Want to visit the Llanos de Cortez waterfall?
Liberia was on my bucket list for one single reason: the secret waterfall Llanos de Cortez waterfall.
I’d read about this gorgeous waterfall just out of Liberia; well hidden in the jungle and still fairly unknown to many travelers. I had to see it.
Being secret and all, I didn’t exactly know how to find its exact location, but this turned out to be easier than assumed.
We simply went to the nearest bus stop and while looking for a bus sign, a local girl asked us where we were headed.
Within a few seconds three other locals had joined the conversation. I said: cascada hermosa (beautiful waterfall), and instantly she pointed at herself with a huge smile like saying: “I’m going that way, too.”
Well, that was easy.
Llanos de Cortez waterfall was only a 15-minute bus ride from Liberia, and when we seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, the bus driver stopped and said: “Okay. Waterfall,” while another local pointed out the window and nodded his head. If this is not traveler hospitality, if don’t know what is.
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Llanos de Cortez waterfall
The waterfall was 2 km down an unpaved road, and with the sun standing high in the sky, I managed to get a bit of a tan [nice bonus].
As we got closer, I could hear the roaring waterfall in the distance and my heart started beating faster.
If there’s one thing I love as much as sunsets and white sandy beaches, it’s waterfalls. They have such a relaxing effect on me, and I could just sit there watching them all day if I had the time.
Once we got to the end of the parking lot, we were at the official entrance.
Llanos de Cortez waterfall is hidden down some stairs, which are steep and not in the best of shape, might I add.
The waterfall is 28m high, and 12 m wide, and spills over the towering cliffs into a beautiful swimming hole below. There’s also a sandy area to hang out in and relax.
After swimming a bit, we explored the area and walked along the banks of the small river. We saw some small fish, frogs, several lizards, and the Jesus Christ Lizard, which got its name because it can run on water.
Safety at the waterfall
The municipality recently took over the management of Llanos de Cortez. As part of that, they made a few safety improvements on site.
For instance, they built concrete steps to replace the old dirt trail and now there’s a handrail. The steps are still steep and bumpy so you still need to be careful.
Also, you used to be able to climb behind the falls onto the rocks, but for safety reasons, there’s now a rope in the pool. You can still get fairly close, though. Plus, the rope isn’t very noticeable, so it doesn’t ruin the beautiful view.
The Llanos de Cortez waterfall now also has lifeguards who look out for anyone in the water. They’ll also let you know if you’re going somewhere you’re not supposed to.
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How to get to Llanos de Cortes
The waterfall is located about 5km north of Bagaces and about 30 mins drive from Liberia. There are several ways to reach Llanos de Cortez waterfall from Liberia:
Take the highway towards Bagaces for about 20 minutes. Look out for a sign that says “Catarata” on your right side.
Then turn right and follow the dirt road and the signs, which will take you to the parking lot and trail entrance. Parking is free with admission.
Get any bus leaving Liberia for Canas, San Jose, or Puntarenas. Tell the driver you want to get off at “la entrada para Llanos del Cortez“. You’ll have to walk about 2 km to get to the waterfall, but it’s easy to find from there.
By Uber or taxi
You can also take an Uber (about $23), which is slightly cheaper than a taxi (about $30). I’m not sure about the reception at the waterfall, so just make sure you have a plan b (like taking the bus – it runs regularly).
By organised tour
You can also join a tour (about $110-146), which is combined with other nearby sights like the hanging bridges.
Llanos de Cortez is less than a two-hour trip from Tamarindo and a 3.45-hour drive from San José.
Tips for visiting Llanos de Cortez
- Llanos de Cortez hours: 8 AM – 4:30 PM every day
- Llanos de Cortez entrance: $7 per person
- Make sure to park at the official parking lot
- It’s not allowed to walk or sit under the waterfall anymore
- You’ll find free bathrooms and changing rooms at the parking lot – not by the waterfall. It’s best to wear your swimsuit from home.
What to bring
Just a quick tip: I recommend that you don’t bring any valuables. If you do, you would either need to leave them on the sandy area while you swim or in your car.
Although there’s a parking guard, it’s a big parking lot, and impossible for the guard to keep watch on every car.
Here’s what to bring to Llanos de Cortes:
- Comfortable shoes
- Flip flops
- A hat
- Money (for entrance and if you’re taking the bus or want to buy something at the shop)
- Water and snacks
- Camera and phone
The best time to visit
October – November in the morning
We visited the Liberia waterfall in May. But when we visited, this place was still a secret, as in there was no lifeguard and very few people.
It’s more packed during holidays and the weekends, so try to visit in the morning on a weekday.
Although we weren’t the only ones who had found Llanos de Cortez waterfall, we still had a good time, and it didn’t feel crowded at all. It was absolutely amazing.
Where to stay in Liberia
Liberia is a city in the northern part of Costa Rica.
It’s not particularly big, which makes it easy to navigate on foot, and it offers plenty of restaurants and shopping malls to visit.
Everything is very organized, and the people there are really nice.
We stayed at El Punto Bed & Breakfast, which is sadly no longer open. But another great option is the Best Western El Sitio Hotel. It has an outdoor pool and an on-site restaurant, plus it’s located in the city. Subway is right across the street, and next door is the mall with a bank, stores, and a supermarket. It’s a quick 23-minute drive from Llanos de Cortez waterfall. Find the latest prices here.
FAQ – Llanos de Cortez waterfall
How long is the hike to Llanos de Cortez waterfall?
The hike to Cortez Waterfall Costa Rica is pretty short and easy. It takes about 15 minutes to walk from the parking area to the waterfall.
The path is well-maintained, making it accessible for most visitors. It’s a quick walk to a beautiful spot.
How much does it cost to go to Llanos de Cortes waterfall?
Visiting Llanos de Cortes waterfall is quite affordable. The entrance fee is around $7 per person.
This small fee helps with the maintenance and preservation of the area. It’s a great deal for such a stunning natural attraction.
Remember to bring some cash, as credit cards might not be accepted.
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