The Nauyaca waterfalls were the one well-known waterfall in Costa Rica that Thomas and I hadn’t visited, so when we planned a trip to the Dominical area it was one of the top things on our list to do. Guys, the La Fortuna waterfall is pretty impressive but the top falls at Nauyaca completely blew me away. I had never experienced a waterfall of such magnitude before. Plus, I loved that you can swim under the second waterfall. The Nauyaca waterfalls in Costa Rica are definitely a must visit spot, but it was an adventure getting there! We created this complete guide to help you all have an amazing time visiting the falls.
Important Info About the Nauyaca Waterfalls
The falls are open from 7 am until 5 pm from Monday through Saturday. On Sunday they are open from 8 am until 4 pm.
Admission costs $8 per person (or 4,500 colones). This price only includes admission. It does not include parking or tours.
The Nauyaca waterfalls in Costa Rica are located in the small beach town of Dominical. From downtown Dominical take route 243 for about six miles. It is a curvy road into the hills above Dominical. You can also just type in “Nauyaca waterfalls” into your GPS. This will direct you to where you can buy tickets. I included a picture of the ticket office above. You literally just pull off on the side of the road and go into the building to buy your tickets.
If you are looking for a rental car while in Costa Rica we suggest renting with Adobe through our site. We have a 10% discount for you and Adobe is really the best rental car company in Costa Rica. You can find more about this here.
There are two places to park. You can park right at the park entrance, on the side of the road where you buy your tickets. Parking here is free. Or you can buy your park ticket and a parking ticket, drive about a third of a mile further and then turn right down a long dirt road. You will end at a parking lot.
If you have a small car (something without four-wheel drive and with low clearance) you will need to park on the side of the road to visit the Nauyaca waterfalls in Costa Rica. Please remember to leave nothing of value in the car because the vehicles are not watched by an attendant. If you do this, your walk to the falls will be a little over one mile longer in each direction. As you head to the falls, that mile will be downhill. Heading back, when you’re exhausted, it is a steep uphill battle.
If you have a vehicle with four-wheel drive and higher clearance you can park in the parking lot down the road. This costs $3 per car. You can purchase a parking pass when you buy your park tickets. We had no problems getting down and up the road again with a car with all-wheel drive, but it also hadn’t rained in a while. I can imagine it being a bit more difficult if the road had been muddy. This parking lot is supposedly monitored, but when we returned from our hike there wasn’t anybody watching the cars.
If you have the choice, definitely spend the $3 to drive to the bottom of the hill. We were completely exhausted at the end of our hike and I really can’t imagine having to hike an extra mile uphill in the sun.
There is a bathroom at the lower parking lot for both men and women. There is also a bathroom for men and women when you reach the falls. They are definitely very basic facilities but seemed to be cleaned on a consistent basis.
If you need some food or a restock on water, there is a small restaurant about halfway through your walk. You can buy the basics there. The restaurant also has a very loud pet peacock you can check out.
Thomas wore a baseball hat, sunglasses, a fast drying t-shirt, swim shorts, and hiking boots.
I wore a baseball hat, sunglasses, a fast drying t-shirt, sports shorts, a bathing suit, and sneakers.
Looking back I wish I had worn Keens for shoes. They would have been much more comfortable for the walk.
Somebody (cough cough Thomas) wore his flip-flops for the drive and then when he went to put on his hiking boots he realized that he hadn’t brought socks. All his socks were at the hotel. I (the responsible one) of course remembered socks. In all honesty, it’s usually me who forgets these things, but I’m just going to enjoy that it was him who messed up for once.
Anyway, Thomas was really struggling with his hiking boots and no socks so about a half mile into the hike I ended up giving him my socks. It was fine, but my feet were really sweaty and I think Keens would have been a much better choice. Thomas also regretted his choice to wear hiking boots.
I also regretted my bathing suit choice. I wish I had worn something with a bit more of a sports bra type of top. It was a bit too intense of a hike for the top I opted to wear.
We brought a backpack (check out the cool new backpack Thomas bought which he’s obsessed with) filled with all our essentials. We each had a bottle of water and a bottle of Gatorade to stay hydrated. We brought one microfiber towel for after swimming. We actually ended up only using it to sit on because we were both so hot that we didn’t want to dry off. We also brought sunscreen (much needed), bug spray (also much needed), and a waterproof case for Thomas’s cell phone so he could take pictures while swimming under the falls.
Depending on when you are traveling it would also be helpful to have a dry bag instead of a regular backpack and some rain gear. However, I think even if it had rained I wouldn’t have put on my rain jacket because I was so hot.
Amount of time you need
We started our hike around 9:45 am and got back to our car around 1:30 pm. The hike itself took us about 50 minutes each way, but we tend to walk fast. That means we spent about two hours checking out both falls in swimming. This was enough time for us, but you could easily spend several hours here if you want to bring lunch and spend a lot of time swimming.
Best time to visit
You can visit the Nauyaca waterfalls in Costa Rica at any time throughout the year, but if you want to visit without the chance of rain and without a muddy walk I suggest visiting between end of December and mid-April (dry season). However, this is also peak tourism time and there are a lot more visitors at the falls.
As I mentioned before, the park opens at 7 am. If you get here when the park opens you can have the falls almost completely to yourself no matter what time of year.
Nauyaca Waterfalls Hike
I need to warn you up front, this hike is intense! It is about 2.5 miles long in one direction if you start from the lower parking lot. If you begin your hike at the parking lot it is about 3.5 miles to the falls.
The path is a well maintained, wide dirt trail. There were a few muddy parts along the way. I can imagine it gets worse during late summer/ autumn. The way to the falls is mostly uphill until the last few hundred feet where you will head down to the falls. I was happy with this because it made the walk back when we were exhausted, really easy.
Along the way, you will get some nice views including a little bamboo forest. There are some benches along the route as well as the small restaurant I mentioned before. Oh, and there are mile markers! Those mile markers were so helpful when I was struggling from the walk and wanted to know how much further I had to go.
I would not recommend this walk if you are not in OK physical shape.
The Nauyaca Falls
When you finish your hike you will first come to an area with restrooms. These bathrooms are definitely not the nicest, but after your long hike you may need to visit them. You can also change into your bathing suit here if you plan on swimming.
Next, you will see this sign ↓ in front of you directing you to both falls.
We went to falls #1 first to take pictures before we went for a swim in falls #2. I knew that if I went swimming first I would be ready to hike back after rather than then going to falls #1.
Anyway, it is a short walk to the lookout point for falls #1. I had no idea the falls would be so big. As I said at the beginning of this post, I was blown away. Seriously, the magnitude took my breath away. We’ve seen tons of falls in Costa Rica, but this was on another level.
You can get a nice view from the side of the falls at the lookout point but you can also walk down on to the rocks to get a head-on view.
Please please be careful. A girl I went to college with recently tragically died from slipping and falling off the falls. There are signs telling you to be careful and to not walk on the rocks, but nothing is enforced. I would think that there would be more signs or blocked off areas after her death to warn others, but this is Costa Rica. You need to use your own judgment for these types of things. Unfortunately, this spot is out in the middle of nowhere. If an injury does occur you will not have quick access to medical attention. As you can see from the picture below, there are dry spots but the wet spots look very slippery. I was so nervous when we were there because there were plenty of people climbing all over these rocks with very little awareness to the dangers.
After visiting the first fall we walked down below to the second fall and set up our stuff on a rock. You can swim at this fall, which is perfect after a long sweaty hike. We opted to switch off swimming because we are a bit paranoid and didn’t feel comfortable leaving our backpack unattended.
The water is cool but so refreshing! Just be warned there are a lot of rocks where you get into the water and they can be very slippery.
We didn’t do this, but you can swim to the base of the falls and climb up under them. You shouldn’t actually climb on the rocks, but just sitting under the falls is OK.
There are also some other pools of water further around that you can check out if you want a more private swimming hole.
When you have rehydrated and cooled down enough, it is time to start your hike back. Don’t worry! We found the hike back to be way easier than the hike there.
Helpful Tips for Nauyaca Waterfalls
– Get there early. It get’s so hot here by midday! Also, the waterfalls get filled with tourists as the day goes on.
– Don’t forget to continue to drink a lot of fluids after your hike is over. I didn’t realize just how dehydrated and hot I had become. I was really sick the next day with stomach problems and I’m pretty sure it was from completely overdoing it in the sun at Nauyaca.
– Don’t forget to use caution around the falls. Even if something is open to the public it doesn’t mean it’s safe.
– If you park at the bottom, keep an eye out for people walking to the top as you leave Nayuaca. We picked up three people along the way to drive them to the top. It is a really steep walk and they all looked absolutely miserable. I’m sure some other people would be so thankful if you offered them a ride. You can of course also do this on your way down to the falls as well.
– If hiking is not your thing, you can also take a horseback riding tour to the falls or ride in the back of a 4×4 to the last section of the falls. The horseback riding tour costs $70 and includes a guide, horse, light breakfast, lunch, and admission ticket. The tour starts at 8 am and ends at 1:30 pm. The drive in the back of the 4×4 costs $28 per person roundtrip. If you opt to do this you will only have to walk about 300 feet to the falls. You can find out more info about these options here.
What to Do After the Nauyaca Waterfalls
All we talked about for the last half mile of the hike was how excited we were to jump in the pool at our Airbnb in Uvita, but once we got in the car and cranked the AC we decided to grab some lunch first.
We decided to stop at Fuego brewery in Dominical. We had heard they the have some interesting hefeweizen beers that they brew with Costa Rican fruits, so we had to get in on that. The German in Thomas is all about some Weizen beers and since living in a hot environment I’m all about beers with fruity notes.
Anyway, Fuego was ridiculous! You guys should definitely check it out even if just for the architecture and design alone. This place is a masterpiece. The food was great (but we were also starving out of our minds) and their craft beers were tasty as well.
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