This post shares everything you need to know about visiting the Blue Falls of Costa Rica. One of the most adventurous waterfall experiences in the country, this complex is home to not one, but six vibrant blue waterfalls!
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About the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is full of mind-blowing waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, but the Blue Falls of Costa Rica is on a whole other level – for more reasons than one.
The most popular falls around the country are usually home to one main waterfall, and maybe a few other small cascades or pools. But the privately owned complex of the Blue Falls is home to not one, not two, but six separate blue waterfalls! If you want to get technical there are actually more like seven or eight falls, but the sights are clustered into six different attractions.
And secondly, the waterfalls really are (as the name suggests) a vibrant, milky blue colour. This unique phenomenon is only seen in a few places around the country, but the beauty of the Blue Falls is that you can experience it without the crowds.
The entire Bajos del Toro region (strangely) still flies under the radar with most international visitors, and there is a seriously good chance you can visit the Blue Falls with little to no other visitors. This is highly unlikely at any of the other blue waterfalls around Costa Rica, such as Rio Celeste near La Fortuna, which is one of the most popular and attracts big crowds.
Blue Falls of Costa Rica quick facts
How to get to the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
The Blue Falls of Costa Rica, and all the waterfalls in Bajos del Toro, are best visited with your own rental car. There is very limited public transport around the region, and even if you were able to reach Bajos del Toro via bus, it would be near impossible to move between the waterfalls.
The Blue Falls are on Route 708, which is where most of the region’s waterfalls are clustered.
Although it’s possible to drive all the way up 708 from the south, we would recommend driving to the Blue Falls via Route 126, which means you will actually loop around and approach the waterfalls from the north.
It’s much quicker to drive via Route 126 and connect with Route 708 in the north, as you will avoid the very heavily pot-holed section of 708 in the south. The trip is easily done in a normal car, no 4×4 is required. The road is winding and climbs through the mountains, but it’s in relatively good condition. Once you’re in Bajos del Toro, Route 708 is paved, but even in the northern section, there are some enormous potholes. It is definitely passable with any car, you just need to drive slowly and carefully.
Cost to visit the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
There are a couple of different tickets you can choose from to visit the Blue Falls of Costa Rica, and we were able to pay by card or cash.
If you just want to visit the Blue Falls of Costa Rica, the entrance fee (at the time of writing) was $15 USD per person. However, we would highly recommend going for the combo option with Catarata del Toro, which is $25 USD per person.
Owned by the same people, this incredible waterfall is just down the road and is absolutely worth a visit. Catarata del Toro is quicker and easier to visit, so we would highly recommend tacking this on to your day at the Blue Falls of Costa Rica.
There is a third option to visit the Blue Falls of Costa Rica, which is the Full Extreme Tour. This is $50 USD per person and must be booked in advance. It also includes access to Catarata del Toro. I will touch more on the differences between the normal (Light option) and the guided (Full Extreme option) below.
Do you need a guide to visit the Blue Falls of Costa Rica?
The first thing I want to comment on here is that the visitor experience at the Blue Falls has evolved A LOT over the years. Previously, you couldn’t visit without a guide because access to the falls was difficult, without a lot of infrastructure.
The owners have slowly been increasing and improving access to the falls, with new trails and bridges and staircases installed to reduce steep climbs and river crossings in parts.
Because of this, you do NOT need a guide to visit the Blue Falls of Costa Rica.
If you purchase the standard entry ticket ($15 USD, also referred to as the ‘light’ option) OR if you go for the combo with Catarata del Toro ($25 USD, this combines the ‘light’ option as above with Catarata del Toro) you won’t have a guide. You don’t need to reserve in advance, and you can simply visit both attractions on your own schedule.
Because the Blue Falls are still quite raw and natural, with slippery trails, some river crossings and strong waters, you will see guides and staff all over the property. They are very friendly and will be keeping an eye on you to make sure you are safe and give you a hand with any tricky parts of the trails or falls. We were asked a few times if we wanted a guide to accompany us to the next waterfall, so that option is always there if you feel need an extra hand. I don’t think this was going to incur any extra cost, they just roam around the property to make sure everyone is okay.
So the short answer is no, you don’t need a guide. But it is possible to visit the Blue Falls with a guide…
Light option v Full Extreme tour
The Full Extreme tour is a completely different offering to the standard ‘light’ entry ticket. This tour is a 5 – 6 hour experience, with a personal guide the entire time. You have to book in advance directly with the Blue Falls of Costa Rica.
With the expertise and help from your guide, you will go off the usual trails, visiting all 6 waterfalls/pools, plus some other areas not open to the general public. The tour is designed to be a bit more thrilling, so you can expect more river crossings, tricky trails and some fun swimming and jumping.
From what I can understand, this tour used to be a more attractive option, when not all 6 of the attractions were open to the general public. When the access was not safe enough for the masses, taking the Full Extreme tour with a guide allowed you to see a lot more.
However now the standard trails are in much better condition, you can visit all the falls without a guide or tour. Apparently, the tour route has changed, and you still go to places not accessible to other visitors, but we didn’t feel it was worth it for the extra cost.
Although all the reviews we have seen about the tour are fantastic, so if you feel like you would appreciate having a personal guide to help you out throughout the day, and to get a little further off the beaten track, it could be a good option for you.
When to visit the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
The Blue Falls of Costa Rica are NOT open on Sundays. It seems strange for a popular tourist attraction, but it is very important you remember that!
The waterfalls are open from Monday – Saturday, from 7 am – 5 pm. Arrive as early as possible to beat the crowds (although crowds in Bajos del Toro aren’t really much!), and avoid weekends if you really want the place to yourself. This place is more popular with locals than international visitors, so visiting early on a weekday gives you a pretty decent chance of encountering few crowds.
Amenities at the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
There are very few amenities at the Blue Falls of Costa Rica. There is a free gravel parking lot across the road from the entrance, where you will see a marquee set up with a staff member. The property is very natural, which we loved, so don’t be expecting man-made amenities all over.
We did see porta loos inside the grounds when we visited, but there was a film crew there filming a religious documentary, so I don’t know if they were simply set up for the crew, or if they are permanently there.
Either way – be expecting a very natural area with few amenities, but a whole lot of beauty.
Catarata del Toro, just up the road, is where you will find more amenities. There is a lodge-style building with a ticket booth, a restaurant selling basic drinks and snacks, and toilets.
Why is the water blue?
Good question! The water at the Blue Falls of Costa Rica contains a high level of aluminium sulphate. When the light reflects on it, it produces a vibrant blue colour.
It’s important to note that the river and falls are not bright blue all the time. Because the colour is essentially an optical illusion created by light, if you visit on a cloudy or rainy day, the blue tone won’t be as vibrant. If you visit during the wet season (May – October) after very heavy rain, the water can appear murky and brown, as sediment from the riverbed has churned up.
How to see the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
The Blue Falls of Costa Rica are not as simple to access as some of the other waterfalls around the country. This privately owned reserve is over 126 acres / 51 hectares and there is a fair amount of walking involved to reach the falls.
From the car park, you’ll follow a trail through open, green fields for about 1-1.5 km / 0.6-0.9 mi, where you will reach a junction. There are guides here to further explain the property, and point you in the right direction.
The falls and pools are grouped into 6 main attractions:
- Las Gemelas
- Poza Azul
- La Celestial
- La Turquesa
- La Pintada
The first three are clustered together in one direction, and the second set of three are on a different part of the property. They generally recommend visiting the first 3 falls first, and then seeing how you feel. These are the most popular ones and are a little easier to access than the other set. Many visitors just visit this part of the property, and if you’re short on time or energy, it will definitely satisfy your dose of blue falls.
If you’re still going strong and want to visit the other 3, you’ll end up back at the initial junction, before continuing deeper into the property. I wouldn’t say these three were necessarily harder to reach, but the trails are not as complete here, and work is still being done to improve access. So it’s a little muddier and slipperier.
We walked to all 6 attractions and Brayden’s Garmin watch said we had done about 8 km / 5 mi when we were finished, and we were at the site for around 4 hours, including plenty of stops for swimming, photos and lunch.
Is the trail to the Blue Falls of Costa Rica difficult?
I would rate this hike as moderate – hard. It is at least a solid 4+ hours of walking and exploring if you want to see all the falls, and the terrain is tough! The trails are there to give you the bare minimum access to the falls and nothing more. They are still very natural for the most part, which makes the experience even more magical and adventurous than having a flat concrete sidewalk.
A ton of work has been done to make it possible to even hike here, but the trails are uneven, incredibly slippery and steep in parts. Don’t get me wrong – we loved every second of it! But it is quite challenging and we were constantly watching our footing, navigating over rocks, crossing rivers etc. Some of the falls are easier to access than others and the guides on-site can advise the best options if you aren’t up to doing it all. But if you’ve got limited mobility or little kids, I would say it would be hard to (enjoyably) see the Blue Falls.
The 6 Blue Falls of Costa Rica
First group of three
These three falls are the most popular, and the easiest to access. We would recommend starting your hike here, and if you’ve still got energy you can continue on to the other three.
This waterfall is located at the furthest reaches of the property and was probably the most difficult to reach as it is quite steep.
You enter a patch of dense forest and ascend a few hundred metres up wooden stairs. As you get closer to the blue river, you walk back downhill, eventually coming to the riverbank and crossing the river. You need to rock hop along the bank a few hundred metres before you find an almost perfectly symmetrical waterfall pouring into a pool below.
You can swim here, and there was plenty of open rocky areas to sit down and have a rest or a snack. We had our picnic lunch here, and had the waterfall all to ourselves!
2. Las Gemelas
Meaning ‘The Twins’ in Spanish, Las Gemelas are the most iconic set of waterfalls at the Blue Falls of Costa Rica. Originally, there was only access to this pair of cataratas, so their image has long been associated with the site, and visitors are most excited to see these two falls.
The easiest to access, from the main path there is a metal staircase to descend down to the riverbank, and a sturdy bridge to cross the blue river. From the bridge, you can see one of the gemelas, and after walking a few hundred metres along the banks of the river the other will come into view.
The falls are mere metres from each other, but it is crazy how different the shades of blue are. The first fall is a lighter, milkier blue. But the second one was vibrant, like Gatorade. It’s possible to swim in both of these falls if you wish. There is some slippery rock hopping, especially to reach the second one, but it is absolutely worth it!
3. Poza Azul
Just a little further from the turn-off to Las Gemelas is Poza Azul, meaning blue pool in Spanish. A short, easy walk down to the riverbed leads you to a big, calm blue pool. There is a series of very small falls cascading in the pool, and it’s possible to swim here. From the pool, you can look back up the river and see the bridge to reach Las Gemelas.
It was raining at this point of our visit, and we figured we couldn’t get any wetter so we went in for a swim. The water was take-your-breath-away cold, but so beautiful and refreshing. There’s not a ton of space on the riverbanks to sit down or put your things, so I would save your picnic for another fall.
Second group of three
Once you’ve finished the first three, you walk back towards the entrance to reach the junction. If you want to continue, it’s not too much further to see these other three falls, but the trails are not in as good condition. We would definitely recommend continuing on, the forest is much thicker and these falls felt very magical and isolated.
4. La Pintada
This waterfall is the furthest of the three, and we would suggest starting here and working your way back. After following a semi-gravel path through open fields, you’ll enter a very dense forest and take a steep, slippery trail down.
You reach a viewpoint looking over an incredible waterfall pouring into a large blue pool. But the most special thing about La Pintada is how the river continues from the pool in a horseshoe shape. The vibrant blue water snakes through lush greenery, cutting a really unique path into the forest.
It’s not possible to swim here, and the lookout is elevated quite high above the water. But this really feels like a pinch-me fairy tale moment. You’re standing in a lush, misty forest looking at the most picture-perfect blue waterfall. It’s like a scene from a movie.
5. La Turquesa
From La Pintada, the return trail diverts to the left and you can follow this to reach La Turquesa without needing to backtrack all the way to the open gravel trail. This small, but lovely waterfall is a very vibrant blue. After a short walk descending through the forest, you reach the river and have to walk upstream for a few metres to reach the pool. You can swim in the pool here.
Unfortunately, as we were walking towards La Turquesa, a thick blanket of mist rolled in, turning the forest into a cloud forest within seconds. Rains were on the way, and the guides we encountered on the trail decided it was not safe to visit as you have to cross the river. They were concerned about low visibility and strong currents if it had been raining further into the mountains. So sadly we don’t have a photo from La Turquesa, but this is a photo of how eerie the forest become, it was very mystical to physically see the clouds roll in.
6. La Celestial
A steep descent down slippery stairs through the forest leads to La Celestial. This thundering fall might not have a lot of height, but the wide curtain of water pouring down into the pool below is seriously strong.
This waterfall felt quite cramped as there is not a lot of space on the riverbank or next to the pool, so you’re kind of clambering over the guide and other people to move around. Another spot to skip for a picnic, but instead opt for a swim.
This was the final fall we were going to see for the day, so even though it was cold and raining we jumped in. The current of the waterfall is very strong, so this one isn’t suitable for children. The water was freezing but the power of the waterfall was so impressive and it was amazing to swim underneath it.
Catarata del Toro
As I mentioned earlier, the owners of the Blue Falls of Costa Rica have another attraction – the Catarata del Toro. Before our visit, I was a little confused about how it all worked, so I will briefly explain it here.
It is possible to just visit the Blue Falls of Costa Rica on their own. But if you’re up for the adventure of the Blue Falls, you will most likely want to visit Catarata del Toro too. For the ticket combo value at $25, you may as well!
Catarata del Toro is actually the original and you could say ‘main’ attraction. The waterfall has become quite popular, and due to the relative ease of accessing it, this waterfall receives more visitors. It is here where you will find the main infrastructure, like the ticket booth, restaurant, and bathrooms.
We were advised to visit Catarata del Toro first, and then move on to the Blue Falls. We would recommend this, as Catarata del Toro is much quicker and you can’t swim, so it’s best to get that done before you go the Blue Falls, which takes much longer, and you’re likely to finish wet, muddy and tired!
We drove and parked our car at Catarata del Toro. This is where we bought our tickets for both waterfalls and got a combo wristband. Once we had seen Catarata del Toro (read about our experience here), we jumped in the car, drove a couple of minutes up the road, and parked in the parking lot of the Blue Falls. We showed our wristbands, and in we went to the Blue Falls.
What to bring to the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
You will most likely be at the Blue Falls of Costa Rica for at least 3-4 hours, so it’s worth thinking ahead to what you’ll need and packing accordingly. Here’s what we brought with us…
- 🥾 Sturdy walking shoes – full-blown hiking boots aren’t required, but they will come in handy at the Blue Falls of Costa Rica if you have them. The trail is very steep in parts, going down stairs, across rivers and over rocks. There are parts where your feet may get wet, as you will be rock hopping across rivers so we opted to wear water shoes, and would recommend that over hiking shoes. I always wear my Teva sandals and Brayden has some trainer-style water shoes.
- 👙 Swimmers – you will want to jump in and swim in the incredible pools, even though the water is FREEZING! I would recommend coming in your swimmers as there aren’t any change rooms onsite.
- 💧 Towel – to dry off, as you will be swimming then walking again to other falls.
- 🎒 Waterproof bag – for any activity involving water (or possible rain) we use a waterproof bag. We have both an entire backpack that is completely waterproof, and also smaller waterproof sacks that we use for the camera and drone, as an added layer of protection and peace of mind. You will be crossing rivers, and walking very close to the waterfalls so you don’t want to take any risks with your stuff.
- 🧥 Rain jacket – this area of Costa Rica is cool and moist, so you should be ready for rain at any time! The rain rolled in towards the end of our visit, and the entire rainforest turned into a cloud forest within seconds, it was super eerie, and I’m glad I had a raincoat!
- 🦟 Insect repellent – apply before entering the rainforest so you don’t pollute the air, and consider using a natural spray.
- 💧 Water – bring plenty of water! You will be walking for hours, the trail is steep in parts and hot and humid in the rainforest. Be sure to use a reusable bottle and avoid creating any more plastic pollution. The water in this part of Costa Rica is clean and safe to drink, and there is a tap in the car park of Catarata del Toro that is free to fill up your bottles.
- 🍎 Snacks – we would definitely recommend packing some substantial snacks or a picnic lunch. If you’re planning to see all the falls, you’ll be at the site for at least 3-4 hours. The hiking can be tough, so you’ll no doubt be hungry. We actually packed a full lunch which we enjoyed at one of the waterfalls, as well as some sweet snacks and fruit. We always pack our snacks into reusable containers, so we aren’t bringing any plastic into nature.
Where to stay near the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
The owners of the Blue Falls and Catarata del Toro previously offered a couple of cabins on-site. This is no longer the case. You also used to be able to camp in the car park, but they don’t allow this anymore, so you need to seek accommodation elsewhere.
There are a handful of accommodation options around Bajos del Toro for a range of budgets. We recommend:
If you’re camping in Bajos del Toro, as we were in our Nomad America Troop Carrier, you can camp at:
Where to after the Blue Falls of Costa Rica?
We highly recommend staying for at least one night in Bajos del Toro, so you can visit a few other waterfalls in the area. We stayed for two nights, and in addition to the Blue Falls, we visited Catarata del Toro, Paraiso Manantiales and Catarata Vuelta del Cañon. Our next stop was La Fortuna.
The Blue Falls of Costa Rica is an absolute hidden gem! Six sets of vibrant, Gatorade blue waterfalls and pools, in a lush cloud forest without any crowds – what more could you want? We loved how natural and adventurous it was to hike to these falls, and highly recommend including a visit to the Blue Falls on your Costa Rica itinerary.