Catarata Llanos de Cortes is one of the must see waterfalls in Costa Rica. Ever since our first visit in 2012, we’ve gone back with all our friends and family. It’s absolutely worth visiting and if you have a day to explore, definitely put this waterfall on the list!
Catarata Llanos de Cortes waterfall (also known as Llanos de Cortez waterfall) is only a 5 minute walk from the parking lot to the waterfall and a great cheap activity in Guanacaste. Read the rest of this guide to help you plan your visit.
Location and directions
The Cortes waterfall is in Bagaces, Guanacaste. Catarata Llanos de Cortes is 36 kilometers (22 miles) from Liberia International Airport and about a 35 minute drive.
Sometimes, the Llanos de Cortes waterfall is spelled with a z as in “Llanos de Cortez waterfall” and it’s the same waterfall.
How to get to Catarata Llanos de Cortes
You can use Google Maps or Waze as your GPS. In Waze and Google Maps, enter “Catarata Llanos de Cortes” as your destination. The best way to get to Llanos de Cortes waterfall is by driving.
There is no pubic bus directly to the waterfall, there is only a bus that you can take from Liberia to Cañas which passes by the entrance and you can get off there. But you will still need to walk around 3-4 kilometers (~2 -2.5 miles) to the waterfall. Then for leaving, you will have to wait for the same bus from Cañas back to Liberia.
When you are driving on the InterAmericana highway 1 and are approaching the exit, the exit is right where the pedestrian bridge is and you will see these signs. Turn right here.
Continue on this road for about a kilometer or so and then you will see another entrance to the right with a sign that says “Waterfall.” You’ll then see a security station which you need to go through to continue to the waterfall.
Continue on this road after paying the fee about another kilometer or so to the parking lot.
Road Condition, 4×4 required for Llanos de Cortez Waterfall?
The road to the Cortez waterfall is actually in pretty good condition, especially compared to when we first visited in 2012. It is not fully paved but there weren’t many big holes and it’s fairly flat, not many hills or anything.
You do not need a 4×4, you can drive to the Llanos de Cortez waterfall in a sedan.
Catarata Llanos de Cortes hours
The Cortes waterfall is open 8AM – 4 PM everyday.
Catarata Llanos de Cortes entrance fee
When you pass through the security station, someone will ask you if you want to make a donation to the local community which maintains the waterfall. They told us it was 2000 CRC per person (~$3.34 USD) and she gave us these orange bracelet tag things to leave on the dashboard of our car.
It also seems that the “donation” varies because we have heard from foreign tourists that they charged them $7 USD and it was not a “donation.” It was a mandatory entrance fee so just keep that in mind.
Parking and Facilities
The Llanos de Cortez waterfall has a large parking and they do have bathrooms. Proper bathrooms, not a porter potty but no showers. The parking lot is not under surveillance nor is there a proper guard so make sure not to leave any valuables visible in the car, roll up your windows and lock your door.
When we visited, there was a man sitting outside the bathrooms as kind of watching the parking lot.
What to bring
Swimsuit, change of clothes, towel, sandals or flip flops, snacks, water/drinks, sunglasses and sunscreen if you plan to stay for a couple hours. Don’t forget your cameras!
They don’t sell food or drinks at the waterfall all the time. We have been there once during the holidays when some locals brought their own stand to sell shaved ice, snacks and cold coconut water but this is not always. So make sure to bring your own refreshments.
The Trail to the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall
The total time to walk from the parking lot to the Llanos de Cortes waterfall is around 5 minutes.
From the parking lot, you will see a sign that says Catarata Waterfall 100 m with an arrow pointing left. Walk on this trail and you’ll get to the entrance of the main trail.
They have now made a very nice concrete path down to the waterfall. It’s a very short walk, just about 3-5 minutes and they now have a rope for a handrail and concrete steps all the way down. They were finishing up the last 10 steps or so when we visited in November 2020.
The steps are not super steep so for anyone in good physical health, it is no problem. For anyone who may have ankle or knee problems, go slow and use the handrail.
Thankfully, there aren’t a ton of steps, maybe around 30 or so. It took me about 3 minutes to walk down to the waterfall from the parking lot. When you get to the bottom of the trail, turn right to go to the waterfall.
The Stunning Cortes Waterfall
The Llanos de Cortes waterfall is no doubt, impressive. Especially if you go in the rainy season and it is very full from all the rains. It is truly like an oasis in the desert as the water is super refreshing. It feels oh so good in the heat!
Important: They do not allow people to climb up the rocks under the waterfall anymore.
During the rainiest months like October and November, the wall on the right side of the waterfall activates a second smaller waterfall! It has a pool you can swim in too. It is seasonal so it won’t be there during the drier months like February, March and April.
If conditions are good, you can also walk up to the left side of Cortes waterfall to climb up to the top. Be very careful as it may be slippery or muddy, it’s not a proper trail at all, just climbing up through the forest. You’ll be able to see the river that supplies the waterfall and even walk all the way back to the parking lot from there.
We did this in March, the driest month in Guanacaste so it wasn’t muddy and all the foliage was dead/dry so the climb was not bad. I do not recommend it during the peak rainy months.
Other Things to Know About Visiting the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall
- If you want to explore a bit, you can cross the river when it’s low and there’s a super cool tree you can sit on and take photos. It’s a very photogenic spot (ideal for you Instagrammers).
- No bonfires or grills allowed.
- No smoking, no camping.
- Keep your ticket, they can ask for it anytime.
- You can stop by if you’re driving from Guanacaste (like Tamarindo/Playas del Coco/Conchal) to La Fortuna or vice versa. You can also stay for as long as you want, as it’s a nice day trip.
- To get the most of your day trip, you can visit the waterfall in the early morning for about an hour or just a photostop on your way to Rio Celeste. Or do Cortes Waterfall + zipline at Rincon de la Vieja or Diamante Eco Adventure Park.
How to Get the Cortes Waterfall To Yourself
This waterfall is now a popular spot for tours and it’s not as “hidden” as it used to be when we first visited. But it’s still possible to get the waterfall to yourself. Here are our tips.
- Go in the off season (rainy season months like May, June, September, October and November)
- Go as soon as the waterfall is open at 8 AM. Tour companies start stopping there 930, 10 AM or so. Or, go around 1-2 PM on a weekday.
- Don’t go on a weekend, especially Sunday. Lots of locals go on the weekends. Weekdays are best, especially Tuesday – Thursday.
- Don’t go on the holidays, especially the Costa Rican holidays. These are Christmas and New Year weeks, Easter week, the first two weeks in July and September 15th weekend. These are the busiest times of year for Costa Rican vacations. We went once in March during Easter week and it was absolutely packed to the point there was nowhere for us to lay down a towel and sit.
Watch our short clip at the waterfall to see it in action!
Other beautiful waterfalls are the Nauyaca waterfalls near Dominical in the South Pacific, Rio Celeste waterfall in northern Costa Rica, Catarata Rio Agrio, Blue Falls and Catarata del Toro in Bajos del Toro. Or check out our post on 12 amazing waterfalls in Costa Rica!
Yes a bit, you can go in the pool to a certain distance (can’t go behind or under the rocks) and if the conditions are good (sometimes when its raining hard and the waterfall is too full, they will not let anyone in the pool)
Are you (still) able to swim at this waterfall?
I’ve been there today- open until 16:00:)
Super helpful guide. Thank you. We just got to Coco Beach so we are now definitely planning on going thanks to your blog. Quick question. Do you know if Pets are allowed? Thanks
Yes but on leashes only
I recently went to the waterfall Oct. 2022 and they do not allow pets anymore. We drove an hour and had to turn back. We are going again tomorrow but without the dog! 🙂
Aw bummer, thanks for the update
Joel Haldeman says
Hi – we went today and found your guide very helpful. FYI: the price is now 4000 colones per adult and 2000 per child and this was not presented as an optional donation.
Hi. We are going to be in Costa Rica the last week of March. We are thinking of stopping at the waterfall on our way from Tamarindo to Arenal. We will have all our stuff in the car. Will this be safe?
It’s not a secure parking lot in the sense they have cameras and all that, the parking lot is fairly spacious and they did have one man who was sitting in front of the bathrooms the whole time… my recommendation is to try to hide as much as your things as possible and roll up your windows and lock your doors. If the man is still there when you go, maybe try to see if he can specifically keep an eye on your car and give him a tip.
Juli Jones says
Our flight lands in Liberia at 12p. Would we be able to rent a car, stop at Llanos de Cortes then Rio Celeste then to La Fortuna that same day? Do you recommend a guide at Rio Celeste or do on our own? Thank you!
I don’t think so because you have to enter Tenorio Volcano National Park before 2 PM and after going through all the customs, immigration, and whatever the new regulations will be for COVID-19, you won’t get there in time since it’s at least a 1.5 hour drive to Rio Celeste from Liberia.
Tineke Klumper says
I can’t seem to find the Las Pilas waterfall the E Bike company takes us too… Any idea?
I recommend to ask them!
We are traveling with our small service dog. Do you know she be allowed at the waterfall?
I think, since the waterfall isn’t a national park or reserve and we have been at the waterfall once where someone brought their dog.
Hi Sammi, Would you recommend doing a tour for this waterfall or just going on your own?
If you have a car, you can drive there and visit on your own. It’s just a 5 minute walk to the waterfall from the parking lot. If you don’t have a car, I’d recommend to visit it on a tour and most companies will combine it with something like hanging bridges, another hike, etc.
Michael Lopez says
This was such wonderful info! We are about to leave to the waterfalls right now. Great read. @joinourvidaloca
We just went to visit this waterfall on December 25th, 2018. The road is now open. You can park at the parking lot near the stairs down to the waterfall and it is $7USD per person. As recommended you want to combine this trip with something else like visiting this waterfall on your way to Rio Celeste. We spent maybe a 1/2 hour there. It was busy.
Make sure to read the @mytanfeet directions. They are accurate and your GPS may take you to the town.
Thank you for the update and feedback Juanita!
Annette t Simmonds says
Hi. We are planning to take a day trip from playa Flamingo to llanos de Cortes, then to playa Coco and be back by 4pm. (car rental rtn time)
Would this be possible? What is the time line needed and directions. Thanks for your help. Pura Vida
Hi Annette, yes you can definitely do that in one day. Most people stay about a half day from Cortes, then Cortes to Coco is about a 1 hour drive. So you can arrive in the morning at the waterfall, spend a few hours, go to Coco, spend a couple hours and then return the car. If you have Waze or GPS, you can type in the name of the waterfall and towns to get directions.
Hey, your blog was helpful in us getting there! What a beautiful spot!
Some changes you may want to add to your article! The waterfall is now under the control of the government & they have added a new gate at the beginning of the road where the entrance fee is $7USD per person for foreigners.
At the parking lot after you drive the road up which is in good condition you will find a new washroom facility.
Thanks for the update Lee! Seems like they’ve been changing it a lot the past few months since everyone has been giving different reports! Good to know the latest updates.
I was just reading in the Trip Advisor forum that this place is now closed due to a drowning??
Is this true?
Hi Rose, they closed the last part of the road to the waterfall since they’re going to re-do it. There is a gate now about 1 kilometer before so you have to park your car there and walk the last bit.
Went to Cortez today, a Friday. To supplement directiins: there is a sign “Bagaces 5km”, soon after is the pedestrian bridge. Turn immediately after bridge and you will see waterfall sign.
They charged us 3mil to park/go to falls and there was a guy asking for donations “for the children”. We gave him 2 mil.
The walk to the falls trail is hot and dusty! Its about 1km. The trail down to the falls is paved with steps but still some difficulty due to steepness. We took it slow and easy. There was a small stand selling beverages, snacks and grilled chicken—get it, very yummy!
Beautiful falls! Thanks for the tips.
Thanks for the update Laura and I’m so glad you had a great time! Seems like they are charging a bit more money now in high season but it’s still cheap though it used to be free before.
Hi Sophie, for a family I would definitely recommend renting a car. Catarta Llanos de Cortes is technically “closed” right now since they are remodeling it but if you have a car, you can park at the gate and walk the rest of the 1 km to the falls but there is no bus that goes to this waterfall.
At Rio Celeste, if you take the bus, you will need to take a taxi or book transportation to the national park entrance which is around $30 one way, there isn’t a bus that goes to the national park entrance. So it depends on your budget, you can rent a car for part of your trip which will be the easiest and most comfortable option, especially with kids. With the bus, you’ll be lugging your luggage around a lot and waiting around quite a bit so comfort, time and safety wise, renting a car is the best option.
We do have a discount with a car rental to give up to 20% off and driving in the Guanacaste area is pretty easy. You don’t need a 4×4 to Rio Celeste either. You can check prices on our page here: Costa Rica car rental discount.
Hello! We will be travelling across Costa Rica for 2 months with our 6 and 9 y.o girls. We hesitate renting a car or travel by bus (we are used to public transportation), what would you advise? We will be landing in Liberia on feb 5th and would like to see the falls prior to heading to Rio Celeste. Thanks for your advice! Could you send me tour details? Kind regards. Sophie
The falls were great! Seems to be a good place for locals to go to cool off. There were a couple vendors selling drinks and food. There’s a ‘donation’ to enter and another for parking, but it’s nominal and worth contributing.
There are now steps leading all the way down to the falls. My 80-year old parents were able to make the trip down and back up, albeit tired :-).
The access road off Highway 1 is not paved, bumpy, and has some potholes, but worth the trip. A 4×4 was good to have, but definitely not necessary.
I’m so happy we found your blog about this waterfall when we were staying in Playas Del Coco area. Everything in the Guanacaste region was either very dry or on fire last week. We stayed 3 nights in this region. We were getting disappointed with how dry everything appeared, thinking we made a bad decision to stay in that area three nights. Then I found your blog about this waterfall! We spent the good majority of one of our days at it. It was wonderful and so pretty! Thanks for writing the blog article. It helped our trip in the Guanacaste region greatly! After discovering your blog, I did check back to your expertise, when we stayed in Jaco and check to see if you had anything about the Sierpe area. Thanks also for the information on Nauyaca waterfall too!
Hi Angie, I’m so glad to hear! I know, Coco is a desert during March and April and isn’t very pretty during that time. We were super excited when we first visited Llanos too, that’s why we call it an oasis in Guanacaste! Glad you had a great time and thanks for reading!
There a many companies here that can take you Cortes Waterfalls, the charge from $60 to $80 it depends of the day and company. The cheapest option to go there is if you rent a car you can get a car for 1 or 2 days and it will be cheaper that the fee for just one person, and if you like to hike you will be able to go to other places like this beautiful hike: Rincon de la Vieja National Park
If you would like to rent a car you can check our rates we have a very good agreement with a local rent a car company
Costa Rica car rental discount
Thanks for reading our blog Jessica
Jessica Emerson says
Great website! I am traveling to Tamarindo in late March and would like to plan a day trip to Llanos de Cortes. Can you recommend a tour that includes transportation? Also, since my boyfriend and I are in good shape, any other details of hiking to do when we get there would be fantastic!
Hi Rosetta, sure we will be happy to help. We do offer a discount for the one day Nicaragua tour. All you have to do is fill out the form on this page here: Nicaragua one day tour discount and we will take care of all the booking for you. As for the other tours, I’ll send you an email with a company we like and help you get that sorted.
Glad the blog is helpful and we hope you have a great 2nd time in Coco!
Greetings Samantha, and Yeison,
I’ll be in Playas Del Coco, solo for the month of Feb., without a car, and plan on taking various tours. I am interested in The Nicaragua Day and/or overnight Tour. I would also like to book a Canopy Tour, possibly visit Catarata Llanos de Cortes, National Park, Hot Springs. Could you recommend a tour company for me. I do recall in your blog that Nicaraguan Tours could be booked through you, and receive a discount. I downloaded your survival Spanish pocket guide, and was wondering if there’s a standard phone contact for a taxi. and how I’d go about communicating to arrange for pickup.
Love your blog! I find extremely helpful. This is a second time visiting Playas Del CoCo. I was there last March for two weeks, and I must say after reading your blog, I feel like I’ve made a new friend, and feel much for comfortable in navigating my way around, this time.
I really appreciate how you personalize your knowledge, information, and insights to help maximize the best travel experience. Thank you!
Kelly Kindness says
We are leaving from our hotel in downtown Liberia to Arenal and think this would be an awesome spot to stop!
Unfortunately, we will have all of our things with us ( carry on suitcases only). I know its never reccomended to leave belongings in the car, however do you think this would be safe enough to do that? We will be there in the morning before 9am most likely. I know its hard to judge but let me know your thoughts.
The waterfall has a parking lot with a guard but it’s not an insured parking lot or anything with cameras, just one local guy watching the car so I personally wouldn’t risk it. However, since this is a pretty popular area, you can leave your carry on suitcases in your trunk, bring your valuables with you and then pay the parking guy a little extra and ask him to pay special attention to your car. If you’re going on a weekday before 9 AM, most likely there won’t be many people there but don’t leave your valuables like camera or backpack alone at the waterfall either.
I have been following your blog for awhile.
I am staying in Tamarindo and would like recommendation s for tour grps to get to these falls and other areas worth visiting. I am staying for 5 weeks, we are a grp of 3 in our 50s.
Hi Anna, we will contact you via email. Thanks for reading Mytanfeet
I’m in fairly decent shape. What are your thoughts on doing this hike while carrying a two year old. Let me know if you think I can do it or to absolutely not attempt it. -Thanks
Hi Todd, the walk down is very short. It does get kinda slippery if you’re wearing flip flops so just make sure to go slow but tons of Costa Rican families bring their babies and toddlers to this waterfall because it’s a very short walk down. Enjoy!
My husband and I arrived yesterday in Playa del Coco. This is our first trip to Costa Rica and are we very excited! There is so much we want to do and see. We would love to hike the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, and we are also thinking about taking a boat out to fish, explore some hidden beaches, and or see the sunset. Unfortunately, we do not have a car so we wanted to know if you had any recommendations and prices for tours and or guides.
Hi Mary! We know some people please email us on our contact page and with details of what you would like to do and we can help you! Thank you for reading our blog!
Shannon O'Neill says
Hi I am also staying Playas Del Coco and I was wondering what the details of the tour companies are?
Hi Shannon, I sent you an email
I was wondering if we can get there by bus? If so, from where? We will be traveling in Guanacaste and we would like to visit this waterfall but we don’t have a car.
Hi Roxanne, unfortunately there isn’t a bus there so you’ll have to rent a car or hire a shuttle. Most people book it with tour companies, if you need recommendations for tour companies let us know!
Yes, I would like to have recommendations for tour companies with the prices please:) We will be staying in an hostel in Liberia, but if you think it would be better to stay in Bagaces and have recommendations of hostel or cabinas please let me know!
Hi Roxanne,I just sent you an email 🙂
I was wondering the same thing and would like the name of the tour companies please. I am currently staying in playas Del coco.
Hi Reina, I just sent you an email 🙂
If you hike about three minutes to the left of the falls, there is a smaller pool where you can jump off the cliffs. You definitely want to jump in the right place. Too far to the right or left no Bueno. The local Ticos or vendors will tell you where it is. It’s a lot of fun.
We passed the pools but didn’t jump – I think I’d be too scared haha!
Thanks! Is there any restriction on when to enter the waterfall? By “morning”, what time do you mean exactly? I try super hard to visit awesome places like this at the crack of dawn or earlier to beat the crowds and get some photos ( my favorite thing to do ) 🙂
Do people jump off the top into the water? Or is it not deep enough for that?
I think around 8AM, we were there at 9 AM and I remember the man who gives the tickets for donations says he’s there around 8. If you go around that time on a weekday, there usually isn’t anyone until about 10AM when the tour buses start coming. No, the pool isn’t deep enough at all for people to jump into. You can hike up to the top but please don’t jump in!
Jessica Zais says
Awesome! This is on my list of places to go so it’s great to get directions! Thanks! : D
Hi Jessica !
Perfect, if you need more directions or any information in the area please let us know !
Have a gerat day