For me, Costa Rica is a bit of a country of waterfalls. In my opinion, waterfalls for Costa Rica are more characteristic than paradise beaches. I have visited several of them so far. Each one is different and magical in its own way. They are addictive and make you want to wade through the jungle, again and again, to see if the next one will turn out to be the most beautiful. After two months of intensive exploration of Costa Rica, I have made a few of the most touristic ones and a whole range of those that you will not find on the Internet. They are not well-promoted and often not even local people know about them. I will create a separate list of the most unique waterfalls of Costa Rica on the blog.
The Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica, on the other hand, are definitely one of my favorites and deserve a separate entry. It is a perfect place for those seeking adventure and nature, as you can do a lot of things here such as hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and jumping from a few meters into the crystal clear water. And above all is in one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific south of Costa Rica.
Where are the Nauyaca Waterfalls and what they look like?
The Nauyaca Waterfalls are located 160 km (100 miles) from San José and 10 km (6.2 miles) from Dominical in southern Costa Rica. The most convenient way to visit them is during your stay in Manuel Antonio, Dominical, Uvita, or Ojochal. It takes approx. 45 minutes from Manuel Antonio, and approx. 25 minutes from Uvita to get there by car and it is the best way of reaching the falls.
The waterfalls are located in a canyon that is about 80 m wide. One of them is 45 m high and the other 20 m in a gradual slope, forming a 1000 square meter and six meters deep pool at its foot. Further on are other smaller-sized natural pools.
How to get to Nauyaca Waterfalls?
The waterfalls are located on a private property owned by the Costa Rican Don Lulo family. You must start the trip from their office, where you pay for entrance, and only then you are allowed to enter the property.
If you are taking Route 34 (Costanera Sur) the office is approximately a 10-minute drive from where you turn left onto Route 243 on your way to San Isidro de General. After turning left, you will see signs leading to the entrance and a large waterfall sign in the office. The entrance to the road will be about a kilometer north of the office. Turn right to exit to the parking lot.
The main road is well paved, but the small stretch from the office to the parking lot is steep and unpaved. 4×4 is highly recommended in the South Pacific area, so renting an SUV will be very useful. In the rainy season, a tall car is a must as this part of the road becomes very slippery. In the driest months, such as March and April, you should not face any problems on your way.
Nauyaca Waterfalls: entrance fee and opening hours
There are three ways to reach the waterfall from Don Lulo’s office. You can go for a hike, take a truck or a horse. Online booking and confirmation by e-mail are required. The office is open Monday to Saturday, the waterfall is closed on Sunday.
Prices for entrance:
- waterfalls entrance fee: USD 10/person,
- horseback ride: USD 85/person,
- 4×4 truck ride: USD 32/person at 7.00, 9.00, 10.00, 11.00, and 12.00. It also includes returning two hours after arriving at the waterfall,
- there is also a premium option that includes breakfast, entrance, round-trip truck ride, lunch, and a guide for USD 85/person. It starts at 8:00 AM and ends at 1:30 PM,
- parking fee is USD 3.
Nauyaca Waterfalls Nature Park
There is also a NEW Nature Park that provides access to the eastern side of the Nauyaca Falls. This is an alternative to visiting the waterfalls proposed by the Don Lulo family office. It offers a 10-minute truck ride to the falls and a 600-meter walk down to the falls. The cost is USD 27 per adult and includes the entrance fee, ride, parking, bathrooms, changing cabins, and access to nature park hiking trails. Booking in advance is required. It can be found on Google Maps under Nauyaca Waterfalls Nature Park.
Nauyaca Waterfalls Nature Park – on foot, by truck, or horseback?
The trail to the falls is approximately 4 km (2.5 miles) long and leads through dense rainforest. You can choose one of three options to get to it
Nauyaca Waterfalls – horseback ride
The price of the trip includes breakfast and lunch. First, you go to the little cottage where you can have breakfast, then to the waterfalls and back to the cottage for lunch.
Horseback tours take place daily from Monday to Saturday. Duration – 8.00-13.00 including breakfast, horse, guide, lunch, and entrance fee. Additionally, the weight limit when riding a horse is 104 kg or 230 pounds. Horseback riding to Nauyaca Waterfalls is USD 85 per person.
Hike to the Nauyaca Waterfalls
Many people choose to reach the waterfalls on foot. However, you must definitely have more time for the entire trip. The hike takes about 1-1.5 hours one way, depending on how fast you walk. The trail to Nauyaca Falls is 6 km (3.7 miles) one way, or 12 km both ways. The difficulty level is moderate. The trail is the same for both hiking and horse riding.
In my honest opinion, I don’t think it’s the best solution. The Nauyaca Waterfalls are very popular among tourists, so if you want to see them without the crowds and families with children and have time to admire the majesty of nature, swim alone, or take photos, the only way is to get there early in the morning.
If you go on foot and leave at 7.00 a.m., you will be there no later than 8:30 At this time of day the light is already very strong (sunrise starts around 5.40) so it’s hard to take a good picture. You also have little time to enjoy the waterfall, because around 9.30 am there will be a lot of people there. This time, therefore, I would recommend getting there as soon as possible, that is, choosing option 3.
Nauyaca Waterfalls by truck
I went with this solution for the above reasons and have no regrets about it! At 7.00 a.m. I got to the waterfall by truck, and the ride lasted roughly 20 minutes. I was alone and I was the first one to be there. For 2 hours the waterfall was all mine and it was a great experience. I was swimming alone and took as many pictures as possible. At 9.00 the same truck came for me and took me to the parking lot. On the way back, I was passing lots of people on foot and horseback. I don’t even want to know how crowded that place can possibly be. The fee for a truck ride includes entrance and transport. Or you can opt for a premium tour and receive a guide, breakfast, and lunch. But beware: this option assumes that you will be at the waterfall longer, and surrounded by a crowd of other people.
As always, the best part is in the end
I love the fact, that in Costa Rica the most beautiful places are hidden somewhere in the dense jungle. You can’t see them right away, they’re not for everyone, they’re not waiting for you. You have to deserve them, as they require time and effort. You must become part of nature to be close to them. Each such meeting is an adventure, exploration.
Nauyaca is located in a wide canyon covered with lush vegetation with a light mist of cascading water. There are also upper and lower waterfalls, accessed by stairs. From under this 18-meter cascade, there is the best view of both the impressive waterfall in front of us and the one above it. The lower waterfalls are also a place, where you can cool down a little. There is a huge blue water pool that you can swim freely in. It was by far one of my most beautiful experiences in Costa Rica. I was alone there, the water was cool and crystal clear, and there was a rainbow was forming over it. The sound of the falling waterfall mingled with the sound of toucans sitting in the trees. Magic.
After visiting the lower waterfall, I also recommend seeing the upper one, which has an impressive 43-meter (140 ft) cliff with several other cascades. There are large, smooth rocks here, which are a great place for a picnic.
For me, it is one of the most amazing natural places in Costa Rica. A combination of adventure, outdoor activities, relaxation, and closeness to nature, which literally overwhelms with its beauty and monumentality.
What you should know before visiting Nauyaca Falls?
In order to experience what I told you about, it is worth considering a few tips:
- I recommend going there as early as possible, that is right away after opening at 7.00 if you want to have a waterfall for yourself. This waterfall has become very popular and it gets crowded in the afternoon, especially in the months of December to April.
- It is worth visiting the falls during the dry season because in the rainy season there will be so much water that it will not be possible to get closer or swim in it. However, if you decide to visit it in August-October, check the weather conditions first.
- There are no amenities at the waterfall. So if you get injured or need help or anything else, be aware that help won’t come fast. There is also no phone service. It’s worth taking drinking water with you, and if you want to stay longer, also food.