Llanos de Cortez Waterfall: Plan the Perfect Visit

Llanos de Cortez waterfall is located in the Guanacaste Province about 40 minutes from the Liberia International Airport. It is an impressive waterfall you can swim under, relax on the sandy area, and hike to the top for a view of the cascading fall.

The waterfall is also referred to as Catarata Llanos de Cortés, so if you see it spelled this way, just note it is the same waterfall.

We recently visited because we wanted to update this article after not having visited in a few years. And, I am so happy we chose to make this trip because we learned some interesting things that you should know before visiting. 

So, let’s get to it!

Background Info of Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

llanos de cortez waterfall

One of the things we learned while speaking to some people working there was the background of this place. 

So, back in the day when we first visited the waterfall, it was run by a private owner who allowed people to visit the waterfall for a small fee.

The next time we visited we noticed everything was a bit more streamlined and the facilities had improved. We discovered that the waterfall was now being run by the municipality. 

This past time, we spoke to people connected with the owner of the property. They told us that the owner had originally handed over access to the waterfall to the municipality with the intent that they would give any profits to Bugaces Municipality Education funding. 

Apparently, within the several years that they have been managing it, no profits have been used to support education. 

So, the owner was angry, but he had signed a contract with the municipality that they could run the access point so there was nothing he could do. 

Again, this was from the perspective of people close to the owner. I didn’t speak to people from the municipality, so I’m not sure what their opinion on this would be. 

Anyway, the owner was mad so he decided to make another access point to the waterfall on his property (he must own hundreds of acres). 

He decided he wouldn’t have a set entrance fee, but instead would let people donate what they wanted and he would donate all profit to the education in the municipality. 

Yeap, we’ve got a little bit of a turf war going on here. 

So, keep this in mind as I give you more info on visiting because it comes into play when deciding how to access the falls.

Directions to the Waterfall

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall: Plan the Perfect Visit

Llanos de Cortez is a great day trip if you are staying in the Liberia, Playas del Coco, Papagayo area. 

The best way of visiting is with your own rental car. There are day tours that go here, but if you have a rental car you can save money and enjoy the falls at your own pace. 

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You will most likely be heading to Llanos de Cortez Waterfall from either the Liberia International Airport area or the Guanacaste beaches. 

If you are coming from the Playas del Coco area just hop on Route 21 up to Liberia. You will pass the airport and then come to a main intersection in Liberia.

Take a right onto Route 1 and continue about 14 miles. And enjoy the highway because it is definitely the nicest in the country!

Just a warning, for whatever reason the posted speed limit changes constantly. I haven’t seen any police paroling this road, but definitely, try to stick to the posted speed.

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After about 14 miles you will take a right onto a dirt road. There is a large sign directing you to the official entrance, but it appears very last minute. It’s definitely a good idea to have GPS unit directing you.

When you arrive there will likely be a person on the road telling you about the two options for parking. This person is employed by the owner of the property. 

They will show you a map and say that the official entry from the municipality is a short drive away and that the entrance from the owner will take about five minutes longer. They also mentioned that the entrance from the owner has access to a bright blue natural swimming hole. 

Which Access to Choose?

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall: Plan the Perfect Visit

Now the big question is, which entrance should you choose?

The Official Municipality Entrance

This entrance is by far the easiest to drive to. It’s a three-minute drive at most once you turn off the main highway. 

Entrance Fee

$7 for adults

$4 for children

Features

There is a large parking area which seems to be guarded. 

There are decent restrooms.

The trail to the waterfall is well maintained and consists of stairs.

The Entrance from the Owner

So, we opted to try out the entrance from the owner. As we mentioned above, when you turn on to the dirt road someone will show you the options to either go to the municipality entrance or the property owner’s entrance. 

This person told us it was about a five-minute drive to the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall entrance from the owner. 

This was not true. 

The drive took at least 10 minutes and the road was ROUGH! If you do not have a 4×4 vehicle we do not suggest this (especially during rainy season). 

Entrance Fee

This is a general donation so feel free to give whatever amount of money you feel comfortable with.

Features

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall: Plan the Perfect Visit

The employees are sitting in the parking lot, so I felt as though the cars were decently guarded. 

I did not see any bathroom facilities.

One nice feature here is that they offer the possibility of having an employee walk with you to the waterfall. This is a nice way to get a little tour from someone who knows the plants and wildlife in the area and can point things out to you. 

The hike from here to the falls is short (it took maybe 10 minutes) but it is more of a hike.

The “bright blue pool” was definitely not bright blue and I don’t think I would have wanted to swim in it.

Our Opinion

For tourists, I wouldn’t recommend accessing through the owner’s entrance because the drive is rough. 

We were there in the dry season and we still needed to switch our vehicle into 4-wheel drive. 

We are used to the crazy roads of Costa Rica, but if you are not used to this I really wouldn’t suggest it. 

The Base of the Falls

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall: Plan the Perfect Visit

At the base of the falls, you will likely see a lot of locals swimming, grilling, and just having nice times with their families on the sunny, sandy beach area.

You can set up your stuff here, but if it is really full (which tends to happen unless you arrive very early) we like to cross over to the side that is more woodsy and set up our stuff there.

The woodsy side does not have much sun, but it is better than nothing!

Swimming Under the Waterfall

llanos de cortez

We love to take a nice dip in the cool water at the falls. 

The area near the sandy beach is shallow and great for kids.

Just note, if traveling with kids, the water does get pretty deep and the push from the waterfall can be very strong further out. 

There is now a lifeguard on duty at the falls who will stop you from climbing on the rocks, but if the lifeguard is not there, please be careful and avoid the rocks. They can be super super slippery and accidents have happened.

Hike to the Top of the Waterfall

llanos de cortez

On the left side of the waterfall, there is a path up to the top. This path consists of stairs and is relatively easy.

From the top, you can get a nice view of the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall. 

If you do opt to climb up here, please be careful. We have unfortunately heard of many tragic stories of slips off the top of the falls. It can be slippery up here and people sometimes get too close to the edge.

From the top of the waterfall, you can follow the path and it will lead you back to the parking lot.

Important Info About Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall: Plan the Perfect Visit

Waterfall Opening Hours

Llanos de Cortez is open from 8:00am until 4:00pm. We suggest getting there by 2:00 pm at the latest if you want a chance to fully enjoy the falls.

What to Bring to Llanos de Cortez

There isn’t any place to buy things at the falls (or anywhere nearby) so it is best to bring everything that you may need.

We suggest: 

A bottle of water: We like Lifestraw bottles for added protection against bacteria.

A towel: We suggest a microfiber towel. They dry quickly and roll up small in your luggage.

Your camera: If you want to take pics in the water GoPro is the way to go

Strong sunscreen

Bug spray

Snacks or a picnic (if you want)

What to Wear

I usually opt for my bathing suit under a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, a sporty sun-blocking hat, hiking sandals which I can wear in the water (like Keens), and a backpack.

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Amount of Time You’ll Need

We usually spend about 2 to 3 hours here. It really depends on if you want to make it a longer event. If you bring a picnic lunch you could potentially spend a half a day here. 

Guided Tour to the Waterfall

If you are staying in the Guanacaste region and will not have your own transportation, we suggest a guided combo tour as a way to visit Llanos de Cortez.

There are two tours we suggest:

Miravalles Volcano and Waterfalls Tour from Playa Hermosa

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  7 hours | ✅ Book it!

This tour is put on by Pininos Adventures. It includes pick-up from Playa Hermosa or the Playas del Coco area. It is a super fun day trip with great guides.

Your day will consist of a visit to Llanos de Cortez waterfall followed by a trip to Miravellas Volcano.

At the volcano, you will have the chance to take a volcanic mud bath followed by relaxing in hot springs.

A fresh typical Costa Rican lunch is also included.

⤷ Arrange Your Miravelles and Llanos de Cortez Tour

Llanos del Cortez Waterfall and Coffee Tour from Guanacaste

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  6 hours | ✅ Book it!

This tour also includes transportation from your Playas del Coco or Playa Hermosa area hotel.

On this day trip you will visit a coffee farm and learn about the process from bean to cup from an experienced industry professional. Plus, you’ll get the chance to drink tons of coffee.

You will then visit Llanos de Cortez and enjoy a traditional Costa Rican lunch.

⤷ Arrange Your Coffee and Waterfall Adventure

FAQ: Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

What is the closest waterfall to the Liberia International Airport?

The closest waterfall to the Liberia International Airport in Costa Rica is the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall. It is located approximately 20 kilometers (12 miles) southwest of the airport, near the town of Bagaces.

What are the directions to Llanos de Cortez Waterfall?

To reach Llanos de Cortés Waterfall from Liberia International Airport in Costa Rica:
Depart from the airport and head southwest on Route 21 (Interamericana Highway) toward Bagaces.
Continue on Route 21 for about 20 kilometers (12 miles) until you reach Bagaces.
Turn left onto the road that leads to Llanos de Cortés Waterfall. You should see signs guiding you along the way.


What are the Llanos de Cortez opening hours?

The official entrance from the municipality is open from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm. It is best to arrive by 2:00 pm to fully enjoy the falls.

Is there a Llanos de Cortez Waterfall tour?

It is possible to book a day tour to the waterfall which includes transportation from the Playas del Coco or Playa Hermosa area. Usually, these tours also include lunch.

Conclusion: Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

In conclusion, visiting Llanos de Cortés Waterfall in Costa Rica is an unforgettable experience that should not be missed if you are in the area.

Located just a short distance from Liberia International Airport, this natural wonder offers a captivating combination of lush surroundings, cascading water, and a refreshing swimming spot. It is the perfect jungle day trip!

Have any questions about the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall? Leave them in the comment section below and we’ll help you out!

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Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

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The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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5 Comments

  1. Susan Archer says:

    Will the llanos de Cortez falls be spectacular in July? Or are they dried up?

    1. Hi Susan. I just checked through my pictures because we were there once in July and the waterfall should be beautiful. If there have been heavy rains recently the pool/ lake under the fall might not be as clear, but I think it is still nice to visit. Just note that July is school vacation in Costa Rica and this is a popular spot with locals, so maybe consider getting there in the morning to beat the crowds.
      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  2. When is best time for photos? In January! Thinking of when best light and view would be for pics?!

    1. Hi Molly,
      Well, in January the sun rises around 5:30 am and sets around 6pm. You can expect full direct sun around noon. I personally like early to mid morning sun. Also in January all days should be hot and very sunny.
      Hope that helps a bit!

  3. What is best time of day in January to visit falls? Looking for best light for photo taking!