Costa Rica is known for its incredible waterfalls, but did you know that one of its most stunning waterfalls remains a hidden gem? The Blue Falls of Costa Rica feature two jaw-dropping cascades, with Gatorade blue water, that’s perfect for cooling off under the hot sun. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Blue Falls of Costa Rica, an unmissable hidden gem.
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What are the Blue Falls of Costa Rica?
The Blue Falls are two of the most stunning waterfalls in Costa Rica, located in Catarata del Toro, an ecological reserve that is tucked away in the lush Central Valley.
You may also hear them called “Las Gemelas”, meaning the “The Twins” (… cuz there’s, like, two of them). One of the waterfalls has milky, robin’s egg blue water spilling over its cliffside, while the other one is tucked away in a fern-covered canyon, with clear, electric blue water. The water rushing over both of the falls flow into one river, combining to create an eye-popping stream of turquoise water.
The incredible color in both of these falls comes from volcanic minerals deposited by the nearby Poas and Viejo Volcanoes into the river that feeds the Blue Falls.
How to get to the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
As mentioned above, you can find the Blue Falls at the Catarata del Toro ecological reserve, a 126-acre privately-owned reserve with lush rainforests, several blue waterfalls, and refreshing swimming holes.
Catarata del Toro is located in the remote village of Bajos del Toro, about one hour and 40 minutes away from both San Jose or La Fortuna. In fact, it makes an excellent midway stop if you fly into San Jose and are making the drive north to La Fortuna!
Driving to Catarata del Toro
You’ll need to drive to and park at the office for Catarata del Toro Ecological Reserve, located here, and walk to the Blue Falls.
I’d strongly suggest renting a car if you’re visiting Costa Rica, given how spread out most of the attractions are. There isn’t public transit that goes to the reserve, so if renting a car isn’t in the budget for you for this trip, you can also consider joining a tour, like this Full Day Bajos del Toro hiking tour or this Waterfalls and Volcano Trekking tour, that leaves from San Jose and allows you to explore Catarata del Toro, as well as other waterfalls around Bajos del Toro.
Regardless of whether you’re coming from San Jose or La Fortuna, the road will be paved the entire way. However, once you turn onto the road that the reserve is located on, Route 708, it gets windy, steep, and has lots of gnarly potholes. Unless there’s been torrential rain in the area, a sedan will work here just fine, but you’ll definitely need to drive slowly and carefully around the potholes.
After about 24 km on this road, you’ll finally reach the well-maintained parking lot of Catarata del Toro, where you’ll find the ticket office.
Admission to Catarata del Toro
One important thing to note is that, despite how beautiful the Blue Falls are, they’re actually not the main event at the Catarata del Toro Reserve. Most visitors come, instead, to see the eponymous Catarata del Toro, a 90 meter (300 feet) waterfall pouring out of a volcanic crater. The waterfall sits in a deep bowl, completely surrounded by impossibly lush ferns, and seriously looks like something straight out of Jurassic Park.
The entry fee you’ll pay for the reserve is based on what part you want to visit. One portion of the park includes the trail to Catarata del Toro and a tropical flower garden and another portion, located down the road from the main office, includes the Blue Falls and a few smaller attractions, like Poza Azul, a swimming hole with incredibly blue (and incredibly cold!) water.
It costs $14 to see the Catarata del Toro area, $15 to see the Blue Falls area, or $25 to see both sides.
If you have more than a few hours to spare here, I’d strongly recommend that you buy the combo ticket. When my husband, Justin, and I visited, we thought we were just going to quickly pop by and see the waterfalls, but wound up spending literally all day at the property. In fact, we ran out of time before we could explore the whole thing! The reserve is quite large and incredibly beautiful, so be sure to give it the time it deserves.
Finally, you generally don’t need a reservation to visit the reserve- just show up and enjoy!
Pssst… while you’re by the ticket office, I’d suggest going to the bathroom- there aren’t any facilities in the Blue Falls portion of the park.
What to Expect for the Hike to the Blue Falls
Length: 2.5 miles
Time: 2-3 hours
From the parking lot, you’ll walk about 0.25 miles down Route 708 until you reach a blue gate on the right hand side of the road.
Once you’re in the gate, there’s an obvious trail through open farmland, with several narrow sections that are paved with rocks. The portions that are not paved can get quite muddy when there’s been a lot of rainfall, so I’d suggest wearing hiking shoes (like these hiking boots or these hiking sandals for men or these hiking boots or these hiking sandals for women) to provide traction against the slippery ground (and so your feet don’t get totally covered in mud).
After about 0.75 miles, you’ll reach a fork in the trail. The trail leading off to the right will take you to the Blue Falls, as well as another blue waterfall, Tepezquintle, while the trail to the left will lead you to three other waterfalls.
Continue up the path to the right, following signs for “Las Gemelas” for about 10 or so minutes and you’ll eventually reach a metal platform that leads down to the river and the Blue Falls. The platform has a series of incredibly steep and shallow stairs (it’s effectively a ladder) that may be difficult for those with knee problems- in fact, during our visit, we saw an elderly woman, who seemingly made the hike to the platform with no problem, turn around here.
Up until recently, the platform led you down onto the banks of the river, where you had to wade through the water and over its rocks. However, the park is constantly making improvements and has built a metal walkway that spans the entire width of the river. The metal walkway will eventually dump you out on a small rocky outcropping, where you’ll have an excellent view of the robin’s egg blue waterfall to the right and the electric blue waterfall, tucked into a canyon, to the left.
Unlike the most famous blue waterfall in Costa Rica, Rio Celeste, you’re welcome to jump in and swim in the water here. Word of warning, though- having jumped in the water myself, I can confirm it’s FREEZING, but would definitely feel nice on a particularly warm day. You should also be sure to wear a swimsuit underneath your clothes as there isn’t any kind of restroom or changing facility along the trail.
Another really cool thing about this waterfall? There’s TONS of hummingbirds! When Justin and I visited, there were at least three hummingbirds flitting around the green waterfall’s canyon. Talk about a magical place!
Once you’ve gotten your gorgeous waterfall and hummingbird fix, you can retrace your steps and, if you so choose, go explore the other waterfalls and swimming holes in the park.
Do you need a guide to visit the Blue Falls?
As mentioned above, the owners of Catarata del Toro have been working hard over the past few years to add trails and walkways where there previously wasn’t. From what I can gather, at some point in the recent past, you were indeed required to go with a guide to the falls- presumably because you had to do things, like wade across the river near the Blue Falls, whereas now, there’s a nice metal walkway.
When Justin and I visited in mid-2022, you did not need a guide to visit the Blue Falls and I’ve seen reports of other travelers visiting recently that were not required to have a guide with them.
However, if you’re more of an adventurous traveler, you can book a “guided extreme tour” for $50, where a guide will lead you along (and sometimes, through) the river to hit all seven of the blue waterfalls found on the property. For this option, you will need to make a reservation at least one day before.
When to visit the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
The best time to visit the falls is in Costa Rica’s dry season from December to April.
Come the rainy season (May through November), you may run into a few problems while visiting:
- Because of stronger currents dredging up mud from the river floor, the Blue Falls tend to… well, look a lot less blue! In fact, they can look more tan or brown in color.
- The increased water flow from the falls may make it too dangerous to swim in the river.
- Due to standing water or mudslides on the roadways, you may have a more difficult time reaching El Catarata del Toro Ecological Reserve if you have a sedan.
All in all, so long as you’re well-prepared and have managed your expectations, Catarata del Toro is definitely still worth visiting in the rainy season- you just may not get to see quite the same epic blue color!
What to Bring to the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
Luckily, there aren’t too many things you need to enjoy the Blue Falls, but there’s a few items I’d be sure are on your Costa Rica packing list so that you can make the most of your visit:
- Hiking shoes (like these hiking boots or these hiking sandals for men or these hiking boots or these hiking sandals for women)
- Rain jacket (like this jacket for men or this jacket for women)- we are in a rainforest after all, friends!
- Water bottle
- Lunch. While the reserve has a small cafeteria by the ticket office, it primarily sells chips and hot dogs. So if you’d like a bit more of a robust offering, pack a lunch.
Where to Stay Near the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
As mentioned above, Justin and I had to leave earlier than we would’ve liked during our visit, given that we had to drive all the way back to La Fortuna and didn’t want to drive at night. If you have time during your trip, I’d instead suggest staying the night close to Bajos del Toro, so you can (quite literally!) soak in the falls here and the impossible beauty of the surrounding area.
El Silencio Lodge: If you’re looking to treat yourself for a night or two, this luxurious hotel is the perfect place to do it.
Sandwiched between two national parks, this upscale resort perfectly melds the surrounding natural beauty with seemingly endless bougie perks, like yoga classes, guided meditative hikes, and farm-to-table breakfasts (all included in your stay!!).
Bosque de Paz Reserva Biologica: For a more mid-range option, this hotel is located on a privately owned ecological reserve, with five hiking trails and abundant opportunities to spot wildlife. There’s also an onsite restaurant, with seriously tasty Costa Rican food.
I hope you have the most incredible time exploring the Blue Falls- it seriously looks like it should be in the Garden of Eden. Do you have any questions about visiting the Blue Falls or Bajos del Toro? Let me know in the comments below!