As one of the most photographed natural formations in this visually stunning country, the waterfalls of Costa Rica astound both experienced and novice travelers alike. There is just something incredible about rushing water dramatically falling from the rainforest canopy into a pool at the base of a cliff. After a hike through the rainforest in the tropical heat, a cool dip beneath these powerful forces of nature will not disappoint.
To put it simply, La Fortuna Waterfall is stunning. People from around the world come to appreciate the natural beauty of the waterfall and surrounding hot springs. Spanish for “Fortune,” the waterfall is the attraction of a number of different tours near the Arenal Volcano and is fed by the Tenorio River. The view of the waterfall spilling out from a cliff at the base of the dormant Chato volcano and plummeting 70-meters (230-feet) before hitting a tropical pond that’s surrounded by the rich, green rainforest along with the Arenal Mountain range is an awe-inspiring experience. Visitors come from around the world to appreciate the stunning natural beauty of the waterfall and surrounding hot springs. There are two viewing areas that offer different perspectives of La Fortuna, and you can even walk right out on to the massive rocks and boulders alongside the banks of the basin. Remember to bring a swimsuit — the cool pool at the base of the waterfall is a great swimming location on a balmy summer day. The hike from the starting point on the cliff down to the waterfall (which can be combined with a hanging bridges canopy tour) follows a staircase that is carved into the hillside and takes about 15 minutes, and the calm green-blue waters of the pool will make the trek well worth the effort, and among the most beautiful Costa Rica hikes.
The Rio Celeste Waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park in the northwestern Guanacaste region is renowned for its hypnotic blue color and tropical surroundings. According to local legend, when God painted the sky, he washed his blue brushes in the river, turning the waters an entrancing shade of turquoise. In reality, the water that flows through the park is the unique product of a chemical reaction between minerals from the volcano and lush rainforest. A two-hour hike into the park will unveil the brilliant blue waterfall and several natural hot springs, as well as plenty of Costa Rica wildlife including poison dart frogs, colorful blue morpho butterflies, and curious monkeys — it’s the ultimate tropical adventure. Swimming is prohibited due to unknown effects of the volcanic minerals, but the views make for picture-perfect memories to share with friends and family. The best time of year to experience the bright blue river is during Costa Rica’s dry season between December and April. Despite their many alluring sights, the Rio Celeste Waterfall and park system are known as a relatively well-kept secret due to their remote location off the beaten path. A hidden jewel in a country of treasures, the Rio Celeste Waterfall is not a sight to be missed.
Some say Llanos de Cortez is Costa Rica’s most beautiful waterfall. It is located in Bagaces about 30 minutes (16 miles) south of Liberia. At about 50 feet wide and 12 feet tall, Llanos de Cortez is wider than it is tall with streams of water cascading over a rock wall. The pool at the base of the falls is clean, clear, and perfect for a refreshing swim on a hot day. There’s also a little white sandy beach which can be nice for a snack or picnic! The trail from the parking lot down the waterfall is a short 10-minute hike but it is steep. The forest leading to the falls is lush and dense with wildlife like birds and monkeys that can be seen along the way. There are no entrance fees to Llanos de Cortez, but donations to the local community school are welcome. Guided waterfall excursions can be arranged.