If you are looking to visit the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica, then you are in the right place!
I have been exploring the beautiful nature Costa Rica has to offer since 2013 and have to say, this waterfall is one of the best in the country.
My husband and I recently visited the Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast and had an amazing time.
With beautiful scenery along the way, and picturesque views of the falls above a beautiful blue river, the Nauyaca falls are a must-visit in Costa Rica.
Read on to find out all you need to know about this beautiful waterfall.
This post may contain affiliate links, which help keep the blog running at no cost to you. Thank you for helping support Adventures Abound so I can keep creating free content for your adventure planning! We were hosted by the Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park, however, all opinions are our own honest experience while visiting!
Location / Different Routes
The first thing you need to know is that there are two different access points to reach Nauyaca Falls.
Both locations have a similar name. Nauyaca Waterfall is the name of the waterfall, and is also the namesake of the original access point. Owned by Don Lulo, a local family owns the private land leading to the falls and offers 3 methods to reach them: hiking, horseback tour, or 4×4 shuttle.
Don Lulo’s Nauyaca Waterfalls is accessible from the main road, not far from Dominical Beach.
Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park, however, is a newer access point, situated further inland, and offers a shorter hike to the falls.
Both locations offer stunning views of the waterfalls, but the Nature Park hike is less strenuous, making it more suitable for families and those looking for an easier trek.
We also found that the views seem to be better from the Nature Park, according to photos we have seen visitors take from each, though they do end up at the same waterfall, just on opposite sides of the river.
Map of Nauyaca Waterfall
Visiting Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park
Reaching the Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park is straightforward and can be done by driving or through a paid tour.
Directions to Nauyaca Waterfall (Don Lulo’s)
If you’re driving, follow the directions to Dominical on the Pacific Coast. From there, head towards Platanillo on Route 243. Around 5.7 miles from Dominical, you’ll find the entrance to the Nauyaca Waterfalls on the right side of the road. There’s a sign marking the entrance, so keep an eye out.
Directions to Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park
To get to the nature park, continue on Route 243 for about 10.5 miles until you get to a large yellow sign for the park. Turn right here, at the Natural Mystic Church Office, and continue on this gravel road for about 4 miles until you reach the park office. Ample parking is available for those driving.
Alternatively, if you prefer a hassle-free experience, consider a paid tour.
Numerous tour operators in Dominical and Manuel Antonio offer day trips to the Nauyaca Waterfalls and other stops nearby. The tour includes transport, entrance fees, and often comes with a guide who can share fascinating facts about the falls and the surrounding nature.
We learned from a tour guide who was riding our shuttle down to the falls that the name Nauyaca comes from the indigenous Mesoamerican word in Náhuatl for the Fer-de-lance, a venomous snake that used to be commonly found in the area.
While at the falls we passed several tours that also provided fresh fruit and water for the guests on their tours. As it was a very hot day, it certainly seemed like a nice treat!
Regardless of how you choose to get there, visiting Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park is an experience you won’t want to miss when in Costa Rica.
Accessing the Falls
Once you arrive to the entrance of Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park, there are several ways to access the falls.
While they technically offer an option to hike from the entrance and take the 4×4 shuttle back, we wouldn’t recommend it. The way is rough and steep on gravel roads with no shade in the hot tropical sun. Hiking from the entrance to the falls is around 1.67 miles, or a suggested 45 minutes.
4×4 Shuttles run regularly from the entrance to the shelter where the hiking trails begin. From there, it is a short hike to the upper and lower falls – roughly half a mile to both and about .3 mi back up to the pickup point. We recommend taking the shuttle both ways.
Something unique about visiting Nauyaca Waterfall from the Nature Park entrance is that you have access to a better view of the upper falls. The first trail ends in a little cave with beautiful up-close views of the upper falls’ 177 foot drop.
There are several benches where you can sit and enjoy the view, and even a little table we saw guides using to serve the fresh-cut fruits they brought for their visitors.
Being careful to pick your way over the slippery rocks, you can even swim in a shallow pool. The depth will of course depend on water levels of the season.
Once you have your fill of the upper falls, the trail connects to the Lower Falls Trail about 1/3 of the way back up.
The iconic view of Nauyaca Waterfall awaits you at the bottom of the Lower Falls Trail. There is a viewpoint with a small railing and bench at the end of the trail, which then gives way to a field of boulders perfect for snapping a photo of your adventure. This may be one of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica!
From here, you can enter the pool at the bottom of the falls, or turn around and follow the side trail down to the creamy blue river. The lower falls are wider with an 85-foot drop into a 22 ft deep pool.
In the dry season, these are calm waters that are perfect for cooling off in. Unfortunately during the rainy season they may not be safe for swimming, and the fast water may muddy the blue color to a degree. If you do want to get into the water, proceed with caution, especially after high rains.
From what we can tell of the photos and other accounts online, the Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park access point has a better view of the upper and lower falls here as well.
Though they are the same waterfall, the view will be slightly different at each side. Technically you can swim across the river to get a glimpse from each side, but as they are both on private property you are not allowed to go very far up the trail opposite from whence you come.
Enjoying Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park
Nature Park Trails
The Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park is more than just another access point to the waterfall – they also have trails through the rainforest.
As someone who has lived and hiked in places with lots of rain for many years (Seattle, anyone?) I can say confidently that these trails are extremely well-maintained.
We visited in December, at the tail-end of the rainy season and found the main trails to be in perfect condition. We did not have a chance to hike the riverwalk, rainforest, or mountain goat trails.
On our way back up, we saw a troop of Howler monkeys swinging through the trees. I am not an expert so it was hard to say for sure with the darkening light and no loud males calling, so I consulted my dear friend and behavior ecologist Dr. Grace Davis – who confirmed!
They even had a sweet little baby with them!
Another thing we really appreciated about the nature park was the facilities. The entrance had beautiful views overlooking the rainforest and Diamante Waterfall, with hammocks and picnic tables, and offer free water and coffee.
In addition to that, the hiking trails start off at the shelter where the 4x4s drop off, also called the Rancho in Spanish.
Here there are tons of hammocks and picnic tables, yard games like giant Jenga, restrooms, an outdoor shower, free wifi, and even a stand for cutting your fruit. There are also a plethora of really nice bamboo walking sticks.
You can hang out here and relax while waiting for the shuttle back to the entrance and parking lot.
After a short, steep walk down from the Shelter, there is an additional pick-up point for the 4×4 (by request), where there is also a stand with running water, benches, and additional walking sticks.
This area is where we were picked up at the end of our hike, along with the last few visitors at the end of the day. You can request to be picked up here, or make your way back to the rancho shelter.
There is a laminated card with the contact information for the shuttle, which comes ad-hoc when requested. If you don’t have cell service, you will want to hike up to the shelter to use the free wifi and contact the office on Whatsapp.
We have heard that the shuttle option for Don Lulo’s Nauyaca Waterfall entrance has a limited time between drop-off and pickup, so keep that in mind if that is the entrance you use for visiting the waterfall.
If you would like to purchase lunch and have it ready by the time you return to the entrance of the park, just let them know before you grab the shuttle down to the trails. We highly recommend this unless you pack your own, due to the remote location.
They offer a meat and vegetarian lunch option, which is 5,000 CRC or $10 per person. We enjoyed one of each along with freshly made passionfruit juice overlooking the jungle. It was the perfect end to our visit.
Best Time to visit Nauyaca Waterfall
The best time of day to visit Nauyaca waterfall is early morning – both because of the beautiful lighting with the sun streaming over the falls, and to avoid crowds. The waterfall is very popular and can get busy during the middle of the day. Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park opens at 7:30 daily.
The second best time of day is towards the end of the day – we visited around 2 pm and ended up being the last people at the falls and having them all to ourselves. It also helped that we were there on a weekday and just before Christmas.
The off-season, such as before everyone starts traveling for the holidays is another ideal time to visit.
Finally, we recommend coming to the falls during the dry season. Though there is less water cascading, the trails are dry rather than muddy and slippery, and the pools and river are much safer for swimming.
The dry season is also a high tourist season, so this is why we recommend an early morning visit to avoid some of the crowds.
Where to Stay
Uvita is the closest town to Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park, and there are many options for accommodation in this area. From budget hostels to luxury resorts, you can find something that suits your needs.
If you prefer to be closer to the park, there are also some eco-lodges and cabins available within a short drive or walk from Nauyaca.
Dominical is another nearby town with a laid-back surfer vibe and a variety of accommodation options. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park.
Manuel Antonio is a popular tourist destination in Costa Rica and also within driving distance of Nauyaca, though a bit farther as it’s about an hour away. Manuel Antonio offers a wide range of hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals to choose from, as well as the popular namesake national park.
No matter where you stay, the stunning Nauyaca Waterfall will be just a short trip away.
Tips for Visiting
There are two options for Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park
- Hike down, shuttle back $28
- Shuttle both ways $38
They also offer discounts for children and Costa Rican residents. Contact them directly on Whatsapp for pricing.
Entrance can be purchased in advance through the website or in person at the main office.
What to Pack
If you’re planning to experience Nauyaca Waterfalls, let’s make sure you’ve got everything you need to make your visit comfortable and unforgettable:
- Change of clothes
- Bug spray
- Shoes with tread + water shoes, or a combination like Tevas
- Quick-dry towel
Make sure you are covered with a travel insurance policy in case anything happens!
Wrapping up this guide to the Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park
Whether you’re gearing up for a thrilling adventure or a peaceful escape amidst the verdant beauty of Costa Rica, Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park promises an experience that’s as refreshing as the crystal clear waters cascading down its majestic falls.
Though there are two access points run by separate private entities, this guide details everything you need to know about visiting the Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park.
In our view, it has better vistas, trails, and access to the falls plus they offer a delicious Costa Rican lunch.
Let us know if you visit and what your thoughts are about the falls!
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