Man relaxing next to a waterfall

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Llanos de Cortés

Northwestern Costa Rica

If you're pressed for time and in search of a quick, easy waterfall visit, Llanos de Cortés will do nicely. From the entrance, which is now guarded, you'll scramble down a steep trail to reach the spectacular 28m-high, 12m-wide waterfall, which you’ll hear before you see. The falls drop into a tranquil pond with a white sandy beach that’s good for swimming and sunbathing. It was once possible to swim under the fall and hike behind it, but new rules now prohibit this.

Apart from a portable toilet, there are no services here.

The waterfall is located about 5km north of Bagaces; head northwest on the Interamericana and go about 7km past the town, then exit the highway after the pedestrian bridge and turn around at the roundabout (the highway dividers make the former left turn impossible). Continue about 2km and turn right on the dirt road just before the Río Piedras bridge, and follow the newly smooth road for about 1km. Turn right at the guarded gate. Continue down the dirt road about 300m to the parking area. Although the lot is guarded, it’s not wise to leave valuables exposed in your car.

If you don’t have a car, any bus traveling this part of the Interamericana can drop you at the turnoff, but you’ll have to hike the 1.5km to the falls. On weekends this is a popular Tico picnic spot, but on weekdays you’ll often have the waterfall to yourself.