Only 5 more steps to go!
I grasped the concrete wall and heaved up the next step. My legs ached and twinged. And the next step. Sweat slowly trickled down my shining forehead. And the next step. The twisting knot in my stomach grew. And the next to last step.
Finally, I let out a huge sigh of relief as I took my last step and looked behind me, to the last set of stairs that took my breath away.
You are probably thinking that I just climbed up to a volcano summit or to the top of a mountain but no, I was just clambering up 400 steps of the Catarata del Toro waterfall. Too giddy and bursting with energy from experiencing one of the most beautiful natural sites in Costa Rica, I sprinted my way back up only to wipe out the last set of steep concrete steps.
So when you visit Catarata del Toro, make sure you take your time and relish every moment at the tallest waterfall in Costa Rica.
Catarata del Toro
Standing at an impressive 270 feet, this waterfall is in an old volcano crater on a private reserve. Owned and operated by a Costa Rican-Dutch couple, they transformed a little piece of the rain forest into a welcoming visitor’s center so travelers can enjoy the nature and wildlife surrounding the waterfall.
They constructed steps and a hiking path down to the bottom of Catarata del Toro, so you can get as close to the waterfall as possible.
Location and Directions
There are several routes to get to Catarata del Toro, which is in the little town of Bajos del Toro Amarillo. We recommend taking the route from Sarchi, as the mountain views are spectacular but either way you go you’ll have great views!
From San Jose through Sarchi (~2 hours): Take InterAmericanca 1 (Route 1) to San Ramon/Guanacaste. Take the Grecia exit and continue on this road to reach Grecia downtown with the red church on your left. Take a left after the church and follow the signs to Sarchi past the Plaza Grecia. Continue on this road to Sarchi until you reach a big field on your left and a Maxi Pali on your right. Turn right at the Maxi Pali (there is a very small sign for Catarata del Toro) and continue on this road high up into the mountains. Continue on this road for about 25 minutes until you reach the small town of Bajos del Toro Amarillo. Continue through the town about 6 kilometers, you’ll see a huge sign for Catarata del Toro on your left.
You’ll see a building with a large parking lot.
Entrance Fee and Hours
Catarata del Toro is open Monday to Saturday, 7 AM – 5 PM. $10 (5000 colones) for foreigners, $8 (4000 colones) for locals
The Trails and Hummingbird Gardens
The visitor center consists of a restaurant, nature trails, hummingbird gardens and of course, the waterfall. Most visitors don’t walk the nature trails since they’re exhausted from climbing back from the waterfall, so I recommend strolling the nature trails first if you want to explore more before going to the waterfall.
Walking all the nature trails takes around 45 minutes, it’s pretty but you won’t miss much if you don’t walk it all. Another attraction they have are the hummingbirds. They set up feeders throughout the gardens which attracts some unique hummingbirds found in this region.
Once you’re ready, walk down to the main path to the waterfall.
Catarata del Toro trail
There are several excellent viewpoints along the trail so don’t skip these. Each one offers a different angle so you can see the spectacular waterfall from all perspectives.
The beginning of the trail is easy but it doesn’t last long. You’ll reach a step of concrete steps that look fairly daunting but the steepness is only for a few set of stairs which then turns into a dirt path with more stairs.
Walk a little further on a dirt trail and you’ll get glimpses of the waterfall through the trees and plants. And then right before you get to the bottom, there is a viewpoint where you get an incredible view of the entire waterfall.
You can see the true size of Catarata del Toro in this photo, Yeison looks absolutely teeny tiny!
Carefully climb down the last section (it’s a bit muddy), walk over the rocks on the right hand side and you’ll get to the closest point where Yeison is. The waterfall looks awe-inspiring from far away, but when you’re that close up, you get a real sense of how amazingly impressive this waterfall is.
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This is definitely one of the best activities in the Central Valley. Catarata del Toro really exceeded all my expectations and it’s one of the reasons why I recommend visitors to stay in the Valle Central.
When it comes to waterfalls, Catarata del Toro is high up on our list of favorites. It’s absolutely a hidden gem in the rain forest, even when we went in February during high season, we only ran into two other couples. We had it all to ourselves for awhile!
Tips for Visiting Catarata del Toro
- Bring plenty of water. You’ll need it on the way back up!
- They don’t recommend people with heart conditions or walking disabilities, pregnant women or senior citizens to go down because of the steps.
- Wear sturdy shoes – it gets slippery in some parts near the bottom. I wore my hiking shoes which I was very thankful for.
- If you don’t have your own transportation, you can hire a shuttle. Contact us for shuttle recommendations (leave a comment)
- If you have a car, you don’t necessarily need a 4X4. It is unpaved for a part of the way and one rough part in the mountain so drive carefully.
- It is close to Poas Volcano National Park so you can do both in one day.
- If you want to stay in Bajos del Toro, we recommend El Silencio Lodge & Spa. Gorgeous hotel on the luxury side in the forest with amazing views. Very close to the waterfall. The Catarata del Toro Adventures reserve also has small cabinas.
See the waterfall in action! (and me huffing and puffing up the steps)
For more information, check out the Catarata del Toro website.
Read about other waterfalls in Costa Rica here!