chasing waterfalls in Bajos del Toro
Bajos del Toro – a hidden gem in Costa Rica.
If you are planning to visit Costa Rica, you probably know that is the most touristy country in Central America and visited by thousands of tourists every month, especially during dry season.
For me personally, too touristy at most parts of the country. I was desperately looking for a hidden gem destination within Costa Rica and found it with Bajos del Toro.
This little town and it´s surroundings are full of epic waterfalls!
I´m not talking one or two, it’s dozens if not even hundreds of gorgeous waterfalls (many of them probably not even accessible yet), waiting to be explored here! They also call them “Cataratas” here in Costa Rica, not “Cascadas” like everywhere else in Central America….
In this blog posts I will share some of the waterfalls I have explored (obviously not all of them but at least enough to get a taste of what this incredible region has to offer) and what it takes to visit some of the beautiful waterfalls!
1. About Bajos del Toro
This tiny town is located about 1 ½ hours drive from San Jose as well as La Fortuna.
Not on the usual tourist route, this region is MUCH LESS visited than other places in Costa Rica.
Bajos del Toro is surrounded by a magical cloud forest and it can be very foggy here. It´s also much cooler than in most other parts of the country.
If you need a break from 30+ degrees Celsius, Bajos del Toro is a great place to visit for lower temperatures.
The little town is home to 2 mini supermarkets and a handful of restaurants. Many locals here have farms and hold horses or cows.
You will most likely not find many persons here speaking English, but the locals are very welcoming and friendly – a great way to practice your Spanish skills!
How to get to Bajos del Toro?
As mentioned, Bajos del Toro is located about 1 ½ hours drive from either San Jose or La Fortuna.
The roads to get here are very windy and steep, but are all paved. Most of the roads around town have quite big potholes, so make sure you you drive slowly and carefully.
A rental car is essential to get here. Even though you might be able to book a transfer from San Jose, getting around in Bajos del Toro will be much easier if you have a car as well unless you prefer walking a lot.
Where to stay in Bajos del Toro?
As this town is so small and not touristy (yet), there are not so many options. There is only one luxury option, the El Silenico Lodge and a handful of budget options as well as campgrounds.
I did camp and the parking lot of Catarata Vuelta del Canon for night as well as at the parking lot of Cascadas Paraisos de Manantiales, both great budget options.
So let´s get to the exciting part – the waterfalls! Below are some of my favorites, I wish I had more time to explore others as well but my time was limited…I already plan coming back to this area to visit more of the gorgeous waterfalls!
2. Catarata del Toro
The most popular waterfall in the area and often referred to as “THE WATERFALL of Bajos del Toro”.
This waterfall is privately owned by the same person also owning the “Blue Falls”, another place on this list.
Catarata del Toro has a drop of 82 m before splashing into an old volcanic crater.
It´s massive and the views are nothing short of spectacular. Sure is one of my favorite waterfalls in the entire world.
When you enter the property, you first can see this incredible catarata from several viewpoints, before making your way down to the pool.
I counted a total of 460 steps down (I might have missed one or another lol), so be prepared for a little workout on your way back up.
Once you reach the bottom, you can enjoy the gorgeous views from a different angle and witness the strength of this majestic waterfall.
Note that swimming at this waterfall is not allowed.
It is also allowed to fly a drone here, but be careful, as there is hardly any GPS signal and the winds are pretty unpredictable. The owner told me that many people have lost their drones here.
On your way back up take your time to stroll through the lush gardens and watch the many hummingbirds and other species.
Location: about 8 km North of Bajos del Toro town
Opening hours: 7 AM to 5 PM every day except Sundays!!
Entrance fee: 14 USD or 8000 colones or you can buy a combined ticket for both, Catarata del Toro and Blue Falls for 25 USD (they belong to the same owner)
Facilities: restaurant, restrooms, wifi and a beautiful garden full of hummingbirds and other birds.
3. Blue Falls
A total of 6 breathtaking waterfalls, with the most insane shades of blue.
The Blue Falls are made up by the following cataratas:
- Cataratas Las Gemelas (two waterfalls right next to each other with very different shades of blue, both suitable for swimming)
- Catarata La Celestial (not suitable for swimming, I think…)
- Catarata Tepezquintle (suitable for swimming)
- Catarata La Pintada (only a viewpoint, no access for swimming)
- Catarata La Turquesa (suitable for swimming)
Each waterfall requires it´s own short (but steep) hike. Make sure to wear proper footwear, some of the trails are pretty muddy and not in the greatest condition.
The different shades of blue will blow your mind! It looks like thousands of bottles of Gatorade have been poured and formed a river.
Most of them are suitable for swimming, the water is COLD though, be prepared to be freezing, especially since air temperatures up in the cloud forest are not really high either.
I highly recommend spending multiple hours here and to check out all the waterfalls. It is worth it!
Location: about 9 km North of the town Bajos del Toro
Opening hours: 7 AM to 5 PM every day except Sundays!!
Entrance fee: 15 USD or 8500 colones or you can buy a combined ticket for both, Catarata del Toro and Blue Falls for 25 USD (they belong to the same owner)
Facilities: NO facilities YET except for parking and trails. They are working on building restrooms etc.
4. Catarata Vuelta del Canon
My very favorite waterfall in Costa Rica and probably even my favorite in the entire world! It is quite secluded, only reachable by a 5 km intermediate hike.I was blown away by it´s beauty once I got there!
Once you approach the waterfall, you will see from a distance, that it consists of many different level falls, but once you are in front of it you only see two of them.
Due to it´s remote location, it is recommended to visit as part of a tour or with a guide. Stubborn as I am, I went for it alone, without company.
The trail is really well marked the entire time, it starts at a cow farm and continues over fields, dense vegetation and requires 14!! River crossings.
I think the main reason that it is recommended to take a tour is that in case you hurt yourself while making your way through water, over rocks, through mud, it will be very difficult to get help and also to call help in the first place, as there is no service in this area (at least with Claro).
The hike to the waterfall is about 5 kms long and takes a bit less than 2 hours. I did not see a single other person on my hike there and while I spent about an hour at the waterfall. Only on the way back, I came across a small group of people making their way there.
If you are into adventures and waterfalls – I cannot recommend this place enough! Definitely check this hidden gem out, if you have the chance to.
In case you wanna learn more, check out THIS detailed blog post about the hike to Catarata Vuelta del Canon.
Location: Start of the hike about 1 km North of Bajos del Toro, you will see signs for the parking as well as for the farm where the trail starts.
Opening hours: no specific opening hours
Entrance fee: No specific fee, the land owner asked me to give however much I wanted for using the trail and for camping. I gave him 5000 colones (less than 10 USD) and he seemed very happy
Facilities: bathrooms and showers as well as camping at the parking lot
5. Paraiso del Manantiales
This place consists of a total of 8 beautiful waterfalls. They aren´t super big or have any fancy water color, but they are still very beautiful and worth a visit.
They require a short but also steep hike. The total round trip is only about 2 km, but basically steps all the way.
In addition to the waterfalls, the trail also features a spiral staircase, a hanging bridge and a lookout point.
There are some spots for swimming as well, so make sure to pack your swim wear and a towel!
The most impressive waterfall here is Catarata La Mica, a huge drop with multiple water streams – like out of a fairytale!
This place is, like the region itself, an amazing hidden gem. I had the place all to myself for the time I was there.
I kind of found this place accidentally on the IOverlander app, when I was looking for a campsite and this place popped up and had some really great comments, so I camped here and then explored the waterfalls the next morning. The round trip hike took me about two hours with multiple photo stops along the way.
Location: Located in Col del Toro, about 15 km North of Bajos del Toro
Opening hours: no specific opening hours
Entrance fee: 4000 colones (8 USD) for camping and 5000 colones (10 USD) for using the trails to the waterfalls
Facilities: restaurant (only open on weekends), bathrooms, showers
6. Other waterfalls in the area
While I have not visited any of those other waterfalls in the area, I thought I would put together a list of what I found on google maps as a reference.
I am sure there are MANY more accessible, I saw signs literally everywhere when I drove along the road.
- Catarata Tesoro Escondido
- Catarata Caida del Cielo
- Catarata Rio Agrio
- Cataratas Finca Dos Rios
- Cascada Poza Azul
- Pozas La Presa
I cannot recommend visiting this area enough! After visiting more popular places in Costa Rica, it was such a good feeling to come to a place with so little tourists and so many extremely beautiful waterfalls. The area is also known for it´s great hiking, so make sure to take advantage of that as well.
Make sure to check out other Costa Rica blog posts to help plan your perfect trip: