Have you heard about waterfalls in Costa Rica? I am sure you have because it is one of the great ways to discover the country.
Waterfalls usually aren’t one of the first results when you search for things to do around Jaco/ Herradura — famous beaches in our central Pacific area. You’ll get Google results about surfing or spending a day at the beach. Some people find the area too touristy and will recommend that you skip it.
However, we decided to investigate what else you can do in the area.
Of course, according to our style of trips, when we saw the opportunity to hike waterfalls near Jaco, we were sold!
One, known as Bijagual waterfall or “Manantial de Agua Viva” Waterfall, is one of the tallest waterfalls in Costa Rica with a trail inside the beautiful rainforest and next to a river so that you can refresh yourself after a hike.
How to get to the Waterfall “Manantial de Agua Viva”
Located in Bijagual de Turrubares
Distance from Jaco/Herradura: 25 minutes North from Jaco.
Driving on route 34 from Jaco, you will find signage for a road to “Pura Vida Gardens and Waterfalls” on your right, (that’s the road) it’s BEFORE the Crocodile bridge.
Follow that road allllll the way up until you see the shack stacked with hiking sticks and a handmade sign that says waterfall. The signage on the road says it’s 4 km up – but it may be a bit further.
Distance from San Jose:
Driving route 27 from the Tárcoles River bridge, it is 10 km towards Jacó where Hotel Villa Lapas is.
From that intersection, drive 5 km all the way up the hills, keep driving until you reach the sign of the waterfall on the right-hand side.
Access (NO 4X4 needed) The road up is paved, although not in great shape (which route in Costa Rica is, right?), you will see signs showing you where to go.
The waterfall is located among a 300-acre farm owned by a Costa Rican family. They have been in business for several years.
- Schedule: 8:00 am until 3:00 pm
- Contact information: (506) 8831 2980 or Facebook
- Cost: 5000 colones for locals – $20 for foreigners. There are packages with an extra cost that the hotels in the area offer.
- Parking lot (It’s safe!): No cost. You pay the entrance fee there and the same guy that collects the money will stay in the lot while you are on the trail.
More details about the hike and waterfall
The hike is mostly under the trees, so there’s no real danger of sunburn. You can wear just shorts for guys and shorts and a bathing suit for women.
We didn’t see a lot of people that day, so it’s perfect because it is not a crowded trail, but it’s not so empty that you feel on your own.
The wildlife there is abundant. Rodrigo had a good time taking pictures of toucans and falcons.
We even had an interesting encounter with a snake. The birds were screaming more than usual, and we saw the snake sliding down slowly on the trail. It stopped just right in front of us.
I started to panic a little bit, but Rodrigo said, “I need to take a picture.”
“Great timing,” I thought! and I started screaming like the birds, “Move, Move!” to Rodrigo and walked fast.
Rodrigo knew that the snake wasn’t dangerous and he was cracking up to see me screaming!
Fortunately, the snake did a kind movement and went inside the woods, so after a few videos after the encounter, we keep hiking up to the main entrance.
- Distance/Time: 4 kilometers — 45 minutes to an hour to get to the waterfall and 1 and a half hours on the way back because of the hill to get back to the entrance.
- Difficulty: Moderate/ Difficult. Might be challenging for children or older people or for inexperienced hikers.
- Weather: Humid and you will feel a lot of heat depending on the time of the year that you go. We did the hike in August and we were lucky that it didn’t rain that day.
- Natural swimming pools: We decided to do the hike all the way to the waterfall and then hike back to the swimming pools, and we think this is the best way to do it rather than swimming before the hike back.
- Wildlife: The area is rich in wildlife because is located next to Carara National Park.
- Facilities (Bathroom): In this part we agreed that there is room to improve. The trail is well-maintained taking into consideration that it is a mountain and it’s not easy to keep clean. However, the bathrooms could be in better condition.
Our experience & recommendations
From the entrance, you will hike 2 km downhill on a narrow path in the middle of the mountains that will take you to the waterfall.
This waterfall is about 200 meters of falls. It’s not the classic waterfall with abundant water, it’s more a fall of water with a nice rock formation and then the river starts to be formed. Watch out next to the waterfall — the rocks are pretty slippery!!
The return path has some intersections that lead to the water pools hidden into the jungle. These are ideal for bathing, resting a little, eating some snacks and preparing for the way back.
On the way back, the situation is a bit more complicated because the hike is quite intense and it takes a longer time to get back to the car.
Upstairs near the access, there are showers that are necessary to remove the sweat that invades the body after the climb back. Because one thing is for sure: this hike is very humid.
What to bring?
At least a liter of water, snacks, mosquito repellent, swimming suit and towel, sport or comfortable clothes, shoes that are not slippery (NO sandals) – Maybe Chacos, a rain jacket for rainy season.
Other things to do near Jaco/Herradura
Our central Pacific beaches like Jaco or Herradura have so much to offer than surf and nightclubs.
I have to recognize that usually when I think about Jaco it wasn’t a place that I would recommend to people.
Now, the more we explore places, the more I found myself enjoying hikes near places like Jaco.
There are places like Carara National Park where a local guide recommended this hike and we don’t regret following his advice.
Other things to do near Jaco are a Mangrove tour in Playa Guacalillo, watch the sunset in the Penon Guacalillo or join the Beach cleanups organized by amazing groups in the area.