One of our absolute favorite spots in the northern Guanacaste region of Costa Rica is the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall. The waterfall is located just a short drive from the Liberia International Airport, it is affordable to visit, and you can swim under it!
What more could you possibly want?!?!
Features of the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall Property
Llanos de Cortez is run by the Bugaces Municipality local government. They have worked hard to fix up this place a lot in recent years. And to be honest, it looks amazing! The local government has done a great job transforming the property into a nice spot for relaxation and fun.
The Hike Down
One of the best things about a visit to this waterfall is that it is not a tough walk down to the base (unlike places like La Fortuna waterfall which is a serious hike).
It will take you about ten minutes to get to the base.
In the past, you had to navigate some steep wooden stairs and lots of climbing over roots.
However now there are new concrete steps that you can take down. It is much more pleasant!
Anyone in decent physical condition should be fine getting to the base and with the walk back up.
The Base of the Falls
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
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.
We have heard that 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
In the past, there was a path that you could take up to the top of the falls.
It is not well marked, in fact the first time we visited we weren’t sure if it was even a path at all.
You can look for it on the left side of the waterfall in the woodsy area.
However, I can not guarantee that this path is still open to the public. It was actually really dangerous because you could stand at the edge of the top of the falls.
So, now that they have hired lifeguards and seem to be more concerned with safety, I’m not sure if access is blocked.
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 the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall
Waterfall Opening Hours
Llanos de Cortez is open from 8:00am until 3:00pm. We suggest getting there by 1:30pm at the latest if you want a chance to fully enjoy the falls.
Getting to the Waterfall
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 a lot of money and enjoy the falls at your own pace.
Just note, the last road is dirt, but a 4×4 is not necessary.
You will most likely be heading to Llanos de Cortez Waterfall from either Liberia 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.
After about 14 miles you will take a right onto a dirt road. There is a large sign directing you to the official entrance.
Definitely, keep an eye out, but it is fairly easy to find.
Note: There is a private property just past the official entrance that tries to get tourists to enter that way, but it is safest to go through the official entrance.
When you enter the parking lot, someone will usually come up to you and ask for payment. Last time we were here entry was $7 per person for adults and $4 for children.
Parking at the Falls
Last time we visited Llanos de Cortez there was a man directing people to spots in the parking area.
It is up to you, but we always tip the parking attendant a dollar or two. It’s just the nice thing to do and they may keep a closer eye on your car this way.
The parking attendant was watching the cars, but as it is a pretty big lot he couldn’t keep an eye on all the cars at once.
Don’t leave anything of value in your car and put everything left behind in the trunk just in case.
There is a bathroom with changing rooms next to the parking lot. Other than that, there are no other facilities on the property.
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.
-A bottle of water
– A towel
– 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)
I usually opt for my bathing suit under a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, a hat, hiking sandals which I can wear in the water (like Chacos or Keens), and a backpack.
Amount of time you 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.
If you would like more info, there is an official Llanos de Cortez Facebook page which is updated on a regular basis.
Have any questions about the Llanos de Cortez Waterfall? Leave them in the comment section below and we’ll help you out!