When the subject of visiting waterfalls in Costa Rica comes up, invariably so does the name La Paz Water Gardens. Rarely, if ever, does one hear the name Catarata Del Toro as a potential for a waterfall excursion.

We have some great friends who have been in the country for a long time, the husband for 5 years and the wife, well, since birth as she is a Tica. Recently, they suggested a trip to a “near-by” waterfall — Catarata Del Toro.

The Spanish term, Catarata, means waterfall and the phrase Catarata del Toro means Really Big Waterfall, or Waterfall of the Bull for those who require a more precise translation.

The website for the private reserve that manages Catarata Del Toro states that the cascading behemoth is 300 feet tall making it Costa Rica’s tallest waterfall or “Biggest” waterfall as the web page puts it.

The website continues on …”located in the unexplored mountains of Bajos Del Toro Amarillo, Sarchi, Alajuela” which I translate to read, “very difficult to find”. In fact, when we updated our Face Book status to let the world know we were getting up off the couch, we were informed by a couple of friends that the waterfall was indeed difficult to find. One friend had given up looking entirely after a fruitless day searching. Undeterred we set out to explore the unexplored.

I won’t give you directions to the waterfall. I can’t give you directions, as I was an unobservant passenger, of directions at least; except to say that from Grecia you take a right coming into Sarchi, just before the place where your friends stopped and asked for directions. Once on this road, it is a straight shot; except for the one fork in the road, that does not include a sign, but does have a man working in the pie-shaped garden who will tell you, if asked, to take the left side of the fork. That is all I know in regards to directions to the falls. Oh, and the cataratas GPS coordinates is: N 10°15´262″ W 84°16´283″ –once again, according to the website.

The drive to Catarata Del Toro is beautiful, winding through the forest on a road built for one, with vistas that look all the way to and past San Jose. The drive is breathtaking, both for the views and for the road – with its shear, ungaurd-railed drop offs.

After over an hours drive we arrived. The entrance is anticlimactic; a simple gate leads to a dirt parking lot and then into an open-air restaurant. The cook serves not only food but as the ticket seller. The price of admission demonstrates just how desperate they are for patrons to find the place — just $10 per person, even less with a Cedula.

Before walking through the gate that leads to the path that leads to the waterfall, you will notice hummingbirds — everywhere. Some small, some too huge to be a hummingbird, but is. There are feeders and flowers everywhere and the ever hungry birds feast and fly, many times buzzing dangerously close to an ear.

The path to the path to the falls is unassuming, beautiful but unassuming. Once you reach the stairs that take you down you will notice there is a bench to sit. This is a great place to steel yourself before the climb down or to collapse upon your return.

Up to this point, I assume you are raring to go check out this waterfall, or at the very least, go out in search of it. I must warn you though, the hike down and back up is not for the out-of-shape. I repeat, if you do not hike frequently or if you have knee or health problems, do not attempt to hike to the Base Del Toro.

That is not to say do not visit the reserve if you are not of ideal health There are many gorgeous views of the waterfall from all over the property, and it is not necessary to hike down to achieve the AHHH factor. In fact, from the top you get the full view of the waterfall and the extinct volcanic creator that the fall empties into.

Getting back to the hike down – I lost count of the number of steps at about 10. I was concentrating on not slipping or falling. After each flight of stairs or steps is a landing that offers a different view of the waterfall than the last, and there are many of these.

Once you reach the bottom of all the steps, for the adventurous, you are still not done. You can still scramble down another 50 feet or so around boulders and through streams to stand in the mist the waterfall creates as it pours into a large pool.

Unlike at La Paz, when you are finished staring in awe at this natural wonder, you must walk, or crawl, back up the gauntlet under your own power. Perhaps collapsing on that wonderfully cold cement bench once you finally arrive back at the top.

After partially recovering from the hike up, I was asked by one in the group that did not trek downward (then upward) if I wanted to see one of the other trails she had discovered while we were working-out on the stair master; I had to hang my head in shame, I just could not say yes, I had nothing left.

Instead of continuing the adventure and seeing the unseen trails, we found our way back to the restaurant to sit and watch the hummingbirds and enjoy a much-deserved cerveza.

This adventure was truly that, an adventure and I would recommend it to anyone. Shortly after leaving the grounds if you look to your left, over the valley, you will see a couple of different waterfalls enveloped in the forest — an added bonus.

As I write this post, my legs are sore from effort expended 2 days ago. The soreness will fade soon, but the memories of this trip will last a lifetime.


About The Author – Greg Seymour.

At the ripe old age of 41 Greg Seymour quit his job and retired with his wife to Costa Rica, trading his business suit for a bathing suit. In addition to writing about his experiences in Costa Rica on his CostaRicaCurious blog, Greg enjoys hiking, photography and getting to know his new home.

Costa Rica’s Other Waterfall

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