Visiting Bajos del Toro
Bajos del Toro is a small, remote town that sits high up in the mountains of the Alajuela province. It lies just north of the capital of San Jose and is the perfect stop-off on your Costa Rica itinerary.
This area is all about unwinding and getting in touch with nature; you’ll find lots of farms dotted around green highlands, misty cloud forests, and mammoth waterfalls. The town itself is very small with not so much tourism, just a few restaurants and hotels. Because of this, there is a very tranquil atmosphere. Spend a day here, or stay overnight and enjoy all the best waterfalls surrounding Bajos del Toro!
Bajos del Toro Waterfalls
Surrounding the town of Bajos del Toro, discover many beautiful waterfalls, which are perfect for swimming and hiking. Each one has its own unique characteristics, and you could spend days exploring them all.
The location of Bajos del Toro, between the Poás and Viejo volcanoes, creates a fascinating landscape of extinct volcano craters and potent volcanic mineral activity. This creates canyons and waterfalls with the most intense blue colors.
1. Catarata del Toro (Bajos del Toro Waterfall)
Located within an extraordinary cloud forest sits the highest and arguably most beautiful waterfall in Costa Rica! Because of its location, there is more rain and mist, which swirls around as you watch the falls plunging into an ancient volcano crater. These falls drop from a mammoth height of 270 feet, and the walls of the crater are almost entirely covered in moss, making this one of the greenest and luscious falls in the area.
How to get to Catarata del Toro (Bajos de Toro Waterfall)
Catarata del Toro is a two-hour drive from the capital San José. However, it is very remote and hard to reach, even from the nearby town of Bajos del Toro. For this reason, you’ll need a rental car to visit or join an organized tour with transport included.
Once you arrive at the car park, you’re on the privately owned property of Catarata del Toro. Pay your entrance fee, and follow the path for around 20 meters. This will bring you to a beautiful viewpoint of the waterfall from above, giving you a great perspective of its height. From here, the real hike begins; you’ll walk down nearly 400 steps to the waterfall base! In total, this will take around 30-40 minutes (it’s approximately a 1.3 mile/2.1 km loop).
Entrance Fee for Catarata del Toro
It costs 14 USD to enter Catarata del Toro, and you can pay in USD, Euros, or Colones. The waterfall is open from Monday to Saturday from 7 AM – 5 PM.
The Dutch man that owns the park also runs a bed and breakfast at the entrance. If you want to stay the night here, you won’t have to pay the entrance fee for the falls, as that’s included in the overnight price. They also own the Blue Falls (more information below), so offer a combo ticket to visit both falls for 25 USD.
Budget tip! The currency in Costa Rica is Colones. Save on exchange fees by converting your own local currency to Colones with a Wise card. You can use that card to withdraw Colones from the ATM in Costa Rica or pay by card at pretty much all the shops. Some restaurants charge USD by default, but it will significantly affect the total bill if you ask them to charge Colones. Get a Wise card here; it’s free!
2. Blue Falls of Costa Rica
The Blue Falls are just as they’re described; discover 7 beautiful waterfalls and pools that have a beautiful sky-blue color. The series of falls sit one after another and are located between the Paos and Viejo Volcanos. These volcanic minerals give the water its fierce blue color, making it a haven for swimming and relaxing.
How to get to the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
You’ll find the falls near Catarata del Toro, and you can begin walking just opposite that entrance. Walk for about 30/40 minutes through stunning grasslands to the first fall (the final fall takes about an hour to walk to).
There will be guides along the way to point you in the right direction, but as long as you follow the path, you’ll easily discover all the falls. It’s a gradual hike, and there are no really steep parts, unlike Catarata del Toro.
Entrance Fee for the Blue Falls
There are two tours to visit the 7 blue waterfalls: the Blue Falls Light and the Blue Falls Full.
Blue Falls Light: The first allows you to see 3-4 of the blue falls and takes 2-3 hours (4.5 km round trip). The price is 15 USD per person.
Blue Falls Full: This one grants you access to all 7 falls and will take around 5-6 hours (6km round trip). The cost is 50 USD per person, but this is a combo price that also includes your visit to Catarata del Toro.
Open Monday – Saturday (closed on Sundays) from 7 AM – 5 PM.
3. Rio Agrio Waterfall
Just a few minutes away from the Blue Pools, discover the oasis of Rio Agrio! This fall is 165 feet high, and is extremely powerful. It’s also one of the shortest hikes at 1.5 km, so it’s perfect for those who want to take it easy.
Rio Agrio means ‘sour river’, a name it’s got from the incredibly low PH of the water. It’s said the minerals from the nearby volcanos are what make the water so acidic. Unfortunately, this, combined with the power of the falls, means it’s not safe to swim in, but the experience of visiting it is so worthwhile!
How to get to Rio Agrio Waterfall
The falls are located just a few minutes away from the blue pools. Unusually, this waterfall has an attraction park named ‘Dino Land’ situated around it, meaning that as you walk, you’ll see giant dinosaur models looming out of the dense jungle.
Although a little strange, you’ll quickly get into the ‘Jurassic Park’ atmosphere—made even more realistic because of the thick green forest, river bridges, and mossy canyon walls.
There are clear signs to show you the way along the path, and eventually, you’ll come out in a large clearing where you’ll see the mammoth Rio Agrio Waterfall.
Entrance Fee and Opening Times
The entrance fee is 6000 Colones (around 9.50 USD), which is much cheaper than some of the entrance fees for other waterfalls in the area. The walk is stunning; only the attraction park around it makes it a bit less of a natural experience.
Rio Agrio Waterfall is open every day from 7 AM to 5 PM.
4. Tesoro Escondido Waterfall (Catarata Tesoro Escondido)
Tesoro Escondido is one of the lesser visited waterfalls in Bajos del Toro and also one of the most beautiful! Translating as ‘hidden treasure’, it truly lives up to expectations as you approach a secret waterfall hidden among the cloud forest. It’s only in recent years that it’s been made accessible to the public, and it’s still very unknown. This means you could be hiking and see almost no one on your trip—bliss!
You’ll walk on a narrow pathway through meadows, cloud forests/rainforests, and across hanging bridges. Make sure to stop and take in the fantastic views of the green hills in the distance.
At the end of the walk, you’ll be rewarded with the massive waterfall of Tesoro Escondido. Plus, there are two smaller falls with sky-blue water (again created from the volcanic minerals in the area). Best of all, all the pools are safe to swim in.
How to get to Catarata Tesoro Escondido
At the entrance, you’ll find changing rooms, a bathroom, and also a restaurant (only open at weekends). Use these before starting your walk to the falls, which takes 30-40 minutes. It’s easy to get to; just follow the path, crossing the hanging bridge as you go.
Entrance Fee for Catarata Tesoro Escondido
The entrance fee for Tesoro Escondido Waterfall is 8000 colones per person (13 USD), and they are open every day from 8 AM – 5 PM.
Camping is also possible on site for a small nightly fee if you’d like to experience a night under the stars in this remote part of Costa Rica.
Notice: La Paz Waterfall
La Paz Waterfall sits within the Peace Lodge and is popular for travelers visiting Costa Rica. The park markets itself as a refuge for animals like Pumas and Jaguars. However, it’s quite the opposite. Many people have commented that the animals are kept in much too small cages and live in dirty, smelly conditions. What’s more, they are used as entertainment for the many tourists who pass through the park—a bad example of wildlife tourism.
Tips for Visiting Bajos del Toro
Visiting the Bajos del Toro waterfalls is a fantastic experience in Costa Rica. To make your trip as smooth as possible, consider following these top tips:
- Bring a non-toxic sunscreen. It is generally very misty and rainy in Bajos del Toro. However, the sun can come out at any given moment, so always protect yourself with reef-safe sunscreen. Also, consider wearing a non-toxic mosquito repellent to avoid getting bitten while you hike.
- Wear suitable close-toed shoes. Wear these for the hike or bring water shoes so you can easily get into the waterfall pools, especially those which are rocky.
- Bring a rain jacket. It can be very wet in Bajos del Toro, and sudden rainstorms are likely. Bring a rain jacket and a waterproof cover for your backpack.
- Carry cash with you. There are no ATMs in this area as it’s very remote, and you’ll likely need some money to pay for parking and entrance fees to the Bajos del Toro waterfalls.
- Pack snacks and water. Many falls are very remote, and there will be no restaurants nearby. Make sure to bring snacks and a reusable water bottle so you can travel plastic-free!
Where to Stay in Bajos del Toro
There are plenty of great accommodation options in and around the town of Bajos del Toro. Whether you want to camp in Costa Rica, stay in a reasonably priced B&B, or opt for a more luxury eco-hotel, there is something for everyone. We spent the night in San Miguel at Hotel Los Gallitos Eco Lodge (about a 50-minute drive from Bajos del Toro).
How to Visit Bajos del Toro
The easiest way to reach Bajos del Toro and explore the area is by car. You don’t need a strong vehicle to get there (or a 4×4). However, you definitely need one with clearance from the ground, as there are many potholes on road 708 (this road). The journey is beautiful and pretty thrilling in some parts, with some steep inclines as it crosses between volcanoes and national parks.
If you’re traveling by public transport, take the bus from San Jose to Zarcero. From here, it’s a 40-minute taxi ride to Bajos del Toro. The problem with taking public transport is that you’ll be limited on which falls you can visit in the area. This is because there is no public transport. Instead, you’ll need to arrange private transfers with your hotel or providers in the town.
Alternatively, choose to do an organized tour from San Jose or La Fortuna that includes return transport and access to some of the famous Bajos del Toro waterfalls.
Best Time to Visit Bajos del Toro
Bajos del Toro has a relaxing rainy atmosphere year-round because of its height and landscapes. It’s typically damp and humid, with low-lying mist that moves through the trees, creating a luscious landscape that’s a haven for wildlife. This is perfect as it’s never too hot, making it ideal for hiking and exploring.
December to April is the driest season and the safest time for walking and swimming. It’s also the busiest time, so be prepared that the trails might be a little more crowded than usual. Outside of this season (May – November) is the rainy season. During this time, there is a lot of rain—and a lot of mud—making it harder for hiking and also driving.