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Just 30 minutes south of Liberia Costa Rica, and only a mile or so off highway 1, the Pan-American highway, is the Llanos de Cortes waterfall, a wonderful place to visit and spend an afternoon to escape the heat.
The waterfall is about 60-70 feet high. The picture above was taken in the mid-February near the peak of dry season. When the rains return in May, the waterfall grows significantly until the water flow peaks in October.
The waterfall area has a nice sandy beach area around it and several calm ponds that are perfect for small children.
The beach entry is shallow and perfect for small children. You can wade/swim out next to the falls but only up to a buoy line. You cannot swim directly under the waterfall.
Even on the beach, the mist from the falls make it a perfect place to bring a few chairs, a small cooler and just sit back and relax.
The Llanos de Cortes park has an extremely clean restroom facility next to the main parking lot. In addition, there are men and women's changing rooms and showers. It really surprised me on how large and clean the facility was. It was better than most that I have seen in the United States.
There are no vendors within the park selling any food or drinks so you must bring your own.
Llanos de Cortes is about 17 miles (27 km) south of Liberia and about 2 miles (3 km) north of the town of Bagaces on Highway 1. This stretch of road is a beautiful two lane, divided cement highway making it a really easy drive.
If you are travelling south from Liberia, the exit is on the right and somewhat hidden by one of the large, blue pedestrian overpasses. Just a few feet after one of the several overpasses is the exit to the right as shown below. It is really easy to miss if you aren't paying attention.
Continue on the exit road a short distance until you see the entrance to the waterfall.
There will be a small office where you check in. There is a fee that varies between 1000 and 4000 colones per person. There are discounts for those 65 and older and additional discounts for temporary and permanent residents. If you are a legal resident you must show your DIMEX card. The 1000 colones fee applies to a person that is over 65 and a resident. The 4000 colones fee is for a someone on a tourist visa that is under 65.
The park is open all days of the week from 8am to 3pm.
Even in the middle of dry season, February to April, there is plenty of water coming over the falls to enjoy. When the rains start in May, this will increase. The heavy rains of September and October expand the waterfall and will prevent access to the lower beach. I would avoid visiting during these two months and perhaps also the end of August. Every year is different and it all depends on the recent rains.
Weekdays will have the least amount of people with the middle of the week being the least crowded. Sundays will be the most crowded. Avoid the two weeks around Christmas, the first week of January, the week before Easter (Semana Santa) and the first two weeks of July.
The parking lot is about 1/2 a mile from the check-in station. The lot does not have security so don't leave anything valuable inside, especially if it is visible.
The entrance to the path that takes you to the waterfall is adjacent to the parking lot. Look for the sign that says "waterfall" or "catarata" in spanish.
The trail is only about 100m in length and descends down approximately 70 steps, some made of cement and some with boards with gravel. There is also a rope railing. The trail is not overly steep or difficult. If your are somewhat active, you shouldn't have an issue.
However, if you go down 70 steps, at some point you have to go back up 70 steps. With the Guanacaste heat and humidity, it could be a challenge for some depending on the weather conditions. There is no handicap access available.
Llanos de Cortes is the perfect day trip getaway that is easy to access while also making you feel completely submersed in the beauty that Costa Rica has to offer.