Want to know our pick for the MOST CONVENIENT WATERFALL TO VISIT in Costa Rica?
It is featured on DIY Costa Rica!
Did you know that there are more waterfalls in the La Fortuna/Arenal area than simply the largest and most popular?
Naturally, the most obvious is the La Fortuna waterfall… a great sight and certainly the most popular in the La Fortuna area. This waterfall is breathtaking, and one of those “not-to-miss” items when visiting La Fortuna. Fortunately, for travellers with a tight budget, it is also one activity that travellers can do on their own (guides are available and valuable, although not necessary – for more information on this topic feel free to read our related blog post Guided Tours In Costa Rica: Are They Necessary, Valuable, And/Or Worthwhile?). In addition, the entrance fee is relatively inexpensive (around $10/person). For those with rented vehicles, the drive is only a few minutes from downtown La Fortuna. For those who are taxi-dependent, a ride from downtown La Fortuna and/or most hotels close to town is another $10. Visits to the waterfall can also easily fit into your trip itinerary – the average visit duration is an hour or two, depending on how much time you wish to spend at the bottom of the waterfall relaxing, swimming (if you wish), and passing the moment in awe.
Visits are not recommended for those who have difficulty walking up/down stairs and/or who have knee/leg problems. A hike down a long set of stairs to the waterfall and back up to the entrance/exit is required, although well worth the trip for most. While challenging, my 8 and 10 year old niece and nephew did the tour without problem, so your decision to visit should be determined by your own level of fitness and interest in being physically active, as opposed to a static factor such as age. During my last visit I counted the steps in order to let our clients (and blog readers) know exactly what they are in for. There are approximately 550 steps to/from the waterfall (each way). Of the 550 total, approximately 350 of these steps are inclining/declining steps (think stairs) which are not overly daunting when walking down to the waterfall but can be awfully tiring during the hike back up. Of course, it is possible to tackle the ”stairway to heaven” at your own pace, stopping along the way as you wish to rest. Note, however, that although bathrooms are located at the entrance to the waterfall (before the stairway down), bathrooms are not available throughout the course of the hike, nor are there bathrooms at the bottom where the waterfall is located. If you wish to swim at the waterfall, be sure to wear your suit under your clothes or else change into it using the bathrooms at the entrance. Upon your return to the entrance/exit, souvenirs marking your visit are available for purchase – that is, if you are looking for something beyond the incredible photos and the tender thigh muscles you will get out of this rainforest experience.
If you are looking for a tour to the waterfall, we love Arenal Mundo Aventura’s guided horseback riding to the waterfall tour (a guided tour to the waterfall via tractor ride is also available for those who wish not to horseback ride). The waterfall tour includes naturalist guide, transportation to/from your La Fortuna hotel and the waterfall, waterfall entrance fee, and horseback ride (or tractor ride, depending on which option is selected).
Of course additional waterfalls can be found in the area besides the most popular La Fortuna Waterfall. Tours to the Tenorio National Park/Rio Celeste run daily from La Fortuna/Arenal and offer travellers the opportunity to not only spot the brilliant blue waters of Rio Celeste, but also a gorgeous waterfall.
The Celeste River is beautiful enough to deserve its own article (stay tuned), however its waterfall is so stunning (flowing into the bluest water you have likely ever seen) that it is certainly worth a mention. Once at Rio Celeste, there are two ways to explore the area. For one, you can take the longer of the two routes which includes a visit to the waterfall, or else an easier route that excludes it. Upon my first visit to Rio Celeste, my time was slightly limited and I opted for the shorter route. Loving every inch of the hike from the start (I will debate any day that Rio Celeste is the goldilocks of La Fortuna/Arenal hikes (not too easy, not too difficult, juuuust right), I decided halfway through to change course (literally) and take the longer route. Since I had made this decision well into the hike, I could no longer follow the map I had been given at the entrance to the park which would have led me around in a circle to the waterfall. Instead, I ended up backtracking a bit, only to find myself clinging to the side of a rock face with minimal solid footing, making my way down towards the waterfall. Was the end result worth the death-defying journey? 110%.
Ok, truth being told, the experience was not as dramatic as I am making it out to be. It was actually a lot of fun, and regardless of how I made it to the waterfall, I was witness to the breathtaking sight. Did I mention that Ricky was with me the entire time? Did I mention that it was his idea to take the ‘back road’ to the waterfall? Hmmm… I cannot blame him – it was my decision to take the shorter route (skipping the waterfall) in the first place, and his ability to find a way to do something when that something is not usually done is one of the things I admire most about him. My advice on this one? When visiting Rio Celeste with the intent of seeing the waterfall, plan for this from the start and take the appropriate route. Otherwise, if you are indecisive like me and fearless like Ricky, you’re in for quite an adventure!
Want more? A few years ago, Ricky and I stumbled upon two waterfalls in La Fortuna that neither of us knew existed. We were invited by our friends and business partners – Sky Adventures – to try their new Sky Walk hanging bridges tour that had recently opened. Although this post is not meant to be a review of the tour, tour site, or our experience overall (another post, another day), the new Sky Walk is worth mentioning in this post for the two hidden waterfalls travellers pass along the way. Since the Sky Walk hanging bridges tour can be conducted together with the sky tram aerial tram ride and sky trek canopy tour, the waterfall sightings are an added bonus to an already great rainforest experience.
For those of you who do not plan on visiting Sky Adventures’ Sky Walk hanging bridges while visiting La Fortuna, you can also catch a waterfall while touring the Arenal Hanging Bridges (La Fortuna’s other hanging bridge tour site). For more information about hiking the Arenal Hanging Bridges, including taking a side trail down to its’ waterfall and capturing a view of the cascade from above via the waterfall bridge, you may be interested in reading our related post A Step By Step Guide (Literally) To Costa Rica’s Arenal Hanging Bridges.
Nope. We’re not done yet. For more waterfall experiences available in the La Fortuna / Arenal region, check out:
- Desafio’s lost canyon adventures canyoneering tour or Pure Trek’s canyoning tour (both tour experiences visit a series of waterfalls just outside La Fortuna)
- Pacuare River rafting (trips to the river are available to/from La Fortuna, as well as San Jose and Puerto Viejo) which passes a number of stunning waterfalls while rafting through the heart of the Costa Rican jungle
- Arenal Mundo Aventura’s canopy tour (ziplining) which not only passes the Pino Blanco waterfall, but also offers a zipline cable overtop of the La Fortuna waterfall (note: Arenal Mundo Aventura’s canopy tour can also be combined with their horseback riding tour to the La Fortuna Waterfall for those travellers looking for a double waterfall combo experience!)
*Discounts for waterfall tours, canyoneering tours, rafting tours, canopy (ziplining) tours, and hiking tours are available through Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated at: http://www.puravidaeh.ca/
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: How high does a visit to a waterfall rank on your trip “to-do” list?