is plenty of signage on the road between Dominical and San Isidro, but it is surprisingly easy to miss if you’re not paying close attention.
After you buy your ticket, you have two options: You can hike down the 2 km dirt road to the start of the hiking path, or if you’ve got 4×4 capabilities we recommend driving down to the start of the hike. The dirt road leading to the hike isn’t particularly scenic but it IS super steep. There is a parking lot at the end of the dirt road where the hiking trail begins. Although we’ve never heard of anyone having issues here, be sure to bring any valuables with you or leave them at home as there is no security here.
The 4km hike to the waterfall then begins after crossing over the bridge and passing through the jungle. The trail is well-maintained, and during the dry season (when we went) it was relatively clean. After a heavy rain, the trail does become very muddy so you might want to bring shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. While some spots are shady, there are good portions that leave you exposed to the sun. We recommend you bring sunscreen and lots of water, too.
Before you get to the main gate to access the waterfall, there is a little restaurant where you can restock on water and grab a bite to eat. Much to our disappointment, they don’t serve ice cream here.
Up the trail a little further is the entrance gate where you will need to show your wristband to the guard. Just a few hundred meters after the gate, you will have the option to visit the upper or the lower falls. While both are spectacular and worth a visit, the lower falls are the larger of the two and have a pool that is safe to jump and swim in.
We chose to visit the lower falls and enjoy the hot afternoon sunbathing and watching various levels of daring cliff jumps. The safest place to jump is on the right-hand side as you are facing the falls. One daring local was so brave as to climb all the way up the face of the waterfall and then jump from the top! Obviously not something we tried or recommend…
The weekends tend to get quite crowded. If you are looking for a more tranquil experience, then we recommend trying to time your hike on a weekday. We decided to take the trek on Sunday and found the busy atmosphere to be surprisingly fun as people were cheering on those bold enough to jump off the waterfall into the plunge pool. There were also plenty of locals picnicking and enjoy the beautiful day.
After we had our fair share of fun and photo ops, we returned the same way we came. We will definitely be coming to Nauyaca Falls again as it is a beautiful location and just 10 minutes down the road!
There is also a popular horseback riding tour that takes visitors to the falls; it’s a good option if you’re not into hiking or if you want to combine adventures! The horseback riding tours begin from the same roadside entrance where you buy your ticket. We recommend calling in advance to reserve your spot and check the details.
There are multiple tour companies that arrange tours to the waterfall with transportation included. If you are traveling from Quepos and heading south, turn left just before the police checkpoint at the Rio Baru Bridge. Coming from Dominical the turn is a right after the bridge and police checkpoint. Follow signs for San Isidro. After you turn onto the road to San Isidro, it is a winding 7 km up to the ticket office, a one-story green and blue building with black bars across the front. It will be on the right-hand side with a large Nauyaca Waterfalls sign across the street. Entrance to the falls is $8.
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Do you seek out waterfalls on your travels? Have you visited the Nauyaca Waterfalls?