Is this the BEST Waterfall in Costa Rica? A guide to Nauyaca Waterfalls

Is this the BEST Waterfall in Costa Rica? A guide to Nauyaca Waterfalls

HOW TO VISIT NAUYACA WATERFALLS | Our guide has got you covered for the hike, the transport, the tickets and tips on how to have the best day possible!

Read on …


As the owner of Vayu Retreat Villas, nestled in the lush landscapes of Costa Rica, I’ve seen firsthand how the pursuit of the perfect waterfall adventure often leads guests to want more—many waterfalls are more of a gentle flow rather than the dramatic cascade adventurers hope for. However, I’m proud to say that Nauyaca Waterfall, a short drive from our retreat (Google map here) consistently exceeds expectations with its breathtaking beauty and raw power (with a little adventure mixed in).



Handsome man enjoying the view of Nauyaca from the rocks around the falls - the ultimate activity for couples in Costa Rica visiting Vayu Retreat Villas
Captivating Nauyaca



Here at Vayu, we aim to ensure our guests experience the best of what Uvita has to offer, starting with the awe-inspiring Nauyaca Waterfalls. This breathtaking natural attraction features two dramatic drops, one soaring forty-five meters and the other twenty, set in a backdrop of untouched wilderness. While many of our guests initially visit for the renowned whale-watching and pristine natural beaches, discovering Nauyaca often becomes the highlight of their stay.

We always recommend that our guests pencil in a day to their Uvita itinerary to explore this wonderful natural beauty. Whether you’re travelling by rental car (visit our preferred option here), taking a leisurely bus from Uvita, or hiring a private car, Nauyaca Waterfalls is an essential experience for anyone wondering what to do in Uvita.


See this post on why you have to visit Costa Rica
Details of a map to get to Nauyaca Waterfalls - both a large-scale map and a smaller-scale map detailing the area in 2D
Courtesy of Nauyaca Park



  • Two waterfalls and an 8km roundtrip hike (12km from ticket office)
  • Entry is $10USD, seven days a week (more below)
  • You need at least 3-4 hours
  • Recommended to go by car
  • Limited public transport connections
  • No pets allowed
  • It is not recommended for young children, seniors, pregnant women or people with health problems.


*Fact: The falls and the surrounding land are owned by the Jiménez Solís Family, who launched their first official tour in 1992 after overcoming numerous challenges to establish the tour operation.

“Nauyaca Waterfalls is a Natural Reserve in Costa Rica & ideal place for lovers of nature and adventure where the tourist can expand the cavalcade, walk, swim, climb, jump, take pictures and enjoy a wonderful day, in one of the most beautiful places of the pacific south of Costa Rica”

The majestic sun peering through the clouds over the rain forest in Uvita Costa Rica
Captivating Mountains of Costa Rica

Optimal Time to Visit Nauyaca Waterfalls

The ideal time to visit Nauyaca Waterfalls is during the drier months from December to April. While occasional rain might still occur, the overall climate remains generally sunny and often humid during this period.

During the rainy season, the waterfalls can become fuller (and if there has been recent rain even murkier – best to coordinate with the team at Vayu for the best option to go) and in some cases, even inaccessible. Comparisons of the falls across different months show dramatic changes; the falls are barely recognizable in the wetter periods.

Visiting from December to April has its possible drawbacks, as this is also the peak tourist season for Costa Rica, making crowded conditions quite likely at popular sites like Nauyaca.

When considering the best time of day for your visit, arriving early is highly recommended for several reasons. An early start means you can enjoy the tranquillity of the waterfalls before larger groups arrive. Moreover, tackling the hike earlier in the day helps avoid the more intense heat and humidity that build as the day progresses, which can make the trek considerably more challenging. Even by 9 AM, the cool waters of the natural pool are a welcome relief from the heat. Additionally, for those relying on public transportation, starting early is crucial to ensure you complete your visit in time to catch the return bus. This early planning is especially important for guests at Uvita hotels looking for things to do in Uvita, as they can maximize their day with more ease. We also recommend this as an ultimate (tame) adventure for couples looking for a little time together in nature.



Early morning mist coming off the waterfalls of Nauyaca with a man swimming in the waterhole
Early morning mist at Nauyaca

How Long Should You Spend at Nauyaca Waterfalls?


Planning your visit to Nauyaca Waterfalls is essential, and should align with your preferences for exploring things to do in Uvita and activities. At Vayu Retreat Villas, where we aim to offer couples the best experience in Costa Rica, we ensure our guests have all the information needed to make the most of their visit.

For those with a rental car, Nauyaca Waterfalls is conveniently accessible. The hike to and from the falls is about an hour (depending on how leisurely you set your pace) allowing you to spend anywhere from a few hours to an entire day immersed in the natural beauty.

If you’re using public transportation, you’ll want to start your day early. Due to the limited number of bus departures (1), plan to dedicate at least a morning and afternoon for this excursion, preparing for a longer and more strenuous hike. This is particularly important on Sundays when schedules may vary.

For those who prefer not to hike, the 4×4 tour provides a comfortable alternative. Though this option is more structured, with about two hours at the falls and fixed departure times, it remains a popular choice for those wondering what to do in Uvita without committing to a full hike.

We encourage our guests to fully engage with the tranquil and rejuvenating environment of Nauyaca. Many visitors come to the falls planning only to take photographs but find themselves captivated, spending the day swimming in the refreshing waters, relaxing on sun-bathed rocks, and enjoying the rejuvenating spray from the waterfalls. The scenic hike through the lush surroundings only adds to the appeal, making it more than just a quick stop but a fulfilling day out in nature.

By avoiding the busiest times, you can enjoy a leisurely day at the falls, just as we recommend to all our guests at Vayu Retreat Villas. Experience why Nauyaca is a must-visit on your list of Uvita activities, and make your stay at one of the best resorts for couples in Costa Rica truly memorable.


P.S. Did you know? ‘Nauyaca’ is also the name for a local species of a large pit viper—a little bit of wildlife trivia to share during your visit!


*Tip: The website indicates a horseback riding option – we have recently been unable to book this option for our guests – stay tuned for updates


“Waterfalls are a natural source of negative ions, which can have positive physiological effects on mood and stress levels, as well as help some people breathe easier. The sheer amount of rushing, falling water releases massive amounts of negative ions into the air”


Front entrance of the ticket office of Nauyaca waterfalls - a great activity for couples visiting vayu Retreat Villas
Front entrance of the ticket office

Tickets & Opening Hours

The ticket office is open from 7 AM to 2 PM from Monday to Saturday, and from 8 AM to 2 PM on Sundays.

We always advise guests to be conscious in planning and to be aware that depending on the time of year, to plan their day wisely. It’s important to leave the falls by 2:30 PM, although previously the cutoff time was 3:30 PM. We recommend confirming this time upon arrival to ensure your visit is smooth (but be prepared for an exit time of 2:30)

To truly experience the majestic setting of Nauyaca, aim to arrive by 11 AM at the latest. This allows ample time to complete the 8 km (about 5 miles) round trip hike and fully enjoy the waterfalls. For an even better experience, particularly during weekends or the busy season, we suggest arriving before 8 AM to beat the crowds.

Entry fees are reasonably priced at $10 USD for non-locals and ¢3,500 colones for locals or residents. We recommend securing your tickets in advance through the official website, especially during the high season (January to April) and on weekends, to avoid any inconvenience.

Upon arrival, guests will need to queue to register and collect their tickets. For those who haven’t reserved their tickets online, payment can be made on-site either by cash or card.

The official parking area, which is monitored by a security guard, charges a fee of $5USD or ¢2500 colones per vehicle. It’s important to note that there are limited (if no other) parking options outside of this area.

For those who prefer not to hike, a 4×4 truck service is availableto transport you directly to and from the falls (from the ticket office). This is a convenient option for many guests who don’t want to take on the hike (and stay clean especially if there has been any rain)

Including a visit to Nauyaca Waterfalls when you stay with us at Vayu Retreat Villas not only ensures a memorable adventure but also maximizes your enjoyment of one of the most stunning natural features in the region. Our suggestion is to not miss this one.


*Tip: This is not a “tour” it is self-guided and therefore you need to ensure that you are prepared with lunch or dine out beforehand – check out this guide to some top dining options in Uvita



A wonderful shot of sunbathers on the rocks at Nauyaca Waterfalls
Picnic Options at Nauyaca

Directions to Nauyaca Waterfalls: Driving and Parking Information

Navigating a visit to Nauyaca Waterfalls with a car is straightforward. The drive from Vayu to the reception office takes about 55 minutes, covering a distance of approximately 40 kilometres.

For guests coming from the areas of Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park, the waterfalls are just an hour’s drive away, making it an ideal day trip destination.

Upon arriving, you can temporarily park your vehicle in front of the reception office while you arrange your tickets. However, this area can get quite busy with vehicles, so parking may be limited.

After securing your tickets, head back to the road, turn right towards San Isidro, and look for a marked turnoff about 30 meters past the office, indicated by a yellow spray-painted tire and a red arrow (pictured below). Follow this route down a steep and winding paved road (for just a minute or so) to the main parking area, which is designed exclusively for visitors.


*The road is frequently used by pedestrians, so please drive with caution.



Entrance marker for a parking lot to Nauyaca
Entrance to the parking lot

The parking area is secured by a security guard from 8 AM to 4 PM and is equipped with bathroom facilities for your convenience.

From the parking lot, simply exit to the right and cross the bridge to access the main hiking trail leading to the waterfalls.

*Detailed information about the hiking trail is available in the next sections.



Taking the Bus to Nauyaca Waterfalls from Uvita



Despite the proximity and popularity of Nauyaca Waterfalls, the public transport options from Uvita are surprisingly limited, making it a bit challenging to reach the falls without a personal vehicle. (*Vayu will soon be partnering with local agencies to have more tour options available to those who don’t have a rental vehicle – stay tuned for information)

Nevertheless, for those without a car, it is entirely feasible to visit Nauyaca with some careful planning. Staying at Vayu does not limit you from accessing public transit options, however, it may require a little extra planning and aiming for an early start will help you get there with ease.


Here’s how to manage the trip:

  1. Arrange to arrive at the bus stop on the highway directly across from the Uvita bus station by 5:50 AM. Look for the bus stop with a yellow “Supermercados Pacífico” sign. The bus you’re looking for heads to San Isidro, typically scheduled for 6:00 AM but that time can vary (tico time). Given that delays are common with Costa Rican buses, it’s wise not to depend entirely on this timing.
  2. This bus is a favoured choice among locals and is often busy at this hour. Stay alert and ready to signal the correct bus, which will be marked ‘San Isidro’ on the front. Once aboard, inform the driver that you’re heading to ‘la entrada de Nauyaca’ and pay your fare directly on the bus, which should be around 1,300 colones per person.
  3. The bus should get you to the waterfall’s reception office by 7:00 AM. It’s a good idea to keep your Google Maps handy as you approach, to ensure you don’t miss your stop. After getting your tickets and registration sorted, it’s a short walk to the start of the path marked by a yellow tire and a red arrow. (as in the picture a little ways up in this post) If you’re visiting on a Sunday, be aware that the reception office opens an hour later at 8:00 AM, which could delay your start. Nearby, there are a few places where you can grab breakfast, though they generally don’t open until 7:30 AM on Sundays. A great alternative for a quick bite is a fruit stand a few minutes walk back towards Uvita, offering fresh coconuts and bananas.
  4. The journey from the parking area to the waterfall includes a steep, paved road about two kilometres long, culminating at the main car park and trailhead. Be prepared for a total walking distance of about 12km if you’re taking the bus, compared to 8km for those who drive and park at the site. The road is busy and the incline can be tough on your knees (especially on the way back), so proceed with caution.
  5. The bus stop to head back to either Uvita, Dominical or Quepos is across the road from the entrance to the waterfall (around about here on Google Maps). There’s a small shelter, and you’ll know you’re standing in the correct place if the reception office is on the opposite side, down the hill and to the right.
  6. Buses to Uvita | Your only direct bus option is the 4.45 pm bus, costing 1,300 colones per person. Do note that this bus is often late – however, do not rely on this and aim to be at the bus stop a little early.
  7. If you miss your bus – contact us at Vayu and will arrange a pick-up (do not rely on this option as we can’t guarantee the time or fee)

*Tip: Remember, the sun sets here around about 6 pm, and you want to be safely on your way home before then.



Take a Taxi to Nauyaca Waterfalls

If you prefer to skip the early morning bus ride (and we don’t blame you!) & are without access to a rental car, opting for a taxi is a viable alternative. While we can’t guarantee the exact fare, expect a round-trip taxi to cost about $130-150 USD. At Vayu, we will do all the arranging for you.



A view of a woman looking over Nauyaca - a perfect activity for couples visiting Costa Rica
Beautiful look out to the falls

The Hike to Nauyaca Waterfalls and the 4×4 Alternative

No matter if you’ve travelled here by rental car, bus, or taxi, all visitors begin their adventure from the same starting point—the car park located at the base of the steep, winding entrance road. This is also where visitors staying at nearby Uvita hotels or those looking for things to do in Uvita gather to start their journey.



View of a car parking lot for guests visiting Nauyaca from Uvitas best hotels including Vayu Retreat Villas
Parking lot and starting point for the hike to Nauyaca

The only vehicles allowed beyond this point on the hiking trail are the official 4×4 trucks. These vehicles are equipped to transport up to 10 visitors at a time from the reception to the waterfall’s entrance. Perfect for those who may not be up for a long hike—whether due to physical limitations, time constraints, or simply preferring a more relaxed approach—these trucks offer a convenient way to enjoy the Nauyaca Waterfalls without the trek. Operating on a daily schedule, the trucks provide approximately two hours at the waterfalls for a fee of $32 USD per person. You can book your ride and find more information on the official website.

For those who prefer hiking, the car park also serves as the trailhead for a scenic 4 km one-way hike. This trail takes you through nature’s bounty, including dense forest and open fields, leading up to the waterfalls. Begin your hike by exiting the car park, turning right, crossing the bridge over the river Barú, and then taking a left. The path is well-marked and straightforward from there.



A man viewing the start of his hike to Nauyaca waterfalls - Uvita things to do
Starting bridge

The hike itself, while not overly difficult, includes several uphill sections and can be quite a workout. Expect to spend just over an hour walking the 6 km from the reception area to the falls, or an hour to cover the 4 km from the car park at a leisurely pace. Detailed route descriptions and maps are available on AllTrails for those who like to plan.

At the end of the trail, you’ll find the waterfall’s entrance, typically marked by a blue shelter. Here, a facility with toilets, changing rooms, and showers awaits, offering a comfortable spot to freshen up after your hike. This is also where the 4×4 trucks pick up and drop off visitors.

This section of the journey embodies the quintessential Costa Rican adventure, combining natural beauty with accessible amenities, making it a highlight for anyone visiting from Uvita looking for things to do. Whether you hike or ride, the Nauyaca Waterfalls are a breathtaking sight not to be missed.



Woman at the base of Nauyaca Waterfalls - the best place for couples to do things in Uvita Costa Rica

The Hike Back – Considerations

Since the hike to Nauyaca Waterfalls is a point-to-point trail, you’ll need to return the way you came. While the path remains the same, there are several factors to consider on the return journey:

As the day progresses, temperatures and humidity levels will rise, potentially making the hike back more challenging. It’s important to manage your time efficiently, especially if you need to catch a bus. Ensure you have plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the trek.

If you visit during the rainy season, be prepared for the trail to become muddier and more slippery, which could slow your pace. Take this into account when planning your departure time from the falls (the start of afternoon rain can be unpredictable)

Lastly, remember the steep 2 km stretch of paved road you descended at the start? (if taking local transit) Ascending this segment can be tough on the knees and considerably more taxing than the descent. The climb back up is often more strenuous and time-consuming than the initial hike. Prepare to sweat profusely and fantasize about one more dip in the refreshing pool at the waterfall’s base. As cars whiz by, you might find yourself envying their ease of travel. Just keep moving steadily—each step brings you closer to your bus and a well-deserved rest.

Done at the falls and want to eat? Check out this post for the best restaurants in Uvita!
Amazing view of the upper falls at Nauyaca Waterfalls in the southern Zone of Costa Rica close to Vayu Retreat Villas
Upper falls of Nauyaca

Packing List for Visiting Nauyaca Waterfall

When planning a trip to Nauyaca Waterfall, here are some essential items to bring along to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable visit:

Protection Essentials:

Reef-safe sunscreen

– Bug repellent

– Sunglasses

– Hat

Clothing Recommendations:

Quick-dry towel

– Swimsuit

– Water shoes

– Comfortable walking trainers

– Rain jacket (recommended during the rainy season)

Technology Gear:

– Smartphone or camera

– Waterproof phone case

– GoPro with a waterproof case

– Dry bag to protect your tech items

Additional Necessities:

– Sufficient cash for the day

– Snacks or a packed lunch

– Plenty of water in a reusable bottle

Important Reminder: It’s crucial to manage your waste responsibly while enjoying the natural beauty of Nauyaca Waterfall. Please consider bringing a garbage bag to collect all your trash. Remember, enjoy your visit, but adhere to the Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the environment.


A beautiful couple enjoying Nauyaca waterfalls - the ultimate experience for couples visiting Vayu Retreat Villas

Final Thoughts

While the bus schedule is limited, you can still manage to visit the falls. However, having your own car will likely make the trip to the waterfalls easier. Thus, if possible, I highly recommend renting a car, particularly to bypass the demanding 4km round hike from the official car park.

Overall, the hike to the waterfalls is incredibly rewarding, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of the area and getting a little adventure in at the same time. This self-guided tour lets you be on your own and have the flexibility to do as you please

Have you visited Nauyaca Waterfall before? If so, I’d love to hear how much of the area you explored. Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Now, get ready to start your own adventure!

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