Llanos de Cortez Waterfall was my favourite day trip in Costa Rica. Just a short drive from Liberia, Llanos de Cortez is concealed just off the side of the highway. It’s considered a must-see place by the likes of Lonely Planet, and I definitely agree!
Costa Rica is home to dozens of beautiful waterfalls, and Llanos de Cortez is one of the best. Visiting this waterfall is a great option for a small day trip. It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon, cooling off and splashing around!
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Llanos de Cortez Waterfall.
Visiting Llanos de Cortez Waterfall
Getting to Llanos de Cortez
Coming from Playa del Coco or the surrounding areas, drive through Liberia. I was driving from Playa Hermosa, just North of Coco, and the drive took 55 minutes. The main intersection entering Liberia has a bunch of fast food places on the corner (currently McDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell). Coming from Playa del Coco, turn right at this intersection on to the highway and head towards Bagaces. Note, this highway entrance is unusual and goes 2 ways, so stay to the right.
Once on the highway, drive for about 15 minutes until you see the sign for 5km to Bagaces. The exit will come up quickly after this, and it’s hard to see. There are pedestrian overpasses all along the highway (big, blue, can’t miss them). The next one that you see after the 5km sign is the exit. Turn right underneath the overpass and follow the dirt road to the waterfall. There will be signs, and a well-marked entrance.
The last stretch of road leading up to the waterfall is a bumpy dirt road. This road can be driven in any vehicle, as long as you don’t mind some jostling. Parking is available on site.
Hours, Fees, and When to Visit
Hours: Llanos de Cortez is open from 8AM to 4PM daily (according to their website, although when I visited they said the hours were until 4:30PM). I loved visiting in the afternoon because it’s not too busy, and the light is great for photos!
Fees: There is an admission fee of $7 USD per person for Llanos de Cortez. My research before visiting indicated an additional, small parking fee of a few dollars, but on our visit we were told there was no additional parking fee. Things like this can change on a whim in Costa Rica, so bring extra change just in case!
When to Visit: Many people pack picnics for the waterfall and a lot of tour groups stop over for a bit in the morning. Arrive after 2:30 and you will still have lots of time to enjoy the waterfall without it being too crowded.
The waterfall is a popular place with locals and can get incredibly busy on the weekends. Go on a weekday if you can!
What to Expect at Llanos de Cortez
Llanos de Cortez is nothing short of magnificent. This was definitely the most beautiful and impressive waterfall that I saw in Costa Rica – and there are tons of beautiful waterfalls!
When you visit Llanos de Cortez, you are going just to relax and hang out at the waterfall. Many people bring snacks and picnics. Bring a swimsuit so that you can swim in water below the waterfall!
Washrooms/ change rooms: There are port-a-potties on site if needed, but no official change rooms. It’s best to wear your swimsuit there.
When you arrive: once you’ve parked, the walk down to the waterfall is about 100 meters. It is a steep descent, on an uneven concrete slab staircase. The descent is brief, but still best done in sandals or shoes with a back (not flip-flops). There is no alternate access.
Safety: there is a lifeguard on duty at Llanos de Cortez, and some sections of the water and rocks are roped off. The water is not deep, but there is a strong pull near the bottom of the waterfall. Just obey the boundaries and enjoy!
What to bring: you will want towels, sandals that can get wet (but are not flip flops), and some snacks!
Hiking Up the Waterfall
There is a beautiful view from the top of Llanos de Cortez waterfall! The main area of the falls is a small, sandy area to your right once you’ve descended the stairs.
Over to the left, a row of stones forms a sort of crossing over the water. A small trail winds upwards on the left hand side. The trail is not marked, but it is clear where to go next.
The trail to the top of the waterfall air steep and does not have any makeshift stairs, just rocks. It’s a use-your-hands kind of climb, but absolutely worth it!
Once you reach the top, there’s a small lookout on the right that you will see right away. Or hop scotch across the stones in the shallow water at the top of the waterfall to the other side for an even better view.