Visiting the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica? This guide has got you covered for the transport, the ways to get to the waterfalls, the tickets, the opening hours and tips on what to bring and when to go to the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica has plenty of stunning waterfalls, but probably the most spectacular ones are the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica. The two waterfalls are located in a dense, green jungle and have a combined height of 61 meters (or 200 feet). Of all the waterfalls I visited during my 3 week trip through Costa Rica, Nauyaca was by far the most spectacular and majestic. 

This post will provide everything you need to know to plan your visit to the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica.


The Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica

What to know before you go

Las Cataratas Nauyaca (the Nauyaca Waterfalls)

The Nauyaca Waterfalls are the perfect place to experience the raw power of nature in Costa Rica. The waterfalls are split into two sections, the lower and upper.

Lower Nauyaca Waterfall

After hiking for several hours (more about the hike below), I arrived in a wide canyon that was covered in lush greenery, made even greener from the mist of the cascading water. Via a 100 meter steep staircase, I arrived at the lower Nauyaca waterfall and saw the impressive waterfall in front of me and the lofty one just above. The lower waterfall is only 20 meters high (60 feet), but it was truly spectacular to see. The pool was surrounded by slippery rocks and offered enough space for everyone to relax.

As I went over the slippery stones into the cool water, I was surrounded by fish. They left me alone and I could swim on to the powerful shower under the hammering flow of the waterfall. How beautiful it was! The water was a wonderful antidote to the hot and sweaty hike I just completed. While I enjoyed the cool water, my friend took some epic photos.

Tip: The rocks around the Nauyaca waterfalls are slippery so bring some good gripping water shoes or sandals with you. If you need to change into a swimsuit, facilities are available right before the steps down to the falls. 

Upper Nauyaca Waterfall

After I visited the lower waterfall, I couldn’t wait to explore the upper waterfall. 

Via a wooden and metal construction I arrived at a mirador and had a fantastic view of the upper waterfall that cascades 45 meters (147 feet) into a pool that feeds the lower falls.

After taking some photos,I continued my way down to explore the rocks around the pool. Although it is possible to cross the large rocks for alternative vantage points, I wouldn’t recommend doing this. The rocks are very slippery and can cause accidents. I just stayed at the beginning of the rocks and had a picnic while I watched the impressive waterfall. 

The upper falls are very picturesque and worth visiting. You can’t swim here, but it’s a great spot for a picnic and some sunbathing.

How to get to the office of the Nauyaca Waterfalls?

The Nauyaca waterfalls are located on a private and well maintained property (owned by the Don Lulo family) in a canyon along the pacific coast of southern Costa Rica. The starting point of the way to the waterfalls (the office) is easily accessible from the popular nearby beach towns, such as Uvita, Dominical and Manuel Antonio. 

You can reach the office of the Nauyaca Waterfalls via public transportation, car, or taxi. I took an Uber towards the office and an Uber back to the hotel from the starting location of the hike. The best way to get to the office is to drive yourself. Here’s a quick overview of drive times:

  • Dominical: 20 minutes; 10 kilometers (6 miles)
  • Uvita: 30 minutes; 29 kilometer (18 miles)
  • Manuel Antonio: 50 minutes; 55 kilometer (34 miles)

To get to the Catarata Nauyaca office, turn onto Route 243 from Costanera Sur (route 34). It will be a left turn if you come from Manuel Antonio and a right turn if you come from Uvita. The turn is very obvious with signs towards the town Platanillo. Follow Route 243 for about 10km (6 miles). The Cataratas Nauyaca/Nauyaca Waterfall office will be on the right. There are a few parking spots available in front of the office. Inside, you can buy an entrance ticket (more on this below). 

Once tickets and registration is taken care of, you can drive towards the trailhead. Take the first road on the right after Don Lulo (about 30 meters after the office and marked by a yellow spray painted tire). It’s then a steep, curving drive for about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) down a paved road to the main car park (maps). There are often people walking on this road, so drive cautiously.

The car park has a security guard from 8am to 4 pm and there are also bathrooms. From the car park, you then simply have to exit and cross the bridge to join the main hiking trail to the waterfalls (see the next section for more on this).

If you don’t have a car, you can also take a bus from Dominical or Quepos. Just ask your ho(s)tel for more information regarding the bus schedule.

Side note: There is a new nature park that provides access to the eastern side of Nauyaca Waterfalls: The Nauyaca Waterfalls Nature Park. They offer a 10 minute truck ride to the waterfall for $27 and once you get off, it is a 600 meter walk down to the waterfalls. This article focuses on the entrance via the Don Lulo family office, the most common entrance.

How to get to the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica: self guided hike, horseback riding, 4×4 truck ride

There are different types of transportation possible towards the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica. The most common one is the self guided hike. Choose any of these options to reach the waterfalls!

Self guided hike to the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica

You can hike to the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica without a guide by following a rocky, dirt trail through the dense jungle.

If you travel without a car, you first have to hike 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) towards the entrance of the car park. This curving paved road is steep, but easy to walk.

From the car park, the hike is about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) one way and takes about 1.5 hours. The trailhead is located just down the path from the parking lot. From there, simply follow the signs!

From the car park, the hike became a bit more difficult, as I needed to hike up to the waterfall. It was not that steep, but still challenging and definitely a workout. I would say that you should be in moderate shape to complete the hike. The surroundings were truly beautiful. If you’re lucky you can spot several types of birds, some monkeys and many insects along the path.

Facts about hiking to the Nauyaca Waterfalls

  • Price to hike: $10
  • Make a reservation ahead of time here. You have to pay in the office once you get there
  • Reservation times: 7am, 9am, 11am (Monday – Saturday); 8am, 10am, 12pm (Sundays)
  • Your reservation time is 4 hours long and runs from the moment you buy your ticket until you leave the waterfall (the hike back to the parking lot is not included)
  • Wear some hiking boots or sandals. The trail is muddy and rocky
  • The weather is hot and humid, so dress appropriately and bring bug spray
  • Pack enough water! There is nowhere to buy food or drinks

4×4 truck ride to the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica

Another option is to reserve a 4×4 truck ride that starts in front of the office and brings you towards the waterfalls.This is honestly the fastest and easiest way to get to the waterfalls. If you’re short on time, this is your best option.

Facts about the 4×4 truck ride to the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica

  • Price to 4×4 truck ride: $32
  • Make a reservation in advance via the official website. You have to pay in the office once you get there
  • The truck departs every hour between 7:00am – 12:00pm and takes about 30 minutes
  • Your reservation time is 2 hours long and runs from the moment you arrive at the waterfalls (the drive back to the office is not included). This should be a good chunk of time
  • If you feel like making an entire day of it, you can book the premium truck tour for $80 per person, which includes a guided tour and lunch
  • The weather is hot and humid, so dress appropriately and bring bug spray
  • Pack enough water! There is nowhere to buy food or drinks

Horseback riding tour to the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica

Horseback riding is also a popular way to reach the waterfalls. Personally, I don’t support any tours that include animals, so I definitely skipped this one.

Facts about the horseback riding tour to the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica

  • Price to horseback riding tour: $80
  • Make a reservation in advance via the official website. You have to pay in the office once you get there
  • The tour runs Monday – Saturday. It is a full guided tour that lasts from 9am to 1:30pm and includes admission, lunch, and the round trip ride on horseback
  • You don’t need to know how to ride horses to take the horseback riding tour. 
  • The weight limit of 220 pounds is for people who don’t know how to ride and 240 pounds for people with experience
  • The weather is hot and humid, so dress appropriately and bring bug spray
  • Pack enough water! There is nowhere to buy food or drinks

Can you swim at the Nauyaca Waterfalls?

Yes, you can swim at the Nauyaca Waterfalls, but only the lower waterfall is suitable for swimming. The deep blue pool is beautiful and surrounded by green scenery. You can swim all the way up to the falls and climb on the rocks underneath the waterfall for a powerful shower. It’s the perfect place to swim, relax on the rocks, and enjoy the view.

What are the opening hours of the Nauyaca Waterfalls?

  • The office is open from 7am – 2pm Monday through Saturday, and 8am – 2pm on Sunday
  • The waterfalls close at 4:30pm, so you have to be out by then
  • The parking lot is open from 8am – 4pm. The only way to access the parking lot is with a parking ticket, which you buy at the office

What is the best time to visit the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica?

The best time to visit the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica is in the dry season (December – April), when the water is the bluest and the weather is the best. My photos were taken in January, for your reference. Visiting in the off season brings a high chance of heavy rains, that will cause the waterfall to swell and make the pool inaccessible.

I recommend arriving by 11am at the very latest in order to have enough time to cover the round trip hike and enjoy the waterfalls. To avoid the crowds and make the most of the setting, I recommend trying to get there before 8am (Don Lulo’s entrance opens at 7am). Sundays are the least crowded day to visit, because the horseback riding tours don’t operate.

What are the entrance fees of the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica?

The price of your entrance fee will depend on how you want to get to the falls. Here’s a quick overview of current entrance fees for Nauyaca Waterfalls:

  • The entrance fee to Nauyaca is $10 per person if you are hiking (¢3,500 colones for locals or residents)
  • The basic 4×4 truck ride is $32 per person
  • A full premium truck tour including breakfast, lunch, and a guide: $85 per person
  • Horseback riding tour: $80 per person
  • Parking fee for your vehicle: $3 USD or ¢1,700 colones per vehicle

Keep in mind that reservations are required for all tours to Nauyaca Waterfalls. This includes self-guided hikes. On arrival, you have to queue, register, and receive your tickets. If you only reserved them, you can pay with cash or card in-person.

What to wear and bring to the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica?

The hike is challenging, so I recommend you only wear and bring what you absolutely need. Below you will find an overview of the things I brought with me:

  • Lightweight breathable clothing, especially for the hike
  • Swimsuit (you can use changing rooms to change) and dry underwear
  • Small backpack
  • Water, lunch and snacks. You can’t get any food/water once you get to the falls
  • Filter water bottle if you have one
  • Hiking boots for the hike and sandals for the slippery rocks and swimming. Flip Flops or water shoes if you don’t have sandals.
  • Bug spray
  • Travel towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Rain jacket (just in case)
  • Camera, go pro or phone to make photos


I really enjoyed my hike to the Nauyaca waterfalls. It was the most spectacular waterfall that I visited in Costa Rica. The Nauyaca waterfalls are definitely an impressive natural attraction that shouldn’t be missed.

Do you plan on visiting Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica and do you have any questions left unanswered? Or have you visited the waterfalls and would like to share any other information? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Author: Daphne

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