After the first couple months of moving to Playas del Coco, Yeison and I heard about a waterfall, Catarata Llanos de Cortes near Liberia that was supposed to be absolutely beautiful.
We took one morning to go find this little oasis in Guanacaste and fell in love with this waterfall instantly. Ever since then, we’ve taken all of our friends and family for a day trip. It’s absolutely worth visiting and if you have a day to explore, definitely put this waterfall on the list! It’s a great cheap activity in Guanacaste too.
Read our guide to visiting Catarata Llanos de Cortes: how to get there, how much it costs and the secret spots you can’t miss!
Location and directions from Liberia to Catarata Llanos de Cortes
- On the Pan American Highway, head south towards Bagaces ~20 minutes from Liberia.
- On your right hand side there is a dirt road ~3 miles before Bagaces with a small sign for Llanos de Cortes. If you cross the river you went too far. You will see a sign that says “Waterfall.” It is right behind one of those pedestrian bridges so make sure you keep an eye out because the bridge is kind of in the way of the sign.
- From here, follow the signs to the parking lot and the parking lot and trail entrance is not too far. You have to pay 1000 colones for parking.
It is about a 1 hour drive from Playas del Coco and about a 1 hour and 30 minute drive from Tamarindo.
They have re-done the road and it is MUCH better than before! You don’t need a 4×4 to get to the waterfall anymore, the road when you turn off the highway is not paved but it’s not as treacherous as it used to be!
Once you get to the parking lot, there is a short path down to the waterfall. There are two paths so you can take either one but the shortest one is the one the parking guards will point you out to.
It’s a short walk down from the parking lot but it can be a little difficult for those with knee or ankle problems. Be careful since there are lots of rocks and it can get slippery when wet. There are no handicapped paths.
As soon as you pass the poza (little pool) and reach the bottom, you see this big beautiful waterfall with a delicious looking pool. On a nice sunny day, there’s nothing better than to jump right in and take a swim.
The water is super refreshing and even a little cold but it feels oh so good! You can even see some little fish swimming in the pool. There is plenty of space under the trees to lay down a towel or have a picnic.
If you want to explore a bit, there’s a trail over to the left side of the waterfall that you can hike up to the top. It’s a bit of a difficult climb and you will have to use your hands a few times but the view at the top is awesome. I recommend going barefoot, we wore our flip flops and ended up carrying them since we had better grip with our bare feet instead of slippery sandals. I actually accidentally broke the strap on my flip flop since my foot got stuck in the mud!
On the way up, there is also another little pool you can take a dip in on the left which is pretty cool. Then at the top, you see the river that supplies the water to Catarata Llanos de Cortes.
At the top, you can walk across the river and there is one nice sitting area for a cool view of the top from the right side.
You could very easily stay all morning/afternoon at this waterfall and have a nice picnic, relax and swim. There is plenty of space to accommodate a good chunk of people.
Since this waterfall is located so close to Liberia, you can spend the morning at Llanos and then spend the rest of the day at one of the national parks or head to the beach. Or spend a whole day there! In dry season, we’d spend a whole day cooling off from the heat and dryness.
During dry season, the water level goes down so you can actually swim all the way up to the bottom of the waterfall and sit underneath it! Just be careful of the rocks on the side which are slippery. During rainy season the water level may be too high so be careful when swimming close as there are lots of rocks and you don’t want to cut yourself. I highly recommend if you want to climb up to wear hiking sandals or water shoes to protect your feet.
This picture was taken in March, the peak month of dry season so the water level was fairly low and we could walk up on the rocks. We have also visited in October and November when the water level was much too high so we couldn’t walk up the rocks but it was nicer for swimming in the pool.
Watch our short clip at the waterfall to see it in action!
Tips for Visiting the Waterfall
Hours: 8AM – 430 PM everyday
Entrance fee: By donation. 1000 colones for parking.
- Since it is not in a national park, there is no entrance fee but you will be stopped and asked to give a donation to the local school. We usually give 1000 colones but give as much as you’d like. It’s for a good cause as the locals are the one who keep the waterfall area clean and maintain the road.
- There is a guy who mans the parking lot but I would still not leave any valuables in your car since this is a pretty popular spot. And when you are down at the waterfall, try to always have one person watching your items. Since it’s a secluded area, theft isn’t a huge worry but it can still happen since a lot of tourists and locals visit the waterfall.
- During high season, it might be mandatory (one of our friends had to pay $10 to enter) so depending on when you visit, you can just give 1000-2000 colones ($2-$4) or as much as you want.
- It’s the most crowded on the weekend mornings. We went on a Sunday morning once and the place was absolutely packed. To enjoy the waterfall in more peace and quiet, go early on a weekday.
- In the parking lot, they sell pipa fria (coconut water) for 600 colones each and snacks.
- There is one bathroom in the parking lot.
- Sometimes on the weekend or holiday, there will be a stand down at the waterfall selling snacks and drinks but not always.
- The hike down to the fall is quite a bit rocky (I’ve fallen twice) so be aware if you have bad knees or ankles. There are no hand rails or handicap path so it’s not exactly ideal for senior citizens who have trouble walking.
What to bring: Wear your swimsuit since there are no changing facilities, sandals or flip flops (no need for hiking shoes), towel, snacks, water/drinks, sunglasses, sunscreen and mosquito repellent. Don’t forget your cameras! We used our GoPro Hero Black 3+ and DJ Phantom drone to get the water and aerial shots.
One of the things I love the most about Costa Rica is that you can be driving in the city and then suddenly one right turn later, you’re at a huge waterfall. So if you have a few hours to kill in Guanacaste, come visit a little oasis in the city, the beautiful Catarata Llanos de Cortes.
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