Costa Rica Waterfalls: Llanos del Cortez, Bagaces, Costa Rica

This local favorite is just far enough off the beaten path to keep the tour buses away


Costa Rica’s Llanos del Cortez has all the elements you look for in a tropical waterfall, including lush foliage, a dramatic drop and a pool of cool, clear water at the base that’s perfect for a swim. And there’s one more thing; this waterfall has what many would consider a “just right” location. Getting there doesn’t require a long, arduous hike on muddy or steep jungle paths. But on the other hand, you can’t just step off the tour bus and jump in.

Just west of the town of Bagaces, in the country’s north-central highlands, a bumpy but passible dirt road branches from the Pan American Highway. Unobtrusive signs direct you to a simple parking area, where it is customary to make a small donation that supports local schools. From there, it’s a short but slightly steep walk down the bank to the base of the falls, where you will find a sandy beach and—if you’ve come mid week and mid morning—few other people. The water is refreshing but not cold. You’ll want to swim over to the base of the falls, where you can immerse yourself in the gently falling water, or duck behind the wispy liquid curtain into a cool grotto.