The Nauyaca Waterfalls are a gem of the Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica, and you have an opportunity to visit them either by horseback tour or by hike. The tour company and land are owned by a Costa Rican family who is has been able to maintain the land’s breathtaking beauty without compromising its natural importance as part of the Rio Barucito. Nauyaca Waterfalls are ideal for individuals seeking the tranquility of nature as well as those looking for adventure!
Nauyaca Waterfalls details & tips
- Tour providor: Nauyaca Waterfalls
- Starting time: Tour: 8am // Hike: Anytime, recommended for morning
- Duration: Tour: 6 hours// Hike: As long as you like for the hike; it takes 1-1.5 hours each way (6km each way) to walk from the designated parking lot; if you have 4-wheel drive, you can drive 2 km closer, and shorten the walk a bit.
- Note: The hike is not a guided tour, you can embark and leave at any time
- Recommended for: Tour: tame horses for ages // Hike: all ages
- Note: This location is not accessible to people with significant physical disabilities
- What’s included: Tour: Breakfast, lunch, park entrance, experienced guides, rain jackets in rainy season // Hike: Entrance to the waterfalls, parking
- Price: Tour: $70 per person // Hike: $8 per person
- Departs from: Anywhere in town; from Bodhi Surf School, it is about a 40 minute car ride (roughly a $80 taxi ride from Bodhi Surf School)
- Recommended to bring: Tour: Sunscreen, swimsuit, hat, towel, closed-toe shoes with good traction, water // Hike: Same as tour + food
- Important notes:
- Do not leave anything valuable in your car
- The hike is somewhat steep — wear comfortable walking shoes!
- Bring plenty of water!
- During the rainy season, the walk can be very muddy and slippery
- Address: From Dominical, 10 km up road towards San Isidro (GPS coordinates: 9.280789 , -83.822594)
Nauyaca Waterfalls highlights
- Traveling up into the hills either on horseback or on foot offers some magnificent views of the surrounding area
- During your hike or horseback ride, you will see many different trees and, potentially, wildlife
- Take a swim or dive into cool, fresh water
- Both falls are magnificent and are closely situation to one another, offering several unique views!
Why it is “Bodhi Recommended”
In short — these falls are spectacular, and come highly recommended to all visitors to the area. Also, participating in the horseback tour is a great way to experience local culture and scenery, while contributing to ecotourism by supporting local people. Paying the entrance fee to Nauyaca Falls also contributes to the preservation of land in Costa Rica, which is another aspect of ecotourism that we support!
My visit to the Nauyaca Waterfalls was on hike rather than horseback, and it took our group an hour and a half to complete the 6km hike up to the falls. Although it is mostly uphill, the path followed a gradual, steady incline, and was mostly shaded by trees. We passed hikers of various ages and levels of physical ability hiking the path. Everyone seemed to be managing just fine, although the official website of the Nauyaca Waterfalls recommends the hike only for people in very good physical condition (not children, elderly persons, or individuals with health problems). We embarked in the morning as to have ample time to hike, enjoy the falls, and hike back down before dark. We packed a picnic lunch, additional snacks, and plenty of liquids to keep us hydrated.
Being immersed in the natural beauty of the hillside was a satisfying change of scenery from the view at sea-level. As we climbed steadily upward on the red dirt path, the trees occasionally opened up to reveal gorgeous, green views of the hills and valleys. We crossed a bridge over a peaceful river, where one woman was floating in her inner tube. We also passed various exotic fruit trees along the way, which our local friend excitedly identified for us, including “manzanas rosas” — small, soft apples that smelled of sweet rose. About halfway to the falls, we were surprised by a scarlet macaw perched on a nearby tree, eating a snack, and looking at us curiously. A few moments later, I glanced to the open field next to me and saw a deer standing still in the grass of a silent pasture.
At the entrance to the falls, there was someone checking to see if we had our admission bracelets, and bathrooms were soon after. Reaching the falls sweaty and hot, we were all ready to cool off in the freshwater pools. A sign pointed us to the right for “Falls #1”, which advertised swimming or to the left for “Falls #2”, which advertised both swimming and jumping. We chose to check out “Falls #2” first, and were surprised by the large amount of visitors and dogs jumping (from 15-20 meters up), swimming, and lounging by the cascading, tiered waterfall. Despite the crowd, the pools were refreshing and there was plenty of space for all to enjoy.
After swimming around and watching a line of people jump into the pools, we hiked up to the higher falls. This fall was 45 meters high in free fall, and was deserted. We were thrilled to see that there was nobody else there! We set up a picnic in the shade before climbing along the rocks and lounging in the pool beneath the towering fall, surrounded by a gorgeous landscape. This pool was much smaller than those we had swam in below, and there was not much room for swimming, but the views and the silence made it worth it. I would definitely recommend taking your time to experience both! All in all, it was a lovely day experiencing the wild, natural, green beauty of Costa Rica!
Written by Sam Rose