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! Catarata Llanos de Cortes waterfall is only 30 minutes from Liberia and a great cheap activity in Guanacaste.
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!
This post has been updated December 2017. There are some big changes going on at Catarata Llanos de Cortes visitors need to be aware of.
Location and directions from Liberia to Catarata Llanos de Cortes
How to get to Catarata Llanos de Cortes by driving:
- 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.
Catarata Llanos de Cortes is about a 1 hour drive from Playas del Coco and about a 1 hour and 30 minute drive 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, the road when you turn off the highway is not paved but it’s not as treacherous as it used to be. We visited again in March 2016 and the road was paved and much flatter.
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.
***UPDATE DECEMBER 2017*** They have currently closed the road all the way to the waterfall and it is barred off with a gate. You can park your car and walk the rest of the 1 kilometer to the waterfall. They are building a hotel and restaurant and once they are done, they will re-open the road.***
Other ways to get there:
There is no bus that goes to Catarata Llanos de Cortes but you can bus to Liberia and take a taxi. Or you can go on a tour from the Coco area, many tour companies offers tours like Catarata Llanos de Cortes + Mirvalles hanging bridges, Catarata Llanos de Cortes + Hot Springs or something else. If you need recommendations for tour companies, please contact us.
Catarata Llanos de Cortes Entrance Fee and Hours
Catarata Llanos de Cortes hours: 8AM – 430 PM everyday
Catarta Llanos de Cortes entrance fee: $2000 colones per car.
Catarata Llanos de Cortes Waterfall
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. There is also a small pool which you can swim in. We saw people jumping into it but I don’t recommend jumping – the pool is not that big!
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!
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 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! PLEASE BE 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.
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.
If the water level is too high, please don’t attempt to climb up it as you can cut your feet or worse, slip, fall and hit your head or something on the rocks.
Watch our short clip at the waterfall to see it in action!
Tips for Visiting the Cortes Waterfall
- 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.
- 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 since there are no other areas to change.
- 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 near Bagaces, Liberia.
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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