During our first months of living in Guanacaste, Yeison and I heard about a waterfall called Catarata Llanos de Cortes that was supposed to be absolutely beautiful.
We took one morning to find this little oasis 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! Catarata Llanos de Cortes waterfall is only 30 minutes from Liberia and a great cheap activity in Guanacaste.
Read our guide to visiting: how to get there, how much it costs and the secret spots you can’t miss!
This post has been updated December 2018. The road is now open and in good condition.
Location and directions
Catarata Llanos de Cortes map
The Cortes waterfalls is in Guanacaste, in the small town of Bagaces near Liberia.
How to get to Catarata Llanos de Cortes
- From Liberia, turn right onto the InterAmericana highway (Mcdonalds in front of you to the left, a gas station to your right.) Drive on the highway towards Bagaces for about 20 minutes.
- Look out for a sign that says “Catarata” on your right hand side. Exit to the right and there is a dirt road ~3 miles (~ 5 kilometers) before Bagaces. If you cross the river you went too far. You will see a sign that says “Waterfall” behind one of those pedestrian bridges.
- From here, follow the signs which will take you to the parking lot and trail entrance.
The drive takes about a 1 hour from Playas del Coco and about a 1 hour and 30 minute from Tamarindo. Since 2010, 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. Once you get to the parking lot, there is a short path down to the waterfall.
The trail to the waterfall is very short but it is not a flat, paved trail. You may need to hold onto some rocks and be very careful as you may slip (I slipped several times before). Those with ankle, knee or walking problems will need assistance. There is no handicap path.
***UPDATE December 2018*** The road is now open and you can drive all the way down to the parking lot, by the stairs to the waterfall.
Other ways to get there:
No bus goes to this waterfall but you can bus to Liberia and take a taxi. You can also go on a tour. Many tour companies offers tours like Cortes waterfall + Mirvalles hanging bridges. If you need recommendations for tour companies, please contact us.
Entrance Fee and Hours
Catarata Llanos de Cortes hours: 8AM – 430 PM everyday.
Catarta Llanos de Cortes entrance fee: $7 per person
The Stunning Cortes Waterfall
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. It feels oh so good in the heat!
Cool View Points and Trails
If you want to explore a bit, there’s a trail over to the left side of the waterfall which takes you to the top. You will have to use your hands a few times but the view at the top is awesome. There is also a small pool which you can swim in. We saw people jumping into it but I don’t recommend jumping since the pool is not that big.
To climb up, I recommend going barefoot. We wore our flip flops and ended up carrying them since we had better grip with our bare feet. I actually accidentally broke the strap on my flip flop since my foot got stuck in the mud.
Then at the top, you see the river that supplies the water to Catarata Llanos de Cortes. 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 for a few hours and have a nice picnic, relax and swim. We usually go to the waterfall early in the morning, stay for a few hours and then do another activity in the afternoon like ziplining.
Please be very careful on the rocks. They are very 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.
Best Time to Go
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. We couldn’t walk up the rocks but it was nicer for swimming in the pool.
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!
Watch our short clip at the waterfall to see it in action!
We also made another video of the waterfall where we climb to the top!
In the video, we visited during Holy Week, the busiest time of year so it was packed. It is not normally that busy!
Tips for Visiting the Cortes Waterfall
- Don’t leave any valuables in the car. Although there is a parking guard, you still never know since it’s a big parking lot.
- 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. It’s not very big so I recommend wearing your bathing suite.
- Sometimes on the weekend or holiday, there will be a stand down at the waterfall selling snacks and drinks.
- The hike down to the fall is quite a bit rocky so be aware if you have bad knees or ankles. There are no hand rails or handicap path.
Other beautiful waterfalls are the Nauyaca waterfalls near Dominical in the South Pacific, Rio Celeste waterfall in northern Costa Rica and Catarata del Toro in the Central Valley. Or check out our post on 12 amazing waterfalls in Costa Rica!
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