If you find yourself with a free day while visiting the Puerto Jimenez area, head to King Louis waterfall! It’s the perfect waterfall to visit without having to endure a strenuous hike to get there.
Also, be prepared to relax after your hike with a visit to one of the best beaches we have experienced in Costa Rica (and we’ve experienced a lot of beaches). A waterfall and the perfect beach all in one day. What could possibly be better?
How to Get to King Louis Waterfall
The easiest way to get to King Louis Waterfall is by rental car from the town of Puerto Jimenez. Once you exit the downtown area the road is no longer paved. However, the road is pretty smooth (as you can see above).
There are two river crossings on your way to the waterfall. We visited in January (dry season) and had no trouble crossing the rivers with our SUV. However, if you visit during the rainy season you might have more trouble. Definitely ask at your hotel if they know how high the rivers are before attempting this drive.
If you get to a river and aren’t sure if you will be able to cross it, just get out and check. We tend to just pull our car off to the side of the road and walk into the middle of the river to see how deep it actually is.
After about 10.5 miles of driving, you will come to your turn on the left. It is right after the bus stop pictured above. The road is called Matapalo Beach Road. However, I’m pretty sure there weren’t actually any signs.
This is where things get a bit interesting….
Matapalo Beach Road is super rocky and narrow. You NEED 4 wheel drive vehicle or at least all-wheel drive to get down here. Not only is the road rocky and narrow but there are also several nice hotels located along the road. This means that there are actually a fair amount of cars that you could meet along the way. Because the road is so narrow you will have to back up to a safe spot to let other people pass or vice versa.
Also, we thought for sure that we were in the wrong place because there were just so many little side roads. Just keep going. You are most likely on the right track. It is just a crazy road.
Eventually (after almost two miles), you will pass a beautiful beach on your left. Keep going a bit past that and you will see parking for the waterfall on your right.
When I say parking, I mean just a spot on the side of the road to pull your car off. There is a sign for the waterfall though, so you will know you are in the correct spot.
There aren’t any parking attendants here. Please don’t leave anything in your car. It is a very remote area and if someone wanted to break in they easily could without being seen.
If you do not have a rental car and would prefer to visit King Louis Waterfall with a tour, that is possible as well. We searched online for good tour options for you and we think that your best choice is with the company Osa Wild.
We have not personally done the King Louis Waterfall tour with this company, however, we did do a tour of Corcovado National Park with them and had such a great experience. You can check out the Osa Wild website for more info on their Matapalo Tour to King Louis Waterfall.
The King Louis Waterfall Hike
Now it is time to begin the fun part of this adventure, the hike!
This hike is not overly strenuous or long, it is just a bit interesting.
Basically, you will be climbing up a somewhat undefined path through the waterfall stream. It involves a lot of hopping between rocks and even some pulling yourself up by secured ropes.
If you want to get really crazy there is one spot where you can pull yourself straight up the side of a miniature waterfall by rope. However, if you are a known disaster like I am, there is a side trail around this.
It should only take you about twenty to thirty minutes to actually reach the falls.
We had read online that it is possible to follow a trail up to the top of the falls but we couldn’t find it. There is a steep trail to the left, but after following that it seemed to end on private property.
Maybe we missed something! If you visit and find another trail, we’d love if you could let us know.
After your hike up we suggest going for a little swim. The water is freezing but very refreshing. Also, how often do you get the chance to stand under a waterfall with nobody else around?
While we were at the waterfall there was a family leaving as we arrived and that was during peak travel time. Those were the only people we saw while here. There is a very good chance you could have the entire King Louis waterfall all to yourself!
Your hike back down to your car consists of going down the same way you came up. Definitely be careful because it can be very slippery. I had a few close calls on some wet and unstable rocks.
Also, keep an eye out for wildlife. We didn’t see anything too crazy, but we had heard that you can almost always see monkeys here.
Thomas is always turning over rocks looking for frogs and we did see several poison dart frogs on our hike. Don’t worry. They typically won’t bother you unless you bother them.
What to Do After Visiting the Waterfall
Remember that beach you passed just before you arrived at the waterfall? It is so beautiful! In fact, Matapalo beach is definitely one of the best beaches we have seen in Costa Rica.
We suggest stopping here after visiting the waterfall for a bit of relaxation. We brought a picnic lunch, towels, and books to read and spent several hours just people watching and reading. It was perfect!
Also, at least when we were there, the water is really calm and perfect to swim in. You could also take a nice long walk along the beach.
Just keep in mind that the sand at Matapalo Beach is absolutely burning. We saw multiple people try to take their sandals off and run to the water. None of them were able to get more than a few steps before running back for their sandals.
There is not a whole lot of shade here, but if you sit further up the beach you can find some tree coverage.
On your drive back to Puerto Jimenez we suggest stopping at a restaurant called Martina’s. You will see it on the right side of the road after you get back on the main road towards Purto Jimenez. It is nothing fancy, but a great place to sit outside and grab a drink or some food.
Our Tips for Visiting King Louis Waterfall
– We suggest wearing your bathing suit under your clothes and bringing a towel. You will probably want to swim under the falls and at the beach after.
– Definitely pack a lot of water and snacks. The hike is not overly long or intense, but it is super hot in this area and you can get dehydrated fast.
– I wore Keens and Thomas wore regular sneakers for this hike. He didn’t get his feet wet, however, I appreciated that I could just walk through the streams with ease while he was carefully trying to hop from one dry rock to another. If you have them, definitely wear some type of water hiking shoe.
– It is a bit buggy here because it is so shady. Definitely bring bug spray and some sunscreen for visiting the beach after. You are so close to the equator that you really need to load up on the sunscreen even in the shade.
– If possible, it is best to visit at the beginning of the dry season. The drive will be easier and the hike will be less muddy and slippery. However, the waterfall looks the best during the rainy season (May through early December) when there is more water coming down. In fact, we heard from some friends that visited the waterfall in April that there actually wasn’t a waterfall anymore because all the water had dried up from there not being any rain for several months.
– Don’t forget to not leave anything in your car. Even leaving something with no value to you is a bad idea here because there is nobody around. You never know what people might see and decide to try and steal by breaking a window.
– If you would like to spend the night in this area that is possible as well. There are so many nice hotels next to the beach. Just make sure that when you search “Matapalo” you are looking in Puntarenas Province. There is also a Matapalo up in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica.
If you have any questions or suggestions for visiting King Louis Waterfall and Matapalo Beach near Puerto Jimenez, just leave them in the comment section below. We love to hear your tips for other travelers and we are always happy to help you out!
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