In Costa Rica, we have hiked in two kind of waterfalls: those that you have to walk and suffer crossing mud trails until you feel that you can’t walk anymore when you finally reach them (and sometimes they are cold water) and those that you only have to enjoy.
Llanos de Cortés is the second kind. It’s an easy walk that won’t require legs of steel to get there.
Where is Llanos de Cortes Waterfall located?
The waterfall is located in Guanacaste Province, in the town of Llano de Cortes.
If you are coming from San Jose: From Bagaces, it is 6 kilometers going towards Liberia. There is a sign on the left that leads to the site, about another kilometer away.
If you are coming from Liberia: there is a sign that says “Bagaces 5km.” Soon after is the pedestrian bridge. Turn immediately after the bridge and you will see the waterfall sign.
Access to Llanos de Cortes Waterfall: Two entrances
When we got there right after we pulled aside from the highway, a guy stopped us and asked if we were visiting the waterfall.
After our positive answer, he showed us a map and explained that the entrance was around 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from there and that we could park there.
After 1.2 kilometers (less than a mile), we saw a sign that indicated that was the entrance. It looked official.
So, ignoring the guy´s recommendation, we decided to ask, and apparently this is the official entrance that belongs to the Municipality of Bagaces.
They also have a parking lot.
So are there 2 entrances?
Yes, that’s correct.
Well, we learned that day that there is a conflict between the community and the Local government.
The community used to manage the access to the waterfall, and with the profit, they said that the school and sports club were benefited.
On the other side, the Municipality blames the community for the lack of maintenance and control while they used to have the management.
Official Entrance (Government):
- Entrance Fee: $10
- Parking lot: None
- Hours: 8:30 am to 4:00 pm
Alternative entrance (Community):
- Entrance Fee: $8
- Parking lot: $4
- Hours: 8:00 am to 4:00 pm
For security reasons, we recommend the official entrance since they have a guard. We have heard about some people who suffered damage to their car or stolen bags in the private parking lot. So it’s better to not take chances.
However, some tourists feel that they want to invest directly in the community and go with local guides. We are not against that. The situation is more complex because it is a conflict between the government and community.
If you are interested to learn more about this situation that has created 2 entrances, you can access the following an article for a local newspaper (it’s a really good article)
What to know before you go
- Best time to go Llano de Cortés Waterfall:
Depending what you are looking for, the dry season is from December to May.
However, this waterfall keeps the water flow year round and for that reason it’s pretty busy during the whole summer.
If you want to see a bigger water flow and the curtains of water to take better pictures, September, October and November are good months with way fewer people around.
- What to bring?
Swimming suit, Towel, sunscreen, hiking sandals, shorts, extra clothes in case you want to change. Snacks (alcoholic drinks are not allow in the area).
Our experience at Llanos de Cortes Waterfall
As we mentioned before, we decided to park at the “Official entrance.” We walked down some concrete stairs, less than 2 minutes, then we were there.
The entire place was surrounded by trees and there is some sort of beach in front of the waterfall.
Groups of families, tourists, locals were enjoying sunbathing in some sort of sand area that people put chairs and their coolers just in front of the waterfall.
We observed lifeguards in the area. That was a surprise for me, because usually you don’t find that in any waterfall in Costa Rica.
I saw people on top of the waterfall, and it seems that the people that access the waterfall from the other parking lot get here first.
So we took a small trail to the left to get up there. We took some pictures and walked on another small trail and went back to the waterfall to finally enjoy of the water.
From inside, the water was clear. You can’t climb to the rocks because there is a line that is forbidden for protection. But you have a lot of space to swim around next to the little fishes that will try to do a massage on your feet.
It was cool at first, but the humidity and hot weather of Guanacaste make you enjoy the immersion to the water pretty quickly.
The altitude of the Llanos del Cortes waterfall according to the lifeguard of the area is around 24 meters high (79 feet).
They say that the pool is around 4/5 meters (13 feet) in the deepest part.
Ideas to maximize your time there:
- Since the place gets busy, try to go early, as soon as they open at 8:00 am, especially during the weekends.
- They try to keep the place safe. However, it’s a big area. Don’t leave valuable stuff in the car, and when you are swimming if you are a couple like us, just leave your stuff where you can see them.
- You can hike to the top for pictures, but the lifeguard will whistle at you if he thinks you are getting too close to the border.
- At the entrance is a guy that sell “pipas” – coconuts you can buy there and bring to the waterfall. We didn’t see anyone selling stuff inside the waterfall.
- Bring snacks and food.
- 4 hours is enough to spend in this place, so you can schedule a half day visit.
- During the raining season, try to check the weather conditions on their Facebook page.
- Look over the trees. There’s a family of monkeys that are pretty common to see. Don’t sit under them because they sometimes decide to poop if you are under them!
We recommend this place for people who don’t mind about crowds and want an accessible waterfall.
If you are driving from La Fortuna or San Jose and are going to Guanacaste, this is a great stop for few hours.
It’s a great way to break up the long drive from the coast to the Arenal volcano area.
Also, if you are staying in the Guanacaste area, it’s around one hour from Tamarindo and 20 minutes from Liberia.
We visited the waterfall on our way back from Rincon de la Vieja National Park , so it was totally worth the visit.
What really amazed us about this place is that it is located in the driest province of the country where the landscape that you see is like an African Savanna. So it’s like finding an unexpected oasis with a pretty waterfall in the middle of a dry area.
Even though we don’t like touristy places, this place is a great opportunity to enjoy a waterfall in Costa Rica, not only because the beauty also the vibe of the place is still very local and Pura Vida!