When planning our trip to Costa Rica, there was one thing I knew we were going to be doing a lot of. Waterfalls. One because they are amazing (even the little ones wow me), and two because Costa Rica has a ton of them. And Uvita was no exception. This little seaside town had 3 nearby waterfalls I wanted to see. And each was a completely different experience (spoiler alert: some were better than others). But these are the waterfalls in Uvita you need to know about.
Cascada El Pavon
This was our first waterfall in Uvita. After a day out at Cano Island snorkeling, we were ready to relax in some cool water. Ryan had an epic sunburn coming in (no joke, it seriously made the bartender at our hostel gasp), and we needed a break from the sun.
So that afternoon we hopped in our car and headed out to this waterfall. It looked smaller and less crowded than the others (especially since we went on a weekday). And I wanted to see how big that rock really was at the top of the waterfall. (Answer: bigger than I thought.)
Cascada El Pavon is a bit south of Uvita and you’ll definitely need a car to get there. The road is unpaved (once you turn off the highway) and it’s a good 10-15 minutes down this road before you reach it. You’ll eventually come upon a sign on the left hand side of the road pointing to a path down to the waterfall. We simply parked along the side of the road (there were only two other cars when we go there).
A small family was packing up when we arrived and we had the waterfall to ourselves for about 10 to 15 minutes before another group showed up.
The water itself was cool, but refreshing. And as you neared the falls it was definitely deep enough that you had to swim. Ryan braved going behind the falls (by diving under), and I decided I had to follow.
It may or may not have taken me 3 attempts to make it.
I became slightly embarrassed when another couple showed up and watched my many attempts. (They did it in one try.) The trick, they told me, is to go under the falls and pop up on the other side. But, I don’t know, I just couldn’t dive under the falls. Finally I just powered through on the left side, hugging the wall, and forced myself against the current. And I made it!
But quickly discovered there is no ledge back there. I literally had to do a ninja warrior kind of stance in the corner in order to catch my breath. Then it was a quick leap back into the water and I was out!
Thinking back on it, our time at Pavon was peaceful and relaxing. The drive there was a bit longer than I thought. But we only had to share the spot with two other groups at the maximum. And this was in the middle of the afternoon. So if you want to relax, out of the 3 waterfalls in Uvita, perhaps Cascada El Pavon is the one for you.
Location: Google Maps
This was the main waterfall I wanted to see. I had seen pictures online and it looked marvelous. But now that I’ve done it, I’m torn. I’m not sure I would do it again.
We bought our tickets, found the parking lot pretty easily, and started off. The hike is 4km each way (8km total). I knew that ahead of time. And I knew that it would take us a good bit of time. But I didn’t really understand what the hike was going to be like.
Now we were kind of stupid and decided to walk along the beach that morning and do the hike in the afternoon. DO NOT DO THIS. It was ungodly hot and the trail is not very shaded. If you do this hike, go in the morning-ish.
The first kilometer we started off strong. The trail was also relatively flat at first. But then it started to go up. And up. And up.
It’s basically 4km straight up. In the heat. And no shade. And I mean up. This is not a slight, rolling hill. It is a steep mountain. There were times the trail was so steep, I would have to walk 100 feet, stop, catch my breath, then walk another 100 feet, and so on.
My face was beat red, my whole body hurt, and I wanted to die.
I also seriously think I got heat exhaustion.
And that last ½ a kilometer is a bitch. Someone on our snorkeling trip the day before mentioned it was the worst part. And they were not lying. As you approach the 3.5 kilometer mark get ready for death.
Finally we topped the last hill and passed the little guard station at the entrance and I almost cried in relief. (There was a guy there checking wristbands so make sure you buy your ticket at the office.)
Then it was another 10 minute walk down to the river and we were there! Ryan and I headed to the lower falls first. Where I literally walked straight into the water. My whole body was burning up.
It took me 10 maybe 15 minutes to cool down before I even thought about really enjoying myself.
Now the waterfall was beautiful. There’s no argument there. I enjoyed swimming around in the pool, going behind the veil of water, and simply floating about. Plus I even snagged the spot right at the center of the waterfall for a few minutes.
We spent over an hour at the falls. Relaxing, cooling down, and watching the crazy jumpers who would climb up to the middle ledge and jump off. I was not one of those people.
The upper falls were beautiful as well, but we only went up there for about 5 minutes before turning back. The lower falls is where it’s at.
Then it was time to hike back. And it was much easier. But that’s because it was all downhill. My knees (god that sounds old) didn’t like going downhill over rough & uneven terrain, but I didn’t want to die like I did on the way up.
Later that night at the hostel I was talking to a girl who worked there. She asked what I did for the day and when I told her she just shook her head. Though the waterfall is beautiful, she said, she did not think it was worth that hike. When she went, she wished someone had told her, really told her, what it was like. And that she wished she hadn’t gone.
The hike is brutal you guys. Now maybe you are in crazy great shape and it’ll be a walk in the park. But for me, someone who works out a couple days a week and does plenty of hikes, it was one of the hardest I’ve ever done.
(Only this one tops it.)
It’ll also take you a half-day or maybe even a full day to do. So, you’ve been warned, if you want to hike this (and there are other options) you better know what you are in for.
Location of the Office: Google Maps
Where to Park: After paying for your ticket, get back into your car. Drive a little further up the hill (about 100 yards) and you’ll see a dirt road going down off the right hand side.The road is very steep going down so be careful. Drive down this road for about 2km and you’ll come to the end of the line. There’s a parking lot that has free parking. Cross the bridge to start the hike.
Distance: If you park in the lot by the bridge, it’s 4km to the waterfall and 4km back. If you don’t have a car and hike from the road it’s like 6km each way.
Cost: $8/per person
More Information: http://cataratasnauyaca.com/ecotourism-costa-rica.htm
This is the waterfall in town. And you can slide down it.
Yep, you read that right. You can slide down the waterfall.
We visited this waterfall in the afternoon on our last day in Uvita. I was a little bit unsure of whether we should go, Nauyaca had dampened my love a little, but I decided why not. It was a 5 minute drive, cheap to enter, and the walking was minuscule. If it sucked we could be back at the hostel in 30 minutes.
But it did not suck.
After paying at the little hut, we headed on down to the waterfall. There are several paths down to the riverbed, so stay on the main path until you reach the waterfall.
The waterfall itself was probably about the same size as Cascada El Pavon, maybe a little taller.
But it was busier. There were several groups around. One group of girls hugged the waterfall for the first 30-40 minutes we were there. So we just sat back and waited until they moseyed on away so we could slide.
Ryan went first. His slide was perfect. Hands on chest, legs together.
Then another guy went. And finally I decided I had to go. An older couple we met at the hostel, retirees in fact, had told us about their time at the waterfall. And how they slid down it.
If they could do it, I could do it.
When I got up there and started to sit down though, I paused. It was much higher up than I thought it would be. Like much higher. I started to freak out. People down below were waiting and even Ryan made a is anything wrong hand gesture.
I could do this, I told myself. So I pushed and slid.
It was bumpy and fast and the drop was higher than I thought it would be. And I definitely did not look graceful.
But I did it!
Location: Google Maps
Cost: $3 or so per person