La Fortuna Waterfall
In the Zona Norte, the northern lowlands of Costa Rica, there are many waterfalls of note. This article will cover two waterfalls: one touristy and popular, the other a relatively unknown secret (a third waterfall of note is on the Río Celeste hike). The most popular attraction in the area is probably the La Fortuna Waterfall. It is rated among TripAdvisor’s top attractions for the area and has tens of thousands of visitors per year. Also as a nice side note, it is not a for profit venture. It costs $11 to visit, and that money is used to support the development of the La Fortuna area by means of the ADIFORT. It’s because of all the visitors to the area that us locals have free use of a community center with a soccer field, running track, and multi-use indoor court. It also goes into supporting the beautification of the town’s parks and side walks, helping develop the town, and for funding public outreach programs.
The waterfall is, by distance a fairly short hike, but it is a lot of steps. The waterfall itself is about 200 ft (65 m) tall. You can swim in the pool at the base of the waterfall, just don’t get to close to the waterfall! The pool itself is always changing. Normally the pool gradually deepens as you arrive to the fall. However at times a strong rain storm can wash sand and debris down the river and create an artificial sandbar that lets you walk in knee deep water much closer to the falls. There is often a life guard watching over the area as well to keep people from getting too close to the fall, as people have suffered injuries from the waterfall.
In early 2016 they replaced the viewing platform with a nice new brick and stamped concrete platform and have continued to improve the trails and the experience of the hiking down to the waterfall.
The waterfall can be found on a map at the end of this post. The entrance to the fall is about an hours walk from the center of town. Given the long climb to get there however, I’d recommend a taxi which will cost about $10.
Catarata del Toro
By far my favorite waterfall in Costa Rica is the well kept secret Catarata del Toro. When I
decided to propose to my now wife, my first thought was this waterfall. Their website claims the waterfall is “Costa Rica’s Ultimate Secret”. At over 300 feet (100 m) tall they also claim to be the tallest waterfall in the country. I thoroughly believe that ultimate secret part: in the three times I’ve been there have never been more than five other people in the park at the time.
The hike itself is a moderately difficult due to the approximately 300 steps that are required; it is well worth the effort. You start at a viewing platform with a view of the waterfall as it drops into an extinct volcano crater. The trail meanders for one kilometer along the edge of the crater until you begin the steep descent to the base of the falls. It truly is beyond words to describe the views there. You find yourself deep down in this vast hole in the ground, nothing but the mist blowing on your face and the sound of wildlife and roaring water.
Now I’ll admit, this waterfall does break my don’t rent a car rule, but it’s worth it to just rent a car for a day to go there. The park itself sits between two of Costa Rica’s national parks so it really is out in the middle of nowhere. Check their website for directions on how to get there.