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The Llanos De Cortes Waterfall: Local Free Waterfall Nearby Liberia

The Llanos De Cortes Waterfall: Local Free Waterfall Nearby Liberia

NOTE: The content on this page was last updated on November 8th, 2017.

COSTA RICA’S LLANOS DE CORTES WATERFALL

If you plan to pass through the Liberia area of Costa Rica with an hour or two to spare, don’t miss Costa Rica’s Llanos de Cortes Waterfall. Not only is the entrance fee inexpensive (by donation only–learn more below), but the drive to and from the site is easy, the climb down to and up from the waterfall is not overly challenging, and the pool at the waterfall’s base is both refreshing and suitable for children.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE LLANOS DE CORTES WATERFALL AND THE LLANOS DE CORTEZ WATERFALL

Simply put, there is none; the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall and the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall are one and the same. Although a variety of other Costa Rica resources (online and in print) incorrectly spell the waterfall’s name with a “z” (i.e., Llanos de Cortez), the waterfall’s true title is Llanos de Cortes as it is named after the small community of Llanos de Cortes, Bagaces, Costa Rica.

WHO SHOULD VISIT THE LLANOS DE CORTES WATERFALL

The Llanos de Cortes Waterfall is one of a number of attractions that we can comfortably recommend to the masses. While many of our other Costa Rica recommendations are tailored to specific types of travellers, the majority of visitors can execute a trip to the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall without issue. If you can identify with any one (or more) of the traveller types we list below, adding a visit the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall during your time in Costa Rica may be a smart choice.

Travellers who plan to a) fly into or out of, b) visit, or c) pass through the Liberia region of Costa Rica

The Llanos de Cortes Waterfall is located less than a ten-minute drive from Costa Rica’s #1 highway (i.e., the Panamerican Highway, or as Google Maps displays, the Inter American Highway). As the main highway that runs throughout the country from its border at Nicaragua to its border at Panama (after a highway numbering change from #1 to #2 in San Jose), most foreign visitors will travel over a stretch of the road at least once during their trip. If you plan to fly into or out of the LIR Liberia airport, or else visit a Guanacaste destination before or after visiting La Fortuna/Arenal, Monteverde, San Jose, the Caribbean Coast, the Central Pacific Coast, or the Osa Peninsula, there is a good chance that you will be able to schedule a stop at the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall along the way.

Travellers who plan to rent a car in Costa Rica

It is no secret that travellers with access to a rental car in Costa Rica have road-tripping freedom (if you are on the fence about whether or not you should rent a vehicle for your trip, don’t miss our related blog post Renting A Car In Costa Rica: Should You Do It? for help weighing the various pro’s and con’s). Since the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall is merely a twenty-five-minute drive from Liberia, an hour drive from the communities at Playa Hermosa and Playa del Coco, and a ninety-minute drive from Tamarindo, self-drive visits can easily be made with less than a half-day available on a trip itinerary. Throw in the fact that a 4X4 vehicle is not required to get to and from the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall’s entrance (although one would be recommended, especially during the green/wet/rain season), and a spur of the moment road-trip becomes an obvious and easy one to make.

Travellers on a tight budget

Entrance to the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall is free. This being said, upon entry you will be met by a booth attendant who is also a representative of the nearby Llanos de Cortes community. At the booth, donations are urged and recommended. Whenever Ricky and I visit, we offer the equivalent of $10 USD for the two of us (payment is accepted in USD or Costa Rican colones); for a group of four or five travellers, we would advise offering $20 USD or $25 USD to maintain the approximate $5 USD per person donation, which is the minimum amount that we would ever consider donating ourselves or suggest that others donate. Not only are the funds provided to the Junta de Educacion de la Escuela Llanos de Cortes, a licensed school overseen by the Govenment of Costa Rica’s Ministerio de Educacion Publica (or the Ministry of Public Education, in English), but it would be hard for anyone to argue that the fun, scenery, relaxation, photos, and memories that the visit provides would be worth less than the cost of a Venti Frappuccino.

Travellers with young children

Fortunately, the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall is family-friendly. Not only does the sandy entrance into the waterfall’s pool offer a slow descent, but plenty of the pool’s sections are shallow enough for young waders. In addition, since the Llanos de Cortes waterfall isn’t an overly powerful one (when compared to many of the waterfalls we describe in our related blog post The La Fortuna Waterfall And Other Arenal Waterfalls Worth A Visit), visitors are less bothered by strong river currents and significant water spray coming off the cascade; this makes for a more pleasant swimming experience and a lower-risk activity for child participation. Although all child’s play near water should be awarded the highest degree of care and attention, a successful trip to the LLanos de Cortes Waterfall is not an overly challenging feat to accomplish by adults travelling with young children, which is likely why the site is such a family favourite.

WHO SHOULD NOT VISIT THE LLANOS DE CORTES WATERFALL

In contrast to the information provided above, the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall is not for everyone. If you can identify with any one (or more) of the traveller types we list below, perhaps skipping a visit the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall during your time in Costa Rica would be best.

Travellers who have difficulty walking up or down stairs

Although the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall does not require a difficult hike to and from the waterfall’s base, it does require an approximate two-minute climb down (and back up again) concrete steps. Since the stairway is the easiest way to get to and from the waterfall, if you feel you will not be able to make the climb (or you would rather not risk being unable to do so), do not plan to visit the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall.

Travellers who do NOT plan to a) fly into or out of, b) visit, or c) pass through the Liberia region of Costa Rica

If your Costa Rica itinerary does not include a visit to the Liberia region of the country, skip a visit to the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall altogether. Although we have always enjoyed our visits, each was the result of us having some free time as we passed through the area; it would be unlikely that we would plan to drive from other regions (including La Fortuna/Arenal, Monteverde, San Jose, the Caribbean Coast, the Central Pacific Coast, or the Osa Peninsula) to the Liberia region for the sole purpose of experiencing the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall. In fact, we bet that most travellers would agree that the waterfall is not spectacular enough to warrant planning an entire trip around a visit, and we doubt that any traveller would want to rearrange a pre-planned trip simply to add one in. While the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall is certainly lovely, there are far more sites and attractions (other waterfalls included) that we would recommend prioritizing when planning a Costa Rica trip.

Travellers who do NOT plan to rent a car in Costa Rica… in some cases

Apart from driving to and from the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall, arranging alternative transportation to and from the site can be costly and/or tricky. There are certainly ways to accomplish the task, including hiring a taxi or reserving a private transfer service to take bring you to the site, but both of these services could be expensive depending on where you plan to depart from and how long you want the driver to wait for you at the waterfall. Some backpackers take the local bus which is also an option (truthfully, the least expensive one), but careful coordination of bus schedules is needed, and the bus driver must be informed of your destination intent in advance in order to make an unscheduled stop (unfortunately there is no direct bus route to and from the Llanos de Cortes waterfall). Shared shuttle services–one of the most common methods of transportation in Costa Rica (don’t miss our related blog post Costa Rica Transportation: 10 Ways To Get From Point A To Point B Throughout Your Trip for more information)–very rarely permit unscheduled stops along route as they provide direct destination-to-destination service and transport multiple travellers on strict travel scheduled (hence the use of the word “shared” alongside the term “shuttle service”). As a result, although it is not impossible to visit the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall without a personal rental car in Costa Rica, some travellers might argue that a visit wouldn’t be worth the hassle or expense.

LLANOS DE CORTES WATERFALL VISIT TIPS AND WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

The waterfall offers ample parking onsite

Much like the waterfall’s entrance fee, parking at the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall is free, but you should be prepared to pay for it anyway. The parking lot is manned by a handful of local residents; one will approach your vehicle after you park. Although payment for parking is not required, the individuals will offer to watch your vehicle for you for donation. We typically pay anywhere from $2-$5 USD for a visit that lasts no longer than one hour. If you arrive as a large group or you plan to enjoy the waterfall for longer, consider offering a larger donation.

The waterfall offers bathrooms/change rooms onsite

Truth be told, they were only just building these upon our most recent visit, however by the time this post is live on our blog, construction will likely be complete. The bathrooms/change rooms are located in the parking lot (not at the base of the waterfall), so be sure to access them on your way to or from the waterfall to prevent having to make an extra and unnecessary trip up and down the concrete steps described above and pictured below.

Use the newer concrete steps to access the waterfall’s base–not the older steep forest steps

Before the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall offered concrete steps from the parking lot down to the waterfall’s base, visitors had to climb down (and back up) rugged forest steps on steep terrain. Since the rainforest steps were not destroyed or closed when the concrete steps were built, many visitors trek down the forest slope without knowledge of the alternative easier route. From the parking lot, there are two access points to the waterfall’s base (both of which appear as trails leading into the forest); take the access point/trail to the left as it is the safer and more developed option between the two.

The waterfall area gets hot

Depending on the time of year that you opt to visit, the waterfall can provide refreshing relief during a hot and humid travel day. It should not be forgotten that the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall is situated in Costa Rica’s hottest and driest province (Guanacaste), and that sun safety should be exercised. This means relying on hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen to prevent sun damage, and packing plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized throughout the visit.

Do not visit the waterfall after dark

As we touch on in our related blog post Is Costa Rica Safe? Yes, If You Travel Clevery, Consciously, And With Common Sense. Here’s How., most places (including the beach and ATMs, to name a few) should be avoided after dark. The Llanos de Cortes Waterfall is no exception to this rule; in fact, the site’s location off the main highway, down an unlit path, and into the forest is one of the most dangerous places we could envision a traveller being late at night. If you wish to visit the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall, do so in the middle of the day when there are likely to be other people around and daylight to guide you way.

Bring/leave personal items at your own risk

Since most travellers would not want to bring personal belongings (such as clothes and shoes) into the water with them, these items may be left on the sandy area that surrounds the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall’s pool. Do not bring any valuables (such as credit cards, jewelry, etc.) with you to the site since there is no secure place to leave them. If you absolutely must bring important items with you (such as car keys and identification documents required for driving), store the items in a waterproof container that can be safely secured to your body.

Visit the waterfall’s base/pool; do not hike above the waterfall or climb behind the waterfall

At the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall, there is both a hiking trail above the waterfall (which leads to a lookout over the top of the waterfall), as well as space to climb behind the waterfall. With respect to both, we choose to err on the side of caution; we do not recommend visiting either, although hundreds of visitors do so. The reason for our hesitance? Too many sad stories of slips, falls, and injuries suffered as a result of horsing around at great heights and/or on slippery river rocks. From a personal perspective, an individual we knew lost his life as a result of climbing around on the side of a waterfall (not the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall, but a similar one in Costa Rica nonetheless), and the unfortunate incident reminded us that one cannot be too careful in risky situations. Mother Nature and her creations are unpredictable–cliffs can slide, rocks can be sharp or break, and flowing water can be surprisingly forceful. In our opinion, the views that can be obtained from the top of the waterfall and from behind the waterfall are not worth the associated risk.

Llanos de Cortes Waterfall

MAP OF THE LLANOS DE CORTES WATERFALL


QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been to the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall? Did you feel it was worth your time, gas, and entrance donation?

Pura vida!

If you’re more of a visual learner, take a moment to view our gallery photos below from our most recent visit to the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall.

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