I remember walking into this town for the first time. I had zoomed in on google maps and found it, a tiny town surrounded by volcanos in Costa Rica. At the time, i’d never seen an instagram post or photo anywhere of the things I was about to see. There were no options on airbnb/booking.com (or very limited) because everything was by word of mouth. I got the whatsapp of a grocery store, somehow got passed on a contact of his grandmothers friend and eventually had a 3 bedroom cabin to stay for $20 a night. I looked on maps and saw we were surrounded by 75+ waterfalls, some even un named or un explored. This was my intro to Bajos del Toro, one of the most magical places on earth.
Where is Bajos del toro?
Located about 2 hours out of San Jose, Bajos del Toro is in the north near Poas volcano national park. I always drove in from Tamarindo, but this can be a really long drive with traffic. I’d recommend making it your first stop after the airport, or last before leaving San Jose. Accessible only by private transportation. I would recommend driving in during the day, as the road has a lot of potholes and twisting turns that can be a bit intense in the night. Also keep in mind this town is pretty “far out” so you should fill up on gas before heading up there. We ran into this issue and had to drive nearly 40 minutes to the nearest gas station.
Where to stay?
The town has become a little bit more advanced, so you can now find a lot of options for cabins and such on booking.com or airbnb. But the best little cabins are still just by phone number. Some places I stayed that I can highly recommend-
Casa de Campo
+506 8357 0585
Hotel Los Sueños de Bajos del Toro
+506 8611 7989
If you want a luxury experience, you can also check out El Silencio hotel.
What to do?
Hike to one of the most surreal waterfalls, blue falls
This is one of the most unique falls i’ve ever seen, with two shades waterfalls joining in the river, each a noticeably different shade of blue. (one turquoise, one dark blue). The hike to get here is short and easily accessibile. Although keep in mind this is a privately owned waterfall. Again, zooming in on google maps to find this falls I didn’t know the entrance and went though and open gate. This led to later being escorted out on the back of someone’s tractor.
Hike to Poas volcano
Up for an unforgettable adventure? Start your journey to the turquoise crater of Poas volcano. This is not an easy hike by any means. I would only recommend this one to experienced hikers. I’ve done almost 10 volcano hikes at this point, and this one wins for the amount of geographical diversity along the way. You have waterfalls, canyons, hot springs, crazy rainbow rocks and a crater that looks like another planet. You’ll definitely need a guide for this one, i’d recommend @toroamarillo360 . He was my guide for waterfalls and volcanos, a great person to reach to for any info on Bajos del toro trekking.
Check out one of the highest free falling waterfalls in Costa Rica
Catarata del toro is an 82 meter waterfall, one is the highest in Costa rica. Two minutes after going through the entrance gate, you can see this incredible falls from the jungle above. This is a great option if you’re traveling with older people, or a crew less into hiking. As this falls has some great walks that you don’t need to descend 1000 steps into the jungle for. But if you’re physically capable, seeing the falls from the bottom is worth it. Del toro falls is a bit more “touristic” with a small line blocking entrance to the waterfall. So this one is not for swimming in.
After some chasing waterfalls or volcano hiking, you may be ready for a rejuvenating hot spring. There are a few options close by for this. I’d recommend termales del bosque, as it has incredible springs near the river that were nearly private when we went. There are many other hot springs near the town, but the best way to find them is just by searching “termales” near you on google maps and exploring from there. These are also great for days that weather doesn’t permit hiking. Nothing more peaceful than hot springs in the rain. I have also heard about a sauna/ jacuzzi in the town but it was never open or available when I went. (near blue morpho lodge)
This is a great one for a group for adventurers. Strap up with @dropscanyoning and explore 10+ waterfalls by jumping down the river and rappelling down them. This was such a crazy fun experience. The guides knew how to keep things safe, while allowing you to experience these falls with a bit of adrenaline attached. This experience wouldn’t be for the faint of heart, as you will be hanging off of 20+ meter falls with someone lowering you down on a tiny rope.
Check out my favorite waterfall on earth, Rio Barroso
This one wins in my books for best waterfall on earth. I’ll try not to spoil it and let you see for yourself why. Disclaimer: I believe this has become a publically illegal hike. I don’t know what the access options look like, but if you reach to a local guide you can ask for updated restrictions and regulations. It can also be extremely dangerous, with flash floods so i don’t know if i can recommend sneaking in. Aside from all of the dangers and legal issues, if you find yourself in this canyon it’ll be an experience you won’t forget. The canyon branches off into a V shape, on one side you have a towering triple waterfall and on the other side a canyon with a waterfall inside a cave. No words, photo or video can ever describe the feeling of standing inside of this cave. Again this hike is not for beginners. Depending on water levels, there can be some very questionable river crossings.
But at your own risk, enjoy the adventure. I promise this one would be worth it 🙂
Vuelta del Canyon
One of my first explored waterfalls in bajos Del toro. I went during the rainy season, so it led to a 3 hour hike through knee deep mud. Worth it when we arrived to this waterfall that we had entirely to ourselves. I’d probably have to include this one in my top 5 waterfalls in the world. Before seeing it in person, I really thought the photos were photoshopped. Dry season the hike is a lot shorter, but a lot more people. In context, “a lot” of people at a Bajos del Toro waterfall is the equivalent of “no people” at any of the other popular falls in costa rica. But if you want any of these waterfalls to yourself, just go early morning and you should find yourself alone there.
This is a spot I came across just walking down the road at sunrise. Just a 5 minute walk down to the river you’ll find these incredible turquoise pools. Another surreal spot that is very much unknown.
Hopefully this can be helpful if you plan to go exploring Costa Rica. This “off the beaten path” town is a really special place to me. I hope it can be for you too 🙂