Catarata Vuelta del Canon - the most beautiful
waterfall in Costa Rica
Catarata Vuelta del Canon (Catarata Vuelta del Cañón) – Is this the most beautiful waterfall in Costa Rica? At least for me, out of the ones I have visited, this is by far the most beautiful.
When I saw a video of this waterfall on Instagram, I knew I had to come and check it out!
This waterfall is my favorite hidden gem in Costa Rica and easily makes it under my TOP 3 waterfalls worldwide.
One of the main reasons for how much I love it is that it is hardly visited and not so easily reachable.
But more details in the short but sweet blog post below! I´m sharing everything you need to know to visit this gorgeous place by yourself!
1. About Catarata Vuelta del Canon
Catarata Vuelta del Canon is located in 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 home to an insane amout of beautiful waterfalls. If you are into waterfalls and want to check out the area, make sure to check out THIS blog post.
Catarata Vuelta del Canon is only reachable by a 5 kilometer (about 3 miles) hike from the main road.
Even though the area is generally much less visited by tourists compared to other parts of Costa Rica, this waterfall is due to it´s location even less visited than most other waterfalls in the area.
The hike includes several muddy trails, some rock climibing and 14 river crossings, but more about that in the hike section.
Once you arrive at the waterfall, you will be blown away by it´s beauty. Pictures don´t do this place justice. The remote location, clear blue water and two level falls and beautiful pool to swim in are just incredible.
The lush vegetation around the waterfalls make it seem like out of a fairytale! The waterfall walls covered with moss, somehow reminded me of Iceland.
You gotta see it for yourself to feel the magic!
2. How to get there
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, so you don´t need a 4×4 to get here. Most of the roads around town have quite big potholes, so make sure you you drive slowly and carefully.
A rental car is certainly the easiest option to get here, even though you can also make it with a public bus from San Jose.
Even though you might be able to hop on a bus from San Jose, getting around in Bajos del Toro will require a car as well unless you prefer walking a lot.
I am sharing the 3 relevant google maps locations for Catarata Vuelta del Canon below:
The parking lot is only a few minutes walk form the actual trail head, both are marked with signs on the main road.
Unfortunately, there is no Alltrails route available for this hike yet and I have not found any other resource online either. However the trail was very well marked and basically can´t get lost, if you have a look around for signs and marks at all times.
I also camped at the parking lot for one night before the hike. There are not that many options in the area, but check out my Bajos del Toro blog post for more information on where to stay.
3. The hike to Catarata Vuelta del Canon
As mentioned, the trailhead is located at a cowfarm, a few minutes walk from the parking lot.
Once you get there, you find the farm owner (he is usually working around the farm or in the house on the left.
He will open the gate past the cow farm for you, which is where the trail starts.
Even though I was initially a bit concerned as the land owner did not advice me to do the hike alone and there was no route on alltrails or anywhere else on the internet, I was positively surprised how well the trail was marked.
Basically at any point where there is more than 1 option, there is always either a white arrow indicating the direction to Catarata del Canon or a colored band tied to a tree.
Also whenever you are not crossing a river, the trail is well visible as such and easy to follow.
The trail first leads through the fields with cows around and soon changed into a cloud forest. After a kilometer or so, the terrain starts to be a bit more open for a little while.
Towards the end of the hike, the vegetation is quite dense and you cross the river 14!! Times, most of the crossings being within the last kilometer of the hike.
The water does not get higher than knee-deep at those crossings and it´s a great way to wash the mud off your shoes and cool off a little bit.
I would rate this hike as intermediate difficulty.
There is not really any elevation gain during the hike, however the muddy trail (like really muddy) wading through knee-deep water and climbing over some rocks make it intermediate.
For me personally, these kind of hikes are the most enjoyable ones.
I don´t like hikes with elevation gains too much, but climbing over rocks, through mud and water is my kind of adventure!
Distance & Duration
The one-way distance to Catarata Vuelta del Canon from the trailhead is about 5 kilometers (3 miles ish). Due to the muddy and uneven terrain, the hike one-way takes about 2 hours.
If you are rushing, you can probably also make it in about 1 ½ hours. However I would take my time, stop every now and then and on a sunny day maybe even take a swim in the river on the way to the waterfall.
Once you approach the waterfall from the trail, you will see from the distance, that it consists of many different level falls, but once you are in front of it you only see two of them.
4. Hiking by yourself vs taking a tour
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.
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).
While most people definitely visit this waterfall with a guide or a tour, you can, if you are up for an adventure and experienced hiker, quite easily make this hike by yourself. Even better if you are a group of persons traveling together.
Please note that this is not a professional advice whatsoever, just my honest opinion.
I´ve been reading that the tour is about 20 USD, so also not expensive at all for Costa Rica!
Another option I found on Instagram is ECOTOURS TORO AMARILLO 360.
You can also hire private local guides, just ask for a contact at the cow farm the evening before you want to hike.
I found this one online with a good review in case you are interested: Marcos Peréz, +506 84028743.
Access to the trail does not actually cost anything, but the land owner might ask you for a donation. I gave him 5000 colones (just below 10 USD) for using the trail and for camping for one night at the parking lot and he seemed very happy.
6. What to bring?
Hiking boots or sneakers that you don´t mind getting wet and muddy will be just fine.
If you are traveling with a bunch of different electronics, like I do, you should definitely bring a waterproof bag. With 14 river crossing, there is a realistic chance you will fall into the water and you will want your electronics to be save!
Even though the hike is not very exhausting or super long, make sure to bring some snacks along the way.
As for every other hike, make sure to bring enough water with you.
Due to the muddy parts and river crossings, I was very happy to have my walking sticks with me. I would have fallen at least 3 times along the way, if I would not have had them!
You will want to take many pictures of this beautiful waterfall! Make sure to bring either your camera or smartphone with sufficient battery.
There are quite a few mosquitoes in this area, bring some mosquito spray to not take home too many bites as souvenirs.
Even though the trail is shady for the most part, bring some sunscreen for the open areas on a clear day.
Ready for this epic adventure hike?
This blog post should include everything you need to know before going on this adventure! Enjoy!
Make sure to check out other Costa Rica blog posts to help plan your perfect trip: