A Trip To Nauyaca Waterfalls (without a car!)
The Nauyaca waterfalls are a duo of waterfalls and are one of the biggest attractions on the south west coast of Costa Rica! The first, a massive 45 metre high, cascades in free fall down an immense cliff crashing onto hundreds of large rocks below and the second, smaller at 20 metres, falls down a rough, jagged cliff edge and into a pool 1000 sq metres and up to 6 metres deep in size. The falls are one of the most beautiful spectacles I have ever seen. If you have time while visiting the pacific side of Costa Rica I would highly recommend spending the day enjoying them! Here’s what to expect from your day, and how to get there without a car!
Getting to The Nauyaca Waterfalls
We were travelling from Uvita, and found there was a bus at 6am from Uvita town that goes to San Isidro ( a city north east of Uvita) the line is called “Ciudad Cortes - San Isidro de Pérez Zeledon” and is run by Groupo Blanco. I found the bus times on The Moovit app, but The Uvita Information Center are always happy to help with any queries you may have as well.
This bus passes by the entrance to The Nauyaca Nature Park. I heard from other travellers in the area to try and avoid the crowds if at all possible by getting there very early so this bus seemed absolutely perfect!
We had been staying in Costa Rica for nearly two months and therefore knew not to trust the bus timetable fully- if the bus is 10 minutes early then the bus driver will not wait until the correct time of departure, and we had also had another situation where we waited for a bus which ended up being an hour late a couple of weeks before! With this knowledge we set out on the 20 minute walk to the bus stop at 5:35am. It was just getting light and the sky had a lovely pink glow.
The app I was using showed a bus stop out the front of the supermarket BM Uvita- however, there was no obvious bus stop and when a bus came past us the driver pointed to us to go further down the road so we headed down to the bus station between Terminal Tracopa and BM Pacifico in Uvita town centre. The bus eventually arrived, late at 6:20. We asked the driver to let us know when to get off, which he said he was happy to do. With many stops on the way the journey took 30 minutes, and the scenery over the hills with the sun coming up over the mist was absolutely breathtaking.
The Nauyaca Nature Park
The Nauyaca Park office opens at 7am. we got there 10 minutes early and there were already another 4 people waiting. There are different tickets to the park which you can buy- we opted for the cheapest which is $10 or ¢6000 (£6.90) which takes you on a 6km hike. The other tickets available to buy are a trek on horseback to the waterfalls or a tour riding on a 4x4 both costing $80.
Once we had paid and been given our wristbands, we were lucky enough to run into a couple with a rental car who gave us a lift to the car park which is 2km away from reception, cutting our 6km hike to 4km!
The walk was mainly on a gravel trail winding around two large hills, through jungle, along rivers and past farms. It did get muddy at times and very slippery (however, it had rained a lot the night before). 2km into the trail there is a restaurant where you can buy water or soft drinks. We were told the food is only available to people on the horseback or 4x4 tours. It took us about 2 hours to walk but it would be much quicker if we weren’t stopping to vlog and take photos all the time!
The sound hits you way before the view, we were walking in anticipation towards the loud noise of crashing water for about 20 minutes before we got to the entrance of the falls. When you get to the visitors centre there are toilets and changing areas and a boardwalk to take you to either waterfall 1 or 2. We chose to check out number 1 first as it is the biggest and we wanted to save swimming until last. The walk on the boardwalks only takes a couple of minutes and is in shade. The spray from the waterfalls reached us all the way from the lookout point, which is over a hundred metres away from the falls! We were very warm from our walk and the spray was so refreshing. We wanted to take our drone up and get a look from an aerial perspective but the jungle is so dense and the cliff so high the drone couldn’t reach enough satellites to let us take off- not to mention the force of the wind coming off the spray of the falls! It is possible to get to the very top of the waterfalls, however we were told by a guide there wasn’t a path it was just dense jungle so we decided against a potential second hike of the day!
Once we had stared at the magnificent sight of the first waterfall we headed down towards the second. This one was no less impressive and was much wider at approximately 80 metres wide with an amazing view of the first waterfall behind it.
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The trail down to the second waterfall takes you to the right hand side of the water. We had cooled down a lot from the spray and so decided to climb over rocks to get to the other side which was basked in Costa Rican January sun. However- It was much easier said than done! I would definitely recommend some sort of river shoe as the bottom looked very uneven and the current from the water pushes you downstream so footwear helps you grip. We just had some crocs and these did the job.
We wasted no time jumping straight into the freezing cold water, much colder than the Pacific Ocean we had become used to. The water was beautiful and blue and was a welcome remedy after our hike. By the time we decided to go for some food at 10:3am, there were a lot more people around. Ages ranged from 6 to over 50 and everyone was respectful of each other! You also couldn’t hear the crowd over the sound of the waterfall so it didn’t bother us.
While we were eating we noticed people swimming right up to the waterfall and going to sit on the rocks behind the torrential water. We jumped in the take a look and it was insane. The noise was so loud, even with shouting we couldn’t hear each other, the force at which the water falls was almost painful and the spray made it impossible to see until we got behind the sheet of water. If you ever make it to Nauyaca waterfalls make sure you swim to the rocks behind- it was one of the most liberating and freeing things I have ever done. Just as we were about to leave we noticed one of the guides climbing up the face of the waterfall with a rope. He proceeded to hook the rope nearly at the top of the waterfall and did an Olympic style dive off the top! The guides helped tourists climb the rocks to reach the top of the waterfall. Myself and my partner weren’t feeling very brave so we stood with the majority of the crowd to watch the very few thrill seekers jump off.
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We left the falls at 11:40am to head back. By now, there were lots of tourists now and it was getting very crowded. The bus line we had arrived on doesn’t come back past again, but there is a bus from San Isidro to Dominical, a neighbouring town 20km away from Uvita, where you can easily get a taxi for ¢10000 with a bit of haggling! This line came past at 13:05pm and 17:11pm so we would have missed the earlier one by about half an hour if we had climbed the 2km to the bus stop at reception, we were going to have to wait over 3 hours. Luckily we managed to get a lift from a couple of sisters who were headed to Quepos. They dropped us at Dominical where there was a bus arriving in just under 2 hours at 15:30pm- this is the “Quepos - Hatillo Viejo - Dominical- Uvita” line run by Tracopa Bus Company which runs throughout the day. Not wanting to wait we hitched a ride with a couple who had recently moved to the area from Arizona, US.
Unfortunately due to inconsistent bus times it is hard to get back from the Nauyaca falls during mid day (as we experienced!), so this is definitely something to bear in mind. Hitchhiking has always worked very well for us being on a budget, you just have to be cautious with who you get in a car with. If you have a larger budget than us, I would recommend using a taxi which shouldn’t cost more than ¢25000 (£29.06).
I would definitely recommend a day trip to the Nauyaca Waterfalls- they are a sight not to be missed, and a day I will remember for the rest of my life. Just make sure to get there early, and experience the rocks behind the falling water!
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Thanks for reading!